When Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, or more commonly known as Mother Teresa, who was born in what is now the North Macedonian capital of Skopje in August 1910, became one of the icons of the 20th century, who could have predicted that she would embody so much of what was wrong with the world and cover-up the darkest crevices of the Catholic Church.
The three-part documentary Mother Teresa: For the Love of God? (Sky Documentaries) sets out the pros and cons of Teresa mania, finding the good to be fragile and the bad, profound.
Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to caring for the impoverished and dying in the slums of the Indian city of Kolkata. However, the new documentary is said to reveal the saint’s darker side.
“She was able to put an end to wars, befriend presidents, establish a global orphanage empire, and have sick inmates released from prison. Mother Teresa, on the other hand, covered up for the Catholic church’s greatest excesses and seemed more drawn to poverty and suffering than to genuinely helping people escape it,” Daily Mail has reported.
Mary Johnson, who worked with Mother Teresa for 20 years, says, “Her spirituality was connected to Jesus on the cross.”
“She thought being poor was good because Jesus was poor. It’s schizophrenic,” Mary Johnson was quoted as saying by the report.
According to the charges made in the documentary, which aired on Sky Documentaries, Mother Teresa covered up for the Catholic church’s worst excesses and seemed more attracted to poverty and agony than truly helping people escape it.
More importantly, Mother Teresa’s final decade was possibly her most challenging. She was getting on in years, but the church needed her help to save it from the mounting scandal of child abuse by priests.
“They’d send her to towns where scandals were uncovered,” Mary explains. “She has the power to shift the narrative.”
Episode one’s killer witness is Dr Jack Preger, whose 40 years as a “street physician” in Kolkata brought him into contact with Teresa’s sanitoriums.
“The nuns were not delivering proper care,” he remembers, visibly hurt at the memory. “Needles were used over and over again. They were blunt.”
A reviewer of The Guardian said: “This is the most serious charge levelled at Teresa: that there was insufficient practical assistance, and perhaps even outright neglect, behind the rhetoric about selflessly attending the needy.
“What is extraordinary about the stronger version of that accusation – that Teresa embodied a pain-cult version of Christianity that does not want to alleviate suffering – is that she basically agreed.”
Over to one of the friendly biographers, reporting what her idol used to say: “Our calling is not necessarily to cure. It is to pass on the love of God to every human being in whom we see the suffering Christ … suffering shared with Christ’s passion is a wonderful thing.”
Mother Teresa was born to Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910 in Skopje, now North Macedonia, to a poor household after her father died when she was eight years old. She found refuge in the church and decided to become a nun when she was 12 years old.
She came to Dublin at the age of 18 to join the Catholic Sisters of Loreto order, and a year later to Calcutta, now Kolkata, to teach.
Witnessing the agony and death caused by the Bengal famine of 1943 – when scores of dead bodies were left lying in the streets – had a tremendous impression on her, and she claimed Jesus spoke to her on a train three years later, giving her new instructions.
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