Wednesday, 14 September 2016

SAINTHOOD OF MOTHER TERESA: was it justified?                         

This article is in five parts. (1) The story of Mother Teresa. (2) Procedures towards Sainthood, (3) Miracles, (4) Cancerous tumors, (5) Was Mother Teresa’s Sainthood justified?

The Story of Mother Teresa                                                                                   
She was born on the 26th of August 1910 in Skopje (now capital of the Republic of Macedonia and died on the 5th of 2010 at age 87 in India. All of her life, she was a Roman Catholic and as an adult, she dedicated her life helping others. After having lived in Macedonia for eighteen years, she moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.

In 1950, Mother Teresa founded the  Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries. They run homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis and include  soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children's and family counselling programmes; orphanages; and schools. Members must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as a fourth vow, to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor". There is no doubt in my mind that this woman was an unusual human being.                   

She was canonized (recognized by the church as a saint) on the 4th of  September, 2016, and the anniversary of her death, 5th of September, (day of her death) was made her feast day. The word ’feast’ in this context does not mean ‘a large meal, typically a celebratory one’, but instead it is an annual religious celebration, a day dedicated to a particular saint.

She was a controversial figure both during her life and after her death. She was widely admired by many for her charitable works. She was both praised and criticized for her anti-abortion views. However, she was also criticized for the poor conditions in the houses for the dying she ran. Her clinics received millions of dollars in donations, yet the conditions of those houses drew criticism from many who were disturbed upon learning of the shortages of medical care, continuous wrongful diagnosis of the illnesses of those seeking her help, the lack of necessary nutrition, as well as the scarcity of analgesics for those in pain. The quality of care offered to terminally ill patients in the Homes for the Dying (hospices) has been criticized in the medical press. The Lancet and the British Medical Journal reported the reuse of hypodermic needles, poor living conditions, including the use of cold baths for all patients, and an approach to illness and suffering that precluded the use of many elements of modern medical care.

She has also been criticized for her view on suffering. She felt that suffering would bring people closer to Jesus. Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International, criticized her for her failure to give painkillers to those in need.  Writing her belief in her Homes for the Dying, one could "hear the screams of people having maggots tweezered from their open wounds without any form of pain relief. While hospice emphasizes reducing the suffering with professional medical care and attention to expressed needs and wishes of the patient, which of course her approach did not.

As a matter of principle; she decided that strong painkillers were not to be administered even in severe cases. According to Mother Teresa's philosophy, it is 'the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ' What rubbish that statement is. If a doctor in Westernized nations acted in that manner, his licence to practice medicine would be revoked. If a clinic in other nations were as slovenly operated like her clinics were; they would be shut down permanently. 

Robin Fox, editor of The Lancet, described the medical care as “haphazard”, as volunteers without medical knowledge had to make decisions about patient care, because of the lack of doctors. He observed that her staff did not distinguish between curable and incurable patients, so that people who could otherwise survive would be at risk of dying from infections and lack of treatment.

She didn’t use the millions in donations for personal use so one is forced to ask the question, what did she do with the money?  She did not focus the donated money on alleviating poverty or improving the conditions of her hospices, but instead she used the money by opening new convents and increasing her missionary work. If so, then she did this at the expense of those already in her ‘houses’ who were in need of proper nutrition and necessary drugs to elevate their pain.  The medical press has also published criticism of her, arising from very different outlooks and priorities on her patients' needs.

There was a report in The Guardian in Britain whose "stringent (and very detailed report) attack on conditions in her orphanages with respect to charges of gross neglect and physical and emotional abuse. Was Mother Teresa merely warehousing these children and adults in need of care?

If doctors and clinics in Westernized nations were to operate in the manner that Mother Teresa permitted her staff and clinics to function as described  by others of repute, they would make sure that she never got the Nobel Prize. I can’t imagine what prompted those who made that decision that this woman was to get the prize. It is beyond all understanding. 

Her failings include unnecessarily refusing to help the needy when they approached the sisters at the wrong time according to the prescribed schedule, discouraging sisters from seeking medical training to deal with the illnesses they encountered (with the justification that God empowers the weak and ignorant), There was the imposition of unjust" punishments against her “sisters such as being transferred to other locations away from their friends. She infantilized her Charity’s sisters by prohibiting them from reading secular books and newspapers, and emphasizing obedience over independent thinking and problem-solving. By her standards, she wanted absolute obedience without any exception at all. She was in fact running her kingdom as a dictatorship.

I would be less than honest however if I didn’t admit to the fact that if she hadn’t dedicated her life to the service of the poor, thousands of them would have suffered far worse than they did  under her sister’s care and many would have died on the streets rather than in her houses for the dying.

Procedures towards Sainthood

When a person dies who has fame of sanctity or fame of martyrdom, the Bishop of the Diocese usually initiates the investigation. One element is whether any special favor or miracle has been granted through this candidate saint's intercession.

Many Christians have been murdered and as such, they were martyrs and could become a saint For example, a 14-year-old Italian girl was raped and before she died at the hands of her rapist, she told him that she forgave him. The Church elevated her to the position of a saint.  No miracles were necessary.

In 2002, the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumor in the abdomen of an Indian woman (whose name is Monica Besra) after the application of a locket containing Mother Teresa's picture was placed on her abdomen. Besra said that a beam of light emanated from the picture, curing the cancerous tumor.

Some of Besra's medical staff and Besra's husband said that conventional medical treatment had actually eradicated the cancerous tumor. He believed it was a tumor in his wife’s belly. Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, who treated Besra told The New York Times that he had treated Besra and that it was  not a cancerous tumor at all but a cyst caused by tuberculosis. He said of her recovery, "It was not a miracle. She took medicines for nine months to one year as treatment to fight the tubercular cyst.” According to Besra's husband, “My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle. This miracle is a hoax.” unquote

Before a person can be accepted as a saint, they must be confirmed as having performed two miracles posthumously. (after death)  Was there a second miracle attributed to Besra? If so, how come the Church didn’t mention it?

A separate medical committee ruled that the so-called miracle of Monica Besra, among three possibilities considered, was evidence of divine intercession. Who was the head of that committee? It was Father Brian Kolodiejchuk who was the postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta  and he was the director of the Mother Teresa Center. One could hardly say that his Committee was independent.

What constitutes a miracle?

A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being (a deity), magic, a miracle worker, a saint or a religious leader.  Informally, the word "miracle" is often used to characterize any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a "wonderful" occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth.

But are miracles real? Let me give you four examples of alleged miracles and you can form your own opinion. 

Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade was a rear gunner in Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster heavy bombers during World War II, He survived after a fall of 18,000 feet (5,500 m) without a parachute when abandoning his out-of-control, burning aircraft over Germany. Was his survival a miracle? Not really.  His fall was broken by pine trees and a soft snow cover on the ground. He was able to move his arms and legs and suffered only a sprained leg. If he hit a rock surface and lived, that would have been a miracle.

When Frank Banfield who was my uncle on my mother’s side of the family, was living with my grandparents in the Northern part of Nigeria as a seven-year-old. My grandfather who was a renown Christian missionary for 30 years, prayed to God to cure my uncle from the fatal tropical disease he was suffering from. The more my grandfather prayed to God, the worse my uncle became.  The natives who were Muslims said that they would pray to Allah. They did and my uncle survived to be a famous mamologist (authority on mammals) 

When I was born in 1933, my mother took me to the Saint Michael’s Catholic Hospital in Toronto. The medical staff had no hope for me or my mother because of my birth being a difficult one.                                                                 

The Catholic hospitals in that era had a policy that if one of the two of us was to be saved, it was to be me because if I was alive when I was born, I could be baptized. Dead newborns could not be baptized. The problem facing the staff was that my mother was a protestant and the Protestant hospitals saved the mother and let the child die. The staff consulted the Archbishop of Toronto and suggested that everyone in the hospital, medical staff and patients) should pray for my mother and me. They did and both of us lived. My mother later became a highly respected  painter whose paintings are in the homes of people all around the world. I later became the precursor of the UN Bill of Rights for young offenders which benefits millions of young offenders world-wide.

Did I survive because I shifted inside my mother’s womb? Did my mother survive because my mother’s body shifted me? Did we both survive because the midwife did her job superbly?

Think about this for a moment. How many millions of people who were dying, prayed to God and despite their prayers, they died anyway.

If God intervenes to save your life in a car crash, then what was he doing for the victims of Auschwitz?" Thus an all-powerful, all-knowing and just God, as predicated in Christianity, would not perform miracles to save them.

The Catholic Church recognizes that miracles are works of God, either directly, or through the prayers and intercessions of a specific saint or saints. 

Theologians typically say that, with divine providence, God regularly works miracles through nature yet, as a creator, is free to work without miracles as well. The possibility and probability of miracles are then equal to the possibility and probability of the existence of God. If God doesn’t exist and millions of atheists don’t believe that God exists, then miracles also don’t exist.

Jesus explains in the New Testament (Gospel of Matthew 17:20) that miracles are performed by faith in God. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there' and it will move.”  unquote There are millions of Christians whose faith in God is far greater than the size of a mustard seed and yet they can’t even bring about a minor miracle, let alone move a mountain by simply wishing it to happen.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, a prominent Doctor of the Church, described one of his three kinds of miracles in his Summa contra Gentiles thusly;

“These works that are sometimes done by God outside the usual order assigned to things are wont to be called miracles: because we are astonished at a thing when we see an effect without knowing the cause. And since at times one and the same cause is known to some and unknown to others, it happens that of several who see an effect, some are astonished and some not: thus an astronomer is not astonished when he sees an eclipse of the sun, for he knows the cause; whereas one who is ignorant of this science must needs wonder, since he knows not the cause.” unquote

Why was the Church so anxious to make Besra a saint?

The Roman Catholic Church has suffered extensive bad publicity as a result of the sexual assaults against children by their priests in which the memories of those events linger like a bad smell.

Further, not as many people nowadays are willing to be church-going parishioners. This is the same with other Christian churches. The Catholic seminaries’ are falling short in their numbers of men who want to be priests.  According to Gallup Poll trends on church attendance among American Christians, weekly attendance among Protestants has been fairly steady over the past six decades, averaging 42% in 1955 versus 45% in the middle of the current decade. However, attendance among Roman Catholics dropped from 75% to 45% over the same period.

Most of the decline in church attendance among American Catholics occurred in the earlier decades, between 1955 and 1975; however, it continued at a rate of four percentage points a decade through the mid-1990s, and church attendance has since leveled off at 45%.

Pope Francis is a very dedicated pope and his interests towards the welfare of everyone is admirable but even he cannot increase the number of parishioners into his churches. They either choose other faiths or other churches or simply don’t care anymore.

The Pope needed something to happen that would take the followers’ minds off the sex debacle that has festered in the minds of the Church’s parishioners and what better could be done than to make Mother Teresa a saint. If praying to God will remove a cancerous tumor, then praying to God is the answer and what better place to pray to God than in a church—a Roman Catholic Church.

Unfortunately for the Church, it chose a dedicated follower (Mother Teresa) whose service to mankind was less than desirable on the premise that another follower (Monica Besra) who believed in miracles and was cured of a cancerous tumor which in fact she wasn’t since it was a cyst and not a tumor and that she was totally cured by the medical treatment she received. That event definitely does not constitute a miracle.                                         

I honestly believe that ordinary people (including Roman Catholics) will think this issue over very carefully and many of them will arrive at the same conclusion that I have. 

In my respectful opinion, the Roman Catholic Church made a terrible blunder when they elevated Mother Teresa into a saint. As I said earlier in this piece, she helped a great many of the poor in this world but so have others and they haven’t been elevated to the position of being a saint. 

I welcome my reader’s opinions on this article but please keep in mind two points. Keep to the topic of this article and I accept legitimate criticism but it must not be insulting. If it is insulting, it will not be published in this article. 

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