Five Lesser-Known Facts About Mother Teresa

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Five Lesser-Known Facts About Mother Teresa

She was an incredible leader and remains an inspiration to this day to the global order that she founded as well as common people in all walks of life. But, like all of us, she was human and had the same frailties and often had to make the same compromises that all of us do in order to get things done. Some have argued that Mother Teresa should not be granted sainthood, but many have also argued that it is what makes her human that makes her worthy of recognition. Decide what you will, here are five things about Mother Teresa you probably won't like to hear:

1. She was not always strong in her faith. Documents and private letters that have been found (many published in the edited collection of her writings called Come Be My Light ) attest to several periods in her life when Mother Teresa questioned her faith and the power of God, stating at one point, "Deep down, there is nothing in me by emptiness and darkness."

2. She had a reputation for treating others in her order callously. Many former nuns that worked with Mother Teresa and her order have come forward to claim that there were many practices instituted by her holiness that were almost draconian. One of these nuns, Susan Shields, who worked with Mother Teresa for nine years, has written for decades trying to dispel "The Myth of the Mother." She wrote in an article that "In San Francisco, the sisters were given the use of a three-story convent, but they pushed the mattresses out the windows and removed all the sofas, chairs and curtains... the house was made to conform to a way of life intended to help the sisters become "holy." The heating remained off all winter in this exceedingly damp house. Several Sisters got TB during the time I lived there.”

3. She accepted money from crooks and thieves. Christopher Hitchens has written in his bestseller, The Missionary Position , that Mother Teresa accepted $500,000 from famed bilker Charles Keating. When it was revealed to her by Charles Turley, then the Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles, that Keating had stolen the money and was asked to return any portion of it that she could, she refused to comply or even respond. She also accepted $10,000 from John Roger, a fanatical and corrupt cult leader who claimed to be superior to Christ.

4. She underwent an exorcism because demonic possession was suspected. In her later years, she became even more temperamental, reportedly flying into a rage for minor issues and behaving erratically. In fact, her mood became so erratic that she even underwent an exorcism at one point.

5. The millions of dollars Mother Teresa's charities took in remain unaccounted for. Several investigators including author and documentarian Aroup Chatterjee have discussed the economics behind how the charities operated and how the medical care that was dispensed to the needy was severely lacking and not representative of the millions of dollars that were being contributed by people worldwide. In the BBC 4 documentary, Hell's Angel , it is pointed out repeatedly that all sisters in the order lived in poverty in the same hovels as those they served and that medical care was severely lacking. But when questioned as to where the funds that were being funneled into the organization were going, no answer was forthcoming.

Misconceptions? Easily misinterpreted errors of assumption? Rumors? Or just evidence that like us all, Mother Teresa was a human being?