Musings on Mother Teresa’s Sainthood

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

On Sunday, September 4, the Vatican ceremonially conferred sainthood on Mother Teresa, based on miracles she is supposed to have carried out in people’s lives. As the Reuters reported (, the process of conferring sainthood is “more bureaucratic than beatific.” Also read this: So, we reproduce part of our obituary on Mother Teresa’s death in the October 1997 issue of the Patrika:

“In the midst of Calcutta’s mean streets — it could be the slum of any other city — a European nun working with the poorest and the sickest eventually drew the attention of leaders in India and outside, including those perched in the Vatican. With her global reach, one might even say, many indigenously run nonsectarian relief agencies in India did not get the attention and support even within India.

“Mother Teresa lived among the poorest and sickest in an overcrowded city where whatever infrastructure was there was falling apart. And the revered Mother saw no reason for at least tolerating modern family planning methods that excluded abortion.

 “No doubt, it is noble to give the wretchedly poor dignity at least in their death. An equally noble act is to make… … the uneducated poor, recognize that if they do not have large families, they have better chance of getting their children out of poverty, and society may be able to give citizens dignity not only in death, but in life as well.  And it is here that one believes Mother Teresa could have had greater impact.”

If we do not bring these wretched souls into world in the first place, mother-teresa-with-halothere is no need for somebody to save them after all. Poverty, I concede, has many contributing factors. However, for destitute families, such as those in the slums of Kolkata, Manila, Mexico City, Paris, or Detroit, large family is one major contributing factor. The deprivation Mother Teresa saw every living moment staring at her in the Calcutta’s slums did not move her to question Vatican’s edict on family planning. Her loyalty to the Vatican on this point was stronger than her compassion to the human abject poverty-driven suffering she was staring at every moment in Calcutta.

The Vatican’s intransigence on family planning is astounding, given its global reach. After all, an overwhelming majority of even working class Catholics, not to speak of professional white-collar Catholics worldwide practice family planning, not caring its pastoral injunctions. So, the halo around Mother Teresa’s sainthood is not sublime. It is more like the blemishes we see on the moon.   ♣

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