Was Mother Teresa a Saint or a Sinner?
“I’m not a social worker. I do it for the church.”
— Saint Teresa
Mother Teresa was a sinner. It took a few amiable, though pouty and pinch-cheeked, journalists to point this out. Douglas Robertson of the Independent wrote: "Mother Teresa wasn't saintly — she was a shrewd operator with unpalatable views…."
If you believed your whole life there were only seven deadly sins, must you now count eight? Pope Gregory I (540–604 A.D.) came up with the list of seven as a smart way to define sin, which is why we can still recall the idea today, 1500 years later. You can count them: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth.
Being a natural born (baptized?) marketing man, he gave them a tagline, "thou shalt not." After having so much luck with sin, Gregory recruited the opposing team, the seven virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Gregory was a chronic list maker.
Gregory (also called Gregory the Great) was a renaissance man before his time. He inspired the church liturgy with poetry and championed music in the mass, helped the poor, and converted the Anglo-Saxon pagans in Britain. Considering Christianity's effect on England and the new world, Gregory's view was not dissimilar from Alan Greenspan's. Both men believed that excessive animal instinct brings chaos into our lives (and our ecojnomy of the 2000s). Both agree that sin is acceptable in moderation.
Eat a healthy dinner and Gregory will congratulate you. He would say you live in sin if you eat five cheeseburgers and three sides of fries. This theory was derived from the Greeks. In the 4th century B.C., written on the Temple of Apollo was "nothing in excess." Excess is the root of sin, not pornography, making money, or enjoying a fine meal.
This brings us around to our point about journalists. When fame is currency, the very act of blaming or shaming provides great satisfaction. They are the weapons of choice for the woke and right-wing extremist mobs. As with all weapons, some people have great skill in using shame and blame weapons, and now we have a new name for this type.
The famous journalist, Christopher Hitchens, traveled to the Vatican to argue in front of the Pope to deny Mother Teresa Sainthood. Hitchens made a career out of playing "devil's advocate" against Teresa. That is not an expression in his case but a canonical right of the church, which has come down to us in the form of that famous wedding question no one ever answers, "do any here have an objection?"
As he is called by friends, of whom Teresa was not, Hitch testified that "Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor." How did he come by this stunning insight? Because she had dared say that "Suffering was a gift from God." But when she added, "I'm not a social worker, I do it for the church," Hitchens hopped on a plane (first class of course) and flew to Rome to challenge her beatification. He hoped to redefine the meaning of virtue vs. sin where sin is not doing okay things in excess but things you particularly don’t approve of. Sin becomes judgment not behavior. It is someone’s self-proclaimed virtue against ours.
Hitchens failed in this effort, thankfully, but it leaves the feeling that if you think you have enemies, wait until you qualify for sainthood.
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. She left home in 1928 at age 18 to travel to Ireland to learn English to become a missionary; English was the language of instruction in her convent in India. She never saw her family again. Although Mother Teresa enjoyed teaching, she was increasingly disturbed by poverty in Calcutta. In 1946, she asked for and received permission to leave to create the Missionaries of Charity. It started with 13 members. By the time she finished, there were over 4,000 worldwide.
The congregation also runs soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children's and family counseling programs, orphanages, and schools. Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and also profess a fourth vow: to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor."
An old African proverb says it takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a few sinners.