Saint Teresa, Not Quite

To open the life of someone like Mother Teresa to scrutiny is always a difficult task. First, there is an aura that surrounds her image, one which seems to disallow any form of criticism. Second, there is a sense of inadequacy in all of us because of her spartan life filled with a genuine sense of service. There are some similarities with Gandhi, who also made criticism seem absurd as he sat amongst the poor in their clothes and with a smile on his ineffable face.

Certainly, Mother Teresa was an extraordinary person, or else there would not be such attention paid at the time of her death. This critique of Mother Teresa is not intended to downplay her role in the amelioration of suffering among some of the world's poor. Our interest does not lie in the intricacies of her theology but in the limitations of her work. For, in the end, her work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.

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Himal Southasian
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