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Saint Nix

Mother Teresa was no saint, at least according to new research. At a time when we're becoming disillusioned with our Catholic clergy, here's another blow to our beliefs.

Psychologists Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard analyzed of the published writings about Mother Teresa and concluded that her hallowed image does not stand up to analysis of the facts, but was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.

Larivée says, "While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church's most celebrated women and now part of our collective imagination--Mother Teresa--whose real name was Agnes Gonxha. The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further."

The researchers were especially bothered by "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce."

At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as "homes for the dying" by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers.

The problem is not a lack of money--the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars--but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: The journalist Christopher Hitchens said that her response to criticism was, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering." But at the end of her own life, she checked into a modern American hospital.

How do we convince people to separate truth from falsehood when they run across obviously false information in a book or magazine or on the internet? The problem is that many people WANT to believe the falsehood.

The prospect of correcting falsehoods online before they have a chance to spread widely has obvious appeal. Communications expert R. Kelly Garrett says, "(Athough) corrections do have some positive effect, it is mostly with people who were predisposed to reject the false claim anyway. The problem with trying to correct false information is that some people want to believe it, and simply telling them it is false won't convince them." For example, the rumor that President Obama was not born in the United States was widely believed during the past election season, even though it was thoroughly debunked.

The results of Garrett's studies cast doubt on the theory that people who believe false rumors need only to be educated about the truth to change their minds. He says, "Humans aren't vessels into which you can just pour accurate information. Correcting misperceptions is really a persuasion task. You have to convince people that, while there are competing claims, one claim is clearly more accurate."

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some time ago, I read a rebuke of Mother Teresa by... I think it was Christopher Hitchens... talking about all these issues. It was shocking to see someone come out so "harshly" against this alleged saint, but somehow, in my gut, it rang true. In fact, not being raised Catholic, but knowing many who are in the "recovering Catholic" camp, it was a RELIEF to know that even this last "saint" being held up to all the world to Catholics and non-Catholics alike was not, in fact, anything of the kind. Perhaps she was only out to help the Catholic Church, or perhaps she was being used by them for their own ends. I have no opinion on that. But I do think it's long past time to hold that church accountable for all the horrors and the emotional, spiritual and even physical and sexual abuse it has inflicted on humanity, on children, on women, on men all in the name of "God."

Well said Lisa!

I remember Whitley's remarks after reading some of her personal writings published after her death. These writings were complete with self-doubt and other misgivings, and Whitley said that this was indeed proof of her beatitude.

I agreed with him at the time, but I wonder how he feels now.

It's easy to dig up unwelcome stuff about even a saint's inner life because even saints are human. I don't know how catholics feel about saints, but to me, true saints are those who struggled hard with their own demons, and were true to their own natures (flawed as they are) but lived out their deep commitment to doing good in the world. It is not perfection that makes one a saint but the way in which they use their humanity to help others. So, the woman was sometimes harsh. So are great masters when they are helping aspirants forge the emotional and spiritual strength that they need to stay on the path. So, she went to hospital at the end of her life. For heaven's sake, the little woman was probably worn out, tired, and wanted to die in peace. People who want their saints to be soft fluffy things should stick to children's tales. True Spirituality is strong, it is tough, forged in the crucible of inner pain, conflict and awareness of one's flaws. It encompasses everything: good and bad, weak and strong. The truly spiritual, saintly person is one with the strength of will and mind to acknowledge the negative, sometimes even to express it, and transmute it into positive action. Shame on them for going through her journals looking for flaws anyway, and stupid of them, as psychologists who should know better, for not knowing that while a human being reflects his or her world and everything in it (good and bad), an exceptional human adds something of true value and worth to it. She did.

Tosca Zraikat.....

I LOVE THIS POST.....Thank you for your insight.

Sounds more like she had resources at her disposal to help ease suffering and did not due to some warped idea that suffering was good for them. Doesn't sound saintly to me. Shame on someone for trying to find out the truth? I don't think so. That's why we all are members of Unknown Country, to find the truth, no matter whose preconceived ideas it destroys.

i always knew this about her. i sensed it from the first -- how? that is the question i constantly ask myself and come here to seek answers

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