Thursday, January 27, 2011

Debate: Mother Teresa: good or evil?

It has been a long time since my last post and I am very glad I had the time to reflect on my book.

Since my book went out of print in the spring of 2009, I decided to set my efforts on other projects. Most of what needed to be said in blogs or forums was said to interest readers in the book. I still receive daily updates on Mother Teresa but there hasn’t been much worth posting. On reflecting over the past year and an half since my book went out of print I realized then, as I do now, that I was in a no man’s land when it came to the approach I took to the case of Mother Teresa’s cause. I was not the only Catholic in the Church and the world to question or write about their concerns vis-à-vis Mother Teresa holiness. I was, to my knowledge, the only Catholic in the Church and the world to write a book on the subject, send a copy to Rome, and do radio interviews about the book. Though my book is critical of Mother Teresa and is argued in a courtroom fashion, I did work hard to give Mother Teresa a fair hearing and give information about her that I believed even her most devoted followers did not know. When the book was published I quickly was examined by two warring armies:

The Mother Teresa is the devil army

The Mother Teresa is a goddess army

The first army is composed of hardened rationalistic atheists. These individuals in their need to find proofs to justify their faith, a faith of negation, seek to destroy the “Saint” of God. The atheists see the Christian world holding up Mother Teresa as thee modal of Christian purity and believe that if they can destroy her they have added another justification for their faith.

The second army has a mixture of soldiers, some are Catholics and some are from various faiths. These individuals have a hard time seeing that Mother Teresa could do anything wrong, let alone that she would do anything that could diminish the true religious service the world owes Mother Teresa.

You might have guessed that neither army received my position with joy. All they wanted to know was if I was pro or con Mother Teresa. Neither side could bring themselves to read my book because they have been fighting a trench warfare debate about Mother Teresa for such a long time they could no longer see any other way to address their conflict.

Recently, I came across a debate about Mother Teresa that I found interesting. This debate well demonstrates what happens when these two armies confront each other. I found myself watching the bifurcation and realizing why my book fell on so many deaf ears. Both sides are doomed to never discover the truth about Mother Teresa until they can look past their present presuppositions about her and judge her using the scales in which she believed her life was weighted.

Just click on Debate: Mother Teresa: good or evil? Make sure you see both parts.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yesterday was a Strange Day

Yesterday was a very strange day. I received a call from a radio host from WLTH radio in Indiana that he needed a guest for that evening and was wondering if I was still promoting my book. I did the interview and it went well (almost an hour). The host was not Catholic nor was his audience. There were many calls from individuals that seemed to be members of the Nation of Islam. It was interesting to say the least. If you are curious, the Nation of Islam callers were supporters of Mother Teresa. They believed, mistakenly, that her interest in starting her community was to help humanity for humanity’s sake. The life of Mother Teresa can teach us many lessons. In this case, I am thinking of how we are perceived by other people. Mother Teresa did not want to be thought of as a social worker but that is how she is perceived. It was because of her unclear message that most people see her differently than the way in which she wanted to be perceived. Many people see the Lord Jesus as someone who he is not but that can easily be attributed to their ignorance of the Scriptures. I find that most professed “Christians” cannot stand the biblical Jesus. Mother Teresa’s mistakes should not be lost on us. We can examine ourselves and ask, “When others see and hear me do they see and hear Jesus imaged in my deeds and words?”

Just before the call from WLTH, I received a letter from my publisher explaining that because of the economic crisis they are forced to shut their doors. My book will be for sale by Cold Tree Press until the 23rd of this month (Our Lady Queen of Apostles). I have not decided what to do with the book. I just want to let you all know that if you ever had interest in reading the book get a copy now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Retracting My Book?

Someone recently commented on my book:

“And if the canonization does come about, you'll have to retract the entire book, I would imagine, or at least remove it from the market, as canonizations are infallible.”

One evening when my book was being prepared by my publisher the interior designer of the book gave me a call. He was very frustrated that evening because his formatting software wasn’t cooperating with my text. He said to me, “Mark, do you know how many footnotes you have in this book?” I said I had lost count. He said, “You have almost 1600 footnotes in this book!” I tell you the story because those footnotes are mostly in reference to the quotes of the popes, fathers, doctors, saints, councils, and the Scriptures. What part of those writings do you wish me to retract? You see my book is more than a book about Mother Teresa; it is a book about the qualifications for a Saint and canonization. It is, also, a catechism of the faith.

I learned a long time ago that it is vital to have confessional parameters that are sacrosanct. If I did not have confessional parameters that are sacrosanct I would have been an ordained priest living in a religious community long ago. My vocation was confirmed by liberal, conservative, and traditional priests and religious alike. Many of the men I knew whose vocations were confirmed had the idea that it was their duty to get ordained and thought they could play the game to get through seminary. They were not the same men when their day of ordination arrived. They had become, or were on the way to becoming, the very people they saw as the destroyers of the Church when they entered seminary or religious life. What happened? Simply, they made the vocation an idol. A priestly or religious vocation is for the service of God, it is not end in itself. A Catholic is not called to the priesthood or religious life to see God be mocked it those environments only to say, “Someday I will defend you Lord!” That day is the day God give you the grace to know that he is being mocked; and if you are banned from the ordained priesthood or religious life because of your fidelity that is the will of the Lord and your vocation. Because these men rejected the grace of fidelity when given, God rejected them as his servants.

This same principle applies when addressing the larger picture of confessional fidelity. Dogmas and doctrines of the faith are not mysteries that a Catholic needs some special Gnostic knowledge to figure out. The dogmas are assessable to everyone; and the historic understanding of how they have always been understood takes a little work but is not outside the ability of someone who wants to know. I know what the dogmas of the faith are and how they have always been understood. I have drawn a line in the sand and will not cross it. I will not engage in tortured mental gymnastics to reconcile a teaching of a pope not in union with the declarations of the Holy Spirit just because he is pope. If that makes me not a Catholic then praise God, I am not a Catholic! We all have to decide of ourselves were viability dwells. Each of us will stand before the Lord and have to give an account for ourselves. Today could be that day. My conscience is informed and clear on this issue.

If you are a Catholic, how far will you go in obeying Rome? Where do you draw the line?

What do you do when the Church teaches that God is not God? Can’t happen? The Church is already teaching error about God, look at Nostra Aetate 3:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

What will you do if Rome teaches and defines:

Canon 666. If any one saith, that Moslems do not adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; let him be anathema.

If these hypothetical decrees and canons of Rome are heretical hypothetical decrees and canons, now and forever, then so is a St. Mother Teresa, for she embodies all those errors in her person.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Profile: Collette Livermore

By Lucinda Schmidt
February 18, 2009

Faith and science mix for a woman who has been a nun with Mother Teresa, an author and a doctor.

At the age of 18, Collette Livermore's life took an 11-year detour. Instead of studying medicine, as planned, she decided she could better help those who most needed it by becoming a nun.

"I really felt that life is such a lottery, and I wanted to respond to the poor," says Livermore, now 54. "And I suddenly had this crazy idea."

That idea sprang from several things that happened during her final year of high school, in 1972.

Her mother almost died during an operation and told her daughter of her out-of-body experience, looking down on the medical staff trying to revive her. Livermore also was affected deeply by television reports of the Biafra famine and her convent school screened the film Something Beautiful For God, about Mother Teresa.

So she joined up as a novice in Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, working in Melbourne, where she took her first vows in 1975 as Sister Tobit.

Even in those early days, Livermore began to have doubts that the strict Catholic religious order - which demanded subservience above all else - was the right place for her.

She found a homeless man lying dead, started CPR then called police and an ambulance, waiting with his body until they arrived. When she returned to the nun's home, she had strips torn off her for being late.

"If you were corrected like that, you had to keep quiet or say thank you sister, yes sister," Livermore says. "There was a big emphasis on being humble and accepting, and no emphasis on being courteous to each other or having a bit of flexibility."

In postings to Papua New Guinea, Manila, Calcutta and Hong Kong, she continued to get into trouble for not adhering strictly to the rules. In Manila, for example, parents arrived at the nuns' hospice with a very ill child on a "day of recollection", when no one was supposed to be admitted.

Livermore admitted the child, who lived, then wrote to the Mother House in Calcutta to explain why she had done so. The response was that her hands should have been tied by obedience, like having to watch Jesus die on the cross.

Another problem was the lack of even basic medical training. In Manila, the nuns were sent out to help those who lived in a slum at the foot of a smoking garbage mountain.

"We were doing the sort of work I wanted to do - that was the place I felt most at home," Livermore says. But she had no idea how to treat the tuberculosis afflicting many of the slum-dwellers.

Livermore tried to leave the order in 1981, just before she took her final vows, but Mother Teresa told her the devil was trying to destroy her vocation. Livermore was ordered to hit herself with a discipline (a knotted rope) and do more prayer and penance, wearing a chain around her waist.

"I'm not bagging Mother Teresa - I think she was very courageous - but I think the spirituality she was guided by was from the 1930s," Livermore says. "The paradox was that absolute obedience could lead you away from compassion. She thought suffering was a power for the good, that you could use humiliation as some sort of religious tool."

Livermore finally left in 1984 and followed her first calling, to become a doctor. She now works as a general practitioner in Gosford, NSW.

Her impetus to write Hope Endures came with Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003. She also lost all belief in God after the 2004 Asian Tsunami.

"I'm not a Pollyanna; I'm an ordinary person trying to do what I can to make life bearable for others."


Biggest break Getting into medicine at the University of Queensland in 1985. I accidentally applied in the wrong stream as an undergraduate. All the other mature-age students had other degrees already.

Biggest achievement Graduating in medicine. I hadn't studied in 13 years, and had no intellectual input during that time.

Biggest regret Not having children or a lifelong partner.

Best investment My medical degree. It opens up so much opportunity - you can work almost anywhere - and it is a very satisfying job.

Worst investment When I went to Timor, I sold my house [in Katherine, NT]. I was going to put the money in a term deposit but a financial planner convinced me to put it in a managed fund. While I was away it lost about $15,000 - I was living on a $200 a month allowance [as an aid doctor].

Attitude to money It's a valuable tool, it can help you do things, open horizons, give you opportunities. As long as the tool is not in charge.

Personal philosophy To your own self be true and you won't betray anyone.

Hope Endures, by Collette Livermore (Random House), $34.95.

My Comment:

I have many thoughts about the article but I found particularly interesting this comment, “Her impetus to write Hope Endures came with Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003.” Interesting enough, Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003 forced me to write my book. I hoped Rome would just ignore her cause; I never thought Rome could be that stupid. I hope she sent her book to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The very next sentence in the paragraph is why Livermore needs our prayers, “She also lost all belief in God after the 2004 Asian Tsunami.” That is what happens when you’re about social work but not the work of God. That is what happens when you don’t believe in a sovereign God. That is what happens when you do believe that people are naturally good—and not naturally evil. And, that is what happens when you have bad formation and bad spiritual direction.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mother Teresa's relic heads for Europe

23 Jan 2009, 0225 hrs IST, Indrani Bagchi, TNN

NEW DELHI: Mother Teresa, who as the saint of Kolkata's slums, epitomized campassion and charity, is not only a treasure that Kolkata cherishes. Far away in Europe, Macedonia, wants a part of her too.

And it will get it. The foreign minister of Macedonia, Antonio Milososki, was in India last week for a couple of important things -- certainly to bond with India on a diplomatic level, but more important, to oversee the transfer of a Mother Teresa

A part of Mother Teresa -- some say her hand -- will be transported to Macedonia to be placed in her birthplace, Skopje, as a relic in a commemorative house that the government there has just built for her, said Milososki. The transfer has been done under established traditions closely supervised by the Roman Catholic Church, Milososki said.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje on August 27, 1910, when Macedonia was still under the Ottoman Empire. But at 18, she left home to join the Loreto Sisters and in 1931 she arrived in Calcutta. By 1948, she took special permission to work in the slums of Calcutta and lived and worked there till her death on September 5, 1997. She started her own order in 1980, Missionaries of Charity.

She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna in 1980. She was one of two persons to become an honorary citizen of the US in her lifetime as well as featuring on a postage stamp while still alive.

But with a part of her body to be taken to Macedonia soon, in her birthplace, the government there hopes to turn Skopje into a place of pilgrimage. Mother Teresa is already on what is being called a fast track to sainthood in the Catholic Church. If she attains sainthood, it's likely that other churches would also want a part of her body in their reliquaries.

In a way it's like having the embalmed body of St Francis Xavier, whose body is embalmed in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa and is a huge draw for tourists and pilgrims alike. The right forearm, which Xavier used to bless and baptize his converts, was detached in 1614 and is displayed since in a silver reliquary at a Jesuit church in Rome.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Another Sister Leaves Mother Teresa's Community

SHE looks nothing like the nuns who taught me at St Joachim's, those good sisters who would all but fall to their knees at the approach of a priest.

Colette Livermore, however, spent 11 years within the physical and mental cloisters of religious life and discovered therein the shadows and demons which still torment her.

A gifted student who won a university scholarship to study medicine, she chose instead to follow Mother Teresa and joined the Sisters of Charity.

She now lives in coastal New South Wales and is in town for the day. We meet in the brasserie at the Stamford Hotel and she relates why she became a nun.

"When I was a kid, the Biafran famine was in the news. Kids were dying on the television set in front of you. I thought to myself that this couldn't be right and then I saw a Mother Teresa film and thought: 'That's the way to go! Get out there and do something!' I was very naive. I didn't appreciate the implications," she says.

It was not long before she realised that there were two sides to the saintly persona of Mother Teresa which the media had spun.

"Any organisation that demands you stick to a rigid timetable and do exactly what you're told is on the road to inhumanity, and I think and that was the problem," she says.

"Mother Teresa asked you to give up your brain, your will, everything. She asked for total surrender of the person.

"I grew up in Mossvale on the southern highlands of New South Wales and when I joined the order I went to Melbourne to the novitiate straight from school. I was just 18. It was a big change in life.

"Once you're within that sort of organisation, it's hard to get your bearings. You're off balance because Mother Teresa is a saintly person and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and all that sort of thing so you think that if you disagree with things, there must be something wrong with you rather than the organisation.

"We did our training and then I was sent to the Gulf province of New Guinea without any warning or preparation and nearly died of cerebral malaria.

"I was there for a few years and then transferred to Manila and worked in a garbage dump looking after people with tuberculosis. I wasn't even trained to the level of a barefoot doctor."

From Manila, Livermore was sent to Calcutta and it was there she tried and failed to leave the order. "You're always told that you're sinful and proud and all that sort of thing. It played with my mind. I realised things weren't right but I couldn't get any external bearings.

"You're cut off. You can't listen to the radio or read the newspapers or talk to friends. You have very little contact with your family. Your mind is only hearing one opinion. There's only one voice speaking. It's difficult to leave when Mother Teresa is telling you that it's to do with the devil."

Livermore's disaffection with Mother Teresa peaked when she clashed with her superiors over a decision not to treat sick children on a holy day.

"A ruling was made that on this recollection day, this day of prayer, children were not to be admitted to the Home for the Children.

"This really sick child came in with stick arms, breathing really fast and dehydrated and I was told he couldn't stay. I had this internal conflict and eventually the child was admitted but only after I'd had a big fight.

"These sorts of things happened time and time again because there was this rigid obedience and timetable, so I wrote to Calcutta and said: 'This can't be right.'

Mother Teresa's reply was not the one Livermore had hoped for. "She said that just as Our Lady watched Jesus die, I should be able to accept the death of a child if obedience asked it of me.

"Then I said: 'That's against the gospel' and they said that even the devil could quote scripture."

Livermore's portrait of Mother Teresa is of a woman tortured by her own spirituality.

"It led her to some pretty dark places," she says. "She talked about her inner emptiness and misery. She said 'Empty yourself of all that's not God.' She just felt depleted and that's what happened to all of us too."

Livermore's mother, who had been opposed to her joining the order, knew nothing of this. "My family wasn't aware because you weren't supposed to tell anyone. It was a secret.

"Mum was disappointed I'd thrown away the chance to do medicine because our family struggled. My father had left us and she was struggling to support four kids and for her eldest to take off was hard."

Livermore eventually wrote to Mother Teresa telling her she could no longer cope.

"She said she thought it was the devil, the Father of Lies, trying to rob me of my vocation and get me off the track but I couldn't do it any more. It was screwing my head around. I was 30 and I'd been in there 11 years."

Livermore describes the order as a sect and has written a book, Hope Endures, chronicling her experiences.

Mother Teresa's mistake, says Livermore, was in thinking that obedience was more important than compassion.

"That's not something that's widely known and not part of what the media says about her. It was dictatorial. I should have got out sooner," she says, shaking her head.

When she finally left, she turned to the medical degree she had spurned when she joined the sisters and became a doctor, working in Timor, the Northern Territory, the Congo, Sudan and Darfur.

One casualty of her time with Mother Teresa was her religion.

" I ended up an agnostic," she says. "I just couldn't believe it any more but if, as when I was in Timor from 2000-2003, you can do something for the kids, then for some people at least, you can make a difference."

Livermore blames no one but herself for what happened.

"After all," she says, smiling, "no one handcuffed me. It was my own silly choice. My mother told me I was a drongo but once I was in there, I couldn't get free.

"That's part of the reason I wrote the book - to tell religious people not to give up that inner compass that they have. You can't live your life with all these excluding rules."

She says the problems within the order are exemplified by the nuns' practice of self-flagellation, whipping themselves to try to imitate Christ's suffering.

"Suffering comes your way and you have to put up with it but," she says, "but it's sort of warped to go looking for it."

* Hope Endures by Colette Livermore, William Heinemann Australia, $34.95

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bulldog and the Rude Show, My Interview on WOCM-FM 98.1 in Ocean City, MD

On Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, I was invited to be on the Bulldog and The Rude Awakening Show at 9:40am for a 10 minute interview. I when on at 9:43am and was off by 9:47am. What happened!? It seems that David Rothner (Bulldog) did not the subject of my book. I can image that many radio hosts have on guests who present subjects that are not their cup of tea. Still, those hosts hear the guest out as a matter of professional courtesy unless the guest is behaving in an unprofessional manner. Nowhere in the four minutes and seventeen seconds that I was on the air did I give cause to be cut off. It was Mr. Rothner’s responsibility to look over the guests the producer booked and any information associated with those guests. This he obviously did not do. That Mr. Rothner could not endure a polite guest explaining basic Christian doctrine for 10 minutes demonstrates an intolerance and an unprofessionalism that astounds me. I was trying to move on to points relating to psychology and sociology when Mr. Rothner ended the interview.

Judge for yourself if I did anything wrong.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?

Marking 20th anniversary of its foundation the Faculty of the Sciences of Communication is organizing a conference by Dr. Gezim Alpion on his book Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity at the Salesian Pontifical University Rome.

The conference scheduled for Thursday 20th November will be in English with Italian translation. Open to all, the program will start at 4.30 pm and will conclude at 6.45 pm.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was undoubtedly one of the great personalities of the twentieth century. The author explores her significance to the mass media, to celebrity culture, to the church and to various political and national groups.

Albanian born Gezim Alpion currently director of Research Postgraduate Studies, Department of Sociology (Birmingham University) received a PhD from the University of Durham, UK, in 1997. His works include Vouchers (2001), Foreigner Complex (2002), If Only the Dead Could Listen (2006), and Encounters with Civilizations (2008).

My Comment:

I have not read this book but the title is provocative enough. It would be fun to go to the conference but I cannot afford the travel expenses. I read the reviews on Amazon and the book does not seem all that unique in substance.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mother Teresa and the 2008 Election

It seems that Mother Teresa has found the 2008 presidential election so important that she going to make an endorsement (from the grave). So many people ask me why they should care if Mother Teresa is thought of as a Saint. The article below is another example to add to the pile. So much for W.W.J.D? (What Would Jesus Do?) The new slogan is W.W.M.T.D? (What Would Mother Teresa Do?).

Who Would Mother Teresa Endorse - McCain/Palin or Obama/Biden?

Mother Teresa died September 5, 1997, but if she were alive today, the following might have happened:

John McCain and Sarah Palin sat on one side of the conference table, and Barack Obama and Joseph Biden sat opposite them on the other side. No other people were in the small hotel meeting room. There was no small-talk amongst the four. Their eyes were focused on a side door.

Then, Mother Teresa walked through the door and made her way to the head of the table. The four people stood and introductions were made all around. Mother Teresa motioned for the group to sit down.

“Thanks for coming today,” she said. They nodded.

“As you know, I have decided to endorse a candidate for president of the United States in the 2008 election. A formal announcement will be made at a press conference later this afternoon. But I felt it was important to personally let you know my decision ahead of time,” she said. Nervous smiles revealed the tensions felt by each politician.

Mother Teresa slowly looked around the table. “I am endorsing John McCain and Sarah Palin.”

McCain and Palin blew out deep sighs of relief. Their faces lit up. “Thank you, Mother Teresa,” said McCain.

“But Mother?” said Barack Obama in a disappointed voice.

“Yes, Senator Obama.”

Obama shrugged. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Just like you, I have worked with poor people and the have-not’s all my life. So, why did you choose McCain and Palin over Joe and me?”

“Senator, your words have encouraged thousands of people, but I am not moved by a politician’s words,” she said. “I study their actions and their votes before I -”

“But I have - ” Obama interrupted her. Mother Teresa raised her hand and Obama nodded his head. “Sorry, Mother,” he said.

“My life and ministry is dedicated to helping and caring for ‘the least of these’ among us, just as Jesus commanded us in Matthew 25.” Tears streamed down her face. “And who are ‘the least of these’, right?”

Mother Teresa turned to Sarah Palin and touched her face with a gnarled finger. “Unborn babies, and especially Down Syndrome babies.”

And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Friday, September 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI Regarding the Cause for Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. With the publishing of her private writings, on the same date last year, a more intense interest in her life arose. Below is an open letter I recently sent to Pope Benedict XVI. Also, the letter was sent to the Catholic bishops, Catholic media, and the media here and abroad.

"Fiat justitia ruat caelum."

Thank you for your consideration,

Mark M. Zima
--author of Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause

An Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI
Regarding the Cause for Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Your Holiness:

One year ago, on the tenth anniversary of her death, Fr. Kolodiejchuk released Mother Teresa’s private letters. Since their release, her letters have led to a global questioning of her spiritual state. The popular interpretation of her words, by Catholics, is that she experienced the dark night of the soul. Those who hold that position base it on the presupposition that she was holy. Therefore, her “dark night” is interpreted as a true sanctifying dark night of a Saint. But is their judgment correct?

Before her community was approved, in her letters, Mother Teresa declares, “There are millions who live in Indian cities and villages in ignorance of God and of Christ, in abominable sinfulness. We shall bring them to Christ and Christ to them” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 116). But when her community was approved, she taught, “I convert you to be a better Hindu, a better Catholic, Muslim, Jain, or Buddhist” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 4). There are some who argue that she did not mean what she said and she wanted to convert those she met. There is some truth to their claim. Nevertheless, her words are misleading to the hearer and the reader.

Mother Teresa said, “We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men—simply better—we will be satisfied” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 47). In 1990, she spoke at the Vatican. She told an audience of priests, “We call baptism the ticket for St. Peter. She said, “Not one has died without the ticket for St. Peter. We call baptism the ticket for St. Peter because He [God] won’t let them go to heaven without that ticket” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 126). Clearly, Mother Teresa was not “satisfied” that these people did not “convert.”

Mother Teresa wanted to preach, “The Kingdom must be preached to all” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 133). But the kingdom she preached was, “I love all religions but I am in love with my own. If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there. They come closer and closer to God. When they come closer, they have to choose” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 47).

Contradiction was a state of life for Mother Teresa. She was afraid of the loss of souls, “Souls are being lost in the slums and in the streets, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more and more suffering—and here I am waiting” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 119). But she taught, “When we die we are going to be with God, and with all those we have known who have gone before us; our family and our friends will be there waiting for us. Heaven must be a beautiful place” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 115). The first rule of the Missionaries of Charity was to instruct in ”Christian Doctrine” the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the infirmed, and the dying (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 139). Did she teach ”Christian Doctrine” when she taught, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 29)?

Mother Teresa said, “There is so much contradiction in my soul.—Such deep longing for God—so deep that it is painful—a suffering continual—and yet not wanted by God—repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 169-70). Sad words, but what in these words forces the reader to conclude that Mother Teresa suffered through the dark night of the soul? If the reader interprets these words of Mother Teresa to the exclusion of all that she said and did they are demonstrating their bias not Mother Teresa’s dark night. The Church’s teaching regarding the dark night of the soul is being distorted by many who think it is a suffering of any kind.

In his book, The Dark Night of The Soul, St. John of the Cross taught, “This dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul, which purges it from its ignorances and imperfections, habitual natural and spiritual, and which is called by contemplatives infused contemplation, or mystical theology. Herein God secretly teaches the soul and instructs it in perfection of love without its doing anything, or understanding of what manner is this infused contemplation. Inasmuch as it is the loving wisdom of God, God produces striking effects in the soul for, by purging and illumining it, He prepares it for the union of love with God. Wherefore the same loving wisdom that purges the blessed spirits and enlightens them is that which here purges the soul and illumines it” (bk. II, ch. 5, sec. 1).

Are the faithful being asked to believe that a Saint teaches ”Christian Doctrine” when they “help” a “Hindu become a better Hindu”? Are the faithful being asked to believe that Mother Teresa was purged and illuminated by God to “convert” Buddhists into “better” Buddhists? Was Mother Teresa purged from essential “ignorances and imperfections” relating to the faith?

In his book, Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross also taught, “Two contraries (even as philosophy teaches us) cannot coexist in one person; and that darkness, which is affection set upon the creatures, and light, which is God, are contrary to each other, and have no likeness or accord between one another, even as Saint Paul taught the Corinthians, saying: ‘Quoe conventio luci ad tenebras?’ That is to say: ‘What communion can there be between light and darkness?’ Hence it is that the light of Divine union cannot dwell in the soul if these affections first flee not away from it. In order that we may the better prove what has been said, it must be known that the affection and attachment which the soul has for creatures renders the soul like to these creatures; and, the greater is its affection, the closer is the equality and likeness between them; for love creates a likeness between that which loves and that which is loved” (Quoted in Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 175).

“Two contraries cannot coexist in one person.” Mother Teresa’s statements are not paradoxical; they are contradictory. The Church and the world should praise Mother Teresa’s corporal works of mercy, but if St. John of the Cross or any other Saint read the above quoted words of Mother Teresa do you believe that they would conclude that her words were those of a Saint who experienced the dark night of the soul (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, 24)? Mother Teresa said, “If there is hell—this must be one. How terrible it is to be without God—no prayer—no faith—no love” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, 250). Do you believe that the Saints would find this quote indicative of a Saint who experienced the dark night of the soul or a soul who experienced a dark night?

In canonizing, the Church seeks to honor “the holy and undivided Trinity,” exalt “the Catholic faith,” and cultivate “the Christian religion.” The candidate for canonization must be someone who possessed and demonstrated heroic faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. How were these virtues heroically fulfilled by Mother Teresa?

I am aware that you have a great respect for Mother Teresa (Deus Caritas Est, 18, 36, 40) and I am aware that what I am saying may be causing you some pain, but I beg you to reflect on this letter before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Please ask yourself, “If anyone else who was not Mother Teresa said and did these things, what would I think? How would I respond?”

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “the lover is not satisfied with a superficial apprehension of the beloved, but strives to gain an intimate knowledge of everything pertaining to the beloved, so as to penetrate into his very soul” (Summ. Theol., la. 2ae., q. 28, a. 2). Accordingly, anyone who loves Mother Teresa cannot desire to represent her other than who she really was. The proper interpretation of Mother Teresa’s true spiritual reality is the next step in the story of a woman who has become a religious icon for the Church and the world. I believe that you will conclude that the common presupposition of Mother Teresa’s “dark night” must give way to a new interpretation of her person.

Mother Teresa’s cause is complex because it is a high-profile case. For this reason, it is imperative her case is settled promptly, so that the errors surrounding her life are ended and scandal abated. Silence does not save souls but it will lead them astray. Failure to act now ensures a more difficult case for the Church to correct in the future. If Mother Teresa is a Saint, no one can take away the canonization God has already bestowed upon her. However, if she is not a Saint, then those who love her must expose the truth so multitudes do not pray for her intercession, but instead intercede for her soul.

Your son in the faith,

Mark M. Zima
author of Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause