This one came completely out of left field. I’m still taken aback by it.
For the last fifty years of her life, Mother Teresa had lost her faith. In private letters to friends and confessors (as documented in a new book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light”), she acknowledged repeatedly that she no longer felt the presence of God in her life. At all. Ever. Not in prayer, not in the Eucharist — never. She was tormented by God’s absence, described her empty spiritual life as one of “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture,” and once described her pretense at faith as “hypocrisy.”
For the last fifty years of her life.
Before I really get into this, I have to say a few words about Mother Teresa. If you have an image of her as the pinnacle of human goodness, the compassionate and charitable woman who selflessly devoted her life to others and founded hospitals and hospices for the desperately poor… I’m going to have to burst your bubble. Mother Teresa was a problematic figure at best, and many of her so-called charitable works were profoundly screwed-up. Despite the enormous amounts of money she collected, her hospitals and hospices offered grotesquely inadequate medical care, revoltingly unsanitary and even abusive conditions, and — pay attention to this part, it becomes important later — little or nothing in the way of pain relief, allowing the sick to suffer and the dying to die in terrible pain. They were essentially warehouses for people to convert to Catholicism and die, and the conversion part was far more central to their mission than either healing or the relief of suffering.
(There are other problems with Ms. Teresa, including making nice with dictators such as Duvalier; taking donations from savings and loan racketeer Charles Keating and not returning it to the people from whom it had been defrauded; her rabid opposition to abortion as “the greatest destroyer of peace today”; her non-consensual baptisms of non-Christians on their deathbeds; founding convents and conversion missions with donations intended for the hospitals and hospices (that also becomes important later); and more. Furthermore, when she herself was ill, she spurned her own clinics, and sought out the best and most expensive Western hospitals available. For corroboration and more details, read “The Missionary Position” by Christopher Hitchens, Aroup Chatterjee’s “Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict,” and her Wikipedia bio, which includes several references to her critics.)
But for now, I’m going to focus on the hospitals and hospices.
I’m going to focus on the lack of pain medication offered in those hospitals and hospices.
And I’m going to come back to her loss of faith.