Mother Teresa
December 8, 2023 ·  4 min read

‘She’s No Saint’: The Dark Side of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is a widely revered figure who is often praised for her dedication to helping the poor and vulnerable. However, there is a growing body of criticism that questions her methods, motives, and impact. Some people argue that instead of fighting poverty, she only perpetuated it. Let’s explore the alleged dark side of Mother Teresa and analyze the claims made by her critics.

Mother Teresa: Was She As Good As She Seemed?

Mother Teresa was born as Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Skopje, modern-day North Macedonia, in 1910. She was a Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. She became famous all over the world for her work in the slums of Calcutta, India, where she and her fellow nuns provided medical care, food, and shelter to the poorest of the poor. Her work earned her numerous awards and accolades, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

However, despite her saintly image and global recognition, Mother Teresa was not without her detractors. In recent years, a growing number of critics have questioned the very foundations of her work and legacy. One of the most persistent criticisms is that instead of fighting poverty, she only perpetuated it. (1, 2)

What Her Critics Are Saying

According to scientists and researchers Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chénard from the University of Montreal and Carole Senechal from the University of Ottawa, in Canada, Mother Teresa’s care was far from comprehensive. Based on the hundreds of documents, including reports from inspections of over 500 shelters of the Mother Teresa Foundation, Mother Teresa wasn’t really helping people at all. She believed that being close to suffering brought one closer to God, and that poverty and pain were gifts from God. She saw no value in secular education, progress, or efforts to curb population growth. They claim the evidence suggests that Mother Teresa provided poor medical care and neglected to provide pain medication to those under her care, believing that suffering brought people closer to God.

Shady Relations

Her critics also claim that Mother Teresa had a close relationship with dictators and corrupt politicians, accepting money from them without asking any questions about how it was obtained. They allege that her charity, Missionaries of Charity, was not transparent about its financial operations and that there were serious questions about how donations were spent.

Read: ‘John of God’ Oprah Winfrey’s Former “Spiritual Leader” Sentenced to 99 Years in Jail

Pushing Religion, Not Hope

Critics argue that Mother Teresa’s approach to poverty was more about perpetuating a religious message and less about addressing the root causes of poverty. Indeed, some have accused her of exploiting the poor for the purpose of promoting and spreading Catholicism. They also claim that she romanticized poverty and gave little thought to the social and political structures that created and maintained it. (3)

The criticism is not only limited to doctrinal issues but extends to the basic quality of care provided. Journalists, volunteers, and former nuns who worked with her have accused her of subjecting the sick to unhygienic conditions, dangerous practices, and insufficient medical care. For example, she allegedly reused needles, refused to install fans or air conditioning in facilities to save money, and provided little pain relief or medical attention to the terminally ill.

A Hard Pill to Swallow

For those who find these allegations difficult to reconcile with the Mother Teresa portrayed in popular imagination, it is important to note that her canonization was equally contested. The process of canonization, or sainthood, can often gloss over or ignore controversial aspects of one’s life or work. While some view her as a humanitarian hero, others see her methods and worldview as harmful to the poor and vulnerable people she was trying to help.

The Bottom Line

While Mother Teresa’s work may have brought relief to some in the Calcutta slums, it is clear that her approach and beliefs have also been the subject of fierce debate. Criticism has focused on her religious message, her lack of attention to broader social and political issues, and allegations of poor medical care. While there is no denying her deep commitment to serving the poor, it is important to acknowledge the complexity of her legacy and to engage with her work critically. Being critical of Mother Teresa does not detract from her humanitarian desires, nor should it necessarily diminish her personal faith.

It does, however, open a conversation about how organizations and benefactors operate in underprivileged communities. Rather than romanticizing poverty, it is essential to understand the underlying factors that create and maintain it while acknowledging the systemic injustices that contribute to it. Developing a more comprehensive approach to humanitarian work will increase its efficacy and foster an inclusive approach that will benefit the marginalized and underserved, rather than perpetuating their low social status.

Keep Reading: Stephen Hawking said he had a simple answer when asked whether he believed in god


  1. Święta hipokryzja. Matka Teresa z Kalkuty, zamiast walczyć z biedą, tylko ją utrwalała.” Newsweek.
  2. Mother Teresa – the myth of altruism?.” Newsweek. MRYB. March 12, 2023.
  3. Inside The Little-Known Dark Side Of Mother Teresa.” All That’s Interesting. Nickolaus Hines . October 18, 2021.