Sainthood to Mother Teresa: The Miraculous Disappearance of Reason!

At the beginning of this month, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu or Mother Teresa was canonised by Pope Francis and was declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church in a ceremony held at Vatican. Mother Teresa died in the year 1997. At the time of her death, she was a highly influential and powerful figure with close ties with top leaders and opinion makers of many countries.

She had founded the Missionaries of Charity, considered by some as the richest religious order in the world, which claims to do charitable work worldwide. At the time of her death, 4,000 Sisters worked under her at 610 foundations in 123 countries.

Adulation of her followers had grown to such levels that some people claimed that she is one of the most influential woman ever in Christianity, second only to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It therefore did not come as a surprise to anyone when the then Pope John Paul II waived the customary five years waiting period after her death to set in motion the process to declare her a Saint.

The process of declaring a dead person as a Saint has four steps. The first step is an investigation into the life of the candidate by a local Bishop. A candidate found worthy in the investigation is called a “Servant of God”. The second step involves further investigation to ascertain “heroic virtues” of the candidate and a study of the collected material by the “Congregation of the Causes of Saints” at Vatican. A candidate who passes this step is called a “Venerable”.

Once a candidate is declared “Venerable”, people may seek his or her intercession in prayer. So far, so good, but the next requirement is the controversial one. For a “Venerable” to be recognised as “Blessed” through the ceremony of “Beatification”, a “miracle” should happen due to the posthumous intercession of the candidate. Once the miracle is investigated and confirmed by the Pope, the candidate is called “Blessed” and becomes qualified for “Canonisation” and to be declared as a Saint, provided the candidate performs yet another “miracle”. Upon confirmation of the second “miracle”, the deceased person is declared a saint by the Pope.

The miracles!

In Mother Teresa’s case, the first miracle allegedly happened in West Bengal in the year 1998 when the abdominal tumor of a 32-year-old illiterate tribal woman Monica Besra vanished within a matter of hours. In her own words, while she was going to church on 5th September, 1998,

I was too ill to move, but two Sisters supported me there. There was a photograph of Mother Teresa there. When I entered the Church a blinding light emanated from Mother’s photo and enveloped me. I didn’t know what was happening. I was too ill to sit for long and was soon brought back to my bed. That night one of the Sisters brought a medallion of Mother Teresa and tied it on my abdomen after saying a prayer to Mother to help me. I had been praying to Mother for a long time. I used to have trouble sleeping because of the pain, but that night I fell asleep. At about 1am I woke up to go the washroom and saw that my stomach was flat and the tumour was gone. There was no pain. I was able to go to the bathroom without help. I was so surprised I woke up the woman in the next bed and told her what had happened. In the morning I told the Sisters.

In the year 2002, this miracle was approved by the Vatican. Protests by some Bharatiyas who considered this “approval” of a miracle an insult to their commons sense, went unnoticed. Even Monica Besra’s husband refuted the claims of miracle and said, “It is much ado about nothing. My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle. My wife did feel less pain one night when she used the locket, but her pain had been coming and going. Then she went to the doctors, and they cured her.

Dr. Tarun Kumar Biswas and Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, the doctors who treated her have said that the lump in her abdomen (not a fully grown tumor) was treated using modern medicine. Monica Besra said that the records of her medical treatment including sonograms, prescriptions and physicians’ notes were taken away by the Missionaries of Charity.

Attempts by her doctors and journalists to access those records were futile. The hospital where she was treated claimed that they were pressurised to support the miracle. Even the then Health Minister of West Bengal ridiculed the claims of miraculous cure for a medical ailment.

But the Communist government there was caught between devil and deep sea and remained spectators. Challenges by many rationalists and rationalist organisations to the purported miracle and its approval elicited no reaction from the Catholic Church or the Missionaries of Charity. Sanal Edamaruku, a rationalist who questioned the Monica Besra miracle now lives in exile in Finland after the Catholic Secular Forum prosecuted him for blasphemy for busting another ‘miracle’ in Mumbai.

It was in such circumstances that a second miracle from Brazil was “approved” by the Vatican. On 8th December, 2008 one Marcilio Haddad Andrino, an engineer who reportedly had eight abscesses in his brain, while being wheeled to the operating theatre, was selected by the higher power to be the beneficiary of Teresa’s second miracle.

While being moved to the operating theatre, his brain abscesses vanished without even leaving a scar. Though this was the miracle considered by Vatican for the Canonisation, the intercession was not limited to his brain.  Andrino and his wife also claimed another concurrent miracle which made them able to have children, though Andrino was sterile earlier.

After the news broke about Mother Teresa’s role in this miracle, the identity and location of Andrino were kept a secret by Vatican till their “investigations” were over. The identity was revealed to journalists only after Vatican investigators had spoken to all “witnesses”.

Reportedly, the news about this miracle reached Vatican though Dr. José Augusto Nasser, a devout Catholic who treated Andrino. Dr. Nasser, who was “coincidently” the personal physician of Pope Francis during his visit to Brazil in July, 2013 narrated the incident to Pope.

Vatican Certified Miracles!

More worrisome than the occurrences of miracles in the twenty-first century is the attempt by Catholic Church to give it what may be called a “certificate of Science”. Reportedly, around 900 cases of potential miracles were scrutinised by the Church in relation to Mother Teresa alone.

Vatican claimed to have scrutinised 35,000 pages of evidence about the first miracle. Both the selected miracles are claimed to have been analysed by a team of medical doctors, selected from a panel of Italian Catholic doctors called the Consulta Medica. Once the panel of doctors “approved” that the miracles are medically unexplainable, a team of theologians ascertained whether the miracles were a result of prayer.

A miracle for sainthood need not always be a medical one as in the case of Mother Teresa. There have been many kinds of “approved” miracles, including stigmata (magical marks appearing on body corresponding to the wounds on the crucified body of Christ), incorruptible (cases where dead bodies do not decompose) and apparition (reappearance of dead people).

Admittedly, what is claimed to be a scientific scrutiny and approval of miracles, is only to check if the phenomenon can be explained by any presently accepted principles of science. These miracles are at best only a god-of-the-gap fallacy.

Approval of miracles is an essential and indispensable part of the process of becoming a Saint. Mother Teresa was known worldwide even while she was alive as the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, claiming to be providing “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.

However, their claims of serving poor have been widely challenged and criticised both on the question of actual service and on the intention behind it. Their claims of service of the poor have been meticulously demolished in the books “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice” by Christopher Hitchens, and “Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict” by Dr. Aroup Chatterjee.

A 25-minute documentary titled “Hell’s Angel” aired in 1994 by Channel 4 of England and now available on youtube (watch here) earned critical acclaim for exposing Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity. Suffice to say here that even assuming that her claims of charitable work are true and correct, she would not have become a Saint but for the two miracles she is claimed to have done from heaven.

Our reaction

In this background, it is important to see how our country reacted to the canonisation of Mother Teresa. Not many in our country had the courage to stand up and question the miracles certified by the mighty Vatican. The canonisation ceremony in Vatican was attended by a huge official delegation from Bharat.

Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister, led a delegation comprising of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister of Goa Francis D’Souza, Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Members of Parliament Prof K V Thomas, Jose K Mani, Anto Anthony and Conrad K Sangma.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led a separate team of delegates consisting of her MPs. The official spokesperson of the foreign ministry, Vikas Swarup announced at a press briefing about the External Affairs Minister leading the delegation, “in view of the importance that we attach to the canonization of Mother Teresa”.

Comrade Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of the Communist government of Kerala announced that Finance Minister Comrade T M Thomas Isaac and Water Resources Minister Comrade Mathew T Thomas will represent the state in the ceremony.

Most importantly, a sitting Judge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, Justice Kurian Joseph also attended the ceremony in Vatican. Bharat’s media only added to the hysteria and did not once question the claims of miraculous cure of serious medical ailments, which were the basis for the canonisation.

The rationalists, the leftists, the anti-superstition activists, were nowhere to be seen. The left-leaning mainstream English media, usually the first to pounce on and tear-down any such claims, when they come from the Hindu religion, celebrated the event.

These double standards can be seen in this report of NDTV (which symbolises bias and double-standard in media), where the NDTV reporter talks about miracles in a matter-of-fact manner and claims another unnoticed ‘miracle’ during the canonisation event.

Law of the land

Article 51(A)(h) of our Constitution says that it is a fundamental duty of every citizen to develop a scientific temper. Claims of miraculous cures and magic remedies for human diseases are a serious threat to public health, especially in a society like ours.

Gullible citizens, mostly from the rural areas, tend to prefer such free magic remedies over medical science due to poverty. When such superstitious beliefs are mixed with religious faith, victims become insusceptible to logic and reason. It was to remedy this grave evil that in 1954 the Central Government enacted the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

The inclusive definition of “magic remedy” as per section 2(c) of the Act is, “‘magic remedy’ includes a talisman, mantra, kavacha, and any other charm of any kind which is alleged to possess miraculous powers for or in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease in human beings or animals or for affecting or influencing in any way the structure or any organic function of the body of human beings or animals.

Section 5 of the Act prohibits advertisement of magical remedies for treatment of certain diseases and disorders. Advertisement has been defined under section 2(a) of the act to include oral announcements. Section 5 covers cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease, disorder or condition specified in the Schedule to the Act.

At serial number 51 of the schedule to the Act is mentioned “Tumors” and at serial number 10 “Diseases and Disorders of brain”. As per section 7 of the Act, contravention of provisions of the Act can be punished with imprisonment up to six months for the first conviction.

The claims of the Catholic Church and the Missionaries of Charity of miracles leading to the cure of abdominal tumor of Monica Besra and brain abscesses of Marcilio Haddad Andrino are squarely covered by this law of 1954 and are therefore punishable offences. Mother Teresa was not the first miracle-doer Saint from our country and certainly won’t be the last.

When in the year 2013, the Maharashtra government passed the much discussed anti-superstition law, The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013, it was welcomed with great enthusiasm by the mainstream media and rationalists because it was perceived as a legislation primarily to target the majority community.

Shockingly, section 12 (3) of the said 2013 Act passed by the then Congress government of Maharashtra states that the act shall not apply when someone states about “.. miracles of deceased saints, propagation, publicity and circulation of the same and the propagation, publicity, and distribution of the literature about the miracles of the religious preachers which do not cause physical injury or financial loss.”

Apart from the controverted claims of charity, Mother Teresa is accused of evangelizing tens of thousands of Hindus through the Missionaries of Charity. In a video of 1992 that recently emerged, Mother Teresa is seen bragging about having converted to Christianity 29,000 helpless people who were about to die (watch here).

True to her faith, Mother Teresa was a hardened opponent of abortion, use of contraceptives and divorce. She had called abortion the worst evil, the greatest destroyer of peace, and had strongly opposed abortion even in cases of child abuse and rape. She attacked abortions even in her Noble Peace Price speech.

Such strong words from a religiously revered figure will literally put the fear of god in the minds of the women who need an abortion for serious medical reasons.

The Questions

In the circumstances, how appropriate was it for our government and politicians to legitimise, endorse and approve the canonisation of Mother Teresa by celebrating the event? What was the message our Foreign Minister and other politicians were trying to send to the citizens, including those gullible and illiterate villagers and tribals among whom the Missionaries of Charity is most active? How could the Government spend taxpayers’ money for this kind of tamasha?

Most importantly, how could a sitting Judge of our Supreme Court join the celebration of “miracles” by attending the canonisation? Below is an interview given to a Malayalam TV channel by Justice Kurian Joseph where he is heard saying from Vatican that the canonisation of Mother Teresa is a recognition of the ideology that she stood for and that it is a blessing for persons like him who are associated with that ideology.

The Hon’ble Judge must explain the ideology he was praising and endorsing. Whether he endorses the miracles and the magic remedies to serious ailments, or the teachings that even rape victims should be dissuaded from having an abortion, or that use of contraceptives should be avoided ignoring the threat of population explosion and diseases like AIDS?

It is not surprising that these questions were never asked in our country. The norm of the day is to appease minorities, even if it is to their detriment, to appear secular.

(Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and the Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content. HinduPost will not be responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information, contained herein.

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About the Author

Arjun K
Arjun K is an Advocate practicing in the High Court of Kerala, Ernakulam.