The Instigator
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The Contender
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Mother Teresa was a saint.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/30/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,078 times Debate No: 25375
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (20)
Votes (1)




I am arguing that Mother Teresa was not as great as she was made out to be. Please understand that I am NOT using the literal definition of the word "saint" here, which is defined by the Catholic church as anyone who is in heaven and by as "any of certain persons of exceptional holiness of life, formally recognized as such by the Christian Church, especially by canonization." I reject these definitions for the following reasons: I do not believe in heaven and thus do not except the grammar of the first definition, and the word "holy" is far too subjective and empty to me.

What I do mean is that she was not a saint as society generally accepts the word to mean. She was not a woman of perfect virtue or selflessness. I am also NOT arguing that she never did anything good. My point here is simply that she also did a lot of awful things that go largely unrecognized by most people, and she does not deserve the amount of respect and reverence that most people give her. (On a side note, I do believe the Catholic church should revoke her canonization.)

First round is acceptance. Second round will be my argument and my opponent's argument. Third round will be rebuttals and closing statements. I'd like to keep this debate to three rounds to avoid redundancy. Thank you in advance to anyone who accepts.

(Also, if there is any discrepancy in regards to argument, definitions, or anything else, feel free to leave a comment and I'll certainly consider adjusting it.)


I hope con realises just how tough a debate this is for them. Anyway, I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


Before I began, I read the comments on this debate before posting my argument, and something caught my attention. Someone brought up that my case would be easy once I started quoting Christopher Hitchens, who is indeed my main source on this debate. My opponent responded by saying that I must prove she did these things. That is absolutely not true, and is nothing short of impossible. If he is unwilling to accept a first-hand source from the first (and one of the only) person who bothered to investigate the life of this woman, what source is he willing to accept? Unless he can prove that Christopher Hitchens made up everything he said about Mother Teresa, I will consider my sources valid and acceptable.

Assuming we're clear on that, I'd like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate. He is right: I will have a very difficult time trying to convince people that Mother Teresa was not a saint. She has been held up as the epitome of goodness and virtue for years, and I think I'll get a lot of responses like, "Well of course she wasn't perfect, but that doesn't mean she was a bad person!" On the contrary, it goes much further than her not being perfect; to put it simply, she was a bad person. However, I don't think that was entirely her fault. The Catholic church used her for its own agenda, and she was in many ways victimized. But that does not change what she did. And so I will begin.

Mother Teresa was a women who is credited with being a friend of the poor. But it would be much more accurate to say, as Christopher Hitchens did, that she was really a friend of poverty. Her actual words were that poverty was a "gift from god," which should, in itself, tell you what sort of deranged and fanatical person she was. This is a woman who was so fundamental, so extreme, so caught up in blind faith, that she considered poverty to be a blessing on the grounds that she could do her Christian duty by helping these people. And keep in mind what kind of poverty we're talking about: starving children, disease-ridden mothers, AIDS-infected fathers dying in the streets. A gift from god? What a kind thing to say. She was simply not concerned with helping stop poverty. She did nothing to encourage the poor to improve their lives, even if they had the ability or means. She spent almost her entire fortune on establishing convents on her own named all around the world. Imagine the number of hospitals, or donations to medicine or science in Calcutta that could have been funded by this. But no, her sole concern was "saving their souls." A friend of the poor, indeed. She was also a hypocrite in several respect. Accepting generous donations, for example, from Ronald Reagan, a man who funded the slaughter of nuns, priests, and parishioners in catholic towns in South America, hardly seems in line with her teachings. It seems she was willing to go against principle when money was involved.

As for her "good works," would it suffice to say that most residents of Indiana had no idea who she was until she became an icon in the west? (Indeed, she spent far more time crusading around the world, meeting powerful leaders and accepting donations than she did in her own city.) If not, let's examine them a little further. The first thing to understand is that the vast majority of what she established were "Houses of the Dying." These ramshackle establishments served no other purpose than to try to convert the souls of the destitute before they passed on. A nice gesture? Sure. But surely more could be done for these individuals with the untold amount of donation money this woman received. In fact, beyond simply not treating any of these individuals, the commonplace sharing of infected needles and IVs undoubtedly lead to even more misery through the spreading of diseases. The nuns also refused to allow their "patients" to be treated, even if such treatments required nothing more than some antibiotics, on the grounds that if they did for one, they'd have to do it for all. This seems unlikely. Getting a dying fifteen-year-old antibiotics would not mean having to try to get an operation for an individual with terminal cancer, for instance. Perhaps they'd have had more money and resources to help people like this if she hadn't squandered so much of her money on "fighting" Family Planning organizations and birth control providers (something that impoverished nations desperately need). You can see her how she is almost directly adding to the problem. Fighting abortion is one thing - although I firmly disagree. But to fight the use of contraceptives? Surely she could be doing much, much more helpful things with her time and resources. Especially given that allowing women to have access to contraceptives and abortions has been shown to greatly reduce poverty in almost every nation that it has been tried it. Women having unwanted pregnancies leads to more poverty, death, and suffering than almost anything else, and this "saint" point-blank refused these measures (even calling them the "greatest destroyers of peace").

However, there are two main instances of fraud on her part that cannot be overlooked. In the 1980s, Mother Teresa accepted well over a million dollars from a Catholic anti-pornography crusader named Charles Keating. The problem, of course, was that it wasn't his money to give. She took a very generous donation from one of the biggest scandals in recent history. Perhaps this could be overlooked if she didn't do the exact same thing in Haiti a short time later. Here, again, she received an extremely substantial donation from the Duvaliers. This money was stolen directly from the Haitian poor. She then praised the Duvaliers and said that she had never seen any leaders so connected with and helpful to the poor. When the family was overthrown in a coup, Mother Teresa was asked to return the money to help the impoverished in Haiti. She never responded. In both cases, she accepted money stolen from the poor and the hard-working. In both cases, she was asked to return it. In both cases, she ignored these requests. What sort of person does such a thing?

It is very clear that Mother Teresa was no saint. Her fundamental fanaticism stopped her from doing the good, life-saving work she could have done with her resources. Her fraudulent tendencies disproved untold thousands of families of money, after it was stolen from them. She does not deserve the respect and reverence she gets. She should be praised for the small amount of good she did, but she should be shamed and criticized for all of the awful and disgusting things she did too. This woman hardly qualifies as a "saint."



I just want to say how rude it is not to call Mother Teresa a saint. That's just something I had to say like you should be caned or something for real.

On Oct. 19, 2003, Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997. The beatification of the Macedonia-born nun took place in Rome, and her popularity has remained strong in the months since.

The process leading up to the beatification has been the shortest in modern history. In early 1999—less than two years after Mother Teresa's death—Pope John Paul waived the normal five-year waiting period and allowed the immediate opening of her canonization cause.

In 2002, the Holy Father recognized the healing of an Indian woman as the miracle needed to beatify Mother Teresa of Calcutta. That healing occurred on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa's death. It involved a non-Christian woman in India who had a huge abdominal tumor and woke up to find the tumor gone. Members of the Missionaries of Charity prayed for their founder's intervention to help the sick woman.

"Her life of loving service to the poor has inspired many to follow the same path. Her witness and message are cherished by those of every religion as a sign that 'God still loves the world today," members of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she founded, said in a statement after Mother Teresa's beatification was announced.

Since her death, they said, "people have sought her help and have experienced God's love for them through her prayers. Every day, pilgrims from India and around the world come to pray at her tomb, and many more follow her example of humble service of love to the most needy, beginning in their own families."

In 2001, on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, officials closed the diocesan inquiry into Mother Teresa's sanctity. The yearlong gathering of testimony from those who knew Mother Teresa was the first major step in a typically long process. A year earlier, at an August 26, 2000, celebration in Calcutta marking Mother Teresa's birth anniversary, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim admirers joined in common prayers for her speedy canonization.

After her beatification, the recognition of another miracle will be required for sainthood.

If Mother Teresa of Calcutta had lived in earlier centuries, the Church might have gathered at her funeral to declare her a saint. That’s the way things worked in ancient Christianity. Now achieving official sainthood is more complicated—and not without its own brand of politics and other human imperfections. But just as this "Saint of the Gutters" seemed above politics in her life, her utter and simple devotion to the poor will transcend bureaucratic obstacles between her and official sainthood.

Mother Teresa is already revered as a modern-day saint by Christians from all corners and denominations. In July Catholic News Service reported Archbishop Henry D'Souza of Calcutta as saying that Mother Teresa's tomb "remains a shrine where people are praying and from which many are receiving grace and strength."

Why the formal process of canonization? Why the delay? It has been observed that the Catholic Church thinks in centuries, not in years. It is good for the Church to test the enthusiasm of the day, to wait awhile, to discern whether one seen as a saint today will stand the test of time. As Archbishop D'Souza said last year, the Church "must be sure that someone who is declared to be a saint is truly such." The formal investigation will document details of Mother Teresa's life that may have gone unnoticed, and thus provide a wealth of information for generations to come.

D'Souza, though, a longtime friend of Mother Teresa's, expressed little doubt that "God would provide the miracles" to prove her cause. It was Teresa’s single-mindedness, her simplicity and consistency that captured the world’s imagination. One can only recall the beatitude of Jesus, ”How happy are the pure of heart.“ That pureness of heart is a simple, single-minded commitment to the ways of God. We computer-dependent citizens of the 20th-century long for simplicity; Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived it.

In a 1981 interview[1], Mother Teresa spoke about another champion of the poor: St. Francis of Assisi. In a famous story of a turning point in Francis’ life, he encounters a leper by the side of the road and passes him by. Then he realizes that if he is going to devote his life to the poor he must embrace the leper—he must welcome him into his life as a brother. Francis then runs to the leper’s aid. Mother Teresa commented, "The encounter with the leper made St. Francis." So, too, it is Mother Teresa’s selfless encounter with the dying that made Mother Teresa.

It is the calling of Christians to serve the poor, to make room at the table for everyone. Francis came to see that. He reveled in the foolishness of God who has special love for those whom most of us would rather avoid. Teresa learned that, too, during mid-life. She will be named a saint because she cleared away life’s clutter and allowed God to work through her in a powerful way. We should imitate her.


VERY DAY after Holy Communion, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her community say the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. The 70-year-old foundress of the Missionaries of Charity carries with her a small reproduction of an old painting of St. Francis in which the weeping saint holds a cloth to his eyes. “He’s wiping his tears,” she says, showing the picture to the Franciscans around her. “I think he’s crying after receiving the Stigmata.”

She treasures this keepsake, remarking that it is different from other items given to her—which her sisters and friends sometimes “steal.” “I would never give this away,” she says, smiling.

Mother Teresa, winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, is talking with a small group of Franciscans who have picked her up at the Greater Cincinnati Airport on Pentecost Sunday and are driving her into the city for a special visit.

Why does she admire St. Francis? And why does she think that he has had an impact on her life? “I suppose it’s because St. Francis of Assisi tried to imitate the poverty of Christ so closely,” responds the nun who has spent 35 years caring for the poor and dying in the slums of Calcutta.

The incident in the life of St. Francis that most appeals to her is his kissing of the leper. One day St. Francis had passed a leper on the road—too repulsed at first even to greet the man. “But then he came back and embraced him,” Mother Teresa relates. “That was the beginning of St. Francis. That act of surrender made St. Francis.... After that he was ready to give anything!” Today in India, Mother Teresa and her followers care for 93,000 lepers.

Some of Mother Teresa’s fascination with St. Francis is more lighthearted: “I love St. Francis of Assisi,” she says, breaking into her famous smile, “because he had a great love for animals. He used to talk with them and play with them—and scold them if they did harm to anybody. I love animals, too. Animals are such simple creations of God’s beauty.”

Mother Teresa also recalls with some delight how St. Clare of Assisi was inducted into the Franciscan family. Clare had stolen away from her wealthy family one night and come to Francis and the friars to have her beautiful golden hair cut off as a sign of her new commitment. “They cut her hair quickly, quickly,” Mother Teresa says with mischievous enjoyment—snipping her fingers in the air, “so nobody would want to take her back home!”

And so with wit and earnest affection for a saint who also served the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa came to Cincinnati to help the Franciscans mark the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis.

Debate Round No. 2


I just want to say how rude it is not to call Mother Teresa a saint. That's just something I had to say like you should be caned or something for real."

I also can't really say I understand your argument. The first part was just a quote from a Catholic website. It said absolutely nothing about any specific good works or actions that she did. All it did was talk about how she was going to be canonized.

But I am glad you brought up the first miracle, because it's so easily disproved. First, the woman actually did not have a cancerous or even a benign tumor, but rather a small cyst. The quote the article I cited in my first argument (that I'm assuming you didn't read), "Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn't have a cancerous tumor in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine." Quite a miracle!

And I guess that's pretty much it for my rebuttal. You didn't do anything to show that she was even a decent person, much less a "saint." Your articles simply talked about her becoming a saint and her admiration for St. Francis. You failed to cite any instances of her actually trying to help combat poverty in her city or anywhere else; you failed to show any cases of individuals that had been greatly helped by Mother Teresa; you simply failed to show that she was a good person. Conversely, I have shown that she was a fraud and a fanatic whose blind faith lead to the suffering and misery of many hundreds of people. I have shown that she has, on more than one occasion, stolen millions of dollars from poor and hard-working citizens and used it to try to bolster her cause, even when asked to return it. I have shown that she spent more time trying to fight contraception, a necessity in impoverished countries, than poverty itself. I have shown that this woman, through her fundamentalism, was a person totally unworthy of the title "saint" or of even being called a good person.

However, I'd still like to thank you for accepting this debate. Win, lose, or tie, I'm glad for the opportunity to have such an important discussion. And, hopefully, I will have helped to educate people about who Mother Teresa really was.


Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje*, Macedonia, on August 26**, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent (ALBANIANS MAKE GOOD SAINTS). From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary's High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she depended on Divine Providence, and started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work.

On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to start her own order, "The Missionaries of Charity", whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI.

Today the order comprises Active and Contemplative branches of Sisters and Brothers in many countries. In 1963 both the Contemplative branch of the Sisters and the Active branch of the Brothers was founded. In 1979 the Contemplative branch of the Brothers was added, and in 1984 the Priest branch was established.

The Society of Missionaries has spread all over the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. They provide effective help to the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics, and famine, and for refugees. The order also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the shut-ins, alcoholics, homeless, and AIDS sufferers.

The Missionaries of Charity throughout the world are aided and assisted by Co-Workers who became an official International Association on March 29, 1969. By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries. Along with the Co-Workers, the lay Missionaries of Charity try to follow Mother Teresa's spirit and charism in their families.

Mother Teresa was always her own person, startlingly independent, obedient, yet challenging some preconceived notions and expectations. Her own life story includes many illustrations of her willingness to listen to and follow her own conscience, even when it seemed to contradict what was expected.

This strong and independent woman was born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Yugoslavia, on August 27, 1910. Five children were born to Nikola and Dronda Bojaxhiu, yet only three survived. Gonxha was the youngest, with an older sister, Aga, and brother, Lazar. This brother describes the family's early years as "well-off," not the life of peasants reported inaccurately by some. "We lacked for nothing." In fact, the family lived in one of the two houses they owned.

Nikola was a contractor, working with a partner in a successful construction business. He was also heavily involved in the politics of the day. Lazar tells of his father's rather sudden and shocking death, which may have been due to poisoning because of his political involvement. With this event, life changed overnight as their mother assumed total responsibility for the family, Aga, only 14, Lazar, 9, and Gonxha, 7.

Though so much of her young life was centered in the Church, Mother Teresa later revealed that until she reached 18, she had never thought of being a nun. During her early years, however, she was fascinated with stories of missionary life and service. She could locate any number of missions on the map, and tell others of the service being given in each place.

At 18, Gonxha decided to follow the path that seems to have been unconsciously unfolding throughout her life. She chose the Loreto Sisters of Dublin, missionaries and educators founded in the 17th century to educate young girls.

In 1928, the future Mother Teresa began her religious life in Ireland, far from her family and the life she'd known, never seeing her mother again in this life, speaking a language few understood. During this period a sister novice remembered her as "very small, quiet and shy," and another member of the congregation described her as "ordinary." Mother Teresa herself, even with the later decision to begin her own community of religious, continued to value her beginnings with the Loreto sisters and to maintain close ties. Unwavering commitment and self-discipline, always a part of her life and reinforced in her association with the Loreto sisters, seemed to stay with her throughout her life.


One year later, in 1929, Gonxha was sent to Darjeeling to the novitiate of the Sisters of Loreto. In 1931, she made her first vows there, choosing the name of Teresa, honoring both saints of the same name, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. In keeping with the usual procedures of the congregation and her deepest desires, it was time for the new Sister Teresa to begin her years of service to God's people. She was sent to St. Mary's, a high school for girls in a district of Calcutta.

During the next two years, Teresa pursued every avenue to follow what she "never doubted" was the direction God was pointing her. She was "to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets. I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor."

Teresa found a never-ending stream of human needs in the poor she met, and frequently was exhausted. Despite the weariness of her days she never omitted her prayer, finding it the source of support, strength and blessing for all her ministry.

Teresa was not alone for long. Within a year, she found more help than she anticipated. Many seemed to have been waiting for her example to open their own floodgates of charity and compassion. Young women came to volunteer their services and later became the core of her Missionaries of Charity. Others offered food, clothing, the use of buildings, medical supplies and money. As support and assistance mushroomed, more and more services became possible to huge numbers of suffering people.

From their birth in Calcutta, nourished by the faith, compassion and commitment of Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity have grown like the mustard seed of the Scriptures. New vocations continue to come from all parts of the world, serving those in great need wherever they are found. Homes for the dying, refuges for the care and teaching of orphans and abandoned children, treatment centers and hospitals for those suffering from leprosy, centers and refuges for alcoholics, the aged and street people—the list is endless.

Until her death in 1997, Mother Teresa continued her work among the poorest of the poor, depending on God for all of her needs. Honors too numerous to mention had come her way throughout the years, as the world stood astounded by her care for those usually deemed of little value. In her own eyes she was "God's pencil—a tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes."

Despite years of strenuous physical, emotional and spiritual work, Mother Teresa seemed unstoppable. Though frail and bent, with numerous ailments, she always returned to her work, to those who received her compassionate care for more than 50 years. Only months before her death, when she became too weak to manage the administrative work, she relinquished the position of head of her Missionaries of Charity. She knew the work would go on.



Debate Round No. 3
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RationalMadman 5 years ago
WE have a spammer.
Posted by Mathaelthedestroyer 5 years ago
Yeah, Hell's Angel was pretty much just the video version of that, since I didn't want to link the whole book as a source.
Posted by JoshuaSommer 5 years ago
You could just read The Missionary Position by Hitchens...
Posted by MurderMan 5 years ago
"I just want to say how rude it is not to call Mother Teresa a saint. That's just something I had to say like you should be caned or something for real."

What a laughable statement.
Posted by alex1094 5 years ago
RationalMadman the plagiariser strikes again!
It'd be an understatement to call this debate one sided...
Posted by Mathaelthedestroyer 5 years ago
No problem, Alex. I think it's one of his boldest and most revealing works to date.
Posted by alex1094 5 years ago
Michaelthedestroyer, thanks a lot for linking up that documentary, it's a great piece of Hitchens I'd never seen before.
Posted by Billdekel 5 years ago
Mother Teresa was far from a saint
Posted by Mathaelthedestroyer 5 years ago
I'm not sure why my source videos showed up on the side of the page. But to Rationalmadman, we both know that's a bad argument. All of my sources came from first-hand accounts. No one is claiming she raped a baby. If you won't accept these as valid, I will assume you won't accept anything that does not fit your agenda.
Posted by RationalMadman 5 years ago
No. But just because it says on a site 'mother teresa raped a baby' doesn't mean that mother teresa did such a thing.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by vbaculum 5 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: I was hoping for a strong Pro for this debate. Unfortunately, Pro's entire case seems to have been copied from websites which did not address Con's arguments nor adequetly affirm the resolution. In spite of the fact that his entire case was copied from professionally written source, he still managed to make spelling and grammar mistakes. Con presented a reasonably well written and well cited negation of the resolution so all points go to him.