What about the Orthodoxy of Mother Teresa?
Marian T. Horvat
The care the Catholic Church traditionally has taken in proclaiming our Blesseds and Saints is well-known and admirable. Painstaking inquiries are made to prove the complete orthodoxy of the servant of God’s writings and sayings, practice of heroic virtue, and exemplary life to be offered as a model for the whole Church. In addition, a miracle is needed for beatification, and another to be named a saint.
Thorough inquiries are made to examine the writings and words attributed to the candidate to be sure that everything adhered strictly to the Magisterium and Tradition of the Holy Church. Even a slight doubt about the orthodoxy of a statement recorded by the person under examination has been enough to stop the process of beatification from going forward. I cite the well known case of Anne Catherine Emmerich, whose process of beatification was halted on the order of Pope Clement XIV because of questionable interpretations of her visions made by her secretary Clemens Bretano. It is uncertain whether she approved such theses. But because of this doubt, she cannot be beatified and as such presented as an official model for Catholics.
Knowing this great vigilance of Holy Mother Church in ascertaining the orthodoxy of those she raises to the honor of the altar, one can understand the doubts and confusion the recent beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta has caused in some Catholics.
No one questions that she rendered care and assistance to the poor of Calcutta and championed the rights of the unborn. The problem lies in the matter of faith, the first and most important of the heroic virtues necessary to be proclaimed a blessed. It would seem that there would certainly be cause for examination of some statements of Mother Teresa that imply that salvation is possible in all different creeds and beliefs. I will rephrase the problem: Can someone who affirms or implies that the Catholic Church is not the only true Church – as she did – be beatified?
Let me offer some examples taken from a recently-released book, Everything Starts From Prayer, Mother Teresa’s Meditations on Spiritual Life for People of all Faiths. In the foreword, Anthony Stern points out the ecumenical spirit of Mother Teresa’s work by praising her oft-quoted statement: “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.” She is lauded as a great ecumenical teacher of prayer. Those who praise her spiritual meditations read like a line-up from an Assisi Prayer Encounter: a Jewish Rabbi, a Zen teacher, a Tibetan Buddhist master, a Protestant minister, and the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others. The latter, Bishop Anthony Pilla, calls the meditations “kernels of truth … deep in wisdom and spiritual insight”:
Here is one of those “kernels.” Mother Teresa stated:
“Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer, and so whatever religion we are, we must pray together.”
This is not an isolated statement taken out of context. It is one of many such testimonials indicating Mother Teresa’s general attitude of indifference to what creed a man professed.(1) In this meditation, she shows an unorthodox notion of God, as well as a distorted notion of love.