Why She is Liked: Her Humanitarianism
Mother Teresa is both liked and disliked in America. She is admired, because of her humanitarian works, such as caring for the poor and homeless, the sick and dying.
She and her religious sisters, “the Missionaries of Charity,” literally went through Calcutta, rescuing babies and children from the streets, providing them with food and shelter. She also took dying elderly men and women – who had been thrown into the streets and whose bodies were covered with worms – into her shelter. Then she would remove the worms from their bodies, bathing them, lavishing them with loving care and, finally, allowing them to die with “true dignity.”
Her humanitarianism did not stop there, because she also cared for men and women who were dying of AIDS. Therefore, one can easily see why she was liked, if not loved, by many Americans and, in fact, people throughout the world. By her good works, “the corporal works of mercy,” she demonstrated that she was “pro-life.”
Why She is Disliked: Her Opposition to Abortion
Mother Teresa, one of the most compassionate human beings of the 20th century, was, strangely enough, attacked for her criticism of America, specifically, abortion. For example, in 1994, she wrote a letter (“Amicus Brief”) to the United States Supreme Court, both praising and criticizing America. She praised the United States, noting that
“Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest….”
She also criticized America, particularly, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, saying,
“Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was this Court’s own decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) to exclude the unborn child from the human family. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child.”
Teresa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, could have been “politically correct” and remained silent about her beliefs on abortion. She could have chosen to have been known, primarily, by historians and future generation as one of the most prominent humanitarians in the 20th century. But if the little nun from Albania did that, she would not been known for another outstanding trait, which was courage. For example, at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., she said to an audience, which included President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who did not agree with her views on abortion,
“I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
Why She is Loved: Her Holy Life
Mother Teresa, then, was not “politically correct.” Indeed, in body, she was a small and frail. But in spirit, she had tremendous strength. That was why she spoke from her deeply held moral convictions. Agree with her or not, like her or not, she is to be admired for speaking out against abortion. In doing so, she was willing to risk criticism for her “stand” on the issue rather than remain silent. That, quite simply, is called “moral courage.”
She was a powerful woman, perhaps more powerful than most men today. However, she used her power lovingly and justly in helping others. She made a positive or meaningful difference in the world; one which shall probably last for centuries to come. For those reasons, she was saintly, that is, a deeply holy person. Her life speaks for itself. It is a sermon to be read and emulated by all men and women of good-will.