Mother Teresa's House of Illusions

Relates to: 

How She Harmed Her Helpers As Well As Those They 'Helped'

Susan Shields

The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 18, Number 1.

Some years after I became a Catholic, I joined Mother Teresa's congregation, the Missionaries of Charity. I was one of her sisters for nine and a half years, living in the Bronx, Rome, and San Francisco, until I became disillusioned and left in May 1989. As I reentered the world, I slowly began to unravel the tangle of lies in which I had lived. I wondered how I could have believed them for so long.

Three of Mother Teresa's teachings that are fundamental to her religious congregation are all the more dangerous because they are believed so sincerely by her sisters. Most basic is the belief that as long as a sister obeys she is doing God's will. Another is the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity. The third is the belief that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted. The efforts to prevent any attachments cause continual chaos and confusion, movement and change in the congregation. Mother Teresa did not invent these beliefs - they were prevalent in religious congregations before Vatican II - but she did everything in her power (which was great) to enforce them.

Once a sister has accepted these fallacies she will do almost anything. She can allow her health to be destroyed, neglect those she vowed to serve, and switch off her feelings and independent thought. She can turn a blind eye to suffering, inform on her fellow sisters, tell lies with ease, and ignore public laws and regulations.

Women from many nations joined Mother Teresa in the expectation that they would help the poor and come closer to God themselves. When I left, there were more than 3,000 sisters in approximately 400 houses scattered throughout the world. Many of these sisters who trusted Mother Teresa to guide them have become broken people. In the face of overwhelming evidence, some of them have finally admitted that their trust has been betrayed, that God could not possibly be giving the orders they hear. It is difficult for them to decide to leave - their self-confidence has been destroyed, and they have no education beyond what they brought with them when they joined. I was one of the lucky ones who mustered enough courage to walk away.

It is in the hope that others may see the fallacy of this purported way to holiness that I tell a little of what I know. Although there are relatively few tempted to join Mother Teresa's congregation of sisters, there are many who generously have supported her work because they do not realize how her twisted premises strangle efforts to alleviate misery. Unaware that most of the donations sit unused in her bank accounts, they too are deceived into thinking they are helping the poor.

As a Missionary of Charity, I was assigned to record donations and write the thank-you letters. The money arrived at a frantic rate. The mail carrier often delivered the letters in sacks. We wrote receipts for checks of $50,000 and more on a regular basis. Sometimes a donor would call up and ask if we had received his check, expecting us to remember it readily because it was so large. How could we say that we could not recall it because we had received so many that were even larger?

When Mother spoke publicly, she never asked for money, but she did encourage people to make sacrifices for the poor, to "give until it hurts." Many people did - and they gave it to her. We received touching letters from people, sometimes apparently poor themselves, who were making sacrifices to send us a little money for the starving people in Africa, the flood victims in Bangladesh, or the poor children in India. Most of the money sat in our bank accounts.

The flood of donations was considered to be a sign of God's approval of Mother Teresa's congregation. We were told by our superiors that we received more gifts than other religious congregations because God was pleased with Mother, and because the Missionaries of Charity were the sisters who were faithful to the true spirit of religious life.

Most of the sisters had no idea how much money the congregation was amassing. After all, we were taught not to collect anything. One summer the sisters living on the outskirts of Rome were given more crates of tomatoes than they could distribute. None of their neighbors wanted them because the crop had been so prolific that year. The sisters decided to can the tomatoes rather than let them spoil, but when Mother found out what they had done she was very displeased. Storing things showed lack of trust in Divine Providence.

The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives and very little effect on the lives of the poor we were trying to help. We lived a simple life, bare of all superfluities. We had three sets of clothes, which we mended until the material was too rotten to patch anymore. We washed our own clothes by hand. The never-ending piles of sheets and towels from our night shelter for the homeless we washed by hand, too. Our bathing was accomplished with only one bucket of water. Dental and medical checkups were seen as an unnecessary luxury.

Mother was very concerned that we preserve our spirit of poverty. Spending money would destroy that poverty. She seemed obsessed with using only the simplest of means for our work. Was this in the best interests of the people we were trying to help, or were we in fact using them as a tool to advance our own "sanctity?" In Haiti, to keep the spirit of poverty, the sisters reused needles until they became blunt. Seeing the pain caused by the blunt needles, some of the volunteers offered to procure more needles, but the sisters refused.

We begged for food and supplies from local merchants as though we had no resources. On one of the rare occasions when we ran out of donated bread, we went begging at the local store. When our request was turned down, our superior decreed that the soup kitchen could do without bread for the day.

It was not only merchants who were offered a chance to be generous. Airlines were requested to fly sisters and air cargo free of charge. Hospitals and doctors were expected to absorb the costs of medical treatment for the sisters or to draw on funds designated for the religious. Workmen were encouraged to labor without payment or at reduced rates. We relied heavily on volunteers who worked long hours in our soup kitchens, shelters, and day camps.

A hard-working farmer devoted many of his waking hours to collecting and delivering food for our soup kitchens and shelters. "If I didn't come, what would you eat?" he asked.

Our Constitution forbade us to beg for more than we needed, but, when it came to begging, the millions of dollars accumulating in the bank were treated as if they did not exist.

For years I had to write thousands of letters to donors, telling them that their entire gift would be used to bring God's loving compassion to the poorest of the poor. I was able to keep my complaining conscience in check because we had been taught that the Holy Spirit was guiding Mother. To doubt her was a sign that we were lacking in trust and, even worse, guilty of the sin of pride. I shelved my objections and hoped that one day I would understand why Mother wanted to gather so much money, when she herself had taught us that even storing tomato sauce showed lack of trust in Divine Providence.

For nearly a decade, Susan Shields was a Missionaries of Charity sister. She played a key role in Mother Teresa's organization until she resigned.

In the name of charity? Exposing abuse.

The MoC (Missionaries of Charity) remain one of the richest “charities” of the world, and Mother Teresa’s name continues to be a synonym for good even among secular people. I think it’s important that stories like these get told. Not only does this ongoing abuse need to stop, but people also need to be educated about what is really going on in this “charity”, and where they can direct their donations to make a better impact.

" I too volunteered at Mother Theresa’s Orphanage in Pondicherry – St. Terese Street. What I found there was appalling. Babies who were brain damaged were force-fed by filling their mouths with some kind of food and holding of their noses so that they either had to choke or swallow. Some of these babies were blind and deaf and only a few weeks old. When I complained bitterly to the sister in charge, she said that she knew these things were going on. They were also fed very hot food and very hot milk. They were left in soiled clothing the entire day and feces and urine ran from the mattresses and mats on which they lie , all day long. I actually rescued one child from their grip. seven children died whilst I was there, for 6 weeks.

The sister in charge was a materialistic torturer and cared nothing for the children under her care. The other sisters did nothing to stop what was going on. I am still in India ten years later. But NOT with the MOC. "

Visit Sally Warner’s own blog, where you will find more detailed stories about the abuse she witnessed, harrowing pictures of the same, and accounts of her trying (and failing) to move the nuns in charge of the various homes to change their policy.

The events Hemley Gonzalez ( and Sally Warner ( described are NOT isolated cases, but ongoing and regular practice in the homes of the MoC.

Victim's of (so-called) Charity

By no means is covered-up abuse within the Catholic Church a secret.  What amazes me, instead, is how so many choose to overlook the wrongs done by those in positions of authority, and offer praise for the associated organizations, instead.  [A recent example can be found here:  MCO doing great work in Moscow  ]

Great work done by some should not justify the abuses made by many; and actions of the good should not overshadow the actions that are wrong and criminal.  Abuse and gross neglect within a large respected group is abuse and gross neglect, so if and when one is treated like an animal within a certain group, supporters of that group must realize abuse,neglect, and associated corruption will render its own natural consequence.

Given the way in which the Catholic Church, and Mother Teresa, specifically, promoted adoption over abortion and contraception, (as opposed to Family Preservation), I myself have some real strong issues with the way in which The Church has used feared and respected members of the clergy to use their power to  bully and control the actions of others. [See: PPL's archived material related to the Catholic Church.]  I find the actions of so many clergy-members deplorable and not at all acceptable, on any level.  Overlooking these wrongs, or dismissing them by reminding victims much good was also done is insulting and hurtful, to say the very least.]

In a seemingly O/T remark, I have heard/read many complain about the title of our website, Pound Pup Legacy. I have learned both adoptive and birth mothers have complained that the title suggests the children/mothers are seen as sub-human animals, and not the "wonderful human beings" they themselves would like to be seen and recognized as being.  However, so few of these critical mothers seem to remember those who appear to be good and kind can in-fact be sadists or simple ignorant morons who have no idea how to provide the most basic needs of a child.

While I myself was not put in a home run by Missionaries of Charity, I was put in a home affiliated with the Catholic Church.  I have documentation proving there was profound neglect, as indicated by the flattened side of my head.  I'm sure my unmarried first-mother thought following Catholic Church recommendation to relinquish her parental-rights was in my "best-interest", but I wonder if she ever imagined the daughter she was told to give-up and send away would be as neglected and abused as I was, throughout my pre and post adoption experience.  Would knowing how terribly I was treated by ("trusted") care-takers have made a significant difference when she (and so many unprepared/unsupported mothers-to-be like her) have had to face the life-altering question:  do I keep my baby (the one God allowed me to conceive) or do I give this newborn to strangers who appear to be God-fearing, respectful, and trustworthy?

People so very much WANT to believe religious organizations (doing things in the name-of-God) are all right and good.  But the truth is, there is much evil taking place in the guise of righteous goodness.  [Those who follow a strong spiritual belief may agree with me in the sense that this type of deception is EXACTLY how Satan/evil -- The Great Deceiver -- operates.]

As the UK's Ryan Report indicates, far too many times evil crimes, like the sexual abuse of children, goes un-reported to police authorities because many of these religious groups have the power and money to influence others so much, they are free to remove any/all controversy that would otherwise be reviewed, judged, and condemned by the general population.

Is it any wonder, then, why so many of us so-called orphans put in these types of charity homes, and then placed in dysfunctional adoptive homes, (where the "living saints/saviors" were negligent/abusive brainwashed individuals), not only denounce God and religion, but don't have much faith in human-beings, either?

Pound Pup Legacy is named as such for one simple reason:  those of us who have been treated like sub-humans/animals, have stories and lessons to share.  We have a legacy to leave a different generation, and that legacy is one that is rooted in the simple belief that people should treat others, as they themselves would like to be treated.

I for one do not see Mother Teresa, or any of her ilk, to be either praise or saint-worthy.  That's my opinion based on my own horrible experience, which started before I was born.  I was the unwanted child, and I am fully aware  a choice was made by my first-mother, and that choice was based on her church/faith.  According to that belief-system, it was better to sell a newborn to seemingly God-fearing strangers, than to spend the time and effort to teach an unwed mother she was in-fact fit to be a mother.

How does the perfectly healthy child forced into an adoption-plan respond?

Imagine if God had decided the same, for the sake of Mary and Jesus and man-made religious belief. Had Jesus been sent to live in a children's charity, and exposed to a number of pedophiles for X amount of time, and was then sold to negligent child abusers, through adoption, how many think the New Testament would be written as it was written? 

Pound Pup Legacy