"(Mother Teresa) was 'anything but a saint,' the Canadian study authors found.......In fact, she found beauty in watching people suffer, the authors say." (Washington Times article)
"Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep on a bare floor to bring himself closer to Christ, a book published (in 2010) says." (CNN article)
But is this the reality about Mother Teresa? Was she the essence of goodness and selfless giving of herself to those who were suffering?
Christian View of Suffering
First, let's discuss the biblical view of suffering as compared to the Catholic view of suffering. The biblical understanding of suffering is that God allows and uses suffering of every kind (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) to sanctify believers and conform them more and more to the image of Christ, and that in the midst of these trials, Christians can entrust themselves to God's wisdom, goodness, comfort, and eternal purposes.
There are many, many Bible passages that speak to this, but here are just a few:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom 8:28-29)
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5)
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:9-10)
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:35-39)
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Phil 4:12-13)
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble." (2 Cor 1:3-4)
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Heb 13:5-6)
(And of course.... the entire book of Job.)So that is the Christian view of suffering: God providentially allows suffering, and uses it to sanctify us, to conform us to the image of Christ, to teach us perseverance, to grow us in compassion, and to cause us to love Him more, and learn to entrust ourselves to Him more and more. These are wonderful promises and blessings that the believer can hold fast to in trials.
Catholic View of Suffering
So what is the Catholic view of physical suffering? Roman Catholics sometimes go beyond the biblical concept of entrusting themselves into God's sovereign care during physical suffering, to the point of (1) actually inflicting physical pain upon themselves (as documented in this CNN article about Pope John Paul II) or (2) through not alleviating the physical suffering of others in their care (as documented about Mother Teresa in this recent article). From the French study that raised concerns about how Mother Teresa cared for those in her missions:
"At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as 'homes for the dying' by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The problem is not a lack of money--the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars--but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: 'There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,' was her reply to criticism, cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital."Many Catholic monks (and some devout layperson Catholics) follow in Mother Teresa's view of intentional-physical-suffering-brings-holiness, and self flagellate (i.e., cause physical harm to themselves on purpose), fast for days on end, sleep in the freezing cold exposed to the elements, wear painful metal implements attached to their own bodies that inflict physical pain, etc. They do this under the delusion that purposefully bringing about physical pain will bring them more holiness, and bring them closer to God, in much the same way that they believe the elements of the Catholic Mass give them little injections of holiness every time they partake.
Is this not the essence of demonic deception? I can imagine Satan laughing in glee at this wicked deception he's gotten people to buy into that causes them to create physical torment in themselves or refuse to alleviate it in others. After all, we must remember that Satan hates all humans because we are made in the image of God, and is like a roaring lion, prowling the earth seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8).
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons." (1 Tim 4:1)This is probably hard for most Christians to comprehend, but please, if you have Catholic friends or neighbors in your life that you care about, take some time to familiarize yourself with some of their beliefs, and what Paul called "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1). Catholics need the life giving truth of the gospel, the true gospel, and to understand that there is nothing they can add to Christ's finished work on the Cross.
photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc
French Study Claims Mother Teresa Wasn't So Saintly (Washington Times)
Book: Pope John Paul II Self-Flagellated to Get Closer to Jesus (CNN)
Rick Warren Endorses "Catholics Come Home" Campaign (Sola Sisters)
Catholicism Is Not Just Another Christian Denomination (Sola Sisters)
Why the Reformation Was Important (Sola Sisters)
After The Darkness, Light (Post Tenebras Lux) (Sola Sisters)
A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (Berean Beacon)
Testimony of a Former Roman Catholic Priest....From Darkness to Light (Berean Beacon)
Far From Rome Near To God (Amazon)
On The "Faith" of Mother Teresa: John Ortberg Strikes Out (Sola Sisters)
The Myth of Mother Teresa (Challies)
Mother Teresa in Her Own Words (Sola Sisters)
CNN Reports That Mother Teresa Underwent Exorcism (CNN Archives)
BBC Reports About Exorcism Performed on Mother Teresa (BBC Archives)
Refuting ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together)
In this very important work, several Protestant pastors got together and presented a biblical response to the ECT document calling into question its purpose, which is that Christians and Catholics can go forth together in a united front to evangelize the lost. Obviously, given this, purpose, we can understand that the presupposition in the ECT document is that Christians and Catholics are both true believers, and both have a life-giving message to take to the lost. But the pastors who gave a rebuttal to ECT explain why the 2 camps cannot join forces together, and that, while Christians and Catholics share some common ground and terminology, they have fundamental, core and foundational differences in several significant areas, chiefly in their soteriological views (i.e., how it is that man is saved). And that's the hinge that swings the whole door of salvation.
The response to the ECT document was broken out into 6 parts entitled "Irreconcilable Differences." There are transcripts of the response, as well as 2 audio teaching sessions.
Parts 1-3 (approximately 1 hour in length)
Parts 4-6 (also approximately 1 hour in length)