Professor of Finance, IIM-B
Reports about Missionaries of Charities are relatively few these days. The most recent one is about their reluctance to give in for adoption to unwed parents after the Indian Government has amended adoption rules to accommodate single parents adopting children. There are many criticisms regarding the nature of Teresa’s work and helping the poor. See for instance “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice” is an essay by the British-American journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens published in 1995.
We are more interested in the financial aspect of her empire and what has happened to the billions of Funds she generated globally to help the poor and under privileged primarily in India and other parts of the world.
In an important article in the German Magazine “Stern” which is not known for any anti-Catholic bias it was published in detail about her financial dealings. The English version is used here.
Perhaps the most lucrative branch of the organisation is the “Holy Ghost” House in New York’s Bronx.
Perhaps the most lucrative branch of the organisation is the “Holy Ghost” House in New York’s Bronx. Susan Shields served the order there for a total of nine and a half years as Sister Virgin. “We spent a large part of each day writing thank you letters and processing cheques,” she says. “Every night around 25 sisters had to spend many hours preparing receipts for donations. It was a conveyor belt process: some sisters typed, others made lists of the amounts, stuffed letters into envelopes, or sorted the cheques. Values were between $5 and $100.000. Donors often dropped their envelopes filled with money at the door.
Before Christmas the flow of donations was often totally out of control. The postman brought sackfuls of letters — cheques for $50000 were no rarity.” Sister Virgin remembers that one year there was about $50 million in a New York bank account. $50 million in one year! — in a predominantly non-Catholic country. How much then, were they collecting in Europe or the world? It is estimated that worldwide they collected at least $100 million per year — and that has been going on for many many years.
More interesting is
Indian law requires charitable organisations to publish their accounts.
Indian law requires charitable organisations to publish their accounts. Mother Teresa’s organisation ignores this prescription! It is not known if the Finance Ministry in Delhi who would be responsible for charities’ accounts, have the actual figures. Upon STERN’s inquiry, the Ministry informed us that this particular query was listed as “classified information”.
Even more interesting is the parsimonious ways of the Mother…
“You should visit the House in New York, then you’ll understand what happens to donations,” says Eva Kolodziej.
“You should visit the House in New York, then you’ll understand what happens to donations,” says Eva Kolodziej. The Polish lady was a Missionary of Charity for 5 years. “In the cellar of the homeless shelter there are valuable books, jewellery and gold. What happens to them? — The sisters receive them with smiles, and keep them. Most of these lie around uselessly forever.”
The millions that are donated to the order have a similar fate. Susan Shields (formerly Sr Virgin) says, “The money was not misused, but the largest part of it wasn’t used at all. When there was a famine in Ethiopia, many cheques arrived marked ‘for the hungry in Ethiopia’. Once I asked the sister who was in charge of accounts if I should add up all those very many cheques and send the total to Ethiopia. The sister answered, ‘No, we don’t send money to Africa.’ But I continued to make receipts to the donors, ‘For Ethiopia’.”
By the accounts of former sisters, the finances are a one way street. “We were always told, the fact that we receive more than other orders, shows that God loves Mother Teresa more.” says Susan Shields. Donations and hefty bank balances are a measure of God’s love. Taking is holier than giving.
Further, she was close to Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and got the highest national award from him – who stole millions from his people. She accepted huge money from British Publisher Robert-Maxwell who embezzled huge amounts from employee’s pension funds. She argued for leniency to Charles Keating case, where Keating was charged with fraud following high profile business failures. Keating donated millions of dollars to Mother Teresa and lent her his private jet when she visited the United States. She refused to return the money, and praised Keating repeatedly.
All the money flowed into Vatican Bank and hence it is important for Vatican Bank to be transparent and tell what has happened to the billions collected by her in the name of India’s poor. It belongs to the poor of India.
When I asked this question to one of the senior functionaries at All India Catholic Council, John Dayal – he was dismissive.
There is a need for Government of India to constitute a commission to investigate about the missing billions. Also many NRIs in USA/Europe etc. can come together and file a suit against Vatican Bank on this issue.
We can be confident since the current Pope is in a cleaning spree including the Vatican bank and its financial shenanigans in the last few years.
Will we act?
1. Views are Personal
2. Text in Bold points to additional data on the topic.