Mother Teresa was declared a saint in a canonization Mass held by Pope Francis in the Vatican on Sunday. The iconic nun’s life and work grabbed hold of public consciousness since she began her work with the sick and dying in the 1950s and has only grown since then, culminating in her sainthood. She is seen as a symbol of peace, love and acceptance throughout the world. Yet one aspect of her personal belief system is not often discussed: her views on homosexuality.
Teresa’s view on poverty and against abortion are much more well known and have proved controversial. That is in part because she had much less to say on the topic of homosexuality, which itself is telling. In fact, she made no public statement on the issue. What little we do know can be interpreted in multiple ways, fitting for a woman whose work and life have drawn such laudatory praise and harsh criticism.
Most famously, Teresa is said to have stopped an interviewer when asked about her views on homosexuality, objecting to the word, saying they should instead be called “friends of Jesus.” Finding a primary source for this interaction proved fruitless.
If the reports are accurate, however, one could view Teresa’s reaction as a nod of support. At the same time, her objection to the term “homosexual” suggests there is something wrong with having that sexual orientation. This support seems to be of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” variety.
That reading of her supposed remarks would align her with Pope Francis, who has signaled support for gay people only so long as they don’t couple up — transgender individuals, meanwhile, don’t even get off that easy.
A former nun who worked with Mother Teresa tells a story that offers another glimpse into what she may have thought about gay people.