God is Not Great author Christopher Hitchens and Catholic League president Bill Donohue showed up on Hardball yesterday to mull over the issues raised by the Time article. I’d write some commentary, but some things simply defy comment. I have taken the liberty of putting certain choice nuggets in bold:
MATTHEWS: I want to go to Christopher Hitchens. Christopher, you have been tough. You say this is a profound revelation, that this woman did not believe.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR, “GOD IS NOT GREAT”: Yes, and a very moving one, actually, and a very honest one, I have to add. She tried her best to believe. Her atheism was not like mine. I can’t believe it and I am glad to think that it is not true, that there is a dictator in the heavens. So the fact that there is no evidence for it pleases me. She really wished it was true. She tried to live her life as if it was true.
She failed. And she was encouraged by cynical old men to carry on doing so because she was a great marketing tool for her church, and I think that they should answer for what they did to her and what they have been doing to us. I think it has been fraud and exploitation yet again.
MATTHEWS: Bill Donohue, your reaction?
BILL DONOHUE, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: This is laughable. I suppose next week we will find that Mother Teresa considered herself to be a sinner as well. The fact of the matter is the Vatican is standing behind this book. If this is such an embarrassment to the Catholic church, why in the world is the Vatican proud of this book? I am proud of it too. You have to understand, give me a quick anecdote–when she was in the United States, a professor came up to her and said, are you married?
Mother Teresa said, yes. I am married to a spouse who sometimes makes it difficult for me to smile. His name is Jesus. And that’s because he is very demanding.
Look, any person of faith understands what I have just said, but if you are a dogmatic atheist, then you would have a very difficult time trying to understand this. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if I have enough time to educate Mr. Hitchens.
HITCHENS: I agree. That does sound like white noise, nonsense, to me, and I think to almost everyone else. If I told you last month–actually, you probably do know that this. All these letters were published in 2002. but if I told you in 2001 that Mother Teresa did not believe that Jesus was present in the Eucharist and couldn’t feel–
DONOHUE: She never said that.
HITCHENS: Yes, she did. And father can tell you, has been very clever and honest in saying so, could not feel it in her heart, could feel it in the real presence, so called, of mass of the Eucharist. If I told you that, you would accuse me of slandering your so-called faith.
DONOHUE: Let me ask you this, Christopher, a number of years ago you wrote the thing against her, five and a half inches by eight and a half inches long, 98 pages, not a single endnote, not a single footnote, not a single citation. I have told you before, I’m going to tell you it again tonight, buddy, if you handed that in to me in an undergraduate class, you would get an F.
HITCHENS: You are not likely to be anybody’s professor.
DONOHUE: When you make a serious charge against a–an Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks. When you make a serious charge against a serious person, a public person like Mother Teresa, and you have no evidence, whatsoever, what in the world do you expect? You have to get an F.
HITCHENS: This is well below the F level. In my book I say that she took money from the Duvalier family in Haiti, not denied. She took money from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan in exchange for an olive wood crucifix. Not denied.
None of the factual assertions made in my book have ever been challenged. It actually got very respectable views in the Catholic press. For this reason, Mr. Donohue–the reason I got respectful reviews in the Catholic press was this; as Lord McCauley (ph) once brilliantly put it, the great strength of the Catholic Church used to be that it knew how to discipline fanatics and enthusiasts and zealots. It knew how to keep under control people who were too hungry, too fanatical.
Because of the opportunist chance that Mother Teresa offered them for publicity, they failed to restrain someone who really should have been seeking proper help that she never got. Instead, they exploited her to the very end and even gave her an exorcism, as you know. The archbishop of Calcutta has admitted it. He even had to give her an exorcism in 1997, because they had so much despair of her state of mind. It’s a cruel exploitation of a simple and honest woman.
DONOHUE: At the end of the day, this is a woman who received 124 awards, who set up hospitals for AIDS patients.
MATTHEWS: Bill needs some time here. Bill, take 30 seconds.
MATTHEWS: Christopher, we have to give him 30 seconds, please.
DONOHUE: She set up hospices, the first one for AIDS victims here in Greenwich Village. She opened up 500 hospitals, hospices, homeless centers, health clinics, orphanages. That is why she is loved all over the world. In India, when they surveyed the people, next to Gandhi, she is regarded as the most revered person.
Now, all the whole world is wrong, and you, with your 98 page book, five and a half by eight and a half inches long–you have no citations. You have no evidence. Who is the world going to believe? Me or you?
HITCHENS: I turned out to be right though, don’t I? I do not believe a word of it, and neither did she. I never expected that it would be just the two of us.
MATTHEWS: Let me end the citation with a citation that is relevant to this discourse, Jesus has a very special love for you, she wrote to someone. But as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and I do not see. I listen and I do not hear. The tongue moves in prayer, but does not speak. I want you to pray for me. Then I let him have a free hand.
So she must believe in something to ask somebody to pray for her or was that just rhetorical, Christopher?
HITCHENS: He was trying and failing to say that his church, in fact, an answer for everything. If you can’t believe it, if it all seems to be radically untrue, nonetheless, faith will square that settle for you. She was trying for that. But as we now know, she failed. It can’t be done. You can’t make people believe in the impossible. All you can do is make people feel very guilty that they can’t make themselves believe it.
DONOHUE: The only people that do not have doubts today are dogmatic atheists, people like you, Chris.
I would point out that that asinine and offensive line about Englishmen being quiet when Irishmen speak was repeated again, in a remarkably condescending way, during one of those CROSS TALK moments. He seemed to be really fond of that line. Donohue is little more than a buffoon.
And that line about Mother Teresa thinking hereself a sinner is one of those moments where Donohue gives himself away. It is a mainstay of both Catholic and Protestant theology that even the best of us are vile sinners, offensive to God. We can not overcome this condition. We can only acknowledge our wretchedness and accept God’s free and undeserved gift of salvation.
Donohue must have been asleep the day they went over this during his bloviation classes.