Christopher Hitchens

After all the debates, the 'saint of the gutters' was officially proclaimed St. Teresa of Kolkata

After all the debates, the 'saint of the gutters' was officially proclaimed St. Teresa of Kolkata

So Mother Teresa of Calcutta is now officially St. Teresa of Kolkata.

Most of the coverage of the canonization rites played the story straight, with the joy -- and tensions -- of the day included in hard-news reports. We can let the Associated Press report that will be read by the majority of American news consumers sum up the coverage.

Oh, and tensions during the rites?

My only real criticism of the solid AP report is found right up top, when a key fact about the event was separated from its cause. Read carefully:

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Elevating the "saint of the gutters" to one of the Catholic Church's highest honors, Pope Francis on Sunday praised Mother Teresa for her radical dedication to society's outcasts and her courage in shaming world leaders for the "crimes of poverty they themselves created."
An estimated 120,000 people filled St. Peter's Square for the canonization ceremony, less than half the number who turned out for her 2003 beatification. It was nevertheless the highlight of Francis' Holy Year of Mercy and quite possibly one of the defining moments of his mercy-focused papacy.

Look at that second sentence. Why the smaller crowd for this ceremony? Has enthusiasm for the cause of the tiny Albanian nun declined in the past decade?

Actually, no. Much, much later in the report there is this crucial reference.

While big, the crowd attending the canonization wasn't even half of the 300,000 who turned out for Mother Teresa's 2003 beatification celebrated by an ailing St. John Paul II. The low turnout suggested that financial belt-tightening and security fears in the wake of Islamic extremist attacks in Europe may have kept pilgrims away.

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New York Times offers update on criticisms of 'Hell's Angel' (as in Mother Teresa)

New York Times offers update on criticisms of 'Hell's Angel' (as in Mother Teresa)

Back in my Denver days, I covered a massive interfaith prayer event in which the featured speaker was Mother Teresa. I also had the chance to interview her, briefly, but that's a complicated story.

During her remarks, the tiny nun -- who was already being hailed as a living saint -- strongly defended Catholic teachings on the sanctity of human life, from conception to the grave. This was not a surprise, but it was a key theme in what she said and, thus, I included it in my story for The Rocky Mountain News. I also called the local Planned Parenthood office seeking a response to Mother Teresa's words.

The spokeswoman was, truth be told, quite gracious and on point. She had praise for Mother Teresa's work, but also was very specific in her criticisms of the tiny nun's beliefs on abortion, artificial contraception, etc. I quoted her at length and, days later, she called to thank me for quoting her positive words as well as her negative comments. After all, she said, no one wants to be seen as someone who "beats up on Mother Teresa."

Unless, of course, you were atheist Christopher Hitchens or, apparently, Dr. Aroup Chatterjee of India.

In preparation for the Vatican rites in which Mother Teresa will officially become St. Teresa of Calcutta, The New York Times has run a perfectly valid story focusing on the views of one of her strongest critics (and there are plenty of them). However, note the headline on this story:

A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa

Apparently, the "whole truth" about Mother Teresa is a rather simplistic, one-sided story.

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Was Hitch a man of 'faith'? Some scribes are arguing about a book they have not read

Was Hitch a man of 'faith'? Some scribes are arguing about a book they have not read

Christopher Hitchens was a very complex man, but one thing was clear. He was not a man who was kind to scribes and debate opponents who did not do their homework.

If someone wanted to talk to Hitchens -- especially in a professional setting -- about a topic upon which he had opined, then he or she had better be ready to answer this question, delivered in that famous whiskey-and-cigarettes British baritone: "Well, you HAVE read my book, haven't you?"

Woe unto those who could not answer in the affirmative or who tried to fake their way around the question.

This brings me to the current mini-media storm, on both sides of the Atlantic, inspired by Christian apologist Larry Taunton's new book "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist."

If you watch the BBC interview attached to this post, you can see that -- even when dealing with newsrooms at the top of the global information food chain -- it's clear that many journalists simply are not reading this book before they start arguing about it.

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