Skip to comments.In Drunken Rage, Atheist Guru Hitchens Bullies Hero Priest of 9-11 (Father Rutler!)
Posted on 09/24/2007 5:19:12 PM PDT by Diago
Posted in: Poe.com
Writer Christopher Hitchens has hit the jackpot. His new book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has proved a runaway bestseller. Why, then, is Mr. Hitchens so angry?
|Father George Rutler returns from Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. He spent the day hearing confessions and giving the last rites to firemen. His brother priest Father Mychal Judge did not return alive that day.|
Eyewitnesses report that Hitchens erupted into a drunken rage at a recent promotional event for his book. Hitchens reportedly descended from the stage, visibly inebriated, approached a Roman Catholic priest in the audience, and began shouting at him, only inches from his face. Hitchens’ manner appeared so physically menacing, witnesses say, that a plainclothes bodyguard on duty at the event rushed in and escorted the drunken scribe from the room.
All of this happened four and a half months ago, on May 1. It was never reported in the press. A conspiracy of silence shielded the bestselling author from the negative publicity his behavior seemingly should have earned him. Indeed, the world at large would know nothing of this incident, had Hitchens himself not chosen to mention it in the September 2007 issue of Vanity Fair. Hitchens described the encounter thus:
“…a man in a clerical collar puts up his hand. In a magnanimous mood, I say, Fair enoughlet’s extend the event for a man of the cloth. This turns out to be Father George Rutler of the Church of Our Saviour, who announces that he’s on the committee of the club and will make sure that I am never invited there again. There’s some shock at this inhospitable attitude, but I think: Gosh. Holy Mother Church used to threaten people with eternal damnation. Now it’s exclusion from the Union League Club. What a comedown. In a brisk exchange near the elevator, the good father assures me that I shall die a Catholic. Why do people think this is such a good point?” (1)
We Americans tend to idealize the British for their sense of fair play — a virtue exemplified, we are told, by that class of Englishmen who, like Mr. Hitchens, attended the finest public schools. Yet the account Hitchens wrote of his confrontation with Father Rutler seems far from sporting.
Hitchens wrote that Father Rutler used his influence as an officer of the Union League Club to get him banned from the Club. He neglected to reveal that Father Rutler might have had legitimate reasons for banning him, given the behavior which Hitchens reportedly exhibited at the May 1 event. By withholding this information, Hitchens left his readers with the impression that Father Rutler banned him simply because he wished to suppress Hitchens’ views on religion.
The evidence suggests otherwise.
Billed as, “An Evening with Christopher Hitchens“, the event was presented by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and featured a discussion between Hitchens and Peter Collier (who is Director of Publications for the Freedom Center). During that discussion, Hitchens offered many insults — laced with a generous helping of obscene, Anglo-Saxon expletives — to such beloved religious figures as the late Mother Teresa. One eyewitness states that Hitchens’ “drunken, rambling, anti-Semitic, bigoted and foul-mouthed rant” caused “two-thirds of the people to leave in disgust” before the talk had ended.
The reference to anti-Semitism relates to a brief exchange between Hitchens and Collier on the topic of circumcision, which went as follows:
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: What if I say, Everyone in the country knows that female genital mutilation is a horror show? And it should rightly be a federal crime. But male genital mutilation is a filthy Jewish practice. Doesn’t sound good, does it, to say that? You know how sensitive we can be. But what else?
And that happens to be my view. And I am damned if I’ll become an American in order to be told I can’t express it. Okay?
PETER COLLIER: It is true, of course, that genitally mutilated males have a six times lower frequency of getting AIDS in Africa, for instance, right?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, there would be less AIDS if the Islamic and Catholic authorities didn’t say that AIDS may be bad but condoms are worse, which is the religious preachment. And by the way — I suppose we may as well get this out of the way — the jolly old foreskin –
PETER COLLIER: The foreskin.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: — the foreskin itself –
PETER COLLIER: Oh, let’s get right to it. Okay.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: When in doubt — as they always say — when in doubt, talk dick. The foreskin can be loosened. The foreskin can be loosened, and even slightly snipped — in order, for cleaning purposes. But it doesn’t have to be violently torn and excised, in the Maimonides recommendation, which is, by the way — when Maimonides mandates it, he says, not to prevent you from getting a filthy disease; it’s so that you will feel the least sexual pleasure that’s consistent with making another Jew, through a hole in the sheet. Okay? (2)
During the question-and-answer period following Hitchens’ talk, Father George Rutler took the floor and the following exchange ensued:
FATHER RUTLER: I have met saints. You cannot explain the existence of saints without God. I was nine years chaplain with Mother Teresa [inaudible]. You have called her a whore, a demagogue. She’s in heaven that you don’t believe in, but she’s praying for you. If you do not believe in heaven, that’s why you drink.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Excuse me?
FATHER RUTLER: That’s why you drink. God has offered us happiness, all of us. And you will either die a Catholic or a madman, and I’ll tell you the difference.
And secondly, I’m an officer with this club. And this conversation has been beneath the dignity of this club.
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: No it hasn’t been.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, it is now.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Okay. I–
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: It is now.
FATHER RUTLER: And I’d just say that…
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Fine host you turned out to be.
FATHER RUTLER: …this club, we’ve had very open discussion. But we’ve never heard such vulgarity and bigotry.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Till now.
FATHER RUTLER: And I am, I don’t want to see this in this club again. And I think I represent the officers of this noble…
DAVID HOROWITZ: All right.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Your claim to know what a [saint] is or what heaven is is as absurd as your [inaudible] arrogance, your unkindness and your lack of hospitality.
DAVID HOROWITZ: See? Everybody –
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: You should be ashamed.
FATHER RUTLER: [inaudible]
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: And you are supposed to represent a church of charity and kindness?
DAVID HOROWITZ: I said this evening was going to be interesting and unpredictable.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS Especially [inaudible].
DAVID HOROWITZ: And anyway, thank you all for coming. And to all a good night. (3)
It was after the above exchange that the real fireworks started, according to witnesses. This blog has obtained a written account of the incident by one eyewitness, which states the following:
“At the end of the event as he staggered, sweating and red faced, out of the room, he [Hitchens] advanced on Father Rutler in a threatening and physical manner, screaming that this beloved pastor and brilliant scholar whom he had never met was `a child molester and a lazy layabout who never did a days work in his life’. His behavior was so frightening that a bodyguard put himself between Hitchens and Father Rutler to protect him. Several of the event organizers then escorted Hitchens to the mens room and when he emerged he continued his psychotic rant, repeating the same calumnious and baseless screed as before. It was then that Father Rutler, in the most charitable manner, told Hitchens [for the second time] that he will `either die a madman or a Roman Catholic’. … Unless he faces his alcoholism soon, I am betting on the ‘madman’ ending for him.” (4)
Evidently, Mr. Hitchens never met Father Rutler before their May 1 encounter, and did not know who he was. It happens that Father Rutler is a hero of 9-11. He holds a special place in the hearts of New York City’s police and firemen, for he was with them that day at Ground Zero. Before Father Mychal Judge was struck dead by a body falling from the burning towers, Father Rutler stood side-by-side with Father Judge, hearing confessions and giving the last rites to firemen en route to their deaths.
I hope and pray that Mr. Hitchens will seek the help he needs in his struggle with alcohol. And I hope that someday soon, when his mind has cleared, Mr. Hitchens will see the need to pay a visit to Father Rutler and deliver to him face to face the apology this good and saintly man so plainly deserves.
by Richard Lawrence Poe
September 19, 2007
Dear Mr Poe,
Please don’t feel the need to apologise. I would suggest that you ask either Peter Collier or David Horowitz to comment. Alternatively, you could ask Graydon Carter, Cullen Murphy or William Langiewiesche, who were waiting for me at the Waverly Inn to celebrate my National Magazine Award. They would have seen me immediately afterwards and could presumably vouch for my condition. I admit that all involved are friends and/or colleagues but I think they are also people of their word. In writing to me the following day, neither David nor Peter mentioned anything untoward.
I am recommending this course of action to you because I cannot be judge in my own cause but can be certain, for example, that no such intervention by a security guard took place. I remember that a security guy was nice enough to help me get a cab in what was a serious downpour, and I also recall various members of the audience saying that they were sorry for the good Father’s discourteous intervention; an intervention which did not bother me in the least and which is truthfully described (since I certainly did intervene to let him speak) in my article.
You probably know that the charge against me is a standard and oft-repeated one, which would either mean that I am always incapable with drink (in which case one wonders how I manage to meet all my deadlines) or that a cliché is at work. I don’t especially mind what view people take.
Your thirteenth question sounds like a somewhat freehand transcript of my opinion on male circumcision, which is phrased rather more concisely in my book, and more pungently in a Slate column that I wrote a couple of years ago.
My opinion of Rutler’s church is much more severe than the one you allege, and again is available elsewhere. I have no knowledge of any complicity of his in any specific child-abuse: only of his membership in a cult that condones and conceals and enables it.
In closing, I have to say that I think it’s distinctly odd that this lurid account of events should have been circulated only now, and so many months later. I cannot easily imagine such a thing having been kept so quiet for so long: I’m rather used to quasi-legendary gossip accounts by now and they usually crop up rather faster than this.
Best of luck with your inquiries, which I hope will include approaches to the people mentioned above.
In a second e-mail, Mr. Hitchens wrote:
Oh, a PS.
Re-reading what you ask, I notice what you should have noticed yourself, which is that I would have had no notion of the man’s presence if he had not risen to propose that I never appear at the club again, and if I had not asked Peter Collier to give him leave to speak. Thus it’s absurd to suggest that he was “justified” in his attitude by anything I might later have said, or not said.
I am of course touched by your solicitude for fair play a l’Anglaise.
These e-mails arrived at 12:47 am and 12:52 am respectively — plainly too late to follow Mr. Hitchens’ recommendation that I interview the persons he mentioned. If I end up pursuing this story further, I will certainly dig deeper. For now, the evidence before me seems sufficiently compelling to publish this story as is.
Two extremely reliable eyewitnesses, who were seated close to Father Rutler, have vouched for the version of events set forth in this article. A third eyewitness — Father Rutler himself — while declining my request for an interview, did not deny the essence of the story.
1. Christopher Hitchens, “God Bless Me, It’s a Bestseller!“, Vanity Fair, September 2007
2. “An Evening with Christopher Hitchens (page 1)”, FrontPageMagazine.com, 1 June 2007
“An Evening with Christopher Hitchens (page 2)”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The transcripted passages cited above were retrieved by this author from FrontPageMagazine.com on the day they were published, June 1, 2007, and preserved by screenshot. Since then, the transcript has been heavily edited by FrontPage. The version of the transcript now posted at FrontPage no longer contains the above-cited passages. For this article, the passages were quoted from screenshots of the original, unedited transcript.
- Richard Lawrence Poe
CORRECTION, September 21, 2007, 08:55 AM ET: My apologies to the editors of FrontPage. It turns out that the transcript of “An Evening with Christopher Hitchens” cited in this article is still posted at FrontPage, in its entirety. It was never “heavily edited”, as I previously stated in this footnote.
My confusion arose from the fact that the second page of the transcript — which contains the outbreak of the exchange between Hitchens and Father Rutler (though not its conclusion) — has been de-linked from the first page. As a result, readers can no longer find their way to the second page from the first page. When I first read the transcript on June 1, the two pages were linked to each other in the normal fashion one would expect in a two-page article. Here is a screenshot of the link between the pages, as it first appeared June 1, 2007, at the bottom of the first page:
For some reason, the link to the second page was subsequently removed, so I assumed that the second page itself had been eliminated. Here is a screenshot of the first page of the transcript as it appears this morning, with no link to the second page:
As it turns out, my assumption was mistaken. The second page still exists — though it has been de-linked from the first page. You cannot find the second page from the first page, but you can find it by typing the words “An Evening with Christopher Hitchens” into the FrontPage search engine.
Thanks to “John in Cincinnati”, for kindly alerting me to my error in an e-mail last night (and in a post at Live Journal yesterday). Here is a screenshot of the e-mail I received from “John in Cincinnati”:
And again, profuse apologies to my former colleagues at FrontPage.
- Richard Lawrence Poe
4. Private communication, name of source withheld by request, 17 September 2007
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Wow. Hitchens gulped all the communion wine.
Hmmm. I’m mailing this to my family in NYC. I’m sure they would like to see the truth of the matter rather than the rumor.
Thank you very, very much.
Whenever Hitchens shows up, there always seems to be booze involved.
It looks like Vanity Fair is trying to rehab him. :)
Hitchie picked the wrong priest to cross. Fr. Rutler has a spine of case-hardened steel; you only have to listen to him for 10 minutes to know that.
Father Rutler is a great man. His writing is so advance that I have to lie down and hyperventilate, though :-).
What an anti-semitic idiot!
The “sheet with a hole in it” isn’t a bedsheet at all; it’s an ancient fore-runner of an undershirt (and, strangely, the Catholic scapular): It’s a long, rectangular piece of linen with a hole in the middle. You put your HEAD through the hole, and the two ends cover your chest and your back.
Wow... Just... well I guess I am not surprised. He’s been kinda building to this point.
Funny that the media wouldn’t want to expose this, since he’s somewhat conservative and has appeared on Laura Ingraham’s show occasionally. That in itself is odd! Has Ingraham mentioned anything about Hitchens’ hatred for all things religious?
Hitchens is only "conservative" insofar as he supports warmongering also favored by conservatives, and insofar as he sees through the more obvious failings of the left. Otherwise he's one of them.
His brother Peter, however...
LOL, yes, Saddam and Son’s still have defenders on FR.
wow... GMTA. Thanks. ;-)