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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>> Actually, I think the “hole in a sheet” reference was a reference to the legend that certain Orthodox Jews have sex through a hole in a sheet. <<
Yes, it is. The legend comes from ignorant anti-semites who’d see the shirt on a clothing line, not recognize the form it takes when it is worn, mistake it for a sheet, and presume wierdness.
Hitchens is a very troubled man. I couldn’t read all of the article, just the first few paragraphs.
YES!! It's people like Hitchens who have the capability of becoming great saints. Saint Paul, pray for Christopher!
He hates Mother Theresa too. The harder they come, the harder they fall. Sometimes. Hopefully it's not too late for this lost soul.
Thanks for correcting that piece of erroneous information. It's not surprising that a man who hates the Truth would obscure the truth.
Mr. Hitchens needs prayers that he will see the holy light of God and come to faith in Christ.
Considering that this IMO is when things really started getting hot, it sounds like the priest hit a nerve.
Hitchens is a blithering idiotic nasty drunk.
Why does anyone give him the time of day?
Hitchens is a blithering idiotic nasty drunk.
Why does anyone give him the time of day?
He has a brilliant mind, which could be put to good use, once he sees the light. I will pray for him. Anyone who brays as loudly as he does against God is struggling with the truth. And I am confident that he will eventually open his heart to the Lord.
Hitchens is bitter against God because when he was still a boy, his mother committed suicide...his younger brother Peter, who was much younger and didn’t remember his mother, is not as bitter.
My oldest (adopted) son had a similar deep set rage because his mother died, and although he continued to believe in God directed this rage against me and others in terrible outbursts .
So pray that Hitchens finds the love of God. Unlike other “anti God” professionals, Hitchens doesn’t hate God out of pride but out of sorrow.
Whenever I read about him in the press, I always say a quick prayer to Mother Teresa (who he maligned) to pray to God for his soul. She always had a soft spot for the “poorest of the poor” and indeed Hitchens is one of these.
If Hitchens likes drama so much, his conversion will be equally dramatic.
He will be on his hands and knees someday, and not in a drunken stupor either. Either this life, or the next, Chris! Make your choice while you have the chance.
I agree. And Hitchens is so frothingly angry at God that I can't help but think the Holy Spirit is after him.
Absolutely so, which he has now so many years later conveniently disguised -- buried in the dirt, so to speak -- as a lark against a teacher who merely suggested certain botanical features were of God's making.
"So pray that Hitchens finds the love of God. Unlike other "anti God" professionals, Hitchens doesnt hate God out of pride but out of sorrow."
On the contrary, I find that he does so as he has found the much baser but far more common sin of pride extremely self-rewarding. atheists thrive on the notoriety it brings, and for Hitchens, some rare lucre.
If memory serves, Hitchens addressed an atheist convention in Virginia earlier this month, no doubt for his 30 pieces of silver. Yet it takes nothing more to expose Hitchens as a "bright" fraud than to review his passion for grounding the Hitchen children in religious instruction ...
New York Magazine: "And what if one of your children found God? Would that be a problem?"
Hitchens: "Not at all. My children, to the extent that they have found religion, have found it from me, in that I insist on at least a modicum of religious education for them. The schools wont do it anymore. And I even insist, though my wife [who is Jewish] isnt that thrilled, on having for our daughter a little version of the Seder."
Almost all of Hitchen's major debates/monologues are on Youtube. I highly suggest everyone watch as many of them as they find tolerable. I find him pedantic on the topic of religion -- hypocritical (see above); strident; fearful; loaded with strawmen and appeal to emotion; and totally ignorant of the destruction and genocide that was wrought in the name of atheism in the 20th Century.
Chris is playing Richard Burton playing Richard Burton.