R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens


What happens in the afterlife to an atheist?  Well, the answer to most questions about the afterlife needs to be, “We don’t know.”  While Jesus spoke about the Final Judgment and offered some striking images of heaven and hell, in the final analysis, no human being can say for sure what, precisely, awaits us.  Only God knows—literally.

Someone asked me this morning what I hoped for Christopher Hitchens, the fierce atheist who died after an agonizing bout with esophogeal cancer, and my first response was to say that I hope he’s pleasantly surprised.  And I do.  I certainly didn't agree with him on many things (on almost anything, frankly; and I was particularly annoyed at his treatment of Mother Teresa), but I always hoped that somehow he would experience an invitation from God in his earthly life; and I hope that he may now come to know God.  (I could never quite shake the feeling that Mr. Hitchens' lifelong struggle with God betokened a deep hunger for the divine, or at least for answers.)  Of course the famous atheist would surely dislike hearing that, as he objected to people praying for him in his final illness. 

But Christians believe in a forgiving God, and this is the God that Jesus spoke about many times, most clearly in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 16:11-32).  The parable could have just as easily been named the parable of the Prodigal Father, because it tells the story of a father who is prodigal—generous, lavish, even wasteful--with his love.  As almost every Christian knows, the story is about a father who forgives his wastrel son, a young man who has not only spent all that he has on fast living, but also has rejected the father.  (In the Ancient Near East, asking for your inheritance, as the son does, is tantamount to saying, “I wish you were dead.”)  The son would seem to be last person one should forgive.

When the Son returns after a long time away, though, the Father welcomes him with joy—even though the son is simply returning home to be housed and fed, and even though the son has not even asked for forgiveness.  Nonetheless, the father rushes to greet him, kisses him tenderly, and then asks his servants to prepare a great feast in honor of his return. 

The older son, however, is furious, and scolds the father for celebrating the son’s return.  How, wonders the older son, could his father rejoice?  What’s more, the older son protests that since he has worked hard he should be the one who is honored.

The father then says these famous words to his older son: “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and now he is found.”

Henri Nouwen, the Dutch priest and spiritual master, wrote in his book The Prodigal Son that most of us are like the older brother, despising any forgiving actions.  We feel that we are the ones who have worked hard, who have led good lives, who have tried to act morally; so why should others be forgiven for their failings?  We often resent forgiveness and reconciliation, because it doesn’t seem “fair.” 

But as Jesus points out, God’s love is far different than our own; it is prodigal, generous, even wasteful. 

I hope that Christopher Hitchens enjoys some of this prodigal love.  Of course committed atheists may not be ready to receive it.  So for them, and for many others, there will probably be a time of conversion, what Catholics call Purgatory: a time of preparation to meet God, a time of reviewing one’s life, and asking for forgiveness.  And of course it will be up to each individual to decide if he or she wants to accept that Father’s love or turn away.  For me, hell is the ultimate turning away of that forgiving love. 

So I hope that Christopher Hitchens, famous atheist, fearless polemicist and, in his own unique way, brave seeker, will now be pleasantly surprised by God.  And if he finally makes it to heaven, I hope he gets a chance to get to know the prodigal love of God, which eluded him on earth. After that, I hope he gets to know Mother Teresa a little better than he did on earth. 

May he rest in peace.

Marie Rehbein
5 years 2 months ago
"Funny how much easier it is to imagine a purgatory or a hell than heaven."

In fairness to the departed, are we not under some obligation to imagine nothingness?  Mr. Hitchens might simply have ceased to exist; maybe because it is what he wanted.
Beth Cioffoletti
5 years 2 months ago
I know what you mean, Stanley (#54) about the Iraq War.  But none of us get it all right, and I forgive Hitch for that one. 

And I have no new theology, David (#55) ... same one that's been around for 2000 years, though a bit more apophatic (and contemplative) than most are used to hearing it.
Beth Cioffoletti
5 years 2 months ago
Marie, I think that we do, indeed, cease to exist when we die - at least in the ego-ish way in which we know ourselves as we walk on this side of death.

In the end, I think that as we are drawn toward death we surrender that ego-self.  Simply let it go.
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
@ Abe:

Always good to hear from you when you stop by. You make me think that there must be a literary or dramatic figure to whom you can be likened. It is someone who pops in, now and then, and takes stock of what he sees and hears. He observes, he's quiet, he listens, he thinks. Sometimes there are pleasant surprises, even a few real gems. Maybe some of these folks have got it right? There is hope.

Then comes the self-delivered slap against the forehead, and the incredulity that someone could really say/believe/think/promote/write such a thing. ''Why do I keep coming back?'' Please keep coming back. We all need a whack upside the head once in a while. If you don't deliver it, who will?
 
 
KEN CHAISON
5 years 2 months ago
''.... Christopher Hitchens, famous atheist, fearless polemicist and, in his own unique way, brave seeker, will now be pleasantly surprised by God.''

Fr. Martin... Cradle catholic (small c intended) here... who believes in what you wrote, except, perhaps, the notion of purgatory.  I think that purgatory is purely a human construct - do not see it anywhere in the NASB.  It is a rationalization mechanism on our part for believing that no one is ever permanently doomed to hell, regardless of what they do on earth.

HOWEVER, what bothers me about your article is, not so much the theology, but rather that it approaches the point of being a eulogy in praise of the man.  As the quote, above, implies, he was famous, fearless, unique, brave and a seeker.  Those same adjectives could/should be spoken about Jesus, himself.

Your nice, long article includes a complementary, young-looking photo of the man and the messianic-like praises, mentioned above.  One might deduce that you are in awe or even jealous of the man... i.e.... 'look at what he got away with all these years, denying God and spewing hate, but now he gets to be with God!  Wow!'

I hope that I am wrong about your underlying motivation for the article, but I also hope that this is one issue of AMERICA that young people do NOT read.
Céolfrið æf Dealgancæster
5 years 2 months ago
Catholic Christians also believe in a Just God.

And, if God is just, Christopher Hitchens will not rest in peace.


Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
Re: #62:

''And, if God is just, Christopher Hitchens will not rest in peace.'' This is the voice of the Prodigal Son's brother. I do not say this in a derogatory or spiteful way. ''What's fair is fair,''  is the sentiment, and it is difficult to argue against the idea, and I do not fault Céolfrið for saying it.

As I had written in #42, above, in calling for a complete change of heart to usher in the Kingdom of God on Earth, He doesn't make it easy on us. It's damn near impossible.
 
 
david power
5 years 2 months ago
 I was being tongue-in-cheek Beth, It doesn't seem to travel the Atlantic :(.
MARK CANALES
5 years 2 months ago
For those who say this cannot be, I would suggest three reflections on the matter:

Gulley and Mulholland "If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person" (A quaker view of the question citing many Catholic sources.)

Anthony Campbell, S.J. "God First Loved Us" (A very deep and presonal reflection of God's Love)

Han Urs Von Balthathsar "Dare We Hope "That All Men Will Be Saved"? with a Short Discourse On Hell" (A excellent discussion of Roman Catholic belief over the centuries and why we may dare hope)

For any who doubt his credibility on the topic, three points of note:

1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) is among the sources quoted in support of this argument.

2. Pope John Paul II thought so highly of his work that he elevated him to the Cardinalate though he died before the installation.

3. Cardinal Ratzinger spoke at his funeral. His remarks are translated as "What the pope intended to express by this mark of distinction [elevation to the Cardinalate], and of honor, remains valid, no longer only private individuals but the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the faith."

 I offer these not for argument but as an invitation to reflect that God's love may be not only more than we imagine but more than we can imagine.
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
Re #61:

I don't agree with the sentiment expressed by Ken in #61. However, he makes some good observations and raises important questions. 

Hitchens could not say enough about what was wrong with the theology of the Church, the behavior of the hierarchy who lead it, and the credulous believers that go along with them.  One does not have to agree with Hitchens to acknowledge that few could say it more eloquently, more persuasively, nor be as articulate in speech and pen.

Ken has every right to question the apparent jealous admiration for his talents. Is there not a real Catholic among us who is more deserving of our accolades?

In my personal view, Hitchens says, aloud, what every Catholic must confront in an honest assessment of thier own beliefs and faith. Can we be good without God? In our sacred literature, how do we distinguish between allegory and what is historical fact we are compelled to believe? How can the teaching authority of the Church, manifest in our Cardinals and bishops, get so many things so wrong? Why does the Church obsess on providing unconvincing pat answers to questions that have no answer? Can an honest and sincere anti-theist find salvation?

How many of us have hung on every word of Hitchens charges, and waited for the panel member who is a believer to give the answer that will convince, not Hitchens, but ourselves that our Church has got it right? Many of us have had to find our own answers, and they are not all the same.
 
 
Jacqueline O'Boomer
5 years 2 months ago
Father Martin - Honestly, I was looking for something like this ''pleasantly surprised'' take of yours, today!  Love it.  Especially the part about Mother Teresa in heaven.

I always like to say to those who aren't sure that they believe in God, that I choose to believe in God ''with the free will that God gave me.''  

I'll keep praying for Christopher, and I ask your prayers for me - and my family members.  

Merry Christmas!
Céolfrið æf Dealgancæster
5 years 2 months ago
The only possible hope for the soul of Mr. Hitchens is if he were somehow invincibly ignorant of his responsibility to belong to the Catholic Church, lived an otherwise virtuous life, and died having been contrite for any sins he may have committed during his life.

That is the Catholic teaching.
Beth Cioffoletti
5 years 2 months ago
David - I didn't get it until I got to the 2nd video of the inebriated bliss.  The Mr. Jeeves, I just didn't understand.

I have a good friend who has said, for a long time, "Either we all go to heaven or we all don't go!"

It takes awhile to get to that place of knowing, deep in one's soul, that we're each and all pretty depraved and none of us deserve anything, much less heaven and everlasting life.  It's all gift.
Marc Dupuis
5 years 2 months ago
The erroneous diatribe of James Martin SJ alluding that one is saved regardless of the state of their soul at death or that all are saved is typical of the post Vatican II clergy where most suffer from the infectious malais of ecumenism. Despite 2000 years of Church teaching to the contrary they think they know better.

As far as Mr. Hitchens goes, I truly hope he would have the grace of final repentance or he will be damned. No one desires this, least of all me. God is his judge. However he is now dead and can no longer disparage the Catholic Church or blaspheme God. He can no longer turn souls away from the one and only path to salvation. So the fact his tongue and fingers can now rot off for all the verbal and written blasphemies against Almighty God and His beloved Bride the Holy Catholic Church, and all the damage he has done is a good thing. Good riddance to bad rubbish. 
Bill Freeman
5 years 2 months ago
Lara - I find your comments nothing short of blasphemy, an offense against the Incarnation and the redeeming act of Christ on the cross.  You epitomize for me what is so wrong with the CCC, just an update of the Baltimore Catechism. I see too many Roman Catholics of similar ilk that want to repudiate the work of Vatican II and opt out of the hard work of personal conversion and building a great heart.  Your comments of superiority – the ''I know what God will do'' - is the same spitefulness that Fr. Martin and Fr. Henri Nouwen spoke of so well regarding the older son. There is a joke among clergy: ''What did the older son do when he grew up?  He became a Catholic priest.''
The opinions that you hold and the haughtiness that you and others have demonstrated in these posts are why so many find the very notion of the redeeming love of God to be such a shell game.  While it is not for me to judge your heart, I would ask that with the guidance of a holy confessor, you examine some of your assumptions about the extravagant love of God so clearly voiced in the parable of the Prodigal Son. 
I am so very thankful that God-with-us is a God who is in relationship with us, inviting us into His loving embrace whether it be here or in the next life.  As a hospice chaplain, I am learning not to make any assumptions regarding the state of anyone’s soul. 
I pray that you don't have anything to do with Christian education and that your proof-texting and use of the CCC as your personal scorecard is limited to you own piety.  Truly, Lara, I will pray for you. 
Bill Freeman
5 years 2 months ago
Lara - I find your comments nothing short of blasphemy, an offense against the Incarnation and the redeeming act of Christ on the cross.  You epitomize for me what is so wrong with the CCC, just an update of the Baltimore Catechism. I see too many Roman Catholics of similar ilk that want to repudiate the work of Vatican II and opt out of the hard work of personal conversion and building a great heart.  Your comments of superiority – the 'I know what God will do' - is the same spitefulness that Fr. Martin and Fr. Henri Nouwen spoke of so well regarding the older son. There is a joke among clergy: 'What did the older son do when he grew up?  He became a Catholic priest."


The opinions that you hold and the haughtiness that you and others have demonstrated in these posts are why so many find the very notion of the redeeming love of God to be such a shell game.  While it is not for me to judge your heart, I would ask that with the guidance of a holy confessor, you examine some of your assumptions about the extravagant love of God so clearly voiced in the parable of the Prodigal Son. 


I am so very thankful that God-with-us is a God who is in relationship with us, inviting us into His loving embrace whether it be here or in the next life.  As a hospice chaplain, I am learning not to make any assumptions regarding the state of anyone’s soul. 


I pray that you don't have anything to do with Christian education and that your proof-texting and use of the CCC as your personal scorecard is limited to you own piety.  Truly, Lara, I will pray for you. 
Bill Freeman
5 years 2 months ago
@69 - Marc - Do you realize how absolutely judgmental and vicious your comments sound?  Do you seriously believe that the Roman Chuch is "the one and only path to salvation?"  Seriously?  Have your read Scripture and the documents of Vatican II that you so conveniently disparage?  Do you realize that there is no higher teaching authority than that of an ecumenical council - and one that met over a four-year period?  Are you for real?
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
@ Marc #69: 

People, here and elsewhere, have disagreed with Fr. Jim. I could be baring my ignorance, but I have yet to read anything of his that could be called a 'diatribe.'' Is anything here a bitter, forceful, abusive verbal attack on someone or something by Fr. Jim? Has he written satiric and ironic criticism? 

If anyone can find such material by Fr. Jim, I'll have to reconsider my opinion of him.  Let's see: Fr. Jim, bad ass! Hmmmmm. Nope, it doesn't compute.
 
 
Matthew Pettigrew
5 years 2 months ago
Dear Mr. Dupuis: You write about Christopher Hitchens that "He can no longer turn souls away from the one and only path to salvation." Let me assure you that the Catholic Church and some of its adherents - including some who comment on this blog - have done that quite well without the assistance of Mr. Hitchens.
Céolfrið æf Dealgancæster
5 years 2 months ago
‘There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved.’
—Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215
5 years 2 months ago
Fr. Bill, it sounds to me like you are the judgemental one accusing Lara of a bad heart which is a normal tactic when one can't repudiate what the person says. And you can't repudiate what she says simply because she is reiterating traditional church teaching.

Michael, there is nothing judgemental in what I wrote. I did not judge where Mr. Hitchens went after death unlike James Martin SJ. I merely stated what the Church has always taught, that he who dies in the state of mortal sin goes to hell. Only God and Mr. Hitchens knows the answer to where he is. And yes I hold fast the teaching that there is no salvation outside the church. It is what the church has always taught until of course Vatican II which even the council fathers declared non dogmatic. I think what bothers you is that I do not write like some emasculated effeminate post vatican II "catholic".  
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago

@ Craig B. McKee, Hong Kong:

I loved your humorous epitaph, so I would like to return the favor. The comedian, Rowan Atkinson, did a very funny bit as the devil welcoming new arrivals to Hell. He has many very funny lines, among them one for atheists, and one for Christians. Enjoy. You can find it HERE.
 
 
Céolfrið æf Dealgancæster
5 years 2 months ago
‘I see too many Roman Catholics of similar ilk that want to repudiate the work of Vatican II...’
Fr. Bill, with respect, are you serious?  To what ‘work of Vatican II’ are you referring?
Here is what one Vatican II era Catholic cardinal had to say about the travesty that was Vatican II:
‘If the Church were not divine, this Council
—Cdl. Giuseppe Siri
But, perhaps this is merely the opinion of one man to you.  Here are the facts, according to one source (ref: http://olrl.org/misc/jones_stats.shtml):
‘Thirty-seven years after the end of the only church council of the 20th century, the jury has come in with its verdict: Vatican II appears to have been an unrelieved disaster for Roman Catholicism... Here are Jones's grim statistics of Catholicism's decline:
Priests. ...By 2020, there will be only 31,000 priests left (in the United States), and more than half of these priests will be over 70.
Ordinations. ...Today, there are 3,000 priestless parishes, 15 percent of all U.S. parishes.
Seminarians. ...Two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have now closed.
Sisters. ...In 1965, there were 104,000 teaching nuns. Today, there are 8,200, a decline of 94 percent since the end of Vatican II.
Religious Orders. ...In 1965, there were 912 seminarians in the Christian Brothers. In 2000, there were only seven.
The number of young men studying to become Franciscan and Redemptorist priests fell from 3,379 in 1965 to 84 in 2000.
Catholic schools. Almost half of all Catholic high schools in the United States have closed since 1965.
Catholic Marriage. Catholic marriages have fallen in number by one-third since 1965, while the annual number of annulments has soared from 338 in 1968 to 50,000 in 2002.
Attendance at Mass. ...A recent study by the University of Notre Dame found that only one in four now attend.
...Through the papacy of Pius XII, the church resisted the clamor to accommodate itself to the world and remained a moral beacon to mankind. Since Vatican II, the church has sought to meet the world halfway.’
''Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church since Vatican II'' (113 pages) by Kenneth C. Jones is available at many bookstores.
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
@ Craig B. McKee #45, Hong Kong:
 
I loved your humorous epitaph for an atheist, so I would like to return the favor. The comedian, Rowan Atkinson, did a very funny bit as the devil welcoming new arrivals to Hell. He has many very funny lines, among them one for atheists, and one for Christians. Enjoy. You can find it HERE
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woY9Vzp40HQ&feature=related
 
 
Céolfrið æf Dealgancæster
5 years 2 months ago
Fr. Bill, with respect, are you serious?  To what ‘work of Vatican II’ are you referring?
Here is what one Vatican II era Catholic cardinal had to say about the travesty that was Vatican II:
‘If the Church were not divine, this Council [the Second Vatican Council] would have buried Her.’
—Cdl. Giuseppe Siri

But, perhaps this is merely the opinion of one man to you.  Here are the facts, according to one source (ref: http://olrl.org/misc/jones_stats.shtml):
‘Thirty-seven years after the end of the only church council of the 20th century, the jury has come in with its verdict: Vatican II appears to have been an unrelieved disaster for Roman Catholicism... Here are Jones's grim statistics of Catholicism's decline:
Priests. ...By 2020, there will be only 31,000 priests left (in the United States), and more than half of these priests will be over 70.
Ordinations. ...Today, there are 3,000 priestless parishes, 15 percent of all U.S. parishes.
Seminarians. ...Two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have now closed.
Sisters. ...In 1965, there were 104,000 teaching nuns. Today, there are 8,200, a decline of 94 percent since the end of Vatican II.
Religious Orders. ...In 1965, there were 912 seminarians in the Christian Brothers. In 2000, there were only seven.
The number of young men studying to become Franciscan and Redemptorist priests fell from 3,379 in 1965 to 84 in 2000.
Catholic schools. Almost half of all Catholic high schools in the United States have closed since 1965.
Catholic Marriage. Catholic marriages have fallen in number by one-third since 1965, while the annual number of annulments has soared from 338 in 1968 to 50,000 in 2002.
Attendance at Mass. ...A recent study by the University of Notre Dame found that only one in four now attend.
...Through the papacy of Pius XII, the church resisted the clamor to accommodate itself to the world and remained a moral beacon to mankind. Since Vatican II, the church has sought to meet the world halfway.’
'Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church since Vatican II' (113 pages) by Kenneth C. Jones is available at many bookstores.
Bill Freeman
5 years 2 months ago
@76 - Marc -  You miss the entire point of the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The older son just didn't get it and it seems like you aren't getting it either.  It's not about rules and regulations; if it were the elder son would have won the day - but he didn't.  


The entire point of the parable is that God's love is extravagent and not legalistic.
 The God of the Incarnation is not - repeat - is not a God of calculation.  The univesal call to Gospel love superceeds anythig that the Church coudd teach - anything.  


Marc, we don't worship the Church, Roman or otherwise, we don't worship the Pope, or the Councils for that matter.  We don't worship the Catechism (Baltimore of othervise).  We worship - we are in relationship with the Father who searches the horizon to cathch a glimpse of his son.  Don't miss the point of the parable. Don't do that. It's not about the Church.
Bill Freeman
5 years 2 months ago
@ 80 - Ceolfrio -  To deny the teaching authority of the Second Vatian Council is hesesy.  And to try to create a causal connection between the Council and subsequent issues is an enormous leap.  It seems to me that you have placed yourself outside of the Church by denying the teaching authority of the Council and the Magisterium since all Council's documents were issued by Pope Paul VI.  Do you not accept the teaching authority of the Vicar of Christ?  
5 years 2 months ago
Fr. Bill, I do get the point of the parable. The issue is that the prodigal son was contrite and was on his way to beg forgiveness from his father. The father in his magnanimity approached the son first. So yes God's love is extravagant. However we must cooperate with grace and be sorry for our sins not spit in God's eye and expect salvation anyway. Nor can I be compared to the eldest son. I do not, cannot desire Mr. Hitchens damnation. But as in the case of a deceased abortionist I am glad he is gone to cause no more damage. Good riddance to him.

Now you have just contradicted yourself with myself and Ceolfrio. First you tell me we do not worship the pope, the councils etc. Then you tell Ceolfrio that he is outside the Church for refusing Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council. Please make up your mind Fr.
Jim McCrea
5 years 2 months ago
With the kind of theology as expressed by Ceolfrio & Lara, I am convinced more than ever that:

Intra eccles nulla salus.

If their idea of Catholicism is what Christ intended for His church on earth, count me even further out than I am already.
Jim McCrea
5 years 2 months ago
Oops - Intra ecclesia nulla salus.

And if my Latin is wrong don't bother to correct me because, in the immortal words of Rhett Butler:  Frankly my dear I don't give a damn.
Jim McCrea
5 years 2 months ago
"Vatican II era Catholic cardinal"

Dumb me; I didn't know that there were any non-Catholic cardinals around.
Bill Mazzella
5 years 2 months ago
Wow. Most. if not all posters, used the Hitchens subject to foster their own theology of the church and salvation. As a result, the opposing views are discussed rather than the Hitchens impact. Whether he was right or wrong on Mother Theresa is not the point either. We all seem to agree that only God can judge Hitchens. At the same time there are some points where we can perhaps all agree. Hitchens certainly flies in the face of a statement we all make in the Our Father: "Hallowed be your name"
Whether through invincible ignorance or not we can all agree that Hitchens outwardly did not revere the name of God. Whatever our differences we all agree on this mandate-On this point, on at least what we know of Hitchens, we must vigorously oppose him.  
david power
5 years 2 months ago
@Beth, Amen to all that you wrote.

@Fr Martin, I hope you're proud of all the consternation you have caused!! 
88 comments full of vitriol and disputation to such a simple blog?
This is what the Jesuits were capable of in days of yore.
No doubt they would say that you putting pillows under our elbows in the confessional.
I am proud to belong to a church with so many people who can live in trust of God as is exhibited here.
I know that some of those who have commented here have their  grievances with the Church but when the church was painted as hateful they rose in one voice and said that it is not so.
Those who grow in the catholic faith like Mother Teresa and dare I say Ratzinger and not really fazed  by the likes of Hitchens.It is only a holy Church if we can suffer his blows and love him still.Let is be said that on his deathbed Christopher   Hitchens was loved by the Catholic Church.Those who see him as an enemy have not realized what the Pope has been saying of late.The "real enemy is within ".
In your previous comment you tried to quell the fire that you yourself started but the horse has already bolted.You have put the whole dilemma in the head of everybody here.Who is this God ?What happens after the final breath is drawn?
I think it is your posting of the year and rather than feel unease you should realize that for once you have raised pulses for a worthy cause.

  
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
@ Bill Mazzella:

This writer, at least, is not among your ''all'' who will agree to your mandate. Hitchens holds the tenets of the faith up in front of us and demands that we explain ourselves. As I mentioned, earlier, few people offer any real answer nor address the issues he raises. Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete is only one I know who has had anything personal and substantive to say to Hitchens, that even Hitch respects.

You ask why we are not discussing the impact of Hitchens. It's right in front of your very own eyes. It's in your first two sentences. Hitch is forcing us to make explicit what we believe to be the elements of our faith. Other than to quote approved creed, I wonder if we really understand the meaning of Christianity. Certainly, we don't have a concensus, let alone an agreed upon mandate. THIS IS THE IMPACT OF HITCHENS, and thank God he was around long enough to make his presence felt. 

I, for one, would like to hear a good reply to Hitch's characterization of Mother Theresa. The only reply that I've been able to decipher is that it's not nice to critisize Mother Theresa. 
 
 
Rick Malloy
5 years 2 months ago
@ #75.  You quote Pope Innocent: ‘There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved.’  —Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215

Pray over these sections from Lumen Gentium.  The church has developed doctrine since the year 1215


http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16*) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature",(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.
Peace,  Fr. Rick
Stephanie McCaffrey
5 years 2 months ago
I simply want to thank Fr. Jim for his article and Fr. Rick Malloy for his numerous corrective comments to Lara Martinez. As an adult convert to Catholicism, educated by the Jesuits in grad school, both Fr. Jim and Fr. Rick have expressed my own perspective beautifully.  Because of that, there is little else I have to add to this thread! Lara, like others, I will lovingly pray for you.  Please put down your stone.
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago

The Believer's Atheist

''OF the many remarkable things about Christopher Hitchens, who died on Thursday after one of the most prolific and provocative careers in modern Anglo-American letters, perhaps the most remarkable was how much religious believers liked him.'' -ROSS DOUTHAT, Op Ed Columnist, The New York Times, Published: December 17, 2011

Read more HERE.
 

C Walter Mattingly
5 years 2 months ago
Wow. Look at all these posts. It seems that Hitchens is the Tim Tebow of atheism. He seemed firm in his faith in atheism and preached his faith diligently and openly. And perhaps that is why he receives so much attention here, from both sides of the issue. 
We Catholic Christians are people of faith. Belief is, we perhaps can all agree, an act of the theological virtue of Faith. It is not knowledge. The Church itself has a long history of being rigorous in its assertions of human limitations, even including the absoluteness of man's abilities to perfect faith: after all, if we have perfect faith, why do we require its counterpart, the theological virtue of Hope?  Hitchens, like many of the Catholic posters here, was a man of faith: he believed there was no God, no divine intelligence anywhere, period. Yet of course, the materialism of the positivist is no more nor less rational than that an eternal intelligence on the ultimate question, the Uncaused Cause: the idea that one force, hydrogen atom, whatever awoke one day to create itself or existed from eternity is starkly illogical. So Hitchens was a man of faith for the other team. We can dislike the guys on the other team, admire the guys on the other team, or both simultaneously. We can vilify the other team because they cheat, or we can steal their tactics. There is evidence aplenty of both in the above commentaries. Some here castigate Hitchens because he supported Bush in his efforts to put an end to the murderous outrage that was the reign of Saddam Hussein; some castigate him because of his apparently heart-felt rejection of Jesus Christ as God and Savior. The traditional Church makes allowances for a man who diligently searched for faith and did not find it; as a commentator mentioned above, it is invinceable ignorance. Nor is difficulty with the idea of eternal damnation limited to the liberal end of the Church. It is interesting that one of Hitchens closest friends is the prodigy of one from the conservative side with whom Hitchens was frequently compared, William Buckley. Buckley himself had great trouble with hell. How could an all-merciful God torture one for eternity? As he put it, isn't a thousand years in flames enough for Adolf Hitler? 
Whatever your viewpoint of Hitchens, he has truly provided followers of Christ a great service. Nietzsche commented that the Death of God was inadequate, that the word God had to disappear from the vocabulary of mankind. Hitchens has had the exact opposite effect. God is, after all is said and done, eternally durable. Nietzsche is gone; Hitchens is gone; God remains with us. And Hitches makes thoughtful persons of faith more aware of that. The Church has a long history of making good use of heretics.





 
Stanley Kopacz
5 years 2 months ago
We supported Saddam while he was performing murderous outrages as long as he was useful to the empire.  Murderous outrages aren't a discriminator in our actions, just an excuse.  I'll change my imaginary purgatory for Hitchens:  two centuries in a pocket universe with his buddies Bush and Cheney.  I know Bush & Cheney are still blessing us with their earthly presence, but time is fluid even in our universe.
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 2 months ago
Stanley, FDR supported one of Saddam's heroes, Josef Stalin, far worse than even the Butcher of Bagdhad, killing dozens of times Saddam's million or so. Hutchens argued that that Sophie's Choice (between Khomeini or Saddam) made it even more incumbent and obligatory for the US to remove Saddam from power. Most reasonable people conclude capturing Saddam and killing Bin Laden, etc, were not murderous outrages. Yet this wanders a bit, really, as the subject is Hitchens, who despite great differences was perhaps even more outspoken on the issues of freedom and democracy than Bush.
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
@ Walter #94:

Merry Christmas!

I don't agree with every sentiment you expressed, but that's not worth getting into. I understand how your last sentence flows from what came before.  But, if you go back and read it, alone, it sounds like a line from a Monty Python script.

''The Church has a long history of making good use of heretics.''

Walter, you intended something more serious and sprititual. You have to admit, though, it is very funny.  

Speaking of funny AND spiritual, here's a talk by Fr. Lorenzo Albacete (self-described, ''I'm just a simple Puerto Rican Monsignor.'') in which he discusses his gospel according to Monty Python. See HERE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixxykgAZmxo

(Communion and Liberation: A Lay Movement of the Catholic Church by Lorenzo Albacete)
 
 
C Walter Mattingly
5 years 2 months ago
Norm, Merry Christmas to you too! I always look forward to your postings, yet if you agreed with me, I suspect I would have to reexamine what I wrote.
Apparently if I should choose a career as a humorist I should not give up my day job, which at this point is watching grandkids and retirement. I will confess, my post was an attempt at what Joyce would have called jocoseriousness, an attempt to cool down the anomie that sometimes afflicts us here and was, as Fr Jim mentioned, in evidence. Although I offered no Tebowing, I thought the analogy might both further the conversation as it has validity and provide a bit of a breather and step back for us all. I also hoped it might tweak the spirit of Hutchens in the process; could he be more piqued than to be accused of being a man of faith? (It's the converse of what he did with Mother Teresa.) The entire essay was composed in that spirit. OK, so you found out I'm not Kingsley Amis. I'll check out Fr Albacete.
Best to you.

 
GREGORY GUITERAS MR
5 years 2 months ago
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus: Outside the Church there is no salvation.
Ah yes, that ole bugaboo...
As a progressive Catholic off the radar screen I whole-heartily agree!

If we clothe those ancient terms in 21st century language, we might come up with something like this:

Ecclesia = church, assembly, gathering, community
Salus = salvation, safety, health, wholeness

Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus = Outside the Community there is no Wholeness.

What's not to like?!
david power
5 years 2 months ago
@Steve Killian,

Thanks a lot for the link.I loved the part on the cherry picking of the Gospel. 
Amy Ho-Ohn
5 years 2 months ago
Of course, we all hope to meet Hitchens, Voltaire, Hitler, Mao and all atheists in Purgatory. To wish the damnation of any human soul is a grave sin.

But the question that seems to have generated so much vehemence in the responses to this post is the one David Smith asks (#47) "Why this particular atheist?" Why has the long-standing question of the salvation of dogmatic atheists suddenly excited so much consernation?

Clearly, one reason is that Hitchens, unlike Voltaire and Russell, is (very) recently deceased. But I was watching this blog when Francis Crick and Oriana Fallaci died and remember no similar eagerness to forbid speculation on the probable disposition of their souls.

Is it because the editorial staff of <i>America</i> magazine was personally acquainted with Hitchens, perhaps even attended some of his famous parties? Is it because Hitchens' opinions on the ever-fascinating issues of gender and sexuality correspond so closely to those of the editorial staff of <i>America?</i>. Is it because of the rather silly conviction held by so many of the self-proclaimed elite that even the most banal platitude sounds profound when uttered in a sufficiently plummy accent?

If so, fine. It's good to be loyal to one's friends. But we should all be careful to avoid the implication that having the right friends and holding popular opinions makes an atheist more likely to escape the Big Bonfire. Indeed, the testimony of the Church is that popularity in this world is negatively, not positively, correlated with saintliness.
MATTHEW NANNERY
5 years 2 months ago
an obviously upset andrew sullivan mourning christopher hitchens even before his death. though sullivan identifies as strongly as catholic as hitchens did as an athiest, they always liked each other's company. stay with it to the end:

http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/12/ask-me-anything-my-favorite-memory-of-hitch.html
Des Farrell
5 years 2 months ago
In his favour, it does seem that Mr. Hitchens has brought more subscribers to this magazine? That has to count for something?
Norman Costa
5 years 2 months ago
 
@ Matt:

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this link. What a moving and loving tribute to his friend. 
 
 
Jim McCrea
5 years 2 months ago
And, to be perfectly honest, I am less and less of a fan of Catholicism (my birth religion) as time goes on.

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