Stories by Christopher Hitchens

  • pope-hitchens

    The Pope Should Be Questioned in Sex-Abuse Cases

    Detain or subpoena the pope for questioning in the child-rape scandal? You must be joking! All right then, try the only alternative formulation: declare the pope to be above and beyond all local and international laws, and immune when it comes to his personal and institutional responsibility for sheltering criminals. The joke there would be on us.The case for bringing the head of the Catholic hierarchy within the orbit of law is easily enough made. All it involves is the ability to look at a naked emperor and ask the question "Why?" Mentally remove his papal vestments and imagine him in a suit, and Joseph Ratzinger becomes just a Bavarian bureaucrat who has failed in the only task he was ever set—that of damage control. The question started small. In 2002, I happened to be on Hardball With Chris Matthews, discussing what the then attorney general of Massachusetts, Thomas Reilly, had termed a massive cover-up by the church of crimes against children by more than a thousand priests. I...
  • Sarah Palin's Political Instincts: Hitchens

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ernest Gruening: war veteran, former editor of The Nation magazine, and Franklin Roosevelt's nominee for governorship of the then-territory of Alaska in 1939. Having held that post for 14 years, he was elected to the United States Senate for the transition period of Alaskan statehood and went on to hold the seat for a decade. He is best-known to posterity as having cast one of only two Senate votes against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and also for introducing a resolution to establish a nationwide 911 emergency number. (Article continued below...)This brief historical reflection takes care of the lazy charge, made by Matthew Continetti in his new book, The Persecution of Sarah Palin,that liberal dislike of his heroine is no more than "a distaste for those who hail from outside America's coastal metropolises; a revulsion toward people who do not aspire to adopt the norms, values, politics, and attitudes of the Eastern cultural elite." Gruening's...
  • Hitchens on Lincoln

    Lincoln, himself, was paradoxical—as is the way we see him now. To really know the 16th president, look past the ways in which we remember him.
  • The Dogmatic Doubter

    The publication of Mother Teresa’s letters, concerning her personal crisis of faith, can be seen either as an act of considerable honesty or of extraordinary cynicism (or perhaps both of the above). These scrawled, desperate documents came to light as part of the investigation into her suitability for sainthood; an investigation conducted by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who is the editor of this volume. And they were actually first published in the fall of 2002, by the Zenit news agency—a Vatican-based outlet associated with a militant Catholic right-wing group known as the Legion of Christ. So, which is the more striking: that the faithful should bravely confront the fact that one of their heroines all but lost her own faith, or that the Church should have gone on deploying, as an icon of favorable publicity, a confused old lady whom it knew had for all practical purposes ceased to believe?Crises of faith, or “dark nights of the soul” as they were termed by St....
  • Hitchens Takes on Mother Teresa

    The nun's leading critic argues that  her crisis of faith—revealed in newly published letters—was brought on by the crushing unreasonableness of the Roman Catholic faith.
  • A World Is Born

    The palindromic year now closing is palindromic only if you count by the arithmetic of the Christian era, and in few years has it been more evident that these numbers (written now in Arabic instead of Roman script) are relative. The past 12 months have been filled with war, and with rumors of war. In many Western conversations, a reference to "the war" must now be clarified, as to whether it refers to the last war or the next war or the semipermanent war. In some non-Western conversations, the term jihad has acquired much of the same ambiguity.Truly, the oft-stated prediction of the previous year has come true: we live in a different world. And the tensions of 2002--not just between Islam and the West, but within the West itself--were its growing pains. It is clear now that we all inhabit the same interconnected planetary economy; not even the anti-McDonald's protesters can or do truly think otherwise. It's also clear that we're all part of the same interdependent nervous system, so...
  • False Spring

    In Washington, March is sometimes the cruelest month. The air softens, the low sky opens up and spreads a bit, and the cherry blossoms begin to burgeon along the avenues and riverbanks. The trees were originally a present from the Japanese city of Nagasaki, and the most celebrated of their effusions burst forth around the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, creating an almost snow-covered effect that has long magnetized tourists from far away. Lawyers and lobbyists loosen their ties, the young women of the city venture forth in lighter garments, children flood the parks and then--suddenly-- a harsh snap of frigid weather nips the buds.This spring has echoed and mirrored this bittersweetness. Only weeks ago, it seems, the president gave an upbeat and almost celebratory account of the union's recovery from the dastardly assault of last September. Afghanistan had been liberated, and the dapper Mr. Karzai was there in person to testify to the fact. Wherever Osama bin Laden was, he...
  • Letter From America: Bah, Humbug!

    It's Nov. 26. Exactly a month to what the British call "Boxing Day" and I (with relief) welcome as the day after Christmas. Big Illinois carpenters are doing their stuff in the lobby of the Hilton in downtown Chicago. And there, placed archly by the revolving doors, is the little sign: EXCUSE OUR DUST. ELVES HARD AT WORK.Once again, the season of cloying coyness and enforced good cheer is upon us. Lord God, how I hate it! And there is no escape. Outside the Hilton, on my way to see a sensational exhibition of Gauguin and Van Gogh at the city's art museum, I happen to stroll through the plaza named for the jowly and chunky Mayor Richard J. Daley, home to a gargantuan outdoor sculpture that locals call "The Picasso." Opinion divides as to whether its apparent visage is that of a raging bull or a lean-faced rent collector. Whatever, it's hardly something to easily pass unnoticed. And yet there it is, the great metallic figure, almost lost in a seasonal surround of gingerbread-village...
  • A Washingtonian Looks At His City

    Perhaps it's just me, a Brit living in America. But Washington had a distinctly orphaned feeling as September drew to its unhappy close. The nation's heart bled for those burned and buried in New York, and for the all-American heroes dead in Pennsylvania--but not (or certainly not to the same degree) for the Federal City and the loss of one of the Pentagon's five facets. My friends in New York received shoals of anxious e-mail to see how they were. Those in Washington did not.Why? Certainly, the Twin Towers aflame and tumbling, and the last stand in the skies over Pittsburgh, are inherently dramatic, even inspirational. Pity and terror, it seems, are not so readily summoned by the image of civil servants being dug out of bureaucratic wreckage. Yet think about it. If the passengers over Pennsylvania had not resisted so gallantly, we might be looking at the hole where the White House used to be, or at the stump of the Washington Monument, or the shattered dome of the Capitol. Perhaps...
  • Life On The Edge

    If you don't like the weather in northern California, wait a few minutes and it'll change. (Mark Twain might have said that.) Other climates are similarly mutable. A year or so ago the streets of quiet Stanford and Palo Alto were made impassable by shoals of new SUVs and by the parking valets for a galaxy of costly new restaurants. People with serviceable homes in the neighborhood were being offered Skywalker prices for them, in cash--on condition that they move out right away. Ordinary contracting work, underpinned by plentiful Hispanic labor, was hard to commission. It's pretty safe to say that the last thing on anyone's mind was the electricity bill.Scroll on 12 months and Silicon Valley is in midinquisition about who lost the dot-com empire. Rolling blackouts encourage a reflective mood. Property prices are realistic again, and seats in good restaurants are easy to get--avec parking. And suddenly, now, the state has a surplus of power and even sells the stuff across its border....
  • Why North Korea Is Number One

    A couple of months ago, the White House held a screening of a movie about the life of Varian Fry, the great prewar humanitarian who rescued innumerable artists and writers from Nazified Europe. Several current leaders of humanitarian and relief organizations were invited and one of them was presented to President George W. Bush. "What," inquired the chief executive, "is the worst country in the world?" "Congo, Mr. President," came the reply. "Oh yes--I had that Paul Kabila visit me recently. So, what's the second worst country?" "Afghanistan, Mr. President." "Right--where them loonies shoot up the statues."Picking the worst country in the world is not unlike choosing rogue nations--a parlor game that is open to interpretation, whether informed or not.What goes to make up a real hellhole? The chief ingredients are tyranny, chaos and corruption, but in most countries, the lack of one tends to mitigate the presence of the others. An authoritarian state can bring stability and order; on...
  • Prohibition Redux

    EXCUSE ME FOR MENtioning it, but the era of big government doesn't seem to be quite over yet. This is true whether or not you happen to be - as I confess to being - a member of the inhaling community and a person of smoke. Consider the most recent regulation agreement between big tobacco, the states and the legal profession. If ratified, this would effectively prohibit the promotion and advertising of a legal product, while counting on costly anti-smoking ""programs'' to be so ineffective that continued consumption will finance health care for our neglected and uninsured children. Like Milton Friedman's old crack about planning being ""socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor,'' this deal neatly contradicts its own expensively litigated terms. ...