Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself over personal attacks by my far-left media opponents, and those have been known to happen, I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Here's a woman who devoted her adult life to helping the poor and sick in one of the worst hellholes on earth. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and up until her death in 1997 she was revered around the world.
A few weeks ago Newsweek magazine ran a story by atheist Christopher Hitchens about Mother Teresa's crisis of faith, which she articulated in a number of letters to confidants. Mr. Hitchens, who had previously blasted the nun over abortion and birth control, wrote a nasty diatribe against the woman and the Catholic Church.
Now, I don't blame Hitchens. He has been totally upfront about his loathing of organized religion and his contempt for the intellects of those who believe, including Mother Teresa. But why would Newsweek print a stand-alone attack on a good woman, an article that called Mother Teresa "miserable" and a "confused old lady"?
If Newsweek wanted fair and balanced controversy, all it had to do was print two articles: the one by Hitchens, and another by someone challenging the guy. But no, just the hatchet job appeared in the magazine.
I asked the editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, to explain, but he declined to be interviewed. Since Meacham wrote a book about faith and the Founding Fathers, which he was happy to discuss, I found that strange. In fact, the whole deal is strange.
Two years after her death, Mother Teresa was still the most admired person in the world, according to a nationwide Gallup Poll. There are 65 million Catholics in the United States, and more than 80 percent of Americans say they are Christian. So does it make any sense to hire an atheist to trash Mother Teresa? Does it?
The answer is no. It is bad journalism, awful economics (trust me, there are now more than a few former Newsweek readers) and just plain unfair. Mother Teresa deserves better.
Most people of faith have doubts. The New Testament tells us Jesus had a crisis of faith in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before he was executed. Faith is a tough thing when the going gets tough. But until the end Mother Teresa attended to Christian doctrine by helping those in dire need.
The evidence is overwhelming that the good sister was a kind and generous woman. I can't read minds, and it would be unfair to assign motives to those who run Newsweek, but the Mother Teresa article was disturbing to say the least.
The bestseller lists are full of books telling us God is a fraud and religion is spawned by the devil (sorry). In a free society, those points-of-view should be heard. But Mother Teresa's legacy deserves respect. Newsweek has done her, and its readership, a huge disservice.
However, knowing Mother Teresa's philosophy, she would forgive them. Because that would be the Christian thing to do.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor" and author of the book "Who's Looking Out For You?" To find out more about Bill O'Reilly, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. This column originates on the Web site www.billoreilly.com.