A new declaration from Pope Francis ushering Mother Teresa into the realm of sainthood is just the kind of announcement that would bring writer Christopher Hitchens raging back from the dead, if only he had believed in that sort of thing.

The Pope stated today that he considers a prayer made to the departed nun, who was known worldwide for decades of work with the most destitute citizens of Calcutta, is what saved a Brazilian man suffering with brain tumors. It’s a miracle, according to the pontiff. But Hitchens, were he still alive, would have called that more of the same exploitation by the Catholic Church.

Hitchens, who died of complications from cancer in 2011, refused to accept any religion or its tenets as genuine, writing several books and numerous essays denouncing all kinds of faith. He made his views plain on acts of church-sponsored charity. Saint James may have stated that “Works without faith are dead,” but Hitchens suspected those works to be nothing more than proselytizing.

Debating with “America’s Rabbi”, David J. Wolpe in 2010, Hitchens refutes the claim that kind acts performed by the faithful, like Mother Teresa, can only happen because of a personal relationship with a real greater being. 

Hitchens took many opportunities to aim his arguments directly at the saintly Teresa in Calcutta, claiming that she made a career off of helping a steady stream of poverty-struck people, bringing fame and countless donations to her church, but that she never did anything to change the plight of India’s downtrodden. He went after her in the pages of The Atlantic, in television, on film, and finally in a pamphlet denouncing her acts of kindness as profiteering. He called his publication “The Missionary Position”.

» Hear the entire, and very loud debate on WGBH’s Forum Network.

We don’t perform acts of kindness or rescue each other from desperate situations because a supreme being decided on our plan of action, according to Hitchens.

“All of this massive big bang churning….all of this could be part of a plan. There is no way an atheist can prove it’s not. But it’s some plan, isn’t it? Mass destruction, pitiless extermination, annihilation, and all of this set in motion, on a scale that is absolutely beyond our imagination, in order that the Pope can tell people not to jerk off,” he said.