Mass to honor Fulton Sheen

I was only a few years old when Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s TV career ended, so I never saw his show.

But so many people have told me about the influence of Sheen’s TV ministry that I almost feel like I was there (it helps that I’ve seen old clips of the show).

1951-bishop sheen during first broadcast of life is worth living-3This Wednesday (Dec. 9) will be the 30th anniversary of Sheen’s death. A memorial Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Patrick’s, with Archbishop Dolan presiding. It will be televised live on EWTN.

Dolan recently said that he is modeling himself a bit on Sheen, which is no surprise, given Dolan’s comfort level with the media.

Sheen is buried in the crypt under the main altar of St. Patrick’s. On Wednesday, the crypt will be opened to the faithful from 3 to 5 p.m., right before the Mass.

Since 2002, the Vatican has been considering Sheen for sainthood. If he makes it, he would be the first American-born bishop-saint.

Sheen is most famous for his show “Life is Worth Living,” which aired on Tuesday nights from 1951 to 1957, getting up to 30 million viewers a week.

He also had a syndicated series, “The Fulton Sheen Program,” which aired from 1961 to 1968.

Before TV, he had a two-decade radio career that started in 1930. And he’s credited with writing 73 books.

Watch him condemn communism here:

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ADD: A reader brought to my attention an old clip of Sheen appearing on the TV game show “What’s My Line.” A panel of blind-folded celebrities had to guess Sheen’s identity by asking him questions.

It’s a hoot to watch.

Once the panel confirms that the mystery guest appears on TV — but works for a non-profit — one panelist offers: “Weekly on television and non-profit? You have a crazy sponsor.”

She gets a big laugh.

Sheen eventually asks for his winnings to go to leper colonies run by the Vatican.

Here’s the clip:


Religion and art: Friends and enemies

Much of the world’s best art, of course, has been inspired by faith.

But religion and art don’t always get along.

Christian groups are periodically upset by the way Jesus or components of their faith are depicted by modern artists.

In today’s Journal News/LoHud, I have a story about Hindu groups protesting a provocative painting that is on display at the Neuberger Museum at Purchase College. The painting depicts one of Hinduism’s most important goddesses, Kali, in such a way that at least two national Hindu groups have asked for the work to be taken down.

The painting, called “Housewives with Steak-knives,” is by Sutapa Biswas, an Indian-born Hindu who has spent most of her life in England. She is an accomplished artist whose work has been shown around the world.

She spoke to me at length by telephone about her goals as an artist and about the many levels on which her painting can be interpreted.

At the same time, the Hindu groups in question seem to genuinely believe that Biswas’ painting is offensive toward their faith.

It’s an interesting case study, I think, into how different people interpret religious ideas and ideals so differently. No, it’s not a phenomenon that’s limited to western religions.

The painting is part of an exhibit focused on how immigration has changed Great Britain — and the concept of Britishness — in the post-war period.

‘These things happen in such small numbers’

So what have we learned from the 1997 and 1999 depositions of then-Bishop Edward Egan relating to sex abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport?

It’s hard to say — and probably in the eye of the beholder.

Since I’m no longer covering religion full-time, I have not had to pour through the thousands of page of court documents released Tuesday. But I know quite a bit about the cases in question and have read most of the significant media reports on the documents, including today’s well-written piece by Paul Vitello in the NYTimes.

It does not appear that a smoking gun has been uncovered, as in, let’s say, new details about how a priest was protected or how the diocese tried to cover up the truth.

tjndc5-5b5fab9inu153gbqezi_layoutThe depositions of Egan, in particular, primarily show, it seems, that Egan did not want to admit that the sexual abuse of minors by priests was a serious problem, in Bridgeport or the larger church. He only grudgingly expressed any sympathy for victims of abuse and repeatedly insisted that most allegations were only that — allegations.

Vitello’s story includes this:


Even then, Bishop Egan played down the importance of the action he had taken to stem a problem which, to him, was not a widespread one. At one point, when the deposition resumed in 1999, he stopped in his description of church policies to challenge the notion that any abuse had actually occurred.

“Incidentally,” he said, “these things don’t happen, and we are talking about ifs.”

“Forgive me, Father — Bishop,” replied one lawyer, Cindy Robinson. “But these things do happen because that’s the reason why we’re seated here today.”

She had been asking about two priests with long records of abuse allegations, whom Bishop Egan had sought to remove from the priesthood, though both continued working.

“These things happen in such small numbers,” the bishop said.


This portrayal is consistent with how Egan carried himself during his tenure as archbishop of New York — defensive, combative, revealing little.

It would be much bigger news, it seems to me, if the depositions showed Egan to be anguished over sex abuse, even in small numbers.

According to the Times story, he had to be pressed to even admit that the abuse of one person is important: “However, were even one person to have been abused sexually, while that one person could not numerically be categorized as a significant portion, the activity would be significant and more.”

Significant and more.

Gay marriage defeated in NYS Senate, 38-24

NOTE: This post is updated as it goes….

You can watch the NYS Senate debate gay marriage right HERE.

The quality of the video/audio is quite good.

Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Mount Vernon is speaking now — 1:45 or so. She just said that her oldest brother was gay and that she never said so in public before.

She described her brother moving to France to seek acceptance.

Her father was a minister. Her sister is a minister. She said her sister will not approve of the vote she will cast — in favor of gay marriage.

1:55 update: Sen. Craig Johnson of Nassau County, another supporter of gay marriage, just described “civil unions” as a “separate but equal” alternative for gays and lesbians.

He said that gay marriage is not an attack on religious liberty. “This is about civil marriage,” he said.

2 p.m. update: Sen. Bill Perkins of Harlem calls the gay-marriage vote “historic.”

He said: “Great ready: Marriage equality is here. It is inevitable.”

He also said: “I can see Dr. Martin Luther King smiling down on us today.”

2:03 update: Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer from Westchester is up. You know where she stands.

She said: “This is most assuredly a civil issue. This is not a religious issue.”

She said she does not understand how gay marriage would diminish traditional marriage.

“Isn’t this what we want in our communities, people who have commitments to one another?”

I certainly caught a string of fervent supporters of GM.

2:25 update. Had a phone call. What did I miss?

Sen. Thomas Duane of Manhattan is speaking. He is openly gay. He’s talking about how many senators have met his partner.

He’s talking about Nelson Mendela and Harriet Tubman and weeping. And Harvey Milk.

He’s having trouble putting his thoughts together.

He’s talking about the importance of being out. “Not doing it means it’s something you don’t want to be. I don’t think anyone here would want to perpetuate that.”

2:40 update. Duane was the last speaker. The debate is closed.

They are about to begin a roll call.

2:45: The first vote is by Sen. Eric Adams: “This is about love.” He votes yes.

There has just been a string of no votes, I think. It’s hard to hear. Several voters have not commented.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. says that senators cannot leave their Bibles outside. He voted no.

Another string of NOs.

And more NOs. Gay marriage appears to be in trouble.

3 p.m.: The vote is over. Gay marriage is defeated, 38-24

Egan depositions released

After years of lawsuits, the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport today released some 12,000 pages of documents from 23 sex-abuse lawsuits against six priests that were settled in 2001.

The papers include depositions, affidavits and motions and have been expected to shed some light on how the diocese — in particular former Bishop Edward Egan — handled things.

Here’s the AP’s first report:


tjndc5-5b5it3ivdrrf1y4mezi_layoutHARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Recently retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan says it was not appropriate to discuss allegations of priest sex abuse with people who had claimed to be abused while he was bishop of the Bridgeport diocese.

Egan makes the statements as part of a 1997 deposition that was part of thousands of documents made public on Tuesday, ending a seven-year legal battle.

Amid questioning by attorneys representing abuse victims, Egan says he believes that it would be inappropriate to discuss previous allegations of priest abuse, saying he would not “draw anyone else into this particular discussion.”

The Bridgeport diocese turned over to court officials more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against six priests settled by the diocese in 2001.


Here’s the Hartford Courant’s first lead:


“Claims are claims. Allegations are allegations.”

Those six words uttered by retired Cardinal Edward M. Egan during two depositions neatly sum up his approach to handling the burgeoning priest sexual abuse scandal that he inherited when he took over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut in the late 1980s.

In 448-pages of depositions that Egan was forced to give as part of 23 lawsuits against seven priests that eventually were settled, the Bishop showed little compassion for the alleged victims and instead argued with attorney’s that only a “remarkably small number” of priests have ever been accused of wrongdoing.

“These things (sexual abuse complaints) happen in such small numbers. It’s marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have ever been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything,” Egan said.

“Claims are one thing. One does not take every claim against a human being as a proved misdeed. I’m interested in proved misdeeds.”


And here is a statement from the Archdiocese of New York:


On May 22, 2009, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ordered that documentation concerning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, during the tenure of The Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis (1961-1988) be made public. The decision involves documents regarding five priests accused of sexual misconduct prior to the December 1988 appointment of The Most Reverend Edward M. Egan as Bishop of Bridgeport.  It is a topic that has been repeatedly and thoroughly addressed by Cardinal Egan and the Archdiocese of New York as far back as 2002 in response to a series of articles published by the Hartford Courant.

During his tenure as Bishop of Bridgeport (and later as Archbishop of New York), Bishop Egan aggressively investigated and properly dealt with all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests.  There were no such allegations regarding the five priests mentioned above during Bishop Egan’s Bridgeport years, apart from an accusation that one of them had made an improper gesture in the presence of a minor. The priests is not said to have had any physical contact with the minor, and two nuns who were present at the time have stated that they were unaware of anything inappropriate.

Of the five priests, one died prior to Bishop Egan’s appointment.  The remaining four were all sent for expert evaluation and professional treatment to the most highly regarded psychiatric institution in the New England and Greater New York area, which had no affiliation with the Church. They were ultimately returned to ministry only upon the specific recommendation of the aforementioned institution, along with the advice of experienced clergy and laity.  This was the recognized evaluation–and–treatment protocol for sexual misconduct cases at the time.  It was widely embraced and implemented by the psychiatric community and commended in an editorial of The New York Times.

After their return to ministry, new information was received about misconduct prior to Bishop Egan’s appointment to the Diocese of Bridgeport on the part of the remaining four priests mentioned above.  In response, two had their authority to exercise ministry removed indefinitely.  The third, who had suffered a brain injury, was permanently retired from ministry.  And the fourth, whose misconduct was never firmly established during Bishop Egan’s years in Bridgeport, was permitted to continue in a restricted ministry as an assistant chaplain in a home for the aged, while residing in a convent of religious women.

Three additional priests, who are not mentioned in the case before the Connecticut Supreme Court, were accused during Bishop Egan’s tenure in Bridgeport of engaging in sexual misconduct with minors prior to Bishop Egan’s assignment to the Diocese.  In response, Bishop Egan secured a declaration from the Vatican removing one from the priesthood, while the cases of the remaining two were handled according to the evaluation–and–treatment protocol outlined above. One of the two was evaluated and treated in another highly regarded psychiatric institution located near where he was residing.  It too had no affiliation with the Church.

During Cardinal Egan’s tenure as Archbishop of New York, the Archdiocese had a policy in place, which included an independent review board of professionals and experts, for dealing with credible allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by priests of the Archdiocese.  There was only one such allegation, and it was disproved in an ecclesiastical trial.

Opponents of gay marriage speaking out as votes may near

The possibility of a gay-marriage vote today in Albany has opponents speaking out.

New York State Catholic Conference Executive Director Richard E. Barnes just released this statement:


In the last several years, voters in 31 states have taken up the issue of changing the timeless definition of marriage and 31 times they have voted to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Just last month in Maine, advocates for reinventing marriage outspent their opponents by two to one and still could not sway voters in that socially liberal state, who easily overturned a law passed by the Maine legislature, despite pre-vote polling predicting a dead heat.

The Maine example follows a pattern wherever a homosexual “marriage” initiative goes before voters – opinion polls routinely overstate public support for this radical social experiment. There is no reason to believe the same is not true in New York. It would be wise for our Senators to keep in mind the lessons of Maine, California and all of the others states that have stood up in favor of marriage: The citizenry does not want their state legislature redefining marriage.

We urge the New York State Senate to stand firm in defense of marriage. The people expect nothing less.


New  Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical lobbying group in Albany, sent out an email urging members to “Flood legislative inboxes with e-mail,” call elected officials or even come to Albany to lobby in person.

The email also urges followers to pray and fast: “New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms believes in the power of prayer, and while our legislative opponents ridicule this idea, we know that there is a God who hears and answers the prayers of His people. The God of the Bible ordained marriage to be an institution between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4-5). Any attempt to redefine it is ultimately rebellion against the Creator.”


In New Jersey, Democrats are pusing a vote on gay marriage before Republican Chris Christie replaces Jon Corzine as governor. Christie says he would veto a gay-marriage bill.

Leaders of a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, N.J., who normally keep to themselves,  have come out to oppose a possible gay-marriage law.