Friday, December 11, 2009

Merry Christmas New York City- An Event Not To Be Missed

I'll be MCing a very special Christmas concert at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York on December 19th. You are all cordially invited. All the proceeds benefit The Faith and Family Foundation which offers assistance to families of special needs children. The Irish tenor, Mark Forrest will be performing as will The Broadway Youth Ensemble, and others. I may even warble a tune or three with the musical director, Rich Barretta (a wonderful pianist). It is a fantastic way to welcome in the Christmas season and the theatre could not be grander. All the info is below, and you can buy your tickets on line, direct from Lincoln Center. Bring your friends and family and I look forward to seeing you in New York on December 19th. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

First of all a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Amid reports that unemployment has hit 17% in the United States and heartbreaking stories from friends and family (including our viewing family), we have much to be thankful for on this week of Thanksgiving. Try to take some time with family this week to share your thoughts on the many blessings in your lives. We are often so busy running to appointments and meeting deadlines that we fail to appreciate the great gifts all around us. This is a wonderful time out to stop and recognize the blessings we receive throughout the year.

I am especially thankful for all of you, my television and print family. For your support, attention, and passion, I could never thank you enough. As a partial thank you we are working on a couple of special Advent and Christmas specials which will air on EWTN throughout December. To that end:

All of you in New York, Philadelphia, Jersey and all over the east coast are invited to a special concert in New York City on December 2nd:

The Priests, the international sensations will perform at St. Malachy’s Church (the Actor’s Chapel)
239 West 49th Street
New York, New York 10019 at 2:30 PM.

Seating is first come first serve and the concert is free of charge. You all are welcome. Please come if you can, and be part in this special musical event.

Monday, September 21, 2009



This week, CableFax, a cable Industry magazine, honored "The World Over" by naming our program "Best Religious Show or Series in Cable Television for 2009." My producer Chris Edwards and I were in New York this week to receive the award.

We are so very thankful to the folks at CableFax and to all our loyal viewers (and listeners) who make the show what it is each week. It is an honor I share with my producer, Chris Edwards, our associate producer, James Faulkner, our Executive Producer, Doug Keck, and all the folks at EWTN who keep the show on the air each week: our directors, editors, and crew. How nice it is to be honored by the cable industry. At the awards luncheon, I kept thinking of Mother Angelica who first asked me to create the show and launch the news division thirteen years ago. Without her, the show (and the network) would not exist. As I told the crowd in New York during my acceptance speech: "It is said you shouldn't talk about religion and politics-- this honor demonstrates that we should talk about both with regularity."

Religion brings peace, causes war, and deeply guides man's every action, yet it is the most neglected area of reportage across the globe. What an honor it is to have the time each week to pull back the veil and examine the faith and teachings that drive so much of the surface news we cover. Thanks to all of you for allowing us to continue to do so.


In the midst of the never ending health care debate, partisans have suggested that the Catholic Church's (IE the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops') support of Universal Health Care means, de facto, that government run health care must be adopted. The argument has been advanced that aside from their concerns about abortion funding or conscience clauses, the Bishops support the "public option" making its way through the House of Representatives. Now a growing chorus of Bishops are clarifying exactly what the Church teaches about health care reform--and what She doesn't.

This is critical. Most people don't appreciate the fact that the Bishop's Conference in Washington merely puts forth principles to guide the debate. They do not endorse any one approach, nor do they have any canonical authority where Church teaching is concerned. It is up to the individual bishops to teach and guide their flocks.

On this week's "World Over Live" Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas will join us to explain their recently issued joint statement on Health Care. They raise concerns about the perception that Catholics are morally obligated to embrace a centralized bureaucratic approach to health care reform. They write: "The right of every individual to access health care does not necessarily suppose an obligation on the part of the government to provide it ... The teaching of the universal church has never been to suggest a government socialization of medical services." Their complete joint statement is worth reading. It is here:

Other bishops have issued similar statements. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver writes: "a proper government role in solving the health-care crisis does not necessarily demand a national public plan, run or supervised by government authorities. Real health-care reform need not automatically translate into federal programming."

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, N.D., is even more blunt, warning that it is wrong to think that "the national government is the sole instrument of the common good."

These are important observations and words worth heeding-- especially as politicians attempt to attach "moral" urgency to their specific plans. Church teaching, at least on health care reform, is a lot broader than some would like to admit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Robert Novak, Requiescat in Pace

My friend and mentor, Robert Novak is gone at the age of 78 and I am deeply saddened. After a valiant struggle, Bob lost his battle with brain cancer earlier today.

Washington and all of America should be mourning-- for Bob Novak was the last of a breed of journalists that we shall not see again. He used his contacts with the powerful to get the story, while never getting too cozy with them. His columns revealed the unseen political motivations beneath the policy tussles everyone else was covering. He didn’t offer opinion, but reportage. He actually broke news in his column. To inform the public, which he considered a crucial calling, Bob would often divulge details that eluded his competitors. He said of his news approach a few years ago: “I am proud of my journalistic philosophy: to tell the world things people do not want them to hear.”

Years ago, when I was working in the office he shared with his longtime partner, Rowland Evans, he confided to me the distinguishing characteristic of his work. “There has to be at least one new bit of information--some new revelation in each column,” he said. “That’s what makes us different.” And different he was.

For 45 years his column was mandatory reading in Washington DC and could drive blood pressure up in both the Capitol and in the West Wing. He relished being on the outside while tweaking the noses of those on the inside.

The man was a dynamo. Tooling around Washington in his black Corvette, Novak kept a schedule that would exhaust a twenty year old. When I worked for him, he was writing a column three times a week, editing a bi-weekly newsletter, producing CNN’s “Evans and Novak” and “Capitol Gang”, as well as co-hosting “Crossfire” each weeknight. Weekends were dedicated to speeches and travel. In between, he wrote articles for the Readers Digest and the Wall Street Journal as well as the occasional book.

Beneath the grumpy exterior and the “Prince of Darkness” moniker, Novak was a very kind man, devoted to his friends, his family, and later in life, to his Faith. In 1998, shortly after his conversion to Catholicism, Bob would only grant one television interview to discuss his new found religion. I had the pleasure of conducting that interview.

Bob told me of his long journey from non practicing Jew to Roman Catholic. It was his wife, Geraldine’s pro-life convictions that first drew his attention to matters of faith. Though not a Catholic, Geraldine Novak would attend Mass in Washington and encourage her husband to join her. After four years of attending Mass neither Bob nor Geraldine had converted, but a speaking engagement in Upstate New York would force the issue. At Syracuse University Bob encountered a young woman wearing a crucifix and casually asked if she was Catholic. The woman turned the question on Bob who had to respond in the negative. The woman told him, “Mr. Novak life is short, but eternity is forever.” These words would haunt him for weeks to come.

That chance meeting and conversations with Fr. John McCloskey and his former source and friend, Msgr. Peter Vaghi, led Novak to begin the process of conversion. He and Geraldine were baptized Catholics in 1998.

His faith was a great consolation to Bob during his battle with brain cancer in the last year of his life. He fought to the end, enduring invasive surgery and repeated chemotherapy. The last time I saw him, in the middle of his treatments, he was bent by his illness but by no means overcome by it. With Geraldine at his side, he possessed a joy and a determination to keep on fighting. That is the Bob Novak that I will long remember.

I will most miss Bob’s relentless inquisitiveness. In his three piece suit, over dinner or at a cocktail party, he would probe you, seeking your impressions of a news event or a person. He wanted to know everything you had heard. He was like a sponge. And God did he love chasing a story. A true journalist, Bob spent time and considerable shoe leather gathering facts, and never lost his soul doing it. In one of his last interviews with Washingtonian Magazine, in the midst of his cancer struggle, he said:

“Nobody wants to die. I certainly don't. But all Christian faiths, and certainly Catholicism, hold that there's an afterlife, that we are not just dust to dust. And that's comforting, particularly now that I have an illness and there's very little chance I will recover. A priest who visited me told me I've been given a chance to prepare myself. So I began to think about my life and what I've done right and not done right and to prepare myself for the last days. I've found that reassuring.”

In typical Novakian fashion, Bob knew how to finish the story well.

May Robert Novak rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Necrophiliac Complex

We have become a world of necrophiliacs. We love the dead. It is the living we have problems with.

This week’s outpouring of affection for Michael Jackson only reminds me of this irksome trend. It is worth recalling that only minutes before his untimely death, Jackson was routinely referred to as “Jacko” (a fusion of Jackson and wacko) by the world’s media. His record sales had been sliding for years. And on June 25th, he had all the cultural relevance of Duran Duran or Pat Benatar.

Jackson’s long history of bizarre behavior: wearing masks in public, draping his children in blankets, the horrific plastic surgeries that reduced his nose to something akin to a letter opener, his peculiar relationships with young children, and the erection of a personal Neverland made him the constant subject of scorn and ridicule. The Moonwalk, “Thriller”, and his trademark sequined gloves were long forgotten. Jackson had become a sad shadow of the multi-talented child he was in the 1960’s or even of the man who later left such a mark on the 1980’s.

Then he died.

The tributes began pouring in and the lionization reached full zenith. Suddenly his music started flying off the shelves and Jackson’s friends and acquaintances filled the airwaves with heartfelt tributes to his talent and “genius.” Jamie Foxx and Rev. Al Sharpton were soon raising him up as a black leader who broke down walls of racial separation and attracted legions of white and black fans. This cultural amnesia is a bit much.

As I watched the rise of the Jackson cult and listened to the social changes attributed to him, it made me think of those living musical icons that did in fact break the color barrier. If we are looking for artists who attracted white and black fans in a time of racial strife we have to go back decades before Michael Jackson. What about Little Richard? Diana Ross? Chuck Berry? Chubby Checker? Fats Domino? If we could step away from the media induced Jackson hysteria for a moment, perhaps we could find time to pay tribute to these iconic singers who truly instigated social change. All of these artists, incidentally, are still performing.

Why do we wait until people die before we honor them or show them how cherished they are? A friend recently suggested to me that watching beloved performers age only reminds us of our own mortality. Too bad.

It is easy to love the dead, particularly a dead singer. All we have at that point is the music (and we can be sure that they won’t commit any new embarrassing acts in public or disfigure themselves further). The image of that person can be safely fixed, set on the shelf of memory, and recalled in the happy haze of nostalgia. Reality is always a messier business.

No one is saying that we shouldn’t remember the dead or even honor them-- Jackson included--but as my great grandmother used to say: “Thank me now. After I’m gone, I won’t care.”

So as the world says goodbye to Michael Jackson, my thoughts wander to the many men and women on whose backs he stood. They should be saluted for their talent and their willingness to keep sharing it with us today. Memorials are nice, but gratitude in the present is better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Jon and Kate Gosselin in a much hyped TLC “Jon and Kate Plus 8” special announced this week that they are separating. For anyone with eyes, this can’t possibly be news. In individual interviews the two spouses shared their perspectives on the breakup.

“I was too passive—I let her rule the roost,” Jon confessed to viewers. “I went along with everything and finally stood up on my own two feet and I’m proud of myself.”

Later Kate, her face swollen from crying, sounded like an old trooper on Broadway. “The show must go on,” she said. “ We’ve always done the show for the kids—to provide for them… I don’t want to do this alone, but it’s REQUIRED and I’ve got to do it.”

Why? Why does this couple insist on subjecting themselves and their children to the same forces that have brought about their ruin? I would argue that it was the show itself, the cameras and the sudden fame that unraveled this family. For five years a team of camera people complete with boom mikes have swarmed about the Gosselin home. Every domestic breakdown, every calculated joy or outburst has been captured and served up to a hungry public. Beyond the free gifts and extravagant play houses in the yard, the real question this raises is: Is a show worth a family?

The Gosselins say the paparazzi and attention attracted by the show overwhelmed them. But at the same time, like crack addicts, they won’t break the celebrity addiction. Kate Gosselin spends much of her week traveling the country talking about the show and pushing her books. If one reads between the lines, she always seemed more concerned about the show and her personal fame than about the divisions it was creating within her family. Her husband was apparently incapable of reigning her in. Now the enterprise has brought them both down (to say nothing of their eight children).

The true sadness of this “reality” saga is that the Gosselins appeared, at least early on, as a loving and vaguely religious clan. But unprepared for the obligations of media fame, and addicted to the endless attention they fell prey to the same celebrity culture that exalted them in the first place. They also forgot the crucially important lesson that a marriage is the foundation upon which a family is built. Their endless testimonials about “loving the children” avoided the issue that tore the Gosselins apart: their failure to love each other enough to sacrifice the show and all the challenges it has brought.

For the sake of their family they should have put the show on ice and repaired their personal lives. Crowds will always watch a train wreck, but once it is over they quickly disperse. The recent "Jon & Kate Plus 8" ratings seems to confirm this. They have lost 7 million viewers since their high point earlier this year. It would be far more edifying to catch up with the Gosselins a year from now, after they have rediscovered their moorings and repaired their relationships than to watch Kate Gosselin in her Posh Spice guise stumble through season 5 faking family harmony, alone, for the cameras.

Tell me what you think at

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mother Angelica at 86 and Memories of A Friend Lost

April 20, 2009

Personally, this is a reflective day mingled with joy and sadness. It was exactly a year ago today when Pope Benedict concluded his triumphant Papal visit to America. But a year later it isn't what the Pope said or did that remains in my memory, so much as the man who sat next to me during our coverage of that visit. I remember telling my friend and co-host, Father Richard John Neuhaus, who gamely contributed commentary (when we weren't doing our Abbott and Costello act), that though this papal visit was history we would certainly revive our long running partnership for the next "big event."

Little did either of us realize that this was to be the last "big event" we would share. Father Neuhaus succumbed to cancer on January 8th of this year. As I read his last book, "American Babylon" he is ever present in my thoughts and prayers.

There is however at least one reason I jubilate this day. It is Mother Angelica's 86th Birthday. Who would have imagined at the end of 2001, after suffering a massive stroke which required emergency brain surgery, that Mother Angelica would still be with us? And yet, eight years later she continues her mission today just as she started it: in contemplative silence and in communion with her Spouse.

Mother's speech is greatly diminished these days. She no longer tells those hilarious stories or shares her practical teachings, but she is engaged in the lives of her sisters, reacting with those expressive eyes to each bit of shared news and to each funny story related. I spoke with Mother the other day and can attest that her laugh is hearty as ever. And no one saying "I love you" can bring tears to my eyes quicker. It is a relief to know that despite her infirmities, Mother is still with us.

What distinguishes Mother Angelica from just about any other Church leader is her humble origins. She is truly of the people; the product of a working class, dysfunctional immigrant family. That tortured biography would make her more sensitive to the struggles of the common man and allow her to give voice to their greatest hopes. Hers is a story of faith's power to transform and redeem, not only one life, but millions of lives. Mother Angelica loved Christ enough to offer Him everything, even her voice and her independence. Today she is continuing to present this final oblation.

My great grandmother used to say: compliments and thanks are only worthwhile when you're living. There is so much I would have liked to have said to Father Neuhaus and to other friends who have departed in recent days. So, following my great grandmother's advice, on this great day of celebration, I want to offer my love and thanks to Mother Angelica. She has inspired so much of my work and has altered countless lives. But for her, this blog, the entire broadcast apparatus that is EWTN would not exist and you and I might never have met in this way. On a personal level she has taught me how to communicate in ways I never expected--how to simply let go and reveal the personality that was given me. She has been a true Mother to me, and I know I am not alone in this.

Next time that you happen across something moving or insightful, inspirational or challenging on EWTN's television or radio feed, do me a favor. Stop for a moment and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the brave and battle scarred woman who gave so much for that message-- the cloistered nun who built a media empire on faith. Her love is still reaching millions around the world; quietly, gently, powerfully. What a gift she is to us on her 86th birthday.

Here is wishing you many, many more birthdays Reverend Mother.

Let me know what you think, and tell me how Mother touched your life at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This week the world lost a rare writer at the age of 43. He was not a media fixture and certainly not one of those writers making appearances at the literary salons. He was a Dublin homebody. But what an astounding person Christopher Nolan was.

Nolan was born with cerebral palsy, could not speak, nor control his extremities. Confined to a wheelchair, he was the type of person our society looks at with pity or largely ignores. Thankfully, his family never saw him that way. They loved him unconditionally, interacted with him and taught him as one would any child. He would go on to school, though no one fully appreciated his mental acuity.

A drug was discovered that allowed Nolan to move one muscle in his neck. (Bono of U2, who attended school with Nolan wrote the song “Miracle Drug” about the boy). At the age of 11 he was equipped with a “unicorn stick” which was fastened to his head. With it Nolan would peck at a typewriter. His mother had to apply pressure to his chin to stabilize the boy’s head, allowing him to work his art. It was a torturous process, taking him more than 15 minutes to produce one word on the page. And what words they were.

He published his first book at 15, a collection of poems appropriately titled “Dam-burst of Dreams.” His second book won Britain’s prestigious “Whitbread Book of the Year:” in 1988. It was called “Under the Eye of the Clock,” a biographical work in which he refers to himself as Joseph Meehan. At one point in the book Nolan writes of crying upon the realization that he is not like other children:

``Looking through his tears he saw [his mother] bent low in order to look into his eyes. `... Listen here Joseph, you can see, you can hear, you can think, you can understand everything you hear. You like your food, you like nice clothes, you are loved by me and Dad. We love you just as you are.' Pussing still, sniveling still, he was listening to his mother's voice. She spoke sort of matter-of-factly but he blubbered moaning sounds. His mother said her say and that was that. She got on with her work while he got on with his crying.
``The decision arrived at that day, was burnt forever in his mind. He was only three years in age but he was now fanning the only spark he saw, his being alive and more immediate, his being wanted just as he was....
``That day looked out through his eyes for the rest of his life. Comfort came in child-like notions, his clumsy body was his, but molested by mother-love he looked lollying looks at his limbs, and liked Joseph Meehan.'

Nolan was a Catholic, one who was often frustrated by his inability to open his mouth at communion time. But the mark of his faith is evident in his work. In “Under the Eye of the Clock” he wrote of Christmas:
“Bells pealed in all the Dublin churches as midnight nudged home its bashful meaning to all the crazy longing. Christ the God-child now breathed a human breath. The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst man. Manger-cradled the Saviour lay. Midnight Mass marked the moment for Joseph; crested now with knowing, he marvelled at the nobility of the human person.”

His Mother, Bernadette told the Christian Science Monitor in the late 80’s: “``He has shown (people with disabilities) that life is worth living, and it doesn't matter whether you're in a wheelchair or a bed; it's what's going on in your mind and your soul that is important.''

Beyond his somersaulting innovation with language, the thing that lingers about Nolan is the improbable miracle of the man himself. I am in awe of the great sacrifices he made each day to share his voice with the world. Each overwhelming obstacle to communication was soberly considered, and ruthlessly overcome. Of writing he once said: ``My mind is just like a spin dryer at full speed. My thoughts fly around my skull, while millions of beautiful words cascade down into my lap. Images gunfire across my consciousness and, while trying to discipline them, I jump in awe at the soul-filled bounty of mind's expanse.''

How many able bodied people put off their calling, or make needless excuses for doing nothing. The next time those deadening temptations bubble up, we should think of Christopher Nolan. With a stick affixed to his head, in a body he could not control, his mother holding his chin, Nolan managed to produce a book of poetry, a play, a novel, a biography and an incredible witness for us all.

May Christopher Nolan rest in peace.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus

1/8/09 Father Richard John Neuhaus has gone to the Lord. My heart breaks with so many of you who loved and respected Father Neuhaus.
I feel privileged to have known him and to have had so many occasions to share broadcasts with him. His precise eye, deep faith, and unfailing eloquence in print and in speech will be sorely missed. But it is his laughter and wicked sense of humor-- all those long meals in Rome and New York that I will miss most. There is no one in the Church like him. May this great man of letters and priest of God, who fought the good fight for so long, rest in peace. Godspeed my friend.

Here is a tribute I wrote for the Wall Street Journal (Click here). And remember to watch the World Over this week. We'll remember Father Neuhaus with George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Jody Bottum.