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America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen [Hardcover]

By Thomas C. Reeves (Author)
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Item description for America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen by Thomas C. Reeves...

Outline ReviewIt is hard to believe that this is the first and only full biography of Fulton J. Sheen, perhaps the most important American priest of the 20th century. Sheen was an enormously popular figure in his day, hosting radio and television programs that introduced and explained his faith to millions of listeners and viewers. (He even won an Emmy Award, and the actor Martin Sheen took his stage name from the man.) Thomas C. Reeves, author of the JFK biography A Question of Character, offers an absorbing account of Sheen's life and times. He uncovers fascinating details, including a phony academic degree and the particulars of a bitter dogfight with Francis Cardinal Spellman. Although this is not a hagiographic account, it is an admiring one: Sheen comes across as an astoundingly smart, charismatic, and generous man. No wonder he was such a successful evangelizer: he converted thousands, including Henry Ford II and Claire Booth Luce. He gained some notoriety for his strong anticommunism; reading America's Bishop, in fact, provides a concise history of Catholic anticommunism in the United States. It is an outstanding book that will appeal to fans of George Weigel's Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II and anybody else attracted to this fascinating figure. --John Miller

Product Description
Fulton J. Sheen, the leading American Catholic of the twentieth century, became familiar to a generation of Americans as the radiant figure in full bishop's robes who held the nation spellbound during the 1950s on his television show, "Life Is Worth Living."

The American Catholic Church's most charismatic presence over several decades, Sheen was also its chief evangelist. Among his thousands of converts were celebrities such as Clare Booth Luce and Henry Ford II, and former communists Louis Budenz and Elizabeth Bentley. Reeves discusses these conversions and Sheen's close friendship with J. Edgar Hoover, and details for the first time the struggle between Sheen and his chief rival, Francis Cardinal Spellman, a battle of ecclesiastical titans that led all the way to the Pope and to Sheen's final humiliation and exile.

The result of interviews with dozens of Sheen's friends, family members and church colleagues and the unearthing of important new material at the Sheen Archives in Rochester, New York, "Fulton J. Sheen" is the first in depth portrait of this flamboyant churchman and intellectual, and a social history of Catholicism in America during the twentieth century.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Encounter Books
Pages   463
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.24" Width: 6.38" Height: 1.63"
Weight:   1.94 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2002
Publisher   Encounter Books
ISBN  1893554252  
ISBN13  9781893554252  

Availability  0 units.

More About Thomas C. Reeves

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Thomas C. Reeves is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside and Senior Fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Institute. The author of The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy and the best-selling A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, he lives in Franksville, Wisconsin.

Thomas C. Reeves currently resides in Franksville, in the state of Wisconsin. Thomas C. Reeves was born in 1936 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Georgia, US Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Universi.

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Reviews - What do customers think about America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen?

The Best and the Brightest  Dec 2, 2006
A superb biography about one of America's most talented personalities. The book is a milestone in the annals of Americana. We will never see his likes again. The author has done a most splendid and complete job in his portrayal. Best bio I have read in years.
fills the gap  Dec 11, 2004
I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it did a number of things well. For one it helped me to get to know Fulton J. Sheen, a name I had heard about from the past and brief mentions from my parents, but had never known except the author of one book on my shelf ("The Life of Christ"). I felt that I not only got to know who he was, but also about the times he lived in. Reeves seamlessly blends the historical reality of Sheen's time with Sheen's actions as well as his thoughts.
I felt that Reeves had presented Sheen as entirely human, he did not try to portray him as a distant saint, nor try to deconstruct him in a voyeuristic way. He attempted to accurately present the man and his message. Based on his liberal number of interviews and sources I think he did a good job. He stated that there was simply a lack of a good biography on Archbishop Sheen and I think that he filled it.
I appreciated Reeves working in numerous quotations from Sheen's writings and talks which sent me to this to see if many of these books were still in print. However, many are not, which seems a shame, because Sheen seems to me (as a 26-year-old) to have much to say about the current age.
A Brilliant Cleric: He Told Us So Himself  Oct 1, 2004
Fulton J. Sheen will never be canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church for two obvious reasons: his sins are bright scarlet and we know them too well. Sheen established a television intimacy with the American public in the 1950's that only a few individuals have achieved-Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson come to mind-through his apostolic use of that explosive new video medium. I was a lad in Catholic elementary school when Sheen delivered his prime time homilies from 1952 through 1957. While I remember little of the content of those shows, I was captivated by the style. Sheen, I noticed, paused to let the audience think. None of my local priests did that, nor did they have Skippy the angel to erase the blackboard.

Thomas Reeves is to be commended for the manner in which he tells the truth, the whole truth, about Sheen without defacing the Bishop's many good works and his positive influence upon a wide and diverse American public. Sheen's life was indeed a message "written with crooked lines" and one is reminded of Christ's words to the penitent woman, "her sins, many as they are, will be forgiven because of her great love." Though haunted by the pride and ambition that would seem to stalk nearly all television evangelists who followed, in the final analysis Sheen did love his God, though he himself ran a close second.

Born in 1895 on a farm in rural Illinois, the youthful Peter John Sheen was devout, smart, and disdainful of manual labor and farming. He was hardly the first country boy to see the cloth as a step up from shoveling manure. We forget that he was originally a priest of the Peoria, Illinois, diocese, possibly because of his distinguished academic record at the Louvain.

There is an air of mystery about Sheen's academic status, though. Desperate to escape a life in Peoria, Sheen joined the philosophy faculty of Catholic University in 1926 but never became "one of the boys" of the staff. In fact, tenure was denied him for some years, in part because the young priest was away from the campus three days a week for his growing number of speaking engagements. [In 1928 he hired a clipping service to track his press notices.] Catholic University itself was in academic, political, and organizational disarray. The school was frankly under-funded and underachieving. Perhaps to ease himself out of the philosophy department and into theology, Sheen invented for himself a second doctorate, an S.T.D. that suddenly appeared after his name in 1928 and which remained on his letterhead as late as 1966. Reeves speculates that Sheen got away with this massive deception precisely because it was so audacious and no one would have expected it of him.

Reeves wonders if Sheen is under-appreciated today as a scholastic. Although brilliant and prolific, Sheen was not original, and added nothing of substance to twentieth century philosophy. Sheen's strength was apologetics: the presentation of Catholic faith and devotion in simple, straightforward, and yet cosmopolitan ways. For about forty years, from 1928 through 1966, Sheen was arguably the best preacher in the United States, dividing his time between public appearances, radio and television, prodigious devotional writing, and fundraising for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith [and, surprisingly, acting as an "observer" of sorts for J. Edgar Hoover, who admired his fierce anti-communism.] His work for the Society earned him the title bishop, appointed auxiliary to Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York in 1951. Reeves finds that Sheen was a holy priest who made a daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament and spent hours personally instructing converts, including numerous celebrities of the entertainment and publishing industries.

Having said that, it cannot be denied that Sheen shocked his clerical brethren with a champagne lifestyle. While a faculty member at CU Sheen built a magnificent home in NW D.C.and entertained frequently and graciously. As a fund-raiser, millions of dollars passed through his hands, though there is no whiff of impropriety. Reeves does comment upon Sheen's total absence of fiscal management skill, his arrogance and petulance that insulated him from sound advice, his unfettered cash charity, and his pride of bestowal, so to speak. These factors, coupled with Spellman's own devils, led to an estrangement between the two that produced one of the strangest episcopal appointments of our lifetime.

In October 1966 Fulton Sheen was appointed bishop of Rochester, NY. To church observers it was clear that Spellman had orchestrated the transfer for ultimate humiliation effect. In public, at least, Sheen put the best face on things, explaining that his tenure would be an experiment with the reforms of the recently concluded Vatican II. In truth, Sheen was a pre-Vatican II autocrat who alienated nearly every local constituency. His unilateral decision making cost him his priests, and his explicit criticisms of racial policies at Kodak the support of the city's largest employer. He was deeply wounded that Rochester did not recognize the celebrity in its midst, and within three years "America's best preacher" withered into retirement.

If the Rochester years were his crucifixion, they also brought Sheen into communion with his best self. In retirement he publicly regretted his earlier opulence and vanity. He became less dogmatic and more open to philosophical systems other than that of St. Thomas Aquinas. Although not entirely shedding his theatrical instincts, he lived the last of his 84 years with an optimistic piety that belied the sufferings of multiple illnesses. Appropriately, he was found dead in his private chapel. Throughout this remarkable life, with its graces and glosses, Sheen's prayers were always sincere. His arrogance and sense of self-importance are perhaps the less desirable fruits of his utter certainty in the truth and goodness of God and the holiness of the Roman Catholic Church.
A Shine on Sheen  Aug 19, 2002
Thomas Reeves deserves kudos and credit for a very fine biography of a man much admired by millions. The high points of this book are as follows: the meticulous gathering of much information simply unknown by his admirers; the careful balancing of sanctity and human frailty of Sheen's character; the fascinating recreation of the Golden Age of Catholicism in America; the personal relationship between Cardinal Spellman and Bishop Sheen; a superb ability to synthesize and bring new insight from the wide variety of materials cited; a great bibliography and excellent notes. The weaknesses are minor: a tendency to repeat some stories, and the maddening tendency of Sheen himself to destroy and misplace correspondence or simply not document his personal life. Despite these minor drawbacks in the book, I was deeply moved by much of this biography and, indeed, brought to tears by the account of the last years of Sheen's life, his meeting with Pope John Paul II, and his funeral. Few will be disappointed in this book; it is a true accomplishment. Many thanks to Professor Reeves for this profound and necessary commentary on the life of a truly great person of the 20th century.
Wonderful book about a very great man.  Apr 28, 2002
This is a book that has been ignored by the media which does not want to hear about good Catholic clergy. The media only wants to know about scandal in the church - because the Catholic Church and that which it really stands for(as contrasted with the deeds
of the fallible priests,and lay Catholics that can be found within it) is the mortal enemy to secular humanism, sexual license, abortion and the "if it FEELS right, do it" philosopy that is held so dear by much of the media.
The book is a great inspiration because Bishop Sheen, with all his human failings, is an inspiration to us all.

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