ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN: A Man for All Media
by Gregory Joseph Ladd
(San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2001, 144pp, $49.95. Available from AD Books)
Apart from being a prolific writer himself, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has inspired a host of biographical publications since his death in 1979, including the present very attractively produced 'coffee table' style hardcover book.
A Man for All Media consists of a vast array of photographs and quotations from Sheen's broadcasts, sermons, articles and books.
For anyone interested in this legendary media priest, or in recent Church history generally, this is a 'must have' book. For younger Catholics, it will come as a revelation and hopefully a source of inspiration.
Those of this writer's generation will recall Sheen's weekly prime time television program Life is Worth Living during the 1950s (in black and white) which was as much a part of mainstream viewing patterns as I Love Lucy, The Untouchables, The Honeymooners and Sergeant Bilko.
The perennially youthful looking Bishop Sheen, with his movie star looks and charisma, put religious issues firmly in the public square with an assurance and effectiveness that religious leaders today would envy. His wit, logic, wide knowledge and eloquence captivated US audiences in the tens of millions - as well as millions of other TV viewers around the world, including Australia. His numerous no-nonsense, easy to read religious books were also best-sellers.
Admittedly these were more innocent times, when basic Christian values were still part of the cultural "centre". Yet, within that less complicated, less threatening environment, Fulton Sheen stood up confidently for the truths of Christianity and Catholicism and wielded extraordinary influence over a vast number of people.
Such a person in such a role is needed more than ever today to defend Christian and family values against the relentless incursions of the feminist- and 'gay'-biased mass media and entertainment industry.
As this book notes in its preface, a poll taken in 1999 to determine the "Top 100 Catholics of the Twentieth Century" saw Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen finish fourth behind Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Padre Pio. He was certainly in lofty company.