A Joust with Mario Cuomo

From the March 2015 Print Edition

The first time I met Mario Cuomo, the first words out of his mouth were “Teilhard de Chardin.” It was early September 1984 and Newsweek’s editors had invited the governor of New York over for an off-the-record lunch. Cuomo’s rousing keynote address to that year’s Democratic National Convention (though he was out-roused that night by Jesse Jackson) had vaulted him onto the party’s list of future presidential candidates. Newsweek was preparing a cover package on religion and the presidential race for which I was to write the concluding essay. We were waiting at the elevator on the fortieth floor for Cuomo, and when the doors opened the name of his favorite Catholic theologian were the first words we heard from his lips.It appeared as though the governor had been having a deep discussion with his two aides on the ride up from the lobby. But my own surmise was that Cuomo had timed his opening words to impress his Newsweek hosts. Teilhard’s daring theological interpretation of evolution had been the rage when Cuomo and I were both undergraduates, and the governor had every reason to believe that Newsweek’s editors knew nothing of the long-deceased Jesuit’s work. Quite likely the governor, who relished his reputation as an intellectual Catholic, wanted to throw the editors off their game and begin our noontime conversation with the ball firmly in his own court. Continue Reading »

My Memories of Fr. Benedict

From Web Exclusives

My memory of Fr. Benedict Groeschel goes back to 1964, when he was the Catholic chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York where my wife and I lived for a year right after I was appointed Religion Editor of Newsweek. Friends told us we should attend his masses there if we wanted to hear good preaching. The children, orphans all, loved him, of course. But what I remember are the times when Benedict would clear the altar of its Catholic liturgical artifacts and preach the Protestant service as well whenever the Protestant chaplain was unable to do it himself. When our new house was finished, Benedict spent a day helping us move our furniture. Continue Reading »

The Making of a Misleading Metaphor

From Web Exclusives

The sturdiest storyline in the coverage of the canonization of two popes last Sunday was a narrative that claimed that Pope Francis yoked the two in a single ceremony because he wanted to unite the conservative and progressing wings of the Catholic Church—as represented by John XXIII (favored by progressives) and John Paul II (ditto by conservatives). That was the narrative in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and among several Catholic pundits who really should have known better. . . . Continue Reading»

Imus and Me

From Web Exclusives

The spectacle of Don Imus prostrating himself before the Rev. Al Sharpton, as if he were the Holy Roman Emperor on bent knee to the pope, should have pleased me. A few years back, Imus hazed me on his program for weeks after I objected during an interview to a segment he’d just aired . . . . Continue Reading »