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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
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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