Refusing Fulton Sheen: The Challenge of Religion on Canadian Television

The 2008-2009 Somerville Lecture in Christianity and Communications 

In 1952, Bishop Peter Fulton J. Sheen was arguably the most recognizable cleric in the English-speaking world. After thirty-two years of success as the keynote speaker on NBC radio's "The Catholic Hour," Sheen switched to television, hosting the smash hit, 'Life is Worth Living.' With a network audience of 5.5 million people, an Emmy Award in 1952, and a cover article in Time magazine, Sheen was designated by a Gallup Poll as one of America's ten most admired men. In Canada, Sheen was known, but not seen. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in 1952, with its new television monopoly in Canada's major cities, refused to broadcast "Life is Worth Living.'" CBC's refusal precipitated a three-year struggle that brought into question Canadian identity, Catholic-Protestant relations, and the commercialization of the national airwaves. As a historical marker, the "Sheen Affair" represented a general Canadian insecurity with the new televised medium, the prospects of the crass commercialization and Americanization of Canadian programming, as well as the dying breaths of home-grown sectarian tension.

Mark G. McGowan

Dr. Mark G. McGowan, Principal and Associate Professor at St Michael's College, is one of the leading authorities on Catholics in Canada and is well known in Canada for his analysis of Vatican affairs. An accomplished author, Dr. McGowan was awarded both the Brant Prize and Clio Award for his book The Waning of the Green: Catholics, the Irish, and Identity in Toronto, 1887-1922 . His most recent book, Michael Power: The Struggle to Build the Catholic Church on the Canadian Frontier , is the first full-length biography of Toronto's first bishop, Michael Power (1804-1847). A recipient of two university teaching awards, Dr. McGowan is a committed teacher and educator. He lives in Whitby, Ontario, with his wife Eileen and their five children.

Friday, November 7, 2008 - 7:30pm
Siegfried Hall(1036)