Pleasant, predictable memoirs by the long-prominent bishop. Like Sheen's 65 or so other books, this one is meant to edify,...


TREASURE IN CLAY: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

Pleasant, predictable memoirs by the long-prominent bishop. Like Sheen's 65 or so other books, this one is meant to edify, and there are precious few unbuttoned moments in it. Sheen hints that a handful of people may have crossed or hurt him in his life, but he refuses to discuss it. If he ever felt rage or despair or bitterness, he's not about to tell us. Every topic sooner or later leads to a sermonette, and Sheen's own story is often laid aside. Still, he gives us the basics: boyhood in Peoria, seminary years, graduate study at Catholic University and Louvain, academic career, celebrity as a radio and TV preacher, organizational work for the foreign missions, bishop of Rochester (1966-69), ""retirement."" Sheen spent most of his 84 years as an apologist for Catholicism, and his reminiscences have the unsurprising habit of showing the Church in the most favorable light possible. He makes no mention of Humanae Vitae and the birth control controversy, of clerical rebels and antiwar protestors, of liberal assaults on the Vatican. He thinks all the 20th-century popes were wonderful, including Pins XII, whose damaged reputation he discreetly tries to repair by twice mentioning how he heard Pacelli excoriating Hitler and Nazism. Sheen likewise describes Vatican II (and the modest part he played in it) with great relish, ignoring the revolutionary impact the Council had on every aspect of Catholic life. Despite the public, after-dinner-speech quality of the writing, here and there Sheen reveals a bit of his private self. He admits his strong ambition to become a bishop. He catalogues the tributes and flattering attentions paid him by the famous, from President Eisenhower to Milton Berle. And he complacently reviews his career as a fierce anti-Communist, boasting of how he helped to thwart American arms shipments to the Spanish Loyalists. On the other hand, there can be no doubting the man's fundamental honesty and religious integrity, and if nothing else, this posthumous autobiography marks the passing of a major symbol of American Catholicism.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1980

ISBN: 0385177097

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980