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October 17, 2011

'Catholicism' Series Comes to PBS

Chicago priest Father Robert Barron takes viewers on a catholic, and Catholic, journey

Half a century ago, Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s weekly television series Life Is Worth Living (and later The Fulton Sheen Program) was watched by millions of Americans of all stripes. Sheen was “America’s Priest,” and since then there has been no comparable figure in American culture—and there may never be.

That said, Father Robert Barron, a priest of the Chicago archdiocese and the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary, is making inroads into mainstream media in a way not seen since Sheen. On Sunday, October 3, Chicago-based superstation WGN America launched a weekly half-hour television series, Word on Fire with Father Robert Barron—the first regular commercial television show hosted by a priest since Sheen. Then there’s Catholicism, an ambitious ten-episode series, episodes of which are now airing on PBS affiliate in over 85 markets across the country..

Inspired by Kenneth Clark’s groundbreaking 1969 BBC series Civilisation, which ushered in a generation of globe-hopping documentaries, Fr. Barron and his crew employ a worldwide backdrop that includes the Holy Land, Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines—at least 50 locations in 15 countries. Unabashedly a work of advocacy, even evangelization, Catholicism offers a confident, upbeat overview of the scope of 2000 years of Catholic history, belief, thought and practice.

Much of this is the common heritage of all Christians, and Fr. Barron’s approach is catholic as well as Catholic, name-checking C. S. Lewis and N. T. Wright alongside Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. Evangelicals will feel very much at home for the first few episodes as Fr. Barron expounds upon the disorienting, challenging uniqueness of Jesus, the revolutionary power of his teachings, and the fathomless mystery of God. Other episodes, particularly those dealing with the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist, will challenge non-Catholic sensibilities, but Fr. Barron’s emphasis on Scripture and reason establishes a broad common ground, and open-minded Evangelicals will appreciate his presentation even when they disagree.

Fr. Barron makes an engaging, appealing spokesman for Christianity and Catholicism, and his method is consistently positive and nonpolemical. He discusses topics like Aquinas’s ways of proving God and Catholic Marian spirituality without going out of his way to oppose challenges like “God is a delusion” or “Catholics worship Mary.” The settings are more than window dressing; Fr. Barron goes to Auschwitz to discuss the problem of evil, and magnificent locations including Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the tomb of Mother Teresa help to bring the Faith alive to the senses and the imagination.

Click here and/or check local PBS listings for Catholicism. The series is also available as a five-disc DVD set at catholicismseries.com.

Here is the trailer for Catholicism:


Thank you for the excellent review! Can you please change the first "Click here" link so it doesn't go to email, but to:


God bless you!


Great review, Steven! I hope more non-Catholics will watch this series and discover, maybe for the first time, the splendor and genius of Catholicism.

This looks fantastic, but the DVDs are quite pricey -- $150 for 5 one-hour episodes.

Excellent. Thanks for heads up. Fr. James Martin is also becoming a national priest of note. His new book is "Between Heaven and Mirth".
Thanks again.

The DVD set contains 5 discs, 2 episodes each disc, total of 10 extraordinary hours of Catholic art, sculpture, Holy sites around the world, breathtaking scenery...and the best part: Father Barron's presentation of Catholicism, which is the antidote to "dumbed down" versions of our beautiful Catholic faith. God Bless Father Barron and his team!

I'm not a Roman Catholic, but I'd like to congratulate the Catholic Church for taking the message into popular media in what looks like a professional and watchable presentation. I really hope the series comes to my part of the world.

This series looks worthy of seeing, just as James Carroll's Constantine's Sword (made several years ago from his book by that title) is, albeit from a more critical and polemical perspective.

I wonder if PBS is going to show the dark side of Catholicism. Just last night I was listening to an evangelical pastor from Chiapas, Mexico recount a horrifying account of the torture he endured at the hands of Catholics in a town in that state. According to him, the local priest was and is the orchestrator of this. Apparently this priest wants to convert non-Catholics by the sword, much like the Muslim terrorists. Evangelicals (non-Catholics) are being tortured and killed daily, and this pastor has permanent disabilities related to the torture he endured. May God forgive them.

Dear Olivia,

That is truly a horrendous story. But I'm not sure how the terrible actions of certain Catholics, actions that are undoubtedly against the teachings of the Catholic Church, shows "the dark side of Catholicism" any more than the actions of certain white-supremacy Christian Americans who kill in the name of both Christ and America also exhibit the dark side of Christianity and America.

I strongly recommend reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church (with an open mind and heart) to see just exactly what it is that the Catholic Church stands for. I promise that you will be surprised at the intelligence, beauty, and love of Christ that is exhibited through that work.

God Bless You,
A Committed Catholic

I am very sorry to have to say this, but a church that teaches justification by faith PLUS works and claims an infallibile final authority wider than the Bible (the Bible PLUS "infallible" encyclicals, and church traditions)is not a true gospel church. Some may say I am anti-Catholic for saying this, but to withhold beneficial biblical truth from Catholics because they are Catholics for fear of offending them is truly anti-Catholic, just as withholding the Gospel from Jewish people because they are Jews is truly anti-Semitic (II have been guilty of these failings myself, I confess).

The Bible is read completely at Mass over a 3 year cycle going back to when the Catholic Church compiled and authorized the original Bible. The Council of Carthage in 397 identified all the books so that the Bible could be read in the Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass. The Catholic Church is the one Apostolic, Universal, Holy Church founded by Jesus Christ. Jesus breathed on the Apostles and they received the Holy Spirit. They taught the early Christians orally prior to writing any communications. The Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, preserved the teachings of Jesus Christ these past 20 centuries; they can not and will not alter the word of God. The Catholic Church does not accommodate modern culture or ideology. It is a teaching Church that reads the Bible the way it was intended by the Holy men that penned the Gospels. Catholicism is not an ale cart form of Christianity where individuals free lance through the Bible and assert their interpretations on scripture, including the arbitrary declaration that scripture is the only source of God's teachings. It never was. The Bible is useful and divinely inspired, but the Holy Spirit is not restricted to just this mode of communication. Sacred Tradition hands down from the early Church the teachings of its Apostles and priests. The Catholic Church is the recipient of the protection of the Holy Spirit which will not permit error in revealing the truth about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ made Peter and his office the chief steward for his Church. He was given the keys to the Kingdom. "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father".
Even when it is in the Bible, the people that rely solely on the Bible, interpret the Word to their own prejudices. The humble Christian has no problem respecting and relying on the teachings of the Church. Jesus promised that his one, Catholic, Apostolic, Holy Church would be protected from making an error on his teachings.

The Catholic goes to Confession and receives the grace needed to conform to the life Jesus intends for his followers. Christians that believe they can confess their sins to no one but themselves, are not reconciled to God properly. Gradually they change God to conform to their individual concepts. The truly humble rely on a Spiritual Father that coaches the Catholic to change their lives to conform to Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 2:15) "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." Paul passes this on in the Sacred Tradition that the Apostle's Catholic Church continues to do to this day.

In 1517 Martin Luther rebelled against his Brethren in the Catholic Church. He created his version of the Bible that tossed out books long present in the Bible. There is no indication that the Holy Spirit was breathed into Martin Luther. But still, he maintained that Mary was the Ever Virgin, which is consistent with the Bible and Sacred Tradition. John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli also held that Mary is a perpetual virgin. Somehow, later Protestants after Luther further evolved their own belief system using more self interpretations of the Bible. These people living outside the Church come up with assertions that Jesus has half brothers, Mary was born with original sin and she did not live her entire life as a virgin.

The faithful knew, through the witness of Scripture and Tradition, that Jesus was Mary’s only child and that she remained a lifelong virgin. The strongest evidence in the Bible is when Jesus is being crucified, he tells John to take care of his Mother. There was no half brothers given that responsibility.
In Revelations, it is revealed that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. When an unclean individual touched the Ark of the Old Covenant, he suffered death. Nothing sinful could come in contact with the Ark. Only Mary full of Grace and without sin could be the Ark of the New Covenant.

It is completely false doctrine that evolves as people impress themselves with their own interpretations.
Half the time, their interpretations are motivated by trying to dispute the true doctrine of the Catholic Church. Mary was created without original sin. She is the New Eve, but she is obedient to God.
The incarnation of God is through flesh free from a sinful human nature. The early Church testified to it. Where in the Bible is any reference that Mary committed a sin?

An important historical document which supports the teaching of Mary’s perpetual virginity is the Protoevangelium of James, which was written probably less than sixty years after the conclusion of Mary’s earthly life (around A.D. 120), when memories of her life were still vivid in the minds of many.

The Protoevangelium records that when Mary’s birth was prophesied, her mother, St. Anne, vowed that she would devote the child to the service of the Lord, as Samuel had been by his mother (1 Sam. 1:11). Mary would thus serve the Lord at the Temple, as women had for centuries (1 Sam. 2:22), and as Anna the prophetess did at the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:36–37). A life of continual, devoted service to the Lord at the Temple meant that Mary would not be able to live the ordinary life of a child-rearing mother. Rather, she was vowed to a life of perpetual virginity.

Does this series only talk about Roman Catholocism or do they also include the 22 (or so) other particular churches in communion with the Pope of Rome? For example, the Melkites, the Maronites or the Ruthenians? If we're going to talk catholic, then I hope the series is truly universal in its approach.

where can I download the series? or where can I watch it in the internet?
my country don't gt this show.