At a time when religion and the media are intersecting daily, broadcaster Cokie Roberts yesterday addressed both the coverage of the sexual abuse scandal surrounding the Catholic Church specifically and reporting on religion generally.
Roberts, a broadcaster for ABC News and National Public Radio and a practicing Catholic, spoke to an overflowing crowd at St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center. She discussed the current scandal, the role of faith in politics, and the place of women in the church.
“I think that she’s an amazing speaker and an amazing person,” Kristen Thompson ’05 said. “She’s an inspiration as a Catholic, as a woman and as an American.”
Roberts’ lecture was called “The Role of the Press in Shaping the Perceptions of Faith in America.”
Roberts was at times both sarcastic and cynical in a lively speech that often generated laughter, although she maintained a respectful attitude throughout.
While she touched on issues including her career and her family, much of Roberts’ talk focused on religion and the media.
She called the recent scandal, which centers on priests who have sexually abused minors and bishops who have helped cover up the crimes, a “crisis of the church.” Roberts said the way the Catholic Church handled the situation was “unconscionable.”
“I am just appalled — It means that nobody will listen to [the bishops] when they tell us to take responsibility for the things we should be taking responsibility,” Roberts said, citing calls for charity as an example.
Roberts next discussed the media’s relationship to religion, saying that the number of stories about religion doubled from the 1980s to the 1990s.
But she said these stories tend to focus on scandal.
“The stories are not about faith — they tend to be political stories,” Roberts said.
When asked if she thinks politicians suppress their religious beliefs, she emphatically said no.
“A lot of them wear their religion on their sleeves. Everybody’s competing to be born again more,” Roberts said. “A little hesitancy might actually be welcome.”
Questions about the role of women in the Catholic Church resonated with the audience. When asked if women would ever become priests, Roberts quickly responded.
“Nobody relinquishes power. You have to grab it and fight like the devil for it,” Roberts said. “And that’s how they see us — the Devil — I think you’ll see a married priesthood long before you see a female priesthood.”
Roberts was the first speaker brought to St. Thomas More through the Fay Vincent Fellowship in Faith and Culture. The Rev. Robert Beloin, Yale’s Catholic chaplain, explained how the committee selected Roberts.
“Our program committee went through a list of the most prominent Catholics we would like to see, and she was on everyone’s list,” Beloin said. “She was very happy to accept our invitation. She responded right away.”