I was delighted to hear that Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill Steltemeier have been awarded a medal by the Vatican. She deserves it. Mother Angelica is the founder of EWTN, a Catholic network that is found on many cable systems all over the world.

On the surface it sounds like a proper award.

But her story is actually an example of how “one man plus courage make a majority“.

In this case, it is one crippled nun in rural Alabama with faith and $200.

“God’s Little Trojan Horse on crutches” is what her biographer, Raymond Arroyo, once called Mother Angelica, with good reason: because at the time when she was developing the network, the bureaucrats at the US Catholic Bishop’s conference were trying to do the same with millions of dollars.

And the nun won.

Her network always presented the traditional dogma and teachings of the church, rather than promote the “new ideas” of the so called “reformers” who cite Vatican II to excuse their trendier-than-thou ideas without having to bother to read what was actually written.

So obviously it is not popular with the modernist Catholics in the bishop’s bureaucracy.

From the Arroyo interview:

There’s a great story in the book where a priest calls her because she refuses to have some bishops interviewed, very dissenting bishops–I mean these guys were calling for the end of celibacy and ordination of women. These were hardly mainstream bishops. But she would not allow them to be interviewed.

And this priest called her from the Conference and said, “Who are you to decide which bishops should on be air? She said, “I happen to own the network.” He said, “Well, you won’t be there forever.” And she said, “I’ll blow the damn thing up before you get your hands on it. I’ve chosen my Magisterium, you choose yours.” And hung up the phone. These things did not exactly endear her to the bureaucrats at the NCCB either.

Since that time, she has placed the network under the jurisdiction of a lay board, not the local bishops or the US Catholic bishop’s conference.

His biography of her is a delight to read, even for non believers, because Rita Rizzo (the original name of Mother Angelica) is not a plaster saint, but a stubborn earthy nun who can comfortably joke with construction workers and give spiritual advice to ordinary folks; perhaps her background as a child who was raised by a single parent when divorce was taboo and her working class upbringing made her more aware of the problems of ordinary folks than most “popular” theologians.

However, I worry a bit about the honor.

EWTN and Mother Angelica are hated by the modernists in the Catholic church, those who want to remold the Catholic church into an organization whose main work is in social welfare, and to change it’s two thousand year doctrines on marriage and the sacredness of life.

So expect to read many articles in the mainstream media and the “catholic” press lambasting her and the network for their narrow-minded approach. The dogmas taught will be labled “bigotry”, and more worrisome, many of us expect these same folks to dig up all the people who were fired for moral or doctrinal errors to embarrass the network.

One hopes that the result will not be the destruction of this network, because it indeed has been a “trojan horse” which allowed millions of isolated but devout Catholics to know that they are not alone in their beliefs in Jesus Christ, as taught for two thousand years by the church.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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