In March of this year, as the Catholic world mourned the death of Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation — Mother Angelica as she was known to the viewers of the television network she founded, EWTN — I wrote an essay that was part tribute, part lamentation, concerning what I saw as EWTN’s drift away from her tenacious desire to combat liberalism within the Church. In that essay, I cited at length a passage from Christopher A. Ferrara’s 2006 book, EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong. Specifically, I quoted a section of the book which details an alleged insider account of Mother Angelica’s hasty departure as CEO of EWTN and chairman of its board of directors while under pressure from Bishop David Foley, the ordinary of her diocese, and an investigation instigated by him from Archbishop Roberto Gonzales of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. In the interest of space, I will reproduce here only the most relevant portion (of which you can read more at my original post):
In desperation, Mother made a prudential decision that in retrospect was a huge mistake: Fearing that Archbishop Gonzalez’s report to the Vatican would recommend an ecclesiastical takeover of her apostolate, Mother surrendered all control over EWTN to the lay people who run it today. At an emergency board meeting in March of 2000, she resigned as CEO of EWTN, relinquishing her veto power, and with it her control over EWTN’s affairs. At the same meeting EWTN’s board amended the corporate by laws to insure lay control and preclude any control in the future by a bishop, priest or religious. Thus, instead of continuing her direct resistance to liberal prelates, Mother Angelica thought she could defeat them by a strategic retreat.
One reviewer of Arroyo’s biography opines that “by resigning, Mother Angelica had defeated her enemies within the Church and entrusted her network to lay people who shared her orthodox views….”As we will see, however, Mother’s retreat was actually a complete rout. For it was precisely Mother’s “enemies within the Church” who had gained the victory by driving her from her position of control over EWTN, leaving the network entirely in the hands of lay people, many of them ex-Protestants, who did not have her traditional pre-Vatican II spiritual formation and old fashioned Catholic militancy. The nun Arroyo calls “the undisputed matriarch of Catholic communications” had been neutralized.
Shortly thereafter, I received correspondence from a Mr. Charles A. Wilson, the retired Executive Director of the Saint Joseph Foundation, which provided canonical advice and assistance to EWTN, before and after Mother Angelica’s resignation as CEO in 2000. Wilson was present at the conference call meeting of the Board of Governors held on St. Patrick’s day in that year. Several months later, he was elected to the Board of Governors (at the prompting of Mother Angelica herself) and served until his retirement in 2014. During much of his time on the Board he served as treasurer and chairman of the Audit Committee.
Mr. Wilson reached out to me to “set the record straight” — to provide correction, insight, and clarity as regards the claims made in Mr. Ferrara’s book from the perspective of someone who was present at the meeting in question. In the interest of fairness, I have agreed to do so. He sent me two slightly differing versions of his account of what happened that day; one drafted directly for me, and for readers of OnePeterFive, and another that he published in the May 13, 2016 issue of Christifidelis, a newsletter published by the St. Joseph Foundation. It is this latter that I will reproduce, in part, here, and this for technical reasons. The version drafted in direct correspondence to me is a scanned copy, and thus cannot be excerpted below. At Mr. Wilson’s request, I am providing links to PDF copies of both the Christifidelis newlsetter and his correspondence with me in full.
I would like to note that I am publishing his clarification only now because in the busy period of time that has followed the release of Amoris Laetitia, I forgot to return to the documentation he sent me in order to review it. Today, as I watched the excellent panel discussion on recent papal comments about marriage on The World Over with Raymond Arroyo, I was reminded that there was another side of the EWTN story that I had neglected to share with you. I hope that you will consider Mr. Wilson’s testimony on the matter and reach your own conclusions.
EWTN and Mother Angelica
At about 6:00 PM on Easter Sunday, my telephone rang and my wife answered. She told me that Michael Warsaw, Chairman and CEO of EWTN, was on the line and handed me the telephone. I guessed that his call could be about just one thing, which he confirmed a few seconds later. The news of Mother Angelica’s passing was sad but not unexpected and I was very sorry that I was unable to accept his gracious invitation to attend her funeral.
There has already been a flood of moving and eloquent tributes to Mother and I cannot find the words to add to them. Suffice it to say that I hope and pray that she will one day be raised to the altars of the Church she so dearly loved and served with such steadfast and heroic devotion.
In the aftermath of Mother’s death, besides the many tributes, I was saddened to see some statements about her relationship with EWTN. Here is an example:
For it was precisely Mother’s “enemies within the Church” who had gained the victory by driving her from her position of control over EWTN, leaving the network entirely in the hands of lay people, many of them ex-Protestants, who did not have her traditional pre-Vatican II spiritual formation and old fashioned Catholic militancy. The nun [Raymond] Arroyo calls “the undisputed matriarch of Catholic communications” had been neutralized.
This statement was first made public about ten years ago, when I was a member of the EWTN Board of Governors. Management decided not to make a public response, which I believe was the right move at the time. Now that I have retired as an officer and Governor of the network, I am obliged to set the record straight by stating my firm conviction that Mother’s decision to resign as CEO of the network was her own, freely made, and that she was not forced into exile. Afterward, she continued to exercise considerable influence over the affairs of the network.
Much of the evidence that could be produced to support my claim is and must remain confidential. Some factshave become public — albeit not widely known — and it is upon them that I base my argument. I will speak on only three subjects; whether Mother’s decision was truly her own, whether she was really neutralized and the llegations made regarding the EWTN Board of Governors.
A special meeting of the EWTN Board of Governors was held on Saint Patrick’s Day in 2000. On the agenda were resolutions to accept Mother’s resignation as CEO and amend the corporate by-laws to eliminate ex-officio memberships and rescind her reserved power to veto any action of the Board. I was not on the Board then but was present on the telephone as spokesman for the Saint Joseph Foundation, which prepared the canonical arguments supporting Mother’s reasons for her decision. Also present with me were our consulting canonist and one other member of the Foundation’s staff. Even if I was free to disclose details of the meeting, I do not think it wise to do so here out of respect for the privacy of the participants, especially those who have died since, and a desire to avoid reopening old wounds that have long since healed; but I can say that no one who heard her words on that occasion could have had the slightest doubt that Mother’s decision was made freely and personally, however much they might have disagreed with the prudence or timeliness of her action. In the end, the Board approved the resolutions by a lopsided majority.
A few weeks after the meeting, Mother Angelica invited me to join the EWTN Board of Governors, on which it was my honor and privilege to serve until I retired in 2014. I am obliged to challenge the mischaracterization of the Board as consisting only of lay people, many of them ex-Protestants. The EWTN Board has always included men in holy orders, including her immediate successor. As of 2014, one priest, a diocesan bishop and two archbishops were members. Furthermore, at the time of the meeting, those lay members of the Board were personal friends of Mother Angelica who had been appointed by her. They would never have cooperated with an effort to replace her and the proceedings of the meeting prove it.
It is my personal understanding that no one could attain or retain membership without Mother’s approval. This practice continued after her retirement and only ended after her physical condition made it impossible. As one ex-Protestant who was personally and directly involved, I am convinced that the Board and the network’s management have always done their utmost to uphold Mother’s vision. Even if it turns out that in spite of their best efforts they did not always succeed, their good intentions are beyond question.
I should also say that I am acquainted with and respect the work of some of those who have made and support the claims that I have contested. I believe they acted in good faith and share many of their views concerning the crisis in the Church. I now invite them to reconsider their positions on the three matters at issue here. If they continue to maintain that EWTN has strayed from its original mission, I have full confidence in the EWTN Board of Governors and management to respond appropriately.
In closing, I recall what Mother Angelica said on St. Patrick’s Day sixteen years ago: “I will watch over this network after I retire and I will watch over it after I’m dead.” We can thank God that she kept the first part of her promise and now continues to keep the second.
Reverend Mother, pray for us.
Charles M. Wilson
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
The proof is in the pudding. How much have we seen which points out the problems of Francis? Practically nothing. Only a few segments on the World Over with Raymond Arroyo do we see problems pointed out, which would be his initiative. The past of how Mother Angelica left is not really important today, but how things work moving forward. The elephant in the living room is ignored.
I’m sure this is a nice try by Mr. Wilson, and he probably sincerely believes this, and might have even intended the best for EWTN. But the proof of everything is in the current, diluted, meaningless (and mostly boring) programs aired by EWTN. I rarely watch it as it is mostly a “happy face” network offering little to exhort Catholics to better practice their faith.
But the proof of everything is in the current, diluted, meaningless (and mostly boring) programs aired by EWTN.
Fair enough. But even in Mother Angelica’s heyday, EWTN wasn’t exactly a tour de force of robust Catholicism, either (notwithstanding the occasional fiery broadside from Mother when she was in the mood).
Thank you for this observation, Richard. You hit the nail smack on the head!
I actually agree with this. It is a question of degree, however.
Why can’t trads use logic properly? Even if EWTN is crap now, it does not actually invalidate what Mr. Wilson said.
It is not illogical at all to reflect on probabilities, including whether the displacement of Mother Angelica was a key factor in the overall shift of discourse in much programming and a toning down of criticism aimed at specific prelates.
If A then B does not necessarily mean if B then A. This is basic logic 101. My issue is with those who say that EWTN sucks, therefore it must be the case that Mother Angelica was forced out. This is their “proof is in the pudding” mantra. That is a fallacy. The present state of EWTN does not serve as evidence for what happened to Mother Angelica. EWTN can suck for a myriad of reasons. This is a recurring problem among trads, who would say that the failures of the modern Church are proofs of certain conspiracies.
You are fixated with the fallacy of affirming the consequent in an alleged deductive argument for certitude.
But the writer and others commenting are making a reasonable inductive inference (probability).
Most folks speculating about this issue are not insisting that this is demonstrable with certitude, but rather that ‘x’ occurred and ‘y’ followed upon conditions established by the event of ‘x’.
Since induction is based on possibility and the weight of evidence, they are not being illogical, unless one wishes to argue that all inductive inferences based on likelihood or probabilities (degrees of possibility) are totally irrational.
Inferences about historical events and their complex conditions and contributing causes are typically of this nature.
“But the writer and others commenting are making a reasonable inductive inference (probability)”
My comment was the third one posted on this article. The first one said “The proof is in the pudding” and the second one said “But the proof of everything is in the current, diluted, meaningless (and mostly boring) programs aired by EWTN”
This is not the language people use when they speak of mere probabilities. Though it is the language frequently encountered on Trad blogs. “Proof” denotes certitude, not possibility. You’re giving credit where it is not due. Your pedantic verbiage is overplayed and does not impress me.
I have no inclination to try to impress you at all. And I doubt that others here would bother to stoop to such an unimportant achievement.
Incidentally, to insist upon the evidence of “the pudding” or the “current, diluted, meaningless” programs is an inductive argument, and it is commonplace in ordinary discourse and discussions to use the term “proof” in a broad or loose sense, implying one has enough sound evidence to justify their inference or conclusion.
Such does not undermine in any way using the term in its restricted sense as referring to strict demonstrable certitude obtained from established true premises through deduction.
The folks you attack have only done the former, and it is not illogical, unless one wishes to purge any consideration of inductive arguments from thousands of logic books that have been printed for quite a long time.
In fact, your faulty inference that what I said was “b.s” is itself, arguably, a hasty inference or ill-founded induction.
Of course, any induction can be articulated or expressed in deductive form and its validity determined.
But that is irrelevant here, since I am only insisting that the folks who have expressed their judgments on this post were not illogical in how they justified their inferences.
However, it was you who baldly alleged that all “trads” are those who “use logic improperly.” And a universal affirmative assertion such as that assuredly can be shown to be fallacious.
OK, logician 🙂 Who exactly said that? (“EWTN sucks, therefore it must be the case that Mother Angelica was forced out.”) Please name names and give references.
Why can’t novus ordoites read and understand Quo Primum?
I don’t think you are welcome on this sight to close deals.
Read “EWTN A Network Gone Wrong” and you will learn the truth about EWTN.
EWTN has lost it’s zeal to combat Catholic Liberalism since Mother Angelica left. EWTN needs to get a nun or a Mother Superior who has that zeal that has since been lost, to continue the fight that Mother Angelica had against the New Age heresies springing up in the Catholic Church.
To be honest with you I have seen programs on Women of Grace warning against the New Age. I find the Masses meaningful, the rosaries refreshing and Divine Mercy Chaplets worth watching again and again after DVRing my favorite episodes of both the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplets. The Fathers of Mercy are great when they appear and programing like Saints and Scoundrels as well as The Journey Home, Crossing the Goal and Sacred Heart Specials are all great as well as repeats of Mother Angelica Live. As for Raymond Arroyo, I think his interview with Cardinal Kasper was pretty strong stuff myself. I would like to see more on the combat against the liberalization of the Church, but the first priority is to save souls. Wouldn’t mind a Michael Voris in charge here…
A Mother Superior wearing a full habit is really needed. A Mother Superior in the mold of Mother Angelica. I heard the CEO at EWTN hates Michael Voris with a passion. So that says a lot about the direction of EWTN. They even have Bishop Barron giving his little tid bits. God Bless.
Who’s that?? An Ersatz Catholicism programming producer or something? I’d rather watch a rerun of Gilligan’s Island than most of EWTN’s drivel.
I am not sure what the dispute is here.
First, I merely recounted Arroyo’s insider account. Mr. Wilson’s problem is really with him. I am wondering why there was no rebuttal of Arroyo’s account at the time it was published.
Second, I do not claim Mother was “forced out” in the sense that the move she made was not her own decision. That she felt compelled to act as she did does not mean she was literally forced out of her position. This is a non-issue, therefore.
Third, what EWTN became after her resignation from the Board was a far cry from what it was when she denounced Mahony on live television and also declared on live television that we have not gotten the whole of the Third Secret of Fatima.
Finally, however, I have been the first to applaud EWTN’s recent courageous coverage of the ongoing disaster of this pontificate, and its favorable coverage of the Latin Mass revival.
I know that Raymond Arroyo has done great work. I would love to know about this Latin Mass revival coverage and what shows are doing that?
For example—a really big one–their favorable coverage of the Chartres Pilgrimage.
Yes with his “sometime co host and friend ” ‘Fr’ Robert Sirico who actually performed the first homosexual marriage in America.
He gets a pass as a former reprobate and leads Catholics but should be doing his penance at some monastery in obscurity and humility instead of reaping big financial checks though his economic think tank and speaking engagements . I am sorry to say that i am so tired of former Protestants and the Disordered preaching
and teaching to us on how to be Catholics.i much rather read the Scriptures and the writings of the Early Church Fathers !
They can all do the Tridentine Latin Mass for all i care. I for one have no use for these men .
There was clearly external pressure influencing her decision. In a court of law such pressure would be considered. Regardless of how strong her personality appeared to be to those around her, she clearly wasn’t just “retiring.”
After her retirement, Mother Angelica was in constant touch with EWTN management and attended meetings of the Board of Governors. It is fair to say that she continued to influence the affairs of the network after her retirement to the same degree that she did before. This continued as long as her health permitted.
In the first place, I would not characterize this as a dispute. Rather, it is differing interpretations of the facts about which we are in general agreement. We all understand that Mother Angelica resigned as chairman and CEO of EWTN on March 17, 2000. Why she did so is something over which we can differ.
I base my interpretation of the facts upon what I heard with my own ears and read and saw with my own eyes. To anyone who is interested, I ask that you follow the links provided by Steve and read carefully my letter and summary of the facts. I stand by what I said there, which included this:
Three years later, Bishop Foley’s judicial vicar, Very Rev. Gregory T. Bittner, J.C.L., J.D., presented the bishop’s side of the case to the 2003 Annual Convention of the Canon Law Society of America and it was published in the society’s periodical, Proceedings… The periodical can be purchased from the CLSA and copies are available in the libraries of many law schools and other institutions of higher learning. This evidence, though not widely circulated, is available to anyone willing to take the time to find it.
I have copied and scanned that article and am happy to share it with anyone who asks. My email address is [email protected]. The article is long and contains some technical information on canon law. However, I think that any reasonably informed individual will have no difficulty understanding it.
Best wishes to all.
Then why was this article presented as “correcting” the record? Mistakes are corrected. Different interpretations are merely that.
I confess that my choice of words leaves something to be desired. Old age must be catching up with me.
In my view the record includes minutes of the EWTN Board and other documents related to the matter. This record needs no correction.
At the time of Mother Angelic’s resignation and the changes to the Articles of Incorporation and By-laws, the key question was whether the network was an apostolate of the Poor Clares. Nobody knew how Rome was going to answer. If their decision was affirmative, that would have been the end of EWTN as we knew it. Mother felt that this was too great a risk to take, so she acted preemptively. If anyone considers that step as being forced out, that’s fine with me; but I do not believe that is the best way to describe her motive.
I repeat my invitation to request a copy of the article from CLSA Proceedings, I will reply by return email..
I am also left wondering why Mother spent “45 minutes crying” to one of her Order’s Brothers when he visited with her at her convent bemoaning as to what was gong on with her former Production, according to a friend who lived down the street from the convent .Or why she complained to the Fillpino nurses who were hired to care for her that she was now doing her Purgatory on earth in her own convent because of her own nuns?
Nurses do talk to one another.
Raymond Arroyo broadcasts from the Opus Dei owned Catholic Communication Network and if anyone is noticing, Opus Dei is now going more the Latin Mass route because they know it means Faithful Catholic donors.
The Church is hurting for money in case no one noticed.My guess is so is EWTN…..
Sorry but the network has changed and not so much for the better.
The clerical pederasts coverups by the Bishops did much to betray the Faithful’s trust.
The real test is who or what is the “must go to source” to get the straight scoop in the ongoing crisis? EWTN? The largest “Catholic Media” source does not come to mind now nor for the last 15 years. Who is responsible for that? The largest Catholic Bullhorn in the world, outside of the Vatican, has remained essentially muted. The fruits are not there because the seed was not nourished.
Mother Angelica described Faith as being…”One foot on the ground, the other in the air and a queasy stomach”.. We haven’t seen any evidence of that kind of faith on EWTN since she became incapacitated. May she Rest In Peace. She certainly has earned it.
Sure, and Pope Benedict wasn’t forced out either.
With Mother Angelica’s passing, the spiritual heart and soul of the network is gone. That simple, straight-talking woman was truly in love with Jesus and she defended her Spouse without hesitation, without reservation. I attribute her faith to mine being restored, praised be Jesus! She had more faith in her pinky than all of the theologians have combined in all of their degrees. Those are tremendously big shoes to fill, tremendous. It is rare that such feet are found right away. I do think there are some very sincere people at the network and there are also wolves…sounds like the Church to me! Pray for the network that it will remember and preach orthodoxy, the Truth and that God will raise up the next Mother Angelica so that the network will be reinvigorated and given that sound, strong, sure and true direction. Sadly, we have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater….EWTN still has much to say, much to teach and is bearing fruit. Let’s not curse the fig tree just yet.
This I agree with. Thank God for Raymond Arroyo to at least shine the light on the most egregious errors coming from this Papacy. He does indeed ‘get it’. His is about the ONLY program I don’t want to miss on the network. And there is ‘some’ value in some of their programing albeit far and few between. As to what happened with Mother’s resignation, we will probably never know the complete story, but I do believe she thought it best for the network, and I don’t think anyone can argue she was under heavy attack from new Church Bishops, even though that may have been only part of her reasoning for resigning.
In Late January or February of 2002 i caught a late night rerun of Mother Angelica Live. Mother came on at the end of the show with some very startling predictions. The next day i called a full service popular Catholic home school curriculum provider company, with whom I was well acquainted with many employees. I asked if anyone saw the show or the original one . No one had called in about it from across the country.It was suggested I call a Fr Joseph at EWTN, the Vocation Director for Mother’s Order. I repeated to him the exact highlights of what Mother had said. To my surprise he ONLY said ,”It sounds familiar” and suggested I peruse the online audios of the shows from their library. I eventually found mention of the predictions on another website wherein the poster said on 12/12/2000 Mother drove into Birmingham from Henceville to catch the end of her pre recorded show and inform her audience of something that was weighing heavy on her heart. i linked to the show on the audio library site of EWTN BUT the last ten minutes was filled with hymns . Now I find another music fill in from what I heard has been edited in, this time it is a mariachi band since 12/12 it is the Feast day of St Juan Diego.
I have been told by a friend who works there ,that EWTN has been busy editing out all of Mother’s prophetic words to her audience
i have followed this carefully for about fourteen years now as everything she said has been coming true and it is quite disturbing , especially in light of what I have observed happening to that audio transcript !
Now I do understand that if Mother is canonized it is to the show’s advantage BUT i do not understand that if she is considered Saintly by her former employees and religious why they would stoop to such deceptions.
Does anyone else recall the end of the 12/12/2000Mother Angelica Show where she made a surprise appearance with a message for her listeners about the economy and the changes we would have to endure ?
Ok….I’m a bit out of my element here, but if the biggest problem we are worrying about is: “…leaving the network entirely in the hands of lay people, many of them ex-Protestants, who did not have her traditional pre-Vatican II spiritual formation and old fashioned Catholic militancy”….compared to Blase Cupich and the garbage surrounding/advising the Pope, let’s settle down, people.
I love EWTN and the Rosary. Mother Angelica did bot resign. She passed away. I hope EWTN stays on the air, as I love saying the Rosary with her. I also
love the Papal Wisdom, and the nightly news.