Kerry WeberApril 13, 2011

As a big fan of "The West Wing," I always looked forward to any scenes in which President Bartlett's Catholicism came into focus. Bartlett, played of course by Martin Sheen, was a generally likeable, intelligent character, who often grappled with moral implications of his faith. In this recent interview with RTE's Gay Byrne, Sheen himself displays these same qualities, while discussing his family struggles, his return to the faith, and his meeting with Mother Teresa. The entire interview is about 39 minutes long, and it's worth watching. It can be seen here. A clip from RTE is embedded below. (h/t to The Deacon's Bench).

Throughout, Sheen speaks candidly, even on matters of prayer and church doctrine.

When asked about his prayer life Sheen says, "The majority of my prayer is...thanksgiving.... 'Uphold me, oh Lord, as you have promised, and I shall live, and do not disappoint me in my hope.' That’s my prayer. That’s it. It’s a dialogue. God wants to be a part of our daily lives, our humanity, our doubts, our fears, our angers, our resentments, our disappointments, our brokenness. Any way that God can get in."

Later, Byrne asks him, "Do you believe in the real presence?", referring to transubstantiation. Sheen's replies, "I do, yes. I wouldn’t bother if it wasn’t that." His response is perhaps a slightly softer version of Flannery O'Connor's famous comment in reference to the Eucharist: "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it."

Kerry Weber

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

Pope Francis is flanked by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi upon his arrival at Baghdad's international airport, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Francis’ plane touched down at Baghdad’s airport just before 2 p.m. local time. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on hand to greet him.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, named today to the influential Congregation for Bishops, has been known as a “Pope Francis bishop”—one who generally follows the pope’s lead in prioritizing social justice issues and dialogue over culture war flashpoints.
Colleen DulleMarch 04, 2021
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the nomination of Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., to be Secretary of the Interior on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (Leigh Vogel/Pool via AP)
Stand firm. The time is now for your consistent pro-life vision of human dignity to shine. 
Charles C. CamosyMarch 04, 2021
The destroyed Al-Tahera Syriac Catholic Church is seen in Mosul, Iraq, on Feb. 22, 2021. The church was bombarded during the airstrike campaign that drove the Islamic State out of Mosul. (CNS photo/Thaier al-Sudani, Reuters)
Refugees from the attacks on Christians in Iraq cannot help but feel bitter and forgotten, writes Luma Simms. Pope Francis’ upcoming visit is an opportunity to begin healing and seek religious harmony.
Luma SimmsMarch 04, 2021