Judy Roberts is a journalist who has worked for both the secular and Catholic press. In addition to the Register, she has written for Legatus Magazine, Franciscan Way, and Our Sunday Visitor, and is a former religious books reviewer for Publishers Weekly. She also blogs about living more serenely in a busy world at quietkeepers.com.
‘The Catholic Current’ is breathing fresh air into a media milieu rife with click-bait headlines and sensationalized content.
No one who has heard Jesuit Father Robert McTeigue on his radio show would suspect he once was a very shy kid with a speech impediment.
Despite that inauspicious beginning, he went on to teach theology and philosophy, a background he frequently draws on as he engages in thoughtful conversations with guests on The Catholic Current radio program. As host and producer of the show, Father McTeigue talks with bishops, fellow priests, authors, political commentators, academics, journalists, and others, employing an approach that has breathed fresh air into a media milieu rife with click-bait headlines and sensationalized content.
When he took on the show, Father McTeigue said he wanted to restore the lost art of intelligent conversation. “And that’s what I do,” he told the Register in an interview.
Aired at 5pm Eastern Monday through Friday by Station of the Cross, The Catholic Current is heard on the radio network’s stations in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Massachusetts and on its iCatholicRadio mobile app, as well as on the Catholic Radio Network, Aquinas Communications, Holy Family Radio, Radio CorMarie and Guadalupe Radio Network. It also is accessible via podcast.
Before he took to the airwaves, Father McTeigue taught and lectured for nearly two decades in North and Central America, Europe and Asia. What he calls “the crucible of the classroom” prepared him well for his current work. “I can think on my feet. I can respond to questions out of left field. That’s natural for me.”
When he agreed to join Station of the Cross in 2017, Father McTeigue found all the aspects of his background, which also includes research, spiritual direction and leading retreats, coming together. “I love teaching and gave my best to it and now I believe God is asking me to do something different. And the microphone gives me a much larger classroom.”
Jim Wright, Station of the Cross president, first invited Father McTeigue to serve as a host of “Calling All Catholics,” a call-in catechetical show, after meeting him through a Carmelite sister at a monastery in Buffalo, New York. When that show was replaced with “The Catholic Current,” Wright told the Register, the decision was made to have a faithful, knowledgeable priest as the host. “Father McTeigue had these attributes plus the radio talent to be an exceptional show host,” he said. “We felt that combining him with outstanding guests would make for an electrifying show, and that is exactly what happened.”
Wright said bringing Father McTeigue on board has been transformative for the station and its listeners. “It has added a whole new element to our programming lineup, especially for listeners who are already knowledgeable about the Church’s teachings. This show helps them apply their knowledge to real-world situations, those areas where our Catholic faith intersects with pop culture, media and politics.”
He added that he thinks there is a hunger in many listeners to make a difference in a society that sometimes seems to be falling apart. “This show helps them connect the dots between their faith and the news stories they hear every day. It fosters their ability to question and think critically, so that they can then influence others.
‘A Very Jesuit Thing’
Topics for the show, selected by Father McTeigue, cover everything from cancel culture and faith during COVID to Christians in Africa, the Equality Act, immigration and homeschooling. He doesn’t shy away from controversy, nor does he seek only the provocative. “I work very hard to find out what it is people care about, need, what their concerns are, and then bring topics, conversations and guests that will begin to address their needs.”
Whatever the subject, he unpacks it in a calm, soothing voice. “Even though I’m talking about painful, controversial things, my shtick is not to yell or denounce or click-bait. I’m not an investigative journalist or political organizer. I’m an academic and a religious priest so I want to have sober, intelligent conversation that will enable people to have intelligent conversation with their family and friends.”
For example, the day before Thanksgiving, he invited Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, an apostolate for those who experience same-sex attraction, to talk about how to answer the question, “You’re Catholic. Why do you hate gay people?”
A skilled interviewer who can easily fill the hour-long program dialoguing with a guest, Father McTeigue sets aside part of the show twice a week for a monologue. On Tuesdays, he reflects on the conversation with that day’s guest and on Fridays, he reviews the week’s headlines in light of the coming Sunday’s scripture readings.
Father McTeigue sees his radio apostolate, which he has undertaken with the permission of his superiors, as in keeping with the Jesuit concept of eloquentia perfecta, which seeks to produce a Christian version of the classical orator — a good person who writes and speaks well for the common good. “This is a very Jesuit thing that I’m doing,” he said.
That he conquered a speech impediment to become an erudite and eloquent homilist, professor and now radio host is due in part to the donor of a scholarship Father McTeigue received to study at Catholic University of America. Saying that if he was going to study philosophy he should be able to talk about it, the donor arranged for him to get the speech therapy that corrected his impediment.
Engaging the Cancel Culture
Today, Father McTeigue is heard via radio and podcast in more than 130 countries and his show draws the most listeners of programs produced by the Station of the Cross. He said his audience consists of so-called opportunity listeners — commuters and people at home who tune in during the 5 p.m. drive time – and convenience listeners who prefer to access the show’s podcast version on their own schedules.
“I think in general they are people who are a little bit more intellectually inclined who are willing to spend an hour with a topic — those interested in serious teaching.”
Functioning as he does as a faithful Catholic media host in a cancel culture, Father McTeigue said he is keenly aware that the Church is seen as the team to beat. “We still have the intellectual, moral and spiritual heritage that is robustly politically incorrect and still enough of an audience and content providers that haven’t bent the knee or offered that pinch of incense. That puts something of a target on our back.”
Although he has willingly shared his “Catholic Current” microphone with guests who have been banned, denigrated, or treated dismissively, his own encounters with cancel culture have occurred apart from the show. For instance, Amazon recently shadow-banned him, removing his books from its listings for 24 hours, after he appeared on Newsmax TV’s “The Chris Salcedo Show” to talk about political attacks on traditional values. “What I said was not terribly controversial, but apparently it triggered an algorithm.”
Father McTeigue took what happened in stride. “I know I’ll never be invited to sit at the cool kids’ table. I’ll never be a guest on The View or Colbert.’ But I don’t want to be a media personality. I don’t like the idea that people recognize my voice or face.
“I want to proclaim Christ and get out of the way. As John, the Baptist said, ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ The last thing I want to do is market myself. I’m a guy who provides a service.”