The 72-year-old Franciscan nun is founder and chair of the Birmingham-based Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the largest religious TV network in the United States.

Mother Angelica started the Catholic network in 1981 from a converted garage. EWTN now reaches 38 million homes and is sustained by more than $13 million a year in viewer contributions.

Much of the round-the-clock programming features priests, bishops, and laypeople talking about the Bible and church doctrines, especially devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus. In August, EWTN expanded its 24-hour coverage to Central and South America, Africa, and Europe. Programs are seen in 42 countries.

The big draw on EWTN is Mother Angelica Live, hourlong shows before a studio audience Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The picture is unconventional: a nun, fully covered by a traditional habit, except for her round, smiling face, chatting in a grandmotherly fashion about woes facing church and country. One moment she is cackling in a comic monologue, the next she is deadly serious about the wicked state of the world. Indeed, the talk is often apocalyptic.

"The truth needs to be cloaked in love, compassion, and humor," Mother Angelica told CT. "I don't try to be funny. It just comes out that way. I have Muslims, agnostics, and atheists listening to see what in God's name I'm going to say next."

Mother Angelica pledges fidelity to John Paul II in battling a wayward American Catholic church. However, "Commonweal" editor Margaret O'Brien Steinfels says that Mother Angelica shows selective allegiance. "For someone who professes allegiance to church hierarchy, she has a low opinion of some bishops."

In addition to pushing a highly partisan agenda, Steinfels says Mother Angelica has a ...

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