Cokie Roberts Was Devoted To Her Roman Catholic Faith In addition to her work as a journalist and author, Cokie Roberts was well known as a prominent Catholic. It was part of her public persona, and she didn't hesitate to criticize the church she loved.

Cokie Roberts Was Devoted To Her Roman Catholic Faith

Cokie Roberts Was Devoted To Her Roman Catholic Faith

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In addition to her work as a journalist and author, Cokie Roberts was well known as a prominent Catholic. It was part of her public persona, and she didn't hesitate to criticize the church she loved.


We're remembering our friend and colleague Cokie Roberts on today's program. She died yesterday at the age of 75. Cokie was a widely respected political journalist and author from a prominent political family. And she was also defined by her faith. And NPR's Don Gonyea has a look at that aspect of her life.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Cokie Roberts was never reluctant to talk about her religion. Her devotion to her Roman Catholic faith was deep and lifelong.


COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: I am Catholic like I breathe.

GONYEA: That was on C-SPAN. This is from NPR's Talk Of The Nation program with Neal Conan.


NEAL CONAN, BYLINE: You, on the other hand, were raised Catholic...

C ROBERTS: Very Catholic.

CONAN: ...And raised to some degree by the nuns.

C ROBERTS: Absolutely. And I still am in very close contact with the nuns who raised me and their successors - great, great women but also a very Catholic family.

GONYEA: Her father was former House Majority Leader Hale Boggs. Her mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to her husband's Louisiana congressional seat after his death in 1972. Cokie attended Catholic elementary school in New Orleans and Catholic high school in D.C.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Give glory to his son.

GONYEA: In 1979 working for NPR, she covered the first U.S. visit of a new pope, John Paul II.


BOB EDWARDS: Cokie Roberts is on the Boston Common right now and has this report.

GONYEA: This is NPR's coverage 40 years ago next month.


C ROBERTS: And it is pouring rain, but people still waited. When the pope walked in, the Purcell's "Trumpet Voluntary" played, and the crowd cheered and waved papal flags.

GONYEA: Cokie brought her journalistic skills and her knowledge of Catholicism to such reporting. Her books often focused on the role of women in American history; so too did her personal thoughts on the church. This is from C-SPAN.


C ROBERTS: Now, does it make me furious, the patriarchy of the church? Absolutely. And it makes me particularly furious on behalf of religious women because there they are doing this incredible work. I'm talking about nuns really doing the work of Jesus.

GONYEA: In 2002 on NPR, she addressed the ordination of women as priests. She said she didn't think it would happen in her lifetime. But on that and on the celibacy of priests, she said of the Catholic leadership...


C ROBERTS: I think they understand that they need to do something.

GONYEA: And she bluntly labeled the church's sexual abuse scandals a truly shocking crime. Still, by Cokie's own telling, her faith never wavered. The Roberts' marriage was one of mixed faiths. Her husband, Steve Roberts, whom she started dating in college, is Jewish.


STEVE ROBERTS: I've often kidded that I'm the only Jew from Bayonne, N.J., whose mother-in-law was ambassador to the Vatican. But now...

GONYEA: Which brings us, again, to Cokie mother, Lindy Boggs, who in 1997 was named U.S. ambassador to the Vatican by President Bill Clinton. This is from Boggs' swearing in at the White House. It could almost be Cokie talking.


LINDY BOGGS: I want everyone to know that the Bible upon which I took my oath was given to me by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, who prepared me more for this job than any other group I know.


GONYEA: At the beginning of this story, we heard Cokie reporting on the papal visit of John Paul II. Twenty-six years later, she was part of NPR's coverage of the funeral of that same pope at the Vatican. She provided her usual political analysis...


C ROBERTS: It's no accident that in June of a very close election year, 2004, President Bush called on the pope to have his picture taken with the pope.

GONYEA: ...But her commentary that day was also personal as she recalled attending mass and meeting the aging pontiff with her husband and her mother at the pope's summer retreat.


C ROBERTS: And we walked into this tiny chapel and saw the sun shining on the aged pope kneeling on a prie-dieu, a kneeler, in front of the altar, and we gasped because we felt we were in the presence of holiness.

GONYEA: Cokie Roberts on meeting the pope and on her Catholicism. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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