Barbara Walters’s recent announcement of her retirement brought back awkward memories for me. Once, as she recounted on “The View” last week, she asked Vladimir Putin point blank if he’d ever ordered anyone to be killed. (“Nyet,” came the cold reply.) In my case, Walters’s line of questioning was gentler, but no less insistent. Indeed, in 1972, Walters forced a reckoning with the absurdity of my own position as a dissenting young Catholic priest.
At that time, Walters’s daytime television show was called “Not For Women Only.” A sharp defensiveness was implicit in the name, hinting at the disadvantage facing an ambitious woman journalist in those days. As a chaplain at Boston University, I was an unlikely panelist. But I’d made other television appearances as a spokesman against the Vietnam War and assumed Walters’s show, too, would offer such a platform. Wrong.