Kaiser, Robert Blair 1930–
Kaiser, Robert Blair 1930–
PERSONAL: Original name Robert Blair Piser; born December 3, 1930, in Detroit, MI; son of Robert (an engineer) and Olive Blair Piser; married Susan Ann Mulcahey, November 28, 1959 (divorced); married Karen McCaffery, June 6, 1966; children: (first marriage) Margaret Anne, John Gustave; (second marriage) William. Education: Attended Santa Clara University, 1948–52; Gonzaga University, B.A., 1952, M.A., 1955. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Trout fishing.
CAREER: Journalist and writer. Time-Life News Service, New York, NY, foreign correspondent, 1961–64, Los Angeles correspondent, 1964–1966; New York Times, New York, NY, reporter, 1979–81; University of Nevada, professor of journalism and chairman of department, 1981–84; Tribune, San Diego, CA, columnist, 1984–87; Pasadena Star News, columnist, 1995; Newsweek, Rome, Italy, contributing editor, 1999–. Project director, Center for Public Service and the Common Good, University of San Francisco, 2003; reporter for Newsday and served as a television commentator for Fox, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and other television networks during the Roman Catholic conclave to elect a new Pope in 2005.
AWARDS, HONORS: Overseas Press Club Award for best magazine reporting of foreign affairs, 1962; Maxie Award, 1997, for Jubilee 2002: A Musical Celebration.
Pope, Council, and World: The Story of Vatican II, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1963, published as Inside the Council: The Story of Vatican II, Burns & Oates (London, England), 1963.
"R.F.K. Must Die!": A History of the Robert Kennedy Assassination and Its Aftermath, Dutton (New York, NY), 1970.
(Coauthor) Melvin Belli, My Life on Trial: An Autobiography, Morrow (New York, NY), 1976.
(Coauthor) Pat Haden, My Rookie Season with the Los Angeles Rams, Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.
The Politics of Sex and Religion: A Case History in the Development of Doctrine, 1962–1984, Leaven Press (Kansas City, MO), 1985.
The Encyclical that Never Was: The Story of the Commission on Population, Family and Birth, 1964–66, Continuum (New York, NY), 1987.
The Search for Sonny Skies, Birch Lane Press (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Jamie Farr) Just Farr Fun, Eubanks & Donizetti (Clearwater, FL), 1994.
Jubilee 2000: A Musical Celebration (play), produced in Phoenix, AZ, 1997.
Clerical Error: A True Story, Continuum (New York, NY), 2002.
Papal Power, People's Church: A Struggle for the Future, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Robert Blair Kaiser has written on a wide range of subjects, including the upheaval in the Roman Catholic Church during the tumultuous events of the 1960s, the disintegration of his own marriage, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the attorney general who was appointed by his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and the challenges that face Pope Benedict XVI, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope, Council, and World: The Story of Vatican II and The Politics of Sex and Religion: A Case History in the Development of Doctrine, 1962–1984 focus on the changing policy of the Catholic church as it responds to the increasingly liberal attitudes and policies of contemporary society and politics.
While Kaiser was in Rome covering the Second Vatican Council as a reporter for Time, his marriage fell apart after his wife began an affair with a Jesuit priest. This is the subject of Kaiser's memoir Clerical Error: A True Story. Arthur Jones, reviewing the book in the National Catholic Reporter, called it "a real page-turner" and informed readers that Kaiser "provides discrete chunks of cameo, first-class Catholic history" within his story. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed: "Although this memoir is based on a true story, it reads in many places like a novel, and a few elements strain credulity."
Kaiser's "R.F.K. Must Die!": A History of the Robert Kennedy Assassination and Its Aftermath concludes that convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan either trained himself to act as a killing machine with Robert Kennedy being the sole target, or that Sirhan was programmed by others to commit the murder. Kaiser was able to gain intimate access to his subject through sheer determination and an offer to pay a portion of Sirhan's defense from the proceeds of his writings. His final analysis of the Robert Kennedy assassination contains so detailed a portrait of Sirhan, in fact, that Sirhan's family tried, unsuccessfully, to halt publication of the book through a court order. Kaiser was even allowed to sit in on sessions during which Sirhan was hypnotized by the chief defense psychiatrist.
In A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future, Kaiser explores how the Second Vatican Council laid the groundwork for a revolution within the Catholic Church and discusses the ongoing struggle within the church between traditionalists and those favoring grassroots change. He also delves into the election process that chose Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the replacement for the deceased John Paul II and how the new Pope Benedict XVI's succession in 2005 was likely to maintain the Church's conservative foundation. Michael J. Farrell, writing in the U.S. Catholic, noted that Kaiser "restores some of the gritty reality of the papacy." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "One of the highlights of this provocative book is Kaiser's account of the voting process, which is supposed to be kept strictly secret." In a review for the Library Journal, Anna M. Donnelly commented that the author "is most positive when depicting church representatives as champions of the poor and ecumenism." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Kaiser is a master of the Catholic world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kaiser, Robert Blair, Clerical Error: A True Story, Continuum (New York, NY), 2002.
Best Sellers, November 1, 1970, review of "R.F.K. Must Die!": A History of the Robert Kennedy Assassination and Its Aftermath, p. 308.
Conscience, summer, 2006, Amy Hutchinson, review of A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future, p. 47.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2006, review of A Church in Search of Itself, p. 73.
Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Anna M. Donnelly, review of A Church in Search of Itself, p. 124.
National Catholic Reporter, January 9, 1998, Tom Roberts, review of Jubilee 2000: A Musical Celebration, p. 3; March 8, 2002, Arthur Jones, review of Clerical Error, p. 18; May 26, 2006, Chester Gillis, review of A Church in Search of Itself, p. 8a.
Newsweek, October 19, 1970, review of "R.F.K. Must Die!", p. 114.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of Clerical Error, p. 60; December 19, 2005, review of A Church in Search of Itself, p. 58.
Time, January 4, 1971, review of "R.F.K. Must Die!", p. 74.
U.S. Catholic, June, 2006, Michael J. Farrell, review of A Church in Search of Itself, p. 45.
Just Good Company Web site, http://justgoodcompany.com/ (August 26, 2006).
Robert Blair Kaiser Home Page, http://www.robertblairkaiser.com (August 26, 2006).