Woodward, Kenneth L. 1935-

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Woodward, Kenneth L. 1935-


Born October 5, 1935, in Detroit, MI; son of Roy (a sales manager) and Marie (a teacher) Woodward; married Elizabeth (Betty) Drey (a public relations executive), September 6, 1959; children: Kyle, Jeff, Todd. Education: University of Notre Dame, B.A. (cum laude), 1957; attended the University of Michigan Law School, the University of Iowa, and the University of Strasbourg, France. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, books.


Office—Newsweek, 444 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Agent—Amanda Urban, International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.


Writer, editor, and journalist. Omaha Sun, Omaha, NE, journalist, 1962-64; Newsweek magazine, New York, NY, religion editor, 1964-2002, "Ideas" sec- tion editor, 1974-78, senior writer, 1988—, contributing editor, 2002—. University of California, Santa Barbara, Regent's Lecturer in Religion. National Humanities Center, fellow.


Outstanding Citizenship Award, Urban League of Omaha, Nebraska, 1964; William E. Leidt Award, Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, 1965, for religious reporting in the secular press; Catholic Magazine award, Religious Public Relations Council of America, 1968, for "year-long excellence in religious reporting"; National Media Award (magazines), American Psychological Foundation, 1976; Awards of Merit, Religious Public Relations Council, 1976 and 1982; National Magazine Award, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1977, for cover story "The Greying of America"; Clarion Award for community service, Women in Communication, 1979; Shackeran Award for best religion section, Religious Newswriters' Association, 1982; National Magazine Award, National Laymen's Bible Committee, 1983; Wilbur Awards, Religious Public Relations Council, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, and 1991; Excellence in Periodical Writing Award, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, 1984; recipient of four honorary degrees.


(With Arthur Kornhaber) Grandparents/Grandchildren: The Vital Connection, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.

Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't, and Why, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.

The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.

Author of more than one hundred cover stories for Newsweek. Contributor to periodicals, including America, Commonweal, Nation, Smithsonian, Psychology Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, First Things, Concilium, Nation, and Christian Century. Making Saints has been translated into seven foreign languages.


Kenneth L. Woodward, an editor for Newsweek magazine, tackles the subject of sainthood in his 1990 nonfiction work, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't, and Why. In this well-received volume, Woodward traces the history of canonization through two thousand years and offers insight into numerous cases for sainthood. To compile his book, Woodward interviewed officials of the Vatican and gained access to numerous positios, official documents that contain a historical and critical analysis of a candidate's holiness. "Strictly speaking," Woodward writes in Making Saints, "only God makes saints. What the church does is provide the mechanism for identifying exceptional holiness. The primary purpose of canonization is to provide contemporary examples of holiness for the edification and, it is hoped, the emulation of the faithful." But insofar as candidates for sainthood arise first from the judgment of the faithful, saint-making is, explains Woodward, "the most democratic process in the church."

According to Woodward, the early Christians initially recognized only martyrs as saints. Later, they added to the "canon" of recognized saints not only those who died like Jesus Christ, but those who lived the Christian life to an exceptional or "heroic" degree. When the cult of the saints threatened to turn Western Christianity into a "Hinduism of the West," the Church gradually developed procedures for determining who can and cannot be venerated as saints. In the early twelfth century, Pope Alexander III of Italy ruled that the papacy would have direct control over who became a saint. By the late sixteenth century the Vatican had established a congregation responsible for deciding cases for sainthood, and soon thereafter Pope Urban VIII instituted the judicial "trial," during which the virtues of the candidate were defended by a canon lawyer. The extensive process remained virtually unchanged for more than three hundred years until 1983, when Pope John Paul II abandoned the judiciary examination for the use of the positio.

Along with providing a history and explanation of canonization in Making Saints, Woodward discusses the papacy of John Paul II, who beatified and canonized more individuals than all of his twentieth-century predecessors combined. One of John Paul II's most controversial episodes took place in 1987, when he beatified Edith Stein, a Jewish convert who was killed during the Holocaust. According to Woodward, the pope's decision outraged many Jews, who decried the fact that Stein had asked God during the midst of the Holocaust to accept her life as an act of contrition for the unbelief of the Jews. Woodward relates in MakingSaints the reaction of many Jews to Stein's canonization: "Why was the church placing the crown of martyrdom on the head of a single apostate Jew when millions of other Jews—children, grandparents, mothers and fathers—had perished at the hands of the Nazis? Once again, it was said, the first Polish pope was attempting to rob the Holocaust of its specific evil—the genocide of European Jewry—by focusing attention on those Christians who were also Nazi victims. Was this not, it was suggested, an attempt to use the saint-making process to deflect attention from the church's own complicity through silence in the Nazis' war on the Jews?"

In Making Saints Woodward also explains why the church finds saints among some groups of Catholics rather than others. According to the author, clergy and nuns have been favored for canonization approximately four times as often as lay people: Of the 393 persons canonized during the years 1000 to 1987, only seventy-six were members of the laity. Woodward offers proof of a possible prejudice against married couples as well, pointing out that almost all of the 393 saints were unwed. The author attempts to explain the disparity in Making Saints: "The history of Roman Catholicism exhibits a profound ambivalence toward human sexuality. Throughout that history, the church has placed a higher value on virginity than on marriage, even though marriage has the status of a sacrament while virginity does not. The roots of this ambivalence go back to the New Testament, but it has been commonplace to blame the writings of the church fathers of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries for establishing a tradition of associating sexuality with sin. To a great extent, the blame is justified."

Making Saints garnered an enthusiastic response among many critics, who praised the author for his objectivity and thoroughness. Richard S. Watts, writing in Library Journal, deemed the work "intriguing, thoughtful, and intelligently critical," while Vatican affairs writer Peter Hebblethwaite, in a New York Times Book Review article, found it "the most comprehensive, critical, and up-to-date look at saint making so far written." Making Saints is an "extraordinary book [that] … fashions a near miracle of research and journalistic inquiry," asserted Eugene C. Kennedy in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "What might have been an exercise in ridiculing or romanticizing this process of making saints emerges rather as a profoundly engrossing account of the still-compelling search, made the more believable at every turn by its broken and patched human character, for the meaning of a holy life." Syndicated Washington Post Book World columnist Colman McCarthy, along with providing a commendation of the book, lauded Woodward's journalistic aptitude: "His reporting—fair, thorough, and forcefully written—has earned him an international following among people who want religion to be treated as a major beat…. Woodward's professional graces … are on large display in this investigation of the politics, economics, and deal-making in the production of saints." Making Saints, lauded a critic in U.S. Catholic, "is unquestionably the definitive book on this subject."

In The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Woodward explores the meaning of miracles in five of the world's major religions. For Woodward, in order to fully understand and appreciate a religion, one needs to possess some knowledge of the miracles that have been said to occur within that religion. In his book, he recounts stories of these numerous miracles and offers careful consideration of their meaning in the context of the broader scope of the associated religion. In addition to the miracle stories themselves, Woodward also provides relevant background material and consideration of the function served by the miracle within the religion's traditions. His effort "puts the miracles in context but also transforms the book into a rather scholarly study of comparative religions," noted Howard Kainz in a National Catholic Reporter review. In Woodward's analysis, miracles "are not really about supernatural events. They are, rather, the stories that religions tell about their founders and their great saints," commented Susan Ross in the National Catholic Reporter. In this way, "we come to know the great religions not so much by their official teachings or practices, but by the stories they continue to tell," Ross continued.

"This study of miracles draws upon excellent contemporary scholarship in the study of religion," observed America reviewer J. Patout Burns. "You can't help but admire what Woodward has accomplished in this book," commented James Morris in the Wilson Quarterly. "He has fashioned graceful, readable, and illuminating accounts of the various miracle traditions, and, through those narratives of external action, he has found the internal force of the religions." Booklist reviewer June Sawyers called Woodward's book "a thoughtful work by one of today's best writers on religion."

Woodward told CA: "I wrote [Making Saints] because very few people—even those inside the Vatican—know how and why the church makes saints. Also, I believe that all are called to be saints—that perhaps it is true, as the French Catholic novelist Georges Bernanos wrote, ‘The only sadness is not to be among the saints.’"



Woodward, Kenneth L., Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't, and Why, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.


America, April 2, 2002, J. Patout Burns, "Exploring the Holy," review of The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, p. 27.

Booklist, April 1, 2000, June Sawyers, review of The Book of Miracles, p. 1416.

Commonweal, May 5, 2000, Luke Timothy Johnson, "Far Away & Long Ago," review of The Book of Miracles, p. 26.

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, November, 2004, Ivan M. Lang, "The Judaism of Jesus," p. 2.

Library Journal, November 15, 1990, Richard S. Watts, review of Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't, and Why, p. 75; March 15, 2000, Michael W. Ellis, review of The Book of Miracles, p. 90.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 2, 1990, Eugene C. Kennedy, review of Making Saints, p. 9.

National Catholic Reporter, April 28, 2000, Howard Kainz, review of The Book of Miracles, p. 21; May 17, 2002, Susan Ross, "Miracle Stories Reveal Values of a Religion; Modern True/False Mindset Asks Wrong Questions, Author Says," review of The Book of Miracles, p. 33.

New York Times Book Review, November 4, 1990, Peter Hebblethwaite, review of Making Saints, p. 9.

Publishers Weekly, September 21, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Making Saints, p. 60; October 5, 1990, "On Making Saints: Newsweek's Religion Editor Describes the Process and the Costs," review of Making Saints, p. 34; March 13, 2000, review of The Book of Miracles, p. 78.

U.S. Catholic, April, 1990, review of Making Saints.

Washington Post Book World, January 20, 1991, Colman McCarthy, "How the Saints Go Marching In," review of Making Saints, p. 6.

Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2001, James Morris, review of The Book of Miracles, p. 142.


MSNBC Web site,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ (May 14, 2004), biography of Kenneth L. Woodward.

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