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Speaking in tongues: In conversation with Father Bob Maguire

  • 12 May 2023
  I interviewed Father Bob Maguire for Australian Catholics in January 2006, about four months after becoming editor of the magazine at the age of 28. It was my first big ‘celebrity’ profile piece in my new role. Father Bob had come to prominence in 2004 in a segment with John Safran for his show John Safran vs God. In 2005, they’d continued their partnership with a new show called Speaking in Tongues. Father Bob was gracious enough to give me an hour of his time one afternoon, which ended up being a bit longer than that. It was a memorable experience, enlightening and entertaining at the same time.

When Father Bob passed away a few weeks ago, I went back to the transcript of the interview. Much of what he’d said has stayed with me over the years. He was speaking to me shortly after the election of Pope Benedict, in a very different Catholic Church context. Today, ten years after Pope Francis’ election and with so much else having happened in the Church here in Australia, much of what he says feels prophetic.

Back in the day, I was restricted to the constraints of a print magazine, so I had to condense the interview into an 800-word profile piece. Below, published for the first time, is a longer transcript of that interview. It’s an insight from a certain time and place, and others will certainly have other glimpses and stories of the ‘real’ Bob Maguire after spending much more time with him. But I’m sharing it in the hope that the interview might shed more light on someone who was such an important person in the Catholic Church and in Australian culture.  

Why do you put yourself out there the way you do?

You have to. That’s what I thought was part of the contract in 1934 when I was born into this world — that the reason we turned up on planet Earth was to put in. And when you find that others are not able to run on their merits, I presumed that you were supposed to help them to put in. Because like a symphony orchestra, each boy and girl has their own part to play. That’s what I thought … old fashioned. 

I find there’s always somebody around willing to stop you from putting in. Even the most reputable people. So over 70 years I got used to being knocked