Fulton J. Sheen

Last updated

Fulton J. Sheen
SeeRochester, Monroe County, New York
AppointedOctober 21, 1966
Term endedOctober 6, 1969
Predecessor James Edward Kearney
Successor Joseph Lloyd Hogan
Other postsTitular Archbishop of Neoportus (Latin: Newport, Wales; personal title)
OrdinationSeptember 20, 1919
by  Edmund M. Dunne
ConsecrationJune 11, 1951
by  Adeodato Giovanni Piazza
Personal details
Birth namePeter John Sheen
Born(1895-05-08)May 8, 1895 [1]
El Paso, Illinois, [1] United States
DiedDecember 9, 1979(1979-12-09) (aged 84)
New York City, United States
Buried St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Residence El Paso, Illinois
Peoria, Illinois
Bourbonnais, Illinois
Washington, D.C.
Louvain, Belgium
Rome, Italy
London, UK
New York City
Rochester, New York
Previous post
Alma mater
MottoDa per matrem me venire (English: Grant that I may come [to You] through the mother [Mary])
Signature Fulton J. Sheen Signature.svg
Coat of arms Coat of arms of Fulton John Sheen.svg
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Venerable
AttributesArchbishop's attire
ShrinesTomb in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York; birthplace museum in El Paso, Illinois; Fulton Sheen Museum, Diocesan Museums, Spalding Pastoral Center, Peoria, Illinois
Ordination history of
Fulton J. Sheen
Priestly ordination
DateSeptember 20, 1919
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecrator Adeodato Giovanni Card. Piazza OCD (Sec. Sacr. Cons. Cong.)
Co-consecrators Martin John O'Connor (Pres. Pont. Cons. Comm. Soc.)
Leone Giovanni Battista Nigris (Sacr. Cong. Prop. Fide Apos. Nunc. em.)
DateJune 11, 1951
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Fulton J. Sheen as principal consecrator
Joseph B. Houlihan November 20, 1960

Fulton John Sheen (born Peter John Sheen, May 8, 1895 – December 9, 1979) was an American bishop (later archbishop) of the Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio. Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria in 1919, [1] Sheen quickly became a renowned theologian, earning the Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy in 1923. He went on to teach theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of America as well as acting as a parish priest before being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1951. He held this position until 1966 when he was made the Bishop of Rochester from October 21, 1966, to October 6, 1969, when he resigned [2] and was made the Archbishop of the titular see of Newport, Wales.

A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.

Archbishop bishop of higher rank in many Christian denominations

In Christianity, an archbishop is a bishop of higher rank or office. In some cases, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Church of England, the title is borne by the leader of the denomination. Like popes, patriarchs, metropolitans, cardinal bishops, diocesan bishops, and suffragan bishops, archbishops are in the highest of the three traditional orders of bishops, priests, and deacons. An archbishop may be granted the title or ordained as chief pastor of a metropolitan see or another episcopal see to which the title of archbishop is attached.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.


For 20 years as Father Sheen, later Monsignor, he hosted the night-time radio program The Catholic Hour on NBC (1930–1950) before moving to television and presenting Life Is Worth Living (1951–1957). Sheen's final presenting role was on the syndicated The Fulton Sheen Program (1961–1968) with a format very similar to that of the earlier Life is Worth Living show. For this work, Sheen twice won an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Television Personality, and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. [3] Starting in 2009, his shows were being re-broadcast on the EWTN and the Trinity Broadcasting Network's Church Channel cable networks. [4] Due to his contribution to televised preaching Sheen is often referred to as one of the first televangelists. [5] [6]

<i>Life Is Worth Living</i> television series

Life is Worth Living was an inspirational American television series which ran on the DuMont Television Network from February 12, 1952, to April 26, 1955, then on ABC until 1957, featuring the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

An Emmy Award, or simply Emmy, is an American award that recognizes excellence in the television industry, and is the equivalent of an Academy Award, the Tony Award, and the Grammy Award.

The Eternal Word Television Network, more commonly known by its initialism EWTN, is an American basic cable television network which presents around-the-clock Catholic-themed programming. It was founded by Mother Angelica, PCPA, in 1980 and began broadcasting on August 15, 1981, from a garage studio at the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale, Alabama, which Mother Angelica founded in 1962. She hosted her own show, Mother Angelica Live, until suffering a major stroke and other health issues in September 2001. Repeats now air as either the Best of Mother Angelica Live or Mother Angelica Live Classics. From then until her death on Easter Sunday of 2016, she led a cloistered life at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

The cause for his canonization was officially opened in 2002. In June 2012, Pope Benedict XVI officially recognized a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints stating that he lived a life of "heroic virtues" – a major step towards beatification – and he is now referred to as "Venerable." [7] [8]

Canonization Act by which churches declare that a person who has died was a saint

Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a person who has died was a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the "canon", or list, of recognized saints. Originally, a person was recognized as a saint without any formal process. Later, different processes were developed, such as those used today in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion.

Pope Benedict XVI 265th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI, served as head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. Benedict's election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known by the title "Pope Emeritus" upon his resignation.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints is the congregation of the Roman Curia that oversees the complex process that leads to the canonization of saints, passing through the steps of a declaration of "heroic virtues" and beatification. After preparing a case, including the approval of miracles, the case is presented to the Pope, who decides whether or not to proceed with beatification or canonization. This is one of nine Vatican Curial congregations.


Interior of Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception (Peoria, Peoria County, Illinois) Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception (Peoria, Illinois) - nave.jpg
Interior of Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception (Peoria, Peoria County, Illinois)

Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois, the oldest of four sons of Newton and Delia Sheen. His parents are of Irish descent, tracing their roots back to Croghan, County Roscommon, Connacht. Though he was known as Fulton, his mother's maiden name, he was baptized as Peter John Sheen. [9] [1] As an infant, Sheen contracted tuberculosis. [10] After the family moved to nearby Peoria, Illinois, Sheen's first role in the Church was as an altar boy at St. Mary's Cathedral. [1] [9]

El Paso, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

El Paso is a city in Woodford and McLean counties in the U.S. state of Illinois. The population was 2,810 at the 2010 census. The Woodford County portion of El Paso is part of the Peoria, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Croghan, is a townland and a Village in the County Roscommon, Ireland.

County Roscommon County in the Republic of Ireland

County Roscommon is a county in Ireland. In the western region, it is part of the province of Connacht. It is the 11th largest Irish county by area and 27th most populous. Its county town and largest town is Roscommon. Roscommon County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county was 64,544 according to the 2016 census.


After earning high school valedictorian honors at Spalding Institute in Peoria, Peoria County, Illinois, in 1913, Sheen was educated at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, Kankakee County, Illinois, attended Saint Paul Seminary in Minnesota before his ordination on September 20, 1919, [1] then followed that with further studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, District of Columbia. [9] [11] His youthful appearance was still evident on one occasion when a local priest asked Sheen to assist as altar boy during the celebration of the Mass. [9]

Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute former high school in Peoria, Illinois, USA

Academy of Our Lady and Spalding Institute were Catholic high schools across the street from each other in downtown Peoria, Illinois.

Peoria, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Peoria is the county seat of Peoria County, Illinois, and the largest city on the Illinois River. Established in 1691 by the French explorer Henri de Tonti, Peoria is the oldest European settlement in Illinois, and is named after the Peoria tribe. As of the 2010 census, the city was the seventh-most populated in Illinois, with a population of 115,007. The Peoria Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 373,590 in 2011. Until 2018, Peoria was the global and national headquarters for Caterpillar Inc., one of the 30 companies composing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and listed on the Fortune 100; in the latter year, the company relocated its headquarters to Deerfield, Illinois.

Peoria County, Illinois County in the United States

Peoria County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois. The 2010 United States Census listed its population at 186,494. Its county seat is Peoria.

Sheen earned a Doctor of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1923. [11] His thesis was titled, "The Spirit of Contemporary Philosophy and the Finite God". [12] While at Leuven, he became the first American ever to win the Cardinal Mercier award for the best philosophical treatise. [9] In 1924 Sheen pursued further studies in Rome earning a Sacred Theology Doctorate at the Pontificium Collegium Internationale Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum. [13] [14]

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Priestly life

Sheen was the assistant to the pastor at St. Patrick's Church, Soho Square in London, Middlesex for a year, while teaching theology at St. Edmund's College, Ware, where he met Ronald Knox. Although Oxford and Columbia wanted him to teach philosophy, in 1926 Bishop Edmund Dunne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, asked Sheen to take over St. Patrick's parish. After nine months, Dunne returned him to Catholic University, where he taught philosophy until 1950. [15] [9]

In 1929, Sheen gave a speech at the National Catholic Educational Association. He encouraged teachers to "educate for a Catholic Renaissance" in the United States. Sheen was hoping that Catholics would become more influential in their country through education, which would help attract others to the faith. He believed that Catholics should "integrate" their faith into the rest of their daily life. [16]

He was consecrated a bishop on June 11, 1951, [2] and served as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 to 1965. The Principal Consecrator was the Discalced Carmelite Cardinal Adeodato Giovanni Piazza, the Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina e Poggio Mirteto and the Secretary of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation (what is today the Congregation for Bishops). The Principal Co-Consecrators were Archbishop Leone Giovanni Battista Nigris, Titular Archbishop of Philippi and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (what is today the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples); and Archbishop Martin John O'Connor, Titular Archbishop of Laodicea in Syria and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

In 1966, Sheen was made the Bishop of Rochester. He served in this position from October 21, 1966, to October 6, 1969, when he resigned [2] and was made the Archbishop of the titular see of Newport, Wales.

Media career

Styles of
Fulton J. Sheen
Coat of arms of Fulton John Sheen.svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Your Excellency
Posthumous style Venerable


A popular instructor, Sheen wrote the first of 73 books in 1925, and in 1930 began a weekly NBC Sunday night radio broadcast, The Catholic Hour. [11] Sheen called World War II not only a political struggle, but also a "theological one." He referred to Hitler as an example of the "Anti-Christ." [17] Two decades later, the broadcast had a weekly listening audience of four million people. Time referred to him in 1946 as "the golden-voiced Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, U.S. Catholicism's famed proselytizer" and reported that his radio broadcast received 3,000–6,000 letters weekly from listeners. [18] During the middle of this era, he conducted the first religious service broadcast on the new medium of television, putting in motion a new avenue for his religious pursuits.


Bishop Sheen stands before a bookcase on the set of his Dumont television program Fulton J. Sheen NYWTS.jpg
Bishop Sheen stands before a bookcase on the set of his Dumont television program

In 1951 he began a weekly television program on the DuMont Television Network titled Life Is Worth Living . Filmed at the Adelphi Theatre in New York City, the program consisted of the unpaid Sheen simply speaking in front of a live audience without a script or cue cards, occasionally using a chalkboard.

The show, scheduled in a primetime slot on Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m., was not expected to challenge the ratings giants Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra, but did surprisingly well. Berle, known to many early television viewers as "Uncle Miltie" and for using ancient vaudeville material, joked about Sheen, "He uses old material, too", and observed that "[i]f I'm going to be eased off the top by anyone, it's better that I lose to the One for whom Bishop Sheen is speaking." [9] Sheen responded in jest that maybe people should start calling him "Uncle Fultie". [19] Life and Time magazine ran feature stories on Bishop Sheen. The number of stations carrying Life Is Worth Living jumped from three to fifteen in less than two months. There was fan mail that flowed in at a rate of 8,500 letters per week. There were four times as many requests for tickets as could be fulfilled. Admiral, the sponsor, paid the production costs in return for a one-minute commercial at the opening of the show and another minute at the close. [20] In 1952 Sheen won an Emmy Award for his efforts, [21] accepting the acknowledgment by saying, "I feel it is time I pay tribute to my four writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John." When Sheen won the Emmy, Berle quipped, "We both work for 'Sky Chief'", a reference to Berle's sponsor Texaco. Time called him "the first 'televangelist'", and the Archdiocese of New York could not meet the demand for tickets. [9]

One of his best-remembered presentations came in February 1953, when he forcefully denounced the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. Sheen gave a dramatic reading of the burial scene from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar , substituting the names of prominent Soviet leaders Stalin, Lavrenty Beria, Georgy Malenkov, and Andrey Vyshinsky for the original Caesar, Cassius, Marc Antony, and Brutus. He concluded by saying, "Stalin must one day meet his judgment." The dictator suffered a stroke a few days later and died within a week. [22]

The show ran until 1957, drawing as many as 30 million people on a weekly basis. In 1958, Sheen became national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, serving for eight years before being appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, New York, on October 26, 1966. He also hosted a nationally syndicated series, The Fulton Sheen Program, from 1961 to 1968 (first in black and white and then in color). The format of this series was essentially the same as Life Is Worth Living.

International cassette tape ministry

In September 1974, the Archbishop of Washington asked Sheen to be the speaker for a retreat for diocesan priests at the Loyola Retreat House in Faulkner, Maryland. This was recorded on reel-to-reel tape, state of the art at the time. [23]

Sheen requested that the recorded talks be produced for distribution. This was the first production of what would become a worldwide cassette tape ministry called Ministr-O-Media, a nonprofit company that operated on the grounds of St. Joseph's Parish. The retreat album was titled, Renewal and Reconciliation, and included nine 60-minute audio tapes. [23]


Sheen was credited with helping convert a number of notable figures to the Catholic faith, including agnostic writer Heywood Broun, politician Clare Boothe Luce, automaker Henry Ford II, Communist writer Louis F. Budenz, Communist organizer Bella Dodd, [24] theatrical designer Jo Mielziner, violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, and actress Virginia Mayo. Each conversion process took an average of 25 hours of lessons, and reportedly more than 95% of his students in private instruction were baptized. [9]

Fallout with Cardinal Spellman

According to the foreword written for a 2008 edition of Sheen's autobiography, Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, Catholic journalist Raymond Arroyo wrote why Sheen "retired" from hosting Life is Worth Living "at the height of its popularity ... [when] an estimated 30 million viewers and listeners tuned in each week." [25] Arroyo wrote that "It is widely believed that Cardinal Spellman drove Sheen off the air." [25]

Arroyo relates that "In the late 1950s the government donated millions of dollars' worth of powdered milk to the New York Archdiocese. In turn, Cardinal Spellman handed that milk over to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith to distribute to the poor of the world. On at least one occasion he demanded that the director of the Society, Bishop Sheen, pay the Archdiocese for the donated milk. He wanted millions of dollars. Despite Cardinal Spellman's considerable powers of persuasion and influence in Rome, Sheen refused. These were funds donated by the public to the missions, funds Sheen himself had personally contributed to and raised over the airwaves. He felt an obligation to protect them, even from the itchy fingers of his own Cardinal." [25]

Spellman later took the issue directly to Pope Pius XII, pleading his case with Sheen present. The Pope sided with Sheen. Spellman later confronted Sheen, stating, "I will get even with you. It may take six months or ten years, but everyone will know what you are like." [25] Besides being pressured to leave television, Sheen also "found himself unwelcome in the churches of New York City. Spellman cancelled Sheen's annual Good Friday sermons at St. Patrick's Cathedral and discouraged clergy from befriending the Bishop." [25] In 1966, Spellman had Sheen reassigned to Rochester, New York, and caused his leadership at the Society for the Propagation of the Faith to be terminated (a position he had held for 16 years and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for, to which he had personally donated 10 million dollars of his own earnings). [25] On December 2, 1967, Spellman died in New York City.

Sheen never talked about the situation, only making vague references to his "trials both inside and outside the Church." [25] He even went so far as to praise Spellman in his autobiography. [25]

Later years

While serving in Rochester, he created the Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation, which survives to this day. He also spent some of his energy on political activities such as his denunciation of the Vietnam War in late July 1967. [26] On Ash Wednesday in 1967, Sheen decided to give St. Bridget's Parish building to the federal Housing and Urban Development program. Sheen wanted to let the government use it for black Americans. There was a protest since Sheen acted on his own accord. The pastor disagreed, saying that "There is enough empty property around without taking down the church and the school." The deal fell through. [27]

On October 15, 1969, one month after celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest, Sheen resigned from his position and was then appointed Archbishop of the titular see of Newport, Wales (Latin: Neoportus) by Pope Paul VI. This ceremonial position gave him a promotion to Archbishop and thus helped to allow Sheen to continue his extensive writing. Archbishop Sheen wrote 73 books and numerous articles and columns. [21]

On October 2, 1979, two months before Sheen's death, Pope John Paul II visited St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and embraced Sheen, saying, "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church." [28]

Death and legacy

Beginning in 1977 Sheen "underwent a series of surgeries that sapped his strength and even made preaching difficult." [25] Throughout this time he continued to work on his autobiography, parts of which "were recited from his sickbed as he clutched a crucifix." [25] Soon after an open-heart surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, [21] Sheen died on December 9, 1979 in his private chapel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. [29] He is interred in the crypt of St. Patrick's Cathedral, near the deceased Archbishops of New York.

The official repository of Sheen's papers, television programs, and other materials is at St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry in Rochester, New York. [30]

Joseph Campanella introduces the re-runs of Sheen's various programs that are aired on EWTN. Reruns are also aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network. In addition to his television appearances, Sheen can also be heard on Relevant Radio.

The Fulton J. Sheen Museum, which is operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria and located in Peoria, Illinois, houses the largest collection of Sheen's personal items in five collections. [31] The Museum is located just one block south of Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception where Sheen served as an altar boy, had his first communion and confirmation, was ordained and celebrated his first Mass. Another museum is located in Sheen's home town of El Paso, Illinois. This museum contains various Sheen artifacts, but is not connected to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria. [32]

The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Bleecker Street, Lower Manhattan, is named after him. [33]

Actor Ramón Gerard Antonio Estévez adopted the stage name of Martin Sheen partly in admiration of Fulton J. Sheen. [34]

Cause for canonization

The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation was formed in 1998 by Gregory J. Ladd and Lawrence F. Hickey to make known the life of the archbishop. The foundation approached Cardinal John O'Connor of the Archdiocese of New York for permission to commence the process of for cause, which was under the authority of the Diocese of Peoria. [4] In 2002, Sheen's Cause for Canonization was officially opened by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, and from then on Sheen was referred to as a "Servant of God." On February 2, 2008, the archives of Sheen were sealed at a ceremony during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois, where the diocese was sponsoring his canonization. [21] In 2009, the diocesan phase of the investigation came to an end, and the records were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican in Rome.

In November 2010, it was announced that the cause would be paused due to a disagreement with the Archdiocese of New York upon an unsettled debate concerning the return of Sheen's remains to the Diocese of Peoria. [35]

On June 28, 2012, the Vatican announced [36] officially that it had recognized Sheen's life as one of "heroic virtue", a major step towards an eventual beatification. From this moment on, Sheen is styled "Venerable Servant of God." According to Catholic News Service and The Catholic Post (the official newspaper of the Peoria Diocese), the case of a boy who as an infant had no discernible pulse for 61 minutes (who was about to be declared dead at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, as a stillborn infant) and yet allegedly still lived to be healthy – without physical or mental impairment – is in the preliminary stages of being investigated as the possible miracle needed for Archbishop Sheen's potential beatification. If the miracle is approved at the diocesan level, and then by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican (being both medically unexplainable and directly attributable theologically to Sheen's intercession according to expert panels in both subject areas), then beatification may proceed. Another such miracle would be required for him to be considered for canonization.

On September 7, 2011, a tribunal of inquiry was sworn in to investigate the alleged healing. During a special Mass at 10:30 am on Sunday, December 11, 2011, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, the documentation gathered by the tribunal over nearly three months was boxed and sealed. It will then be shipped to the Vatican for consideration by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, concluding the diocesan tribunal's work – which makes up much of the diocese's work on the project. [37]

On Sunday, September 9, 2012, a Mass of Thanksgiving and banquet was held at St. Mary's Cathedral and the Spalding Pastoral Center in celebration of the advancement of Archbishop Sheen's cause, with Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., and his predecessor as Bishop of Peoria, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers (celebrating his 25th anniversary of episcopal ordination), in attendance, along with many of the clergy and religious of the diocese and from around the country. Copies of the "Positio", or the book detailing the documentation behind his cause, were presented to Archbishop Myers, to representatives of the Church in other states, and to a delegate from the Archdiocese of Chicago, and to other patrons and supporters of his cause. According to statements made during the service by clergy connected to the Cause, the medical and theological study of the potential miracles needed for his beatification and canonization is currently well underway and at least one is seriously being considered. Due to new rules under Pope Benedict XVI stating that a beatification should occur locally, ideally in the candidate's home Diocese (which is usually but not always the Diocese that sponsors the Cause), it would likely take place in Peoria, the first there. Should he be beatified and canonized, he would be among a select few natives of the U.S. to hold that distinction. [38] [39] [40]

On Thursday, March 6, 2014 it was announced that a Vatican panel of medical experts could not determine a natural cause to a miracle attributed to Sheen; this is a major step on the road to beatification. The miracle: the reviving of the stillborn baby mentioned above who survived intact, so far, without having a detectable pulse at his birth for a lengthy period without explanation. For 61 minutes, while his mother prayed for Fulton Sheen's intercession, the child did not breathe and only took his first breaths as doctors were calling his time of death. Doctors predicted the child to grow up with terrifying effects like organ failure and cerebral palsy. After the child's first 5 months, he was considered to be a normally healthy child. The case will now go on to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, for further review. If the Congregation approves the miracle, then the cause will be passed on to Pope Francis, who will ultimately decide and sign and publish documentation on whether or not to beatify Archbishop Sheen, granting him the title of "Blessed". [41] [42]

On Tuesday, June 17, 2014, a seven-member panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints also unanimously agreed that the aforementioned case could be attributable to the baby boy's parents asking for Archbishop Sheen's intercession during the 61-minute period. Having been evaluated and approved by both medical and theological examination, the case now will be examined by the Bishops and Cardinals who are members and officials of the Congregation, who must give their approval before the case can be forwarded to Pope Francis. [43] [44]

Indefinite suspension of cause for canonization

However, on September 3, 2014, the cause was suspended indefinitely, not for problems with Sheen's moral character or with the miracle investigation, but because the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, within whose territory he is buried, had refused a request by Bishop Jenky of Peoria (who is the Actor, or supervisor, of the cause efforts because of his position as Bishop of Peoria) to have Archbishop Sheen's remains moved to Peoria. This needed to be done so the body could be closely examined and first-class relics taken, both of which are among the final steps that take place before beatification. Normally, causes take many years to progress to canonization. Nevertheless, the potential for a long delay was very frustrating to many in the area and beyond who had helped and funded his cause, and to his other supporters. [45] [46] [47] [48]

Possible opportunity for resumption of cause

In a press release on June 14, 2016, it was announced that the surviving family of the late Archbishop has petitioned the Supreme Court of the State of New York to allow the transfer of Sheen's remains to Peoria. The press release claims that "on several occasions, the Archdiocese [of New York] has declared its desire to cooperate with the wishes of the family". If the transfer is approved it is possible the suspension in the cause for canonization may be lifted. [49]

In an action brought in New York Supreme Court, Justice Arlene P. Bluth ordered the Archdiocese of New York to grant permission to Sheen's family to disinter Sheen's body, finding a good and substantial reason for moving the remains of the decedent. The Court ruled that the Archdiocese's objection, that Sheen would not want the disinterment, was without factual basis. Given that his elevation to sainthood was being blocked until the Diocese of Peoria could petition for canonization, the Court found the family had sufficient justification to move his body. [50]

However, on February 6, 2018, the First Department of the New York State Appellate Division, overturned Justice Bluth's decision, ordering an evidentiary hearing be held as whether moving Sheen's body is consistent with his wishes. [51] The Court noted, "[I]t is unclear if Archbishop Sheen's direction in his will to be buried in "Calvary Cemetery, the official cemetery of the Archdiocese of New York" evinces an express intention to remain buried in the Archdiocese of New York, or was merely a descriptive term for Calvary Cemetery." However, after re-examining the case and holding the evidentiary hearing, on June 9, 2018, Justice Bluth affirmed her earlier ruling. The Archdiocese had allowed Peoria to begin the work on his cause for canonization, which eventually would have required at the least a collection of his relics. [52]

Selected books authored

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  5. Rodgers, Ann (August 29, 2006). "Emmy-winning televangelist on path toward sainthood: Sheen would be 1st American-born man canonized". Chicago Sun-Times. HighBeam Research. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
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  22. Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. "Stalin for Time: Did Bishop Fulton Sheen foretell the death of Stalin?" Snopes.com, August 8, 2007.
  23. 1 2 An Enduring Journey of Faith: St. Joseph's Parish, Pomfret, Maryland, 2012 by St. Joseph's Church, Pomfret, Maryland, Harambee Productions, Inc. White Plains, Maryland 150 p
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  26. James H. Willbanks, "Vietnam War Almanac", Facts on File, Inc. (2009), p. 215.
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  53. This book was Sheen's response to Rabbi Joshua L. Liebman's 1946 best-seller Peace of Mind.

Further reading

Catholic Church titles
New title
Titular see erected
Archbishop of Newport, Wales
Succeeded by
Howard G. Tripp
Preceded by
James E. Kearney
Archbishop-Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
Joseph Lloyd Hogan
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of New York
Succeeded by
New title
Titular see erected
Bishop of Caesariana
Succeeded by
Angelo Felici