The Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral believe the recent court case concerning the earthly remains of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was again incorrectly decided, and will seek an appeal of that decision. On June 18, the appellate division granted a motion made on behalf of the Trustees for a stay on moving the archbishop’s remains from the cathedral while the appellate court considers the case.
The decision by a New York court in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition to have the remains of her uncle, Archbishop Sheen, moved from Manhattan to Peoria was rendered June 8.
The cathedral trustees, which has responsibility to oversee the administration of both the cathedral and archdiocesan cemeteries, issued its statement one week after the ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth that again clears the way for the remains of the famed orator and media pioneer to be removed from the cathedral and transferred to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, the archbishop’s home diocese.
“At issue in the case, as the appellate court noted in its reversal of the trial court’s original decision, is what were Archbishop’s Sheen’s personal wishes concerning his final resting place,” the trustees’ June 15 statement said.
“As trustees, it is our responsibility to respect those wishes, and we believe that this most recent decision once again fails to consider those wishes and instead relies on the speculation and conjecture of others.”
The trustees concluded their statement, “…we continue to fervently pray that, if it be God’s will, we will soon see the beatification and canonization of Archbishop Sheen, and hope that his cause, which could have been progressing without interruption, will be resumed and brought to fruition without further delay.”
Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky said he hoped the Archdiocese of New York—which appealed Ms. Bluth’s original ruling in favor of Ms. Cunningham in late 2016—will now “cease its legal resistance.” He asked all to pray “for a renewed spirit of cooperation” to move Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause forward.
The Diocese of Peoria indefinitely suspended Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization nearly four years ago.
In 2016, Ms. Cunningham, who is Archbishop Sheen’s oldest living relative, filed a petition with the courts in New York asking that his body be moved to the Peoria cathedral. She said her uncle would not have objected to his remains being transferred to his home diocese from the crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral where he was entombed following his death Dec. 9, 1979 at age 84.
The Peoria Diocese noted “this is the second time that the Superior Court of New York has ruled in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition… Earlier, the Appellate Court of New York remanded the case to the Superior Court for an evidentiary hearing and issuance of a new ruling.”
The cathedral trustees, in an earlier statement issued June 11, said, “The process of beatification and canonization focuses only on where the soul of a person is, not on where an individual’s mortal remains might be.” The Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes has said “the cause can progress without any transfer of the remains,” according to the statement.
Born in El Paso, Ill., Fulton John Sheen was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1919.
After a brief period of priestly ministry in Peoria, the future archbishop went on to serve on the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for nearly 30 years.
He began his broadcast career in radio in 1930. In 1952, his renowned television show “Life Is Worth Living” began airing and quickly gained a large audience with many non-Catholics becoming regular viewers. He won an Emmy for outstanding television personality for the show.
He was national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, headquartered in Manhattan, from 1950 to 1966. A former auxiliary bishop of New York, 1951 to 1966, he served as bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969 and was given the personal title of archbishop when he retired from that diocesan post. He is the author of dozens of books, including his autobiography: “Treasure in Clay.”
In 2012, 10 years after his canonization cause was officially opened, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes had recognized Archbishop Sheen’s life as one of “heroic virtue,” and proclaimed him “Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen.”
The first approved miracle necessary for his beatification has cleared two of the three stages necessary for Archbishop Sheen to be declared “blessed.”
In September 2014, his cause was suspended indefinitely by the Diocese of Peoria when the Archdiocese of New York denied a request from Bishop Jenky, president of the Archbishop Sheen Foundation, to move the archbishop’s body to Peoria. In June 2016, Ms. Cunningham filed her petition on transferring his remains to Peoria. —CNS, Catholic New York