Key Issues Remain in Archbishop Sheen’s Cause
National Catholic Register, 14 June 2018
Vatican Intervention Seems Necessary
The latest court ruling in the matter of Archbishop Fulton Sheen is being celebrated in Illinois and examined in New York. Those who desire to see Sheen beatified, though, will likely have to wait for a Roman intervention as a result of issues highlighted by the ruling.
The ruling orders that Sheen’s body be transferred to Peoria, Illinois, at the request of his niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham. Yet it excoriates the conduct of Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky and makes clear that the request for transfer is due to his insistence that the cause cannot proceed otherwise. Those issues will have to be resolved, lest the beatification proceed under a cloud.
It seems only the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome will be able to resolve them. If it chooses not to, the cause will likely remain on ice.
Bishop Jenky and the Diocese of Peoria have undertaken the substantial work of preparing Sheen’s cause, after the Archdiocese of New York declined to do so in 2002, when Cardinal Edward Egan was archbishop. Bishop Jenky insists that the body of Archbishop Sheen be moved from the crypt under the high altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Peoria’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. New York refuses on the grounds that Sheen himself made clear that he wanted to be buried in New York.
In 2010, Bishop Jenky suspended the cause because he would not get the body. That was very badly received by Archbishop Sheen’s devotees, so he reversed himself and let the cause continue. But then, in 2014, Jenky withdrew the cause, stating that unless the body is in Peoria, the cause will not continue.
Given that the heroic nature of Sheen’s virtues have already been decreed, earning him the title “Venerable,” and a miracle by his intercession has already been approved, Bishop Jenky stopped the cause on the threshold of beatification.
Enter Archbishop Sheen’s niece. Cunningham opposed moving Sheen’s body until Bishop Jenky delivered his ultimatum in 2014 — no body, no beatification. As she was 86, this likely meant that she would not live to see her uncle beatified. So, in 2016, she changed her mind and petitioned the court in New York for a transfer. It was granted later that year. The appeals court then overturned the order and sent the original decision back for review. On June 8, Judge Arlene Bluth again ordered that the body be transferred.
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