Archbishop Sheen canonization cause on hold over tomb dispute
By Benjamin Mann, Staff Writer
If Archbishop Fulton Sheen is ever canonized, the beloved evangelist and author will become the first U.S.-born bishop to be declared a saint. However, this milestone may be further away than expected because of a disagreement about the archbishop’s final resting place.From its offices in Peoria, Ill., the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation has spent nine years working toward the canonization of its namesake. Monsignor Stanley Deptula, the Sheen Foundation’s executive director, told EWTN News that the Diocese of Peoria had expected to receive Sheen’s body, which is currently entombed in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The transferral of the body to a tomb in Peoria, he explained, would have allowed the diocese to create a national shrine to the popular evangelist, in the city where he grew up and was ordained a priest.
[Here we have the beginning of what could lead to “rash judgement” against the diocese. For me, the idea of tying funds to the canonization effort of a hometown hero seems something of a red flag especially when it seems clear that part of the intent of having Sheen’s tomb in Peoria would be to erect a national shrine. From the sentence above one may immediately infer that no body equals no shrine, which equals no diocesan money, which equals no canonization effort, etc.]
But with the Archdiocese of New York ultimately declining to transfer Sheen’s body, Monsignor Deptula said the Diocese of Peoria was no longer in a position to continue its work toward canonization.
[And those inclined say collectively, “You see! Proof that the only thing that the Church wants is money. These bishops fight over the dead, which is pointless anyway (if you’re of the Protestant traditions) just so they can get a couple of bucks from people looking to pray to some saint for a miracle.”]
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria had originally spearheaded the cause, agreeing to allocate diocesan resources to perform the investigations and other work required by the Vatican. According to the Sheen Foundation’s director, Bishop Jenky had accepted these responsibilities on the basis of an understanding between his diocese and the Archdiocese of New York that Archbishop Sheen’s body would eventually return to Peoria.
Negotiations to bring Archbishop Sheen’s body back to his home state continued during the Peoria diocese’s nine years of work for his canonization. According to Monsignor Deptula, officials in New York repeatedly indicated the body would be transferred, although he said no promise to that effect had been put in writing.
[This is particularly scandalous because we now have an implication that not one but two dioceses are in this “tit for tat” dispute. Words like negotiations and terms such as “put in writing” all add fuel to the fire. This can lead those inclined to ask, “Do these so-called “Christians” truly care for the Church Jesus established or is it all about money and power? Why go through all this in-fighting for some title?” Then there is the another question, “Why spend all this money to go through some process when everyone knows that all baptized Christians are saints because we have been made new creatures through the Blood of the Lamb?”]
Archbishop Sheen’s history with both cities is highly significant to his life story. Sheen’s boyhood home is located in the Diocese of Peoria, as is the cathedral where he first served as an altar boy. Sheen was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1919, and briefly returned in 1926 to serve as a pastor after studies that took him around the world.However, he was consecrated as a bishop in New York in 1951, broadcast his famous program “Life Is Worth Living” from New York, and served as a bishop in the state until 1969. After his death in 1979, he was buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
[Now the article begins to shed some light on the so-called division and the reasons for it. Once again, for those inclined, this will have no bearing on their negative view of the Church.]
There is some question as to where Sheen himself wanted to be buried, a matter the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of New York see differently. Although unable to publicize some legal details, Monsignor Deptula said the matter may ultimately hinge on Sheen’s own expressed wishes.Following the most recent negotiations between Bishop Jenky and Archbishop Dolan, the Diocese of Peoria has no plan to pursue the matter further on the basis of any prior verbal agreement. Monsignor Deptula urged those who treasure Sheen’s memory to pray that Archbishop Dolan would soon agree to take up the cause for canonization in his archdiocese. He also specified that the Sheen Foundation is still accepting donations for its own work toward the canonization, which will continue without diocesan involvement for the time being. The Archdiocese of New York did not respond to requests seeking comment.
[Bells are ringing and it ain’t even Christmas yet. There are differences in opinion concerning Sheen’s final interment wishes, yet as we all know, there is only one truth: his expressed wishes are either for Peoria, New York or neither. Now it seems like a there is more to it than money. There are legal issues and rights pertain the wishes of the deceased. What did he want? Funny how we value the human dignity and word of the dead if they can write it down or say it before hand, but for those who cannot speak for themselves or are deemed less worthy, the decision to kill them and toss them in a dumpster is made for them – usually by their own mothers no less.
Anyway, the Diocese of Peoria now says it cannot spend any more money on the cause and there is no word from the Archdiocese of New York on taking up the cause, just the determination of a small group of volunteers who cherish the memory of the good and wise Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and only seek to honor him and his work for the glory of what he did in cooperation with God and in conjunction with the grace bestowed on him by Him.]
“You see, Peoria is only willing to help fund the cost of the cause if the tomb is in the Diocese because they can build a national shrine to Sheen taking up collections and then charging people fees and more collections for upkeep, etc. All the while people are starving and without work, etc. It is the selling of indulgences all over again!”“Oh, and the Archdiocese is no stranger to this also. They want to keep the body in the City because they surely have some kind of plan. Their silence on the matter speaks volumes!”
How easy it is to fall into this trap of judementalism.Upon reaching the end of the article, my eyes were opened to the failings of this trap. Certainly the awareness of my potential failing is worthy of praises to God for he works without ceasing to help us help ourselves. He does this through the angels and saints and even sometimes directly. However He chooses to work, it behooves us to listen and cooperate. It is no different here as I remembered a couple of things:
- A diocese and archdiocese need money to operate in this world. As stewards of God’s gifts to them in terms of donations and the pastoring of souls each bishop or archbishop must properly discern the needs of his area and minister to them, as he serves to serve.
- The canonization process costs money. Do not confuse this with an election where the candidate with the most ad time seems to buy their victory on the backs of lazy voters. No, the process cost money because it requires prudence and patience. As with all infallible decisions by the Church, the process of canonization is stringent and can often take many years to discern. To keep the fire burning, so to speak, it costs money. In this day and age this means funding a place for mail and people to read it, a website, advocates, etc. No different from any foundation set up to erect a memorial to a great person; the most recent example would be the cause to erect a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall.
- All of this occurs in accordance to God’s will. If Sheen is indeed in the Presence of Our Lord then He will reveal it to us when He knows the time is right and we are ready (still up to us to accept). All of this supposed bantering of tombs and funds is also part of the “larger” will of God. As faithful Christians, we need only accept and obey.