No Taking The Shine Off Sheen

No Taking The Shine Off Sheen December 3, 2019

UPDATE #1 12/4/19:  Today it was revealed by CNA that the Bishop of Rochester, NY, where Sheen once served as Bishop, requested the delay in his beatification.  Here are the salient facts:

  1.  Bishop of Rochester requests delay from Vatican Ambassador because of fear that Sheen might be mentioned in a New York Attorney General Report on how dioceses have handled sexual abuse cases in the past.  There does not seem to be a relevant case, just a fear of one because of the extended statute of limitations.
  2. Other archbishops were canvassed for their opinion and they agreed that prudence dictated a delay so that what should be a cause of celebration would not become a cause for scandal or other faithful upset.
  3.  The Vatican delayed the beatification.

Oh my gosh!  So after all the intense investigations into the life of Fulton Sheen, much more than the Attorney General will do, the bishops out of an exercise of caution decide to postpone beatification.  That’s not prudence.  That’s cowardice.  We are to believe that these bishops fear that Sheen’s life will not hold up to scrutiny.  We are told we must capitulate to a secular power just in case there is “something” there, a something that has never been there before.  Is Sheen to be subjected to the calumny that other innocent priests, even after their death, have been subjected to by powers who seek to destroy reputation? Does this mean that the only episcopal defender of Sheen is Peoria Bishop Jenky, who by his own press release, clearly is not in favor of this delay?  Why has Cardinal Dolan not voiced strong support of Sheen? Rather than speak defensively from the shadows, couldn’t these “concerned” bishops speak strongly about Sheen’s obviously demonstrated virtue? Wouldn’t beatification be the appropriate answer of the Church to a false charge leveled by the state?  But, say the episcopal ditherers, what if there is some truth there?  What?  We, as a Church, don’t have the courage of our convictions in our own saint making process?  Sheen has never been accused of abuse so that won’t be a problem here.  The concern is that he may have handled some case, as yet unknown, poorly.  But that is not going to be a cause to delay beatification.  It did not hurt Pope St. John Paul the Great’s cause though he could have handled the Fr. Maciel case better.  Must we let the state dictate the beatification process of our own saints?  This excess of caution–worry about what a hostile state power might do–turns into cowardice when we, the Church, second guess ourselves and capitulate to a state entity which is rife with its own hypocrisy and anti-Catholic animus.  Also, we should not let these fears fan the flames of the jealousy by ecclesiastics against Sheen, a jealousy that so beset him in his life and continues down to this day.  Let him be beatified now.  The Shine on Sheen continues to light up our hearts showing his courage, his holiness, and his ability to comfort us at times when the world seems against us.  Again, let him be beatified now.

Update to the update: Late this evening, a Peoria paper is reporting that Sheen had been accused of reassigning a sexually abusive priest to a parish. That accusation had long ago been proven false, but the Rochester bishop cited it anyway as something the Attorney General might mention. The paper reports bad blood by some in that diocese over Sheen caused the slanderous accusation to be made again.  How sad and petty.


For thirty minutes this afternoon, I was stunned.  The Vatican had put a hold on Bishop Sheen’s beatification because of some un-named American bishops who had some concerns.  Then I got over my shock.  I come from a family of farmers and I know the smell of BS when I’m around a manure spreader.  These “concerns” from “un-named” bishops have the smell of cow flops in the pasture.  In the next few days all will become clear but a few things can be said now.

First, Bishop Sheen lived a very public life.  It was scrutinized for decades after his death by the Vatican as the cause for his canonization was pursued.  As with any public figure, some controversies had to be investigated.  They were and nothing, I repeat, nothing, has ever been raised to impugn the virtue of this man. Many are speculating which events could cause such a renewed investigation, but such speculation is ridiculous.  There will be nothing new revealed.

Second, why are the concerned bishops un-named? They have had years to bring those concerns forward at the appropriate times.  This is not an appropriate time.  Bringing up concerns now, when they knew full well about them earlier gives rise to calumny and slanders the integrity of Bishop Sheen.

Third, why are the concerns not revealed?  Gone are the days of secrecy.  You got something on this man–then reveal it like a man.  Don’t skulk in the corridors of righteousness and the shadows of episcopal rumor mongering.

Fourth, miracles are being reported even now since the beatification was announced.  By their fruits shall we know them says Jesus.  Bishop Sheen is an authentic saint.

Fifth, there’s a reason why Bishop Sheen will be only the second American bishop canonized.  This lot has not distinguished themselves with holiness. In fact, they hated him and were jealous of him when he was alive.  It seems that hasn’t changed since his death and this attempt to derail his canonization is pathetic and revolting.

That’s how it looks this evening.  Just another day not to be proud of the Catholic Church in America.

About Monsignor Eric R. Barr, STL
Monsignor Barr is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. In his 35 years of priesthood, he has been pastor, principal, teacher, university professor, Vicar for Clergy and Vicar General. He is a former associate editor of a newspaper and a novelist. He speaks on Celtic Theology and Current Catholic Issues. You can read more about the author here.

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