Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
On March 5, the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen took a step forward when a New York court ruled 5-0 in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition to move Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s body from New York City to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois, the site of Sheen’s ordination to the priesthood in 1919.
The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court called arguments from the archdiocese “unavailing,” and ruled that Joan Sheen Cunningham has “good and substantial reasons” to transfer the remains of Archbishop Sheen to Peoria.
The announcement came from Peoria’s Bishop Daniel Jenky, the promoter of the Cause for Canonization of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The latest decision is the third ruling in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham. The New York court system first ruled in support of her in June 2016. The Archdiocese of New York has appealed the two previous decisions in Peoria’s favor.
“The Diocese of Peoria and especially Bishop Jenky has been overjoyed with this latest decision,” Msgr. James Kruse, Peoria’s vicar general, told the Register. “Three rulings in Joan Cunningham’s favor shows her petition to have valid legal footing, especially with the recent 5-0 unanimous ruling in the Appellate Court.”
Msgr. Kruse added, “We hope the Archdiocese of New York will end this legal battle and cooperate in fulfilling Joan Cunningham’s petition to move the earthly remains of Archbishop Sheen.”
According to Peoria’s initial press release, the archdiocese’s primary witness, Msgr. Hillary Franco, supports Joan Cunningham’s position: “Archbishop Sheen lived with an even higher intent and purpose in mind, namely to attain Heaven and, if at all possible, sainthood.”
In the release, the Peoria Diocese called upon the New York Archdiocese to end their legal contestation, stating, “Further appeal is not only unprecedented but extremely costly to all the parties involved. Further litigation will only delay the execution of the Court’s decision. Now is the time to end the legal tug-of-war and begin the final stages of the cause of beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. It is our hope that the Archdiocese of New York will acknowledge that it is time to move on and begin to assist in advancing the Cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. We look forward to working with the Archdiocese of New York to carry out the Court’s decision allowing Joan Sheen Cunningham to transfer the earthly remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.”
The Peoria diocese said it looks forward to “celebrating with people from all across our country and the entire world in celebrating the Beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, including our many friends from the Archdiocese of New York.”
When contacted about the latest court decision, Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, told the Register, “The Trustees of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral disagree with the Court’s ruling and will have their attorneys carefully review it while deciding next steps.”