An Update on the Status of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s Beatification Cause
A recent interview on EWTN TV sheds light on where the cause remains today.
“Sheen is clean.”
That’s the message from Monsignor Jason Gray, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, regarding the status of the cause for beatification of “America’s bishop,” the late televangelist Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
“I think it’s safe to say that I don’t think any cause for beatification has been subjected to more scrutiny than Archbishop Sheen, both ecclesiastically and civilly,” Msgr. Gray said in an Aug. 24 interview on The World Over with Raymond Arroyo.
“In all of this not only has nothing been found to impune Sheen,” he continued, “but I think his heroic virtues have been confirmed — as I would like to say, Sheen is clean — and we can prove that.”
After three years of legal battles, in 2019 the Archdiocese of New York, where Archbishop Sheen was buried after his death in 1979, released Archbishop Sheen’s body to the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where Sheen was ordained and first served as a priest.
The action allowed Archbishop Sheen’s cause to continue to move forward, and a date for beatification was set for Sept. 20, 2019 — the 100th anniversary of Sheen’s ordination to the priesthood.
However, Msgr. Gray explained, at that time a waiver to the New York state’s statute of limitations on reporting of abuse cases was issued, allowing cases to go forward regardless of when alleged abuses occurred. Archbishop Sheen, titular archbishop of Newport, Wales, was bishop of Rochester, New York, from 1966-1969.
“It really was not known at the time whether there would be new allegations of which we really knew nothing,” Msgr. Gray told Arroyo, “so there was a concern that something might come forward, and so out of an abundance of caution the Holy See was hesitant [to move forward with Sheen’s cause].”
Msgr. Gray said his team also received some documents that raised a question as to whether or not Sheen handled abuse cases improperly in the Diocese of Rochester. But after careful research and a presentation to the then-Congregation for the Causes of Saints, it was deemed Archbishop Sheen handled them correctly. A date for beatification was then set for Dec. 22, 2019.
But then the New York attorney general’s office was investigating all the state’s dioceses, so, Msgr. Gray said, “it was just considered more prudent to suspend the cause at the time.”
So Archbishop Sheen’s cause was suspended indefinitely. But now that bankruptcy proceedings in Rochester are wrapping up, Arroyo asked: “What is the status now?”
“We actually employed a law firm in New York that works with the different dioceses in the state,” Msgr. Gray said, “and we actually did a thorough review of every case that had been presented, and we were able to demonstrate that no case had been brought forward that in any way impunes Sheen.”
Msgr. Gray added that in September 2022, a group from Peoria again went to the Vatican to meet with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to present their research.
“Rome was actually very clear that there’s no problem in the Holy See with this cause,” Gray said. “The concerns have been raised on the other side of the pond — it’s members of the U.S. hierarchy.”
In the meantime, the New York attorney general’s report has yet to be released.
“Until we feel like there’s no doubts remaining — if it takes the attorney general’s report to demonstrate what we already know, what we’ve already proven — we want to go forward with the unanimous support of the entire bishops’ conference,” Msgr. Gray said. “I’m sure that we’ll get there.”
For more information on Sheen’s cause, visit CelebrateSheen.com.
Watch the full World Over interview with Msgr. Gray below: