New York Court Sides with Peoria in Tug-of-War Over Fulton Sheen’s Body

Tags: Currents New York, New York City

By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent

Bridget Sheen visits the tomb of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, her great-great uncle, in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Dec. 9, 2009, the 30th anniversary of the prelate’s death. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

NEW YORK – An appeals court in New York ruled unanimously against the trustees of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday preventing their efforts to keep the body of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in New York and allowing for his transfer to Peoria, Illinois.

Diocesan officials announced in June their decision to appeal a previous ruling by the Superior Court of New York in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, who had petitioned to move the body of her uncle, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria as a necessary part of his cause for canonization.

Since his death in 1979, Archbishop Sheen has been interred at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where, as one of the most popular evangelists of the 20thcentury, he once served as auxiliary bishop before being named as bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired from that post in 1969 and lived in Manhattan until his death.

In a statement on Tuesday, Bishop Daniel Jenky announced the 5-0 ruling on the case with “great joy.”

“Today’s decision is the third time that the New York court system ruled in support of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition,” he wrote. “After each previous decision the Archdiocese of New York has appealed the decisions. The Diocese of Peoria hopes that the Archdiocese of New York will end the legal disputes and acknowledge that the Court has ruled.”

“The Diocese of Peoria calls upon the New York Archdiocese to end their failed legal contestation, which has only resulted in three rulings against them,” he continued. “Further appeal is not only unprecedented but extremely costly to all the parties involved.”

According to the Peoria Journal Star, the trustees of the cathedral disagree with the ruling and are considering the next steps.

The tug-of-war over Archbishop Sheen’s body dates back to 2002 when the diocese of Peoria announced it would pursue his cause for canonization after the archdiocese of New York declined to do so. The cause was suspended in 2014 when Bishop Jenky announced that the Holy See required the body of Archbishop Sheen to be in Peoria to move the cause forward.

The archdiocese of New York has disputed that claim, maintaining that Vatican officials have indicated that the cause could move forward, irrespective of where his remains reside.