New York Court Again Rules to Move Remains of Fulton Sheen to Peoria

In the latest battle over his remains a New York judge recently ruled that the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen be sent to Peoria.  The decision is the latest in a lengthy tug-of-war between the New York Archdiocese and the Peoria Diocese over the final resting place for Sheen, who was born in El Paso and ordained in Peoria, and who is buried in a vault at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

The Diocese of Peoria has reacted with “great joy” to a decision by a New York court in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham’s petition to have the remains of her uncle, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, moved from New York City to Peoria.

“It is the hope that this process will begin immediately,” said a diocesan news release, issued June 8 following the ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth that again clears the way for the remains of the famed orator and media pioneer to be removed from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and transferred to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, the archbishop’s home diocese.

Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky said he hoped the Archdiocese of New York — which appealed Bluth’s original ruling in favor of Cunningham in late 2016 — will now “cease its legal resistance.” He asked all to pray “for a renewed spirit of cooperation” to move Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause forward.

In 2016, the same judge, Arlene Bluth, ruled that the remains immediately could be moved to Peoria. However, repeated appeals by the New York Archdiocese led to a February appellate ruling that the judge had failed to give adequate consideration to a sworn statement by a Sheen clergy-friend who claimed Sheen has expressed a desire to be buried in New York.  But last week, Bluth ruled that the friend has never stated that Sheen would oppose a Peoria interment. Further, the judge suggested Sheen would not object to such a relocation as a step toward his canonization. The Peoria Diocese has argued that the Vatican would be more amenable to elevating Sheen to sainthood, if Archdiocese and Diocese were to stop feuding — which presumably would occur upon a final interment designation.

“It’s exciting,” said Monsignor Stanley Deptula of the Peoria Diocese. “It’s good news for us. There could be an appeal (by the Archdiocese), but at least it gets the ball rolling to Peoria again.”  In a news release announcing the decision, the Peoria Diocese pleaded for cooperation from church officials in New York and indicated further steps to secure Sheen’s sainthood would quickly commence once the remains reach the church where the sainthood effort originated.

“It is the hope that this process will begin immediately,” the release read. “This will be the next step towards bringing Venerable Archbishop Sheen’s beatification to completion including a beatification ceremony in Peoria, Illinois.”   The Peoria Diocese, which would inter Sheen’s remains in an awaiting crypt at St. Mary’s Cathedral, has offered to leave the Archdiocese with some of Sheen’s remains — relics, in the parlance and practice of the Roman Catholic Church — but the Archdiocese has expressed no mood for compromise.