Earlier this week, relatives of Bp. Fulton Sheen asked for his remains to be moved from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to Peoria, Illinois, the diocese in which he was ordained. The Archdiocese of New York, according to reports, is expected to comply with the request. This matters because once Sheen’s body arrives in Illinois, his cause for canonization is expected to proceed.
To be honest, Bishop Sheen has always struck me as a puzzling figure. I know some Catholics who attribute their entire conversion to his words. Good for them. But for me, he played next to no role in my return from the road to perdition.
Admittedly, I have read, and do own, several of his books. I have watched his videos on YouTube. Beyond a doubt, he was a gifted, and holy, priest. But what happened to him after Vatican II? In the 1930s and 40s, he was a lion of doctrine. In the 50s, he had a hit television program. But in the late 60s and 1970s? Most Catholics probably couldn’t tell you. My guess is that like many other princes of the Church, he was punched in the nose by the progressive movement at the Council and afterwards wasn’t sure if he should stick to what he always taught or simply go with the flow.
Sadly, his legacy has been appropriated by the noxious expositors of the “New Evangelization.” I’ve always wondered to myself if any of his apologists (many of whom are men under the age of 35) have ever read his writings. Indeed, much of what Bp. Sheen wrote – at least before 1962 – is anti-modernist, anti-ecumenical and, at the end of the day, contrary to what was promulgated at the Second Vatican Council. Read for yourself:
If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you want to find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. – Radio Replies, Volume 1, 1938, p.ix
Modern religion has enunciated one great and fundamental dogma that is at the basis of all other dogmas, and that is, that religion must be freed from dogmas. Creeds and confessions of faith are no longer the fashion; religious leaders have agreed not to disagree over those beliefs for which some of our ancestors would have died. They have melted into a spineless Humanism. Like other Pilates they have turned their backs on the uniqueness of truth and have opened their arms wide to all the moods and fancies the hour might dictate. The passing of creeds and dogmas means the passing of controversies. – Radio Replies, Volume 3, 1942, p.viii
That Church or that Mystical Person which has been living all these centuries is the basis of our faith and to us Catholics it speaks this way: “It is true I have not changed my doctrine, but this is because the doctrine is not mine but His who sent me. I know I shall live to chant a requiem over the modern ideas of this day, as I chanted it over the modern ideas of the last century.” – Radio Replies, Volume 1, 1938, p.x
These comments would likely qualify Sheen as a “neo-Pelagian” rad trad were he around today.
I’ll leave you with this video from one of his 1955 programs titled “How to Think.” The most memorable line is this: “It’s always a good thing to remember that if you marry the mood or the spirit of an age you will be a widow in the next one.” If only the Council Fathers, and Sheen himself, had taken his advice.