The Vatican has postponed the beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “at the request of a few members” of the US bishops’ conference.
Sheen was due to be beatified on December 21, but concerns were raised by the Diocese of Rochester, where Sheen was bishop from 1966 to 1969.
The diocese said that there should be “a further review of his role in priests’ assignments”, although the statement also said it was “not casting suspicion”.
What Vatican sources are saying
Catholic News Agency (CNA) noted that New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, has launched an inquiry into the Church’s handling of sexual abuse, and Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester was concerned that James might make allegations about Sheen’s handling of abusive priests.
According to the CNA story, “A source close to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State told CNA that Matano contacted the apostolic nuncio after the beatification date was set, to express concerns that Sheen could be named in a report by the attorney general, or accused of insufficiently handling allegations of abuse during his tenure as Rochester’s bishop.”
Some have claimed that Sheen reassigned a priest, Gerard Guli, despite an abuse allegation against Guli.
What commentators are saying
Mgr James Kruse, who has worked for years on Sheen’s Cause, told CNA: “We have studied extensively Sheen’s administrative decisions regarding Guli, and he never put children in harm’s way.” It was not Sheen but his successor who reassigned Guli, Kruse said.
Fr Matthew Schneider tweeted: “The thing that bothers me about the delay in the Sheen canonisation is not that they want to do further prudential investigation, but that they couldn’t have done this before announcing the beatification. We should make sure we cover all angles before announcing a beatification.”
Fr Dwight Longenecker remarked that the decision “will fuel conservative American Catholics’ unrest with the bishops and Vatican machine, and those of a paranoid, conspiratorial mindset have had more gas thrown on their fire”.
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