Peoria Monsignor Suggests Rochester Diocese "Sabotaging" Sheen's Beatification

Dec 9, 2019

The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria suggests the Diocese of Rochester, New York may be trying to "sabotage" Peoria's efforts to beatify Archbishop Fulton Sheen. 

Sheen's Dec. 21 beatification ceremony in Peoria was postponed indefinitely at the request of the Rochester diocese - which expressed worry Sheen may come up in a New York Attorney General's Office abuse report. 

Sheen was the Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969. Kruse references two Rochester sexual abuse cases cited in the request for the pause: former Rochester priest Gerard Guli; and John Gormley.

In a lengthy op-ed, Monsignor James Kruse of Peoria said Sheen was cleared of trying to cover up  Guli's conduct, and removed Gormley from ministry after learning of those accusations. Sheen was never accused of abuse himself. He lays out a timeline of his interactions with the Rochester diocese. 

Kruse blasts a Rochester diocese statement that Sheen may have links to "two or more cases," saying there's no documentation to back up the existence of other cases beyond . He claims any other cases were unknown to Peoria or the Vatican, as the Rochester diocese said it had sent everything it had to Sheen to them. 

The beatification was announced after a years-long tug-of-war court battle between Sheen's closest living relative, niece Joan Sheen Cunningham, and the Archdiocese of New York over the Central Illinois' native's final resting place. New York's highest court ruled in Cunningham's favor earlier this year. 

Sheen was born in El Paso, Ill. and ordained a priest in Peoria in 1919. 

Kruse claims this current delay is only Rochester's latest step in a pattern to block Sheen's beatification that started last spring as the court battle was still working its way through the New York court system.

"[T]he Sheen Cause takes a step forward and then Rochester Diocese moves to block the Beatification," Kruse wrote. "When examining the pattern it is hard not to believe that the Diocese of Rochester acts more to sabotage the Cause and less to protect the good of the Church." 

He claims Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano has repeatedly called for delays in the process amid concerns revelations about Sheen may cause "embarassment" for the church. 

Kruse said Bishop Daniel Jenky and the Congregation of Saints and the Secretary of State in Rome have both reviewed documents associated with Sheen's time in Rochester and concluded he did nothing wrong. 

Matano again asked for a delay on Dec. 2. The Vatican granted the stay. 

Kruse said the Diocese of Peoria has collaborated with the wider church on the beatification process Matano originally requested they follow, but said Matano has gone back on his previous word and is "subjugating" a church decision to civil authorities, namely the New York Attorney General's Office. 

Bishop Jenky asked Monday for Catholics to join in a nine-day novena to "petition God unceasingly" to allow the beatification to move forward. 

Neither the Diocese of Rochester nor the New York Attorney General's Office have replied to WCBU's request for comment.