I see the Sheen Beatification Adventure has taken a new twist or two. Nosy people have outed the Diocese of Rochester and its bishop as the source of concern heard and noted at Rome for the sainthood cause of their late-sixties ordinary. This has now been confirmed at the source.

Not quite the suspected Francis-Bishop(s), though social media voices think Archbishop Dolan (close friend of Bishop Matano) is still a prime suspect of string-pulling, given the tug-of-war with Peoria over the deceased’s remains. It seems to me that a cardinal could have spoken up just as easily from St Patrick’s rather than use an upstate proxy. It strikes me that heads are a-spinning because the culturewar narrative is broke: Left bishops should be targeting Right bishops. It’s supposed to work from across the ideological aisle. Not from a sense of prudence. Not from an “ally.”

Even as an advocate of more lay saints, and perhaps a century or two of moratorium on clergy and religious founders, I confess a bit of dismay about Bishop Sheen’s cause getting sidelined. My work-study job in grad school was in his archives. I read and organized media reports dating from 1934 until the year of his death. I felt I got to know him somewhat well, though I wasn’t Catholic during his time in Rochester. All the info I processed and organized struck me as a good starting point for a serious biography of the man. One of my professors confirmed that, reflecting that in another decade or two, many living people who knew him would be dead. If anyone was going to write the non-hagiographical bio, it would have to be in the 80s and 90s.

If anything, this shows how tied up people can be with their saints, canonized and otherwise. It’s hard to separate out the celebrity. On many college campuses, Cardinal Newman was something of a celebrity. For many Catholics, there’s at least one favorite saint–someone to admire, to feel an affinity for, a person with a similar story to ours.

I might ask: why would a lay person attach so much importance to a priest (which they could never be) who was a televangelist (which they will need millions of YouTube views and still not match). Do Catholics think of Fulton Sheen as more celebrity? Certainly there was some of that in our admiration for Pope John Paul II. But as a living pope, he also did things that impacted lives. Bishop Sheen, perhaps less so these days.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out when the Father Guli situation is clarified in the weeks ahead.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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