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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - The New York archdiocese has made clear it's not ready to comply with the recent court ruling on Abp. Fulton Sheen, raising fears it will continue the lengthy and costly court battle over the venerable archbishop's remains.
Superior Court Judge Arlene Bluth ruled Friday that Joan Sheen Cunningham, niece and closest living relative to Sheen, with legal rights over his body, could have her uncle's remains moved to Peoria, Illinois in order to advance his cause for canonization. On Monday, the trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral (where Sheen's body rests) issued a statement expressing the possibility of appealing the decision: "We will review this decision carefully with our attorneys and determine what next steps might be taken."
The trustees went on to claim that Sheen's cause "can progress without any transfer of the remains" — a point rejected by the Peoria diocese, which issued a response clarifying the statement's "inaccuracies":
The Archdiocese of New York's press release also state that the Cause can progress without the transfer of the remains. This is simply not true. In 2017, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome established new rules, which unequivocally provide direction for this Cause. First, the new rules clearly stated that the wishes of the family, regarding the earthly remains of a potential saint, must be respected. ... Second, the new rules indicate that a Cause can advance only when all civil litigation is resolved. In this case, New York's pursuit of civil litigation blocks the advancement of the Cause.
Monsignor James Kruse, Vicar General of the Peoria diocese, spoke with Church Militant.
"The Vatican's 2017 rules make clear the wishes of the family — in this case, Joan Sheen Cunningham — must be respected and litigation must be resolved before Abp. Sheen's cause can advance," he said. "The statement from New York claiming that the beatification of Abp. Fulton Sheen can advance without transfer of the body is simply untrue."
The press release from Peoria noted it is "unprecedented" for remains not to be located in the same place as where the cause is advanced and where the beatification will take place — Peoria.
"If they determine to continue with legal actions," the press release noted, "it will be the third time that this has been brought to court, despite the court ruling twice in Joan Sheen Cunningham's favor."
New York "has done almost nothing in the last fifteen years to assist in the Cause's lengthy, complicated and laborious process," the Peoria diocese clarified. "Instead, the Archdiocese of New York has only provided expensive legal resistance during the last two years by refusing to respect the legally supported petition of Joan Sheen Cunningham."
Journalist Phil Luciano published a column asking how long New York will continue to hold up the canonization.
This is no longer a court battle about propriety, but pride. Stunned by repeated legal victories by the Peoria Diocese, the New York Archdiocese refuses to budge. It’s acting like a petulant, whiny teen who refuses to listen to his parents, even when flat-out wrong. It’s like big, bad New York can’t believe it’s been outwitted by lil’ ol’ Peoria.
Kruse told Church Militant the Peoria diocese is "requesting prayers for a renewed spirit of cooperation from the archdiocese of New York for Abp. Sheen's cause to be brought to completion."
The Peoria diocese has already been in contact with the Vatican, which has been assisting with the cause and has assured the diocese, based on this latest court ruling, that Pope Francis could be announcing Sheen's beatification "in the very near future."