September 2018 Print

News from Tradition

Archbishop Sheen and New York vs. Peoria: The Saga Continues

For over four years, the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria (Illinois) have been engaged in a civil court battle over the mortal remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Sheen, who died in 1979, was buried in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, (ostensibly at his own request) since he had spent most of his time as a bishop living, working and preaching in the Archdiocese, although he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria.

In 2002, the Diocese of Peoria officially opened the cause for his canonization. At that time, Edward Cardinal Egan, then the Archbishop of New York, agreed to allow Archbishop Sheen’s remains to be moved to Peoria when the time came during the canonization process. Between 2012 and 2014, Sheen’s cause had moved forward with the Congregation of Saints having declared that Sheen exhibited “heroic virtue” and recognizing a miraculous cure through Sheen’s intercession. The next stage in the process would be the examination of the mortal remains and the taking of first class relics from the body—this is necessary before the Beatification of Archbishop Sheen could take place.

It was at this point, in 2014, that Timothy Cardinal Dolan refused to allow Sheen’s body to be moved from St. Patrick’s to Peoria for the official identification and the taking of relics. Dolan also stated that the Archdiocese of New York had no desire to pursue the canonization of Archbishop Sheen. Because of this deadlock, Sheen’s cause for canonization has been suspended until the Diocese of Peoria could obtain his mortal remains. In 2016, the family of Archbishop Sheen officially petitioned, in the New York State court to have Archbishop Sheen’s body removed from the crypt of St. Patrick’s and brought to Peoria. Over the ensuing two years, courts have ruled in favor of New York rather than Peoria in an agonizing game of judicial ping pong. All the while, the Archdiocese of New York has maintained that its only reason for fighting the transfer is that Archbishop Sheen’s request was to be buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In the beginning of June of 2018, an Appellate Court in New York handed down what was hoped to be the final judgment in the case. The presiding judge ruled that although Sheen had requested to be buried in New York, the cause for his canonization overruled his final request (which, as the Diocese of Peoria argued in court, was somewhat vague in the first place). On June 15, 2018 the Archdiocese of New York announced that it would move to appeal this decision.

Of course, one is left wondering what would be the motivation of Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York to continue to delay the continuation of Archbishop Sheen’s cause for canonization (especially considering the cost of continuing litigation when the Archdiocese is struggling to keep parishes and schools open).

German Bishops and Protestant Communion

At the conclusion of their annual meeting earlier in 2018, of the German Bishops’ Conference issued “pastoral guidelines” for allowing the Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion when attending Mass. Although this had been going on unofficially for years, this marked the first time the practice had received official acceptance. Only a few bishops objected to the issuance of the guidelines and, in a meeting with all the German bishops gathered in Rome, Pope Francis told them to find “unanimity” concerning the guidelines instead of clearly articulating true Catholic practice.

After considerable outcry, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public a letter to the German Bishops’ Conference forbidding the implementation of the guidelines. The Prefect, Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria wrote to Cardinal Marx (president of the German Episcopal Conference):

“At the end of our fraternal conversation on May 3, 2018 on the document “Mit Christus gehen…” [“Walking with Christ. On the path of unity. Interconfessional marriages and joint participation in the Eucharist. A pastoral guide from the German episcopal conference.”] we determined together that I would inform the Holy Father about the meeting.

Already in our audience of May 11, 2018 I spoke with Pope Francis about our meeting and gave him a summary of the conversation. On May 24, 2018, I again discussed the question with the Holy Father. Following these meetings I would like to bring to your attention the following points, with the explicit approval of the pope.


1. The multiple ecumenical efforts of the German episcopal conference, in a particular way the intense collaboration with the council of the Evangelical Church of Germany, deserve recognition and appreciation. The joint commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 has shown that in recent years and decades a foundation has been found that allows bearing witness together to Jesus Christ, the Savior of all men, and working together in an effective and decisive way in many areas of public life. This encourages us to move forward with trust on the road of an ever deeper unity.

2. Our conversation of May 3, 2018 showed that the text of the guide raises a series of problems of noteworthy significance. The Holy Father has therefore reached the conclusion that the document is not ready for publication. The essential reasons for this decision can be summarized as follows:

a. The question of admission to communion for evangelical Christians in interconfessional marriages is an issue that touches on the Faith of the Church and has significance for the universal Church.

b. This question has effects on ecumenical relations with other Churches and other ecclesial communities that are not to be underestimated.

c. The issue concerns the law of the Church, above all the interpretation of Canon 844 CIC. Since in a few sectors of the Church there are open questions in this regard, the dicasteries of the Holy See concerned have already been instructed to produce a timely clarification of these questions at the level of the universal Church. In particular, it appears opportune to leave to the diocesan bishop the judgment on the existence of “grave and urgent necessity.”

3. For the Holy Father it is of great concern that in the German episcopal conference the spirit of episcopal collegiality should remain alive. As Vatican Council II has emphasized, “the Episcopal bodies of today are in a position to render a manifold and fruitful assistance, so that this collegiate feeling may be put into practical application.” (Dogmatic Constitution “Lumen Gentium” no. 23).”


Although this document prohibited the implementation of the guidelines, it is clear that it did not put an end to the possibility of the practice. Additionally, it praises two of the most detrimental innovations of Vatican II: ecumenism and collegiality. Some have pointed out that Pope Francis realized that the time was not ripe to foist intercommunion with Protestants upon the Church but that he is in favor of such. Given Pope Francis’ admitted distaste for doctrine and traditional Church discipline, there can be little doubt that this latest work of sacrilege put forward by the German bishops will be spread to the universal Church when the “time is ripe.”

Cardinal McCarrick Removed from Ministry

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., has been forbidden by Pope Francis from exercising public ministry after allegations that he had abused a male minor while a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. McCarrick became an Auxiliary Bishop of New York in 1977, the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. in 1981, Archbishop of Newark, N.J. in 1986, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. in 2000 and was made of member of the College of Cardinals in 2001.

Because the abuse occurred in the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was asked by the Vatican to investigate the allegation. On June 19, Cardinal Dolan issued the following statement:

“The Archdiocese of New York, along with every other diocese in the country, has long encouraged those who, as minors, suffered sexual abuse by a priest, to come forward with such reports.

As he himself announced earlier this morning, a report has come to the archdiocese alleging abuse from over 45 years ago by the now retired Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who, at the time of the reported offense was a priest here in the Archdiocese of New York. This was the first such report of a violation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ever made against him of which the Archdiocese was aware.

Carefully following the process detailed by the Charter of the American bishops, this allegation was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency. Cardinal McCarrick was advised of the charge, and, while maintaining his innocence, fully cooperated in the investigation. The Holy See was alerted as well, and encouraged us to continue the process.

Again according to our public protocol, the results of the investigation were then given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister.

The review board found the allegations credible and substantiated.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry.

Cardinal McCarrick, while maintaining his innocence, has accepted the decision.

This Archdiocese, while saddened and shocked, asks prayers for all involved, and renews its apology to all victims abused by priests. We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness.”

Cardinal McCarrick’s statement was released at the same time as Dolan made the announcement in New York. He stated:

“Some months ago, I was advised by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, that an allegation of sexual abuse of a teenager from almost 50 years ago had been made against me. At that time I was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence, I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process.

My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated.

In obedience I accept the decision of The Holy See, that I no longer exercise any public ministry.

I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my 60 years as a priest.

While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

The same morning, the Bishop James Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. issued a statement saying, in part, that: “This very disturbing report has prompted me to direct that the records of our Diocese be re-examined, and I can report to you that there has never been any report or allegation that Cardinal McCarrick ever abused any minor during his time here in Metuchen. In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Diocese and the Archdiocese of Newark received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements.”

Following suit, Cardinal Tobin, the current Archbishop of Newark, N.J. stated: “The Archdiocese of Newark has never received an accusation that Cardinal McCarrick abused a minor. In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements.”

The entire situation is, of course, very disturbing. What is even worse, is that even though it was known both in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark that Cardinal McCarrick had been involved in sexual behavior with adult males, he was still promoted to the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and made a Cardinal under the watch of Pope John Paul II.

Given that the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors in New York has long ago run out, it is clear that Cardinal McCarrick will never face criminal prosecution. What his fate will be under Canon Law is still uncertain, but with Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge” attitude toward homosexual activity even amongst the clergy, it would seem unlikely that there will be any ecclesiastical penalties forthcoming.

Vatican Diplomat Convicted

On Saturday, June 23, a Vatican Tribunal convicted Monsignor Carlo Capella of the possession of child pornography and sentenced him to five years in prison and a fine of 5,000 Euros. This was the first such civil trial of its kind in Vatican City.

Capella was the number four official in the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. and was recalled to the Vatican in August of 2017 after the United States State Department informed the Vatican of possible violations of child pornography laws by one of its diplomates. Soon after his recall, Canadian officials issued an arrest warrant for Capella stating that he had accessed child pornography while staying in a parish in Windsor, Ontario. At the time, many criticized the Vatican for recalling Capella as opposed to handing him over to civil authorities for prosecution.

Since his recall to the Vatican, Capella has been held in the Vatican barracks where he will serve out his five year sentence. He will still face a trial under Canon Law which could result in his being laicized. It is unlikely Canadian officials will seek his extradition to Canada to face trial there since the Vatican does not extradite its citizens.