Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Bishop Sheen – Part 2

October 20th, 2009, Promulgated by Choir


Francis Cardinal Spellman was a long-time personal friend of Pope Pius XII and the head of the richest diocese in the world. He was a man accustomed to getting his way. Those who crossed him often paid the price. Father Edwin Broderick served as secretary to Spellman for a decade, claims the major difference between Spellman and Sheen was the cardinal could be talked out of a rash and erroneous decision, but when Sheen made up his mind, that was the end of it. Broderick recalled, both men had extremely strong egos and iron wills; they were “very human.” Sheen had a considerable amount of authority of his own, he refused any longer to be bullied and ordered about by a man he considered his intellectual inferior.

There were two major incidents that provided a flash-point the in the relationship. In 1955, the US government gave, free of charge, surplus food to the Catholic Relief Services, for people in war-torn European countries. The 256,540,754 pounds of foods, valued at more than $68 million, were dispersed. Spellman thought this was a good tool for proselytizing, and feared that Protestant missionaries might get a share of the goods if they did not accelerate the distribution.

Spellman wants Sheen to provide additional funds for this from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Sheen rejected this idea for unknown reasons. Spellman met with Sheen and, again, Sheen refused, saying he (Sheen) will do what his superiors in Rome tell him to do. Spellman wrote to a Society official in Rome criticizing Sheen for his obduracy. The Society sided with Sheen. Spellman was furious. A few months later Spellman goes to see the ailing Pope Pius XII to persuade the Pope to replace Sheen as head of the Society and name himself as successor. Pius XII refused.


In 1957, the two clashed again.

For years, the federal government had been giving the Church surplus goods, largely powdered milk. Spellman turned these good over to the Society (Sheen’s group) to distribute to the world’s poor. Spellman demanded payment; Sheen refused, pointing out they had been donated free of charge.

Spellman was again furious. Sheen appealed to Rome, but couldn’t reach the ailing Pope. Spellman offered his antagonist a wealthy New York parish in exchange for his resignation from the Society, but Sheen declined. The cardinal launched three investigations into Sheen’s life, but nothing incriminating came out. Eventually both men appeared before Pius XII, each presenting his case. Fulton’s claim was documented; Spellman had not been charged for the surplus food. That meant that Spellman had lied to Pius XII and to Sheen. The Pope sided with Fulton, who remained in charge of the local Society funds.

One can imagine the cardinal’s rage. He reportedly said to Sheen, “I will get even with you. It may take six months or ten years, but everyone will know what you’re like.”


In October 1957, Sheen “retired” from television. Inside rumors was that Cardinal Spellman had him taken off the air. Sheen had now lost his major platform for raising funds and enjoying his celebrity status. He lived daily with Spellman’s wrath hovering over him. The speaking invitations declined and the fund-raising efforts became more difficult. Personal opportunities for advancement in the Church were minimal at best. Spellman’s staff members privately referred to him as “Full-Tone Jay” Sheen.

Sheen was by no means entirely out of the spotlight during his years of disfavor with Spellman. Sheen still had his newspaper column and Society literature. His Life of Christ is largely a commentary on the scriptural accounts on the life and times of Jesus Christ.

(to be continued)

Tags: ,


2 Responses to “Bishop Sheen – Part 2”

  1. Dr. K says:

    Excellent work! I'll be waiting for part 3.

    ~Dr. K

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bishop Sheen is constantly mentioned on EWTN and that is broadcasted into 100 million households around the world.

    If Bishop Clark had listened to his own parishioners, Sacred Heart Cathedral could have become a tourist attraction for thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics, who admired Bishop Sheen.

    Bishop Clark chose to strip out the cathedral and now Sacred Heart Cathedral has become a dying inner city parish.

    Note to Bishop Clark: Bishop Fulton Sheen was a saint when he was the Bishop of Rochester.

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-