“Fulton the Great,” 30 Years On

Next Wednesday sees the 30th anniversary of the death of the prelate who, quite possibly, became American Catholicism’s most consequential product of all: Fulton Sheen, the Illinois farmboy who famously trumped “Mr Television” in the ratings and, in the process, delivered the death blow to the long history of societal suspicion directed at the church’s own on these shores.

With the evidence of his heroic virtue — the first step toward a possible beatification — soon to face investigation in Rome, the archbishop’s New York-based cause has sparked a worldwide roster of Masses to crop up to commemorate the anniversary, the largest of which will be held in St Patrick’s Cathedral at 5.30 Wednesday night, to be celebrated and preached by a well-known devotee of Sheen’s ministry in media: the Big Apple’s Archbishop Tim Dolan.

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