Currently the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, best known for his T.V. and radio preaching, is caught up in an impasse regarding the next steps in his cause for canonization.

archbishop fulton sheen

Photo of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, New York. He had a radio and television program called Life Is Worth Living which aired from 1951 to 1957.

In the meantime, we thought we’d give you some fun tidbits we found in his FBI file.

But wait! Don’t freak out – pretty much everyone during the Communist scare in the 1950’s had a file, especially people of prominence of any kind. The government was worried about Communist spies, and Fulton Sheen spoke a lot about the topic (how he was against it).

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His file is full of articles he wrote for newspapers, a profile sketch, and correspondences with the FBI director at the time among a few other documents. We’ve compiled some of the most interesting facts we found:

1. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who was outspoken about the evils of his time including Nazism and Communism, gave an address in 1943 which “strongly indicted the present German Government in such a way as to make many Nazi sympathizers in this country boil with rage.” The FBI got in touch with him afterwards, because they thought they might identify Nazi supporters by who reacted most negatively to his talk.

2. Monsignor Sheen gave a talk at a Communion breakfast, and for whatever reason, the FBI found it notable how impressed he was with the looks of his audience.

“Msgn. Sheen stated that he has addressed thousands of Communion Breakfasts and that this was the finest looking group that he had ever spoken to at an affair of this nature. He also made this same remark to me personally, and it was apparent that he was deeply impressed with the clean-cut look and wholesome appearance of those in attendance.” – letter to the director of the FBI

A clean cut man of the '50s. Fulton Sheen would approve.

A clean cut man of the ’50s. Fulton Sheen would approve.

3. The Archbishop donated a lot to charity, though he never liked to disclose how much or to where he was giving. Any money he made from lectures or writing was given away. “He keeps nothing for himself,” reads his FBI personality profile.

4. “The bishop has little or no social life.”

All by myself...

All by myself…

5. Apparently Archbishop Fulton Sheen never prepared for a talk or used notes while delivering one. When asked about his strange methods, he said after a speech by another bishop he overheard an old lady saying: ““Glory be to God! If he can’t remember it how does he expect us to?”

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When an old lady gives advice, you listen.

When an old lady gives advice, you listen.

6. Fulton Sheen’s greatest devotion was to Mary, and he is credited with the conversion of many famous people, including Claire Boothe Luce (Ambassador to Italy),  Henry Ford II,  Louis Budenz (former Editor-in-Chief of the Communist “Daily Worker”) and Elizabeth Bentley (former Communist and Soviet courier).

He stayed humble, though. He was known for saying that he didn’t create converts but merely “tilled the soil”. He also kept no record of the people he baptized for fear that “he might lose his influence over souls”.

7. His favorite foods were angel food cake and chocolate ice cream. He apparently also liked to “roam about the kitchens” in the homes of his friends while he was visiting.

Yummy. (Credit: Thom Watson via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Yummy. (Credit: Thom Watson via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

8. He liked to play tennis and to dress the part, complete with white scarf and white trousers. He “was a fashion plate on the court even though his game was not always up to par.”

9. The Archbishop also really liked royal blue pajamas, as told by this little story the FBI felt was necessary to include:

“Bishop Sheen attended a dinner for a group of men one evening and during the evening he asked if he had received all that he wished for Christmas. The Bishop said no, and when one of the men asked him what it was the he wanted, he said, some royal blue colored silk pajamas. The next day, he received 20 pairs of royal blue silk pajamas. Each man attending the dinner had gone home that evening and told his wife about the Bishop’s statement, and asked her to have royal blue silk pajamas sent to him, each man thinking he would be the only one sending them.”

10. He also liked to be stylin’ while drivin’, and may or may not have used the power of the collar to wiggle his way out of a speeding ticket from time to time:

“For years, he drove a light cream-colored convertible and he usually wore a camel hair coat, white scarf, and dark glasses while driving, to avoid being recognized. Occasionally, he drove at a rate of speed higher than the speed limit, and it was necessary for him to use the full power of his oratory to talk his way out of a ticket when an enterprising motorcycle cop was about to give one to him.”

**not an actual picture of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

**not an actual picture of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

 

11. A day in the life of Fulton Sheen included: Rising at 6 a.m., saying Mass and praying a Holy Hour before getting to his desk around 9 a.m., where he writes lectures, sermons, newspaper columns and books. He ate usually in 20 to 25 minutes. He tried to save morning hours for creative work, received callers in the afternoon, and in the evenings did reading and research.

12. The FBI summed up the Archbishop’s personality in a sentence: “He is very human and very humble.”

13. When the five-year old daughter of an FBI family was diagnosed with leukemia, Archbishop Fulton Sheen met with the parents and their daughter, giving her several gifts and she and her parents a special blessing. He kept in touch with the family throughout her sickness and after her death.

14. At the age of 72, he slipped and fell on the ice and broke his arm in front of the Sisters of St. Joseph convent in Rochester.

Old-school diagram of how to treat a broken arm.

Old-school diagram of how to treat a broken arm.

15. Always staunchly against Communism, Fulton Sheen’s files contain multiple columns he wrote on the topic. One of our favorite passages:

“Communism glorifies work as the new god to which cult and worship must be paid. Just as democracies since the French Revolution have substituted freedom for God, and made it the supreme goal to be served, so now communism has made labor the deity which man must adore. Freedom and work actually are false gods. Freedom is not the goal of democracy, if freedom is understood as freedom from something. Freedom from something must necessarily mean freedom for something. Freedom without law is license, and unlimited freedom eventually ends in unlimited tyranny. Neither is work a god, for thieves work, so do beavers, so do guards in Soviet concentration camps. There, therefore, must be something besides mere work to distinguish it from animal instinct and crime. That missing element, which communism has left out of work, is the freedom and the value of human personality.

While we pulled some of the most compelling bits of info, if you’d like to peruse his files yourself, they are available here. 

The FBI would like you to know:  the content of the files in the Vault encompasses all time periods of Bureau history and do not always reflect the current views, policies, and priorities of the FBI.