Good morning, troops. It's Wednesday, June 12.
The long-running battle between Catholic officials in Peoria and New York regarding the remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen is over.
The Archdiocese of New York plans to transfer Sheen's remains to Peoria, in line with court rulings. That will expedite the pursuit of sainthood for the Emmy-award-winning multimedia evangelist who died 40 years ago.
Of course, the legal issues regarding Sheen's remains have been news in Peoria. Sheen spent most of his youth here and graduated high school from old Spalding Institute after he was born in the Woodford County city of El Paso.
But the Sheen saga also is news in New York.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported the latest regarding Sheen's remains. They are to be moved from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York to St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria.
The story was fair, accurate and well done. It went into detail about Sheen's performances on "Life is Worth Living," the 1950s television program that catapulted him to national renown.
Reporter Sharon Otterman interviewed Msgr. James Kruse, the vicar general of the Peoria diocese. Otterman also tracked down Goodfield resident Bonnie Engstrom.
In 2010, Engstrom prayed for Sheen's intercession after her son was stillborn. Today, the boy is healthy and normal.
“People who are involved in evangelization and Catholic new media, they look to him as a model in their lives,” Engstrom told Otterman about Sheen. “And especially because of the way he interceded for my son, I know a lot of parents who have called on him for a miracle.”
But among the perils of the internet and social media are the comments readers can post about stories.
Conventional wisdom suggests they're better off unread. But many if not most of the comments about The Times' Sheen story are worth reading, if only to reveal how awful some people can be.
To be fair, some comments Times readers left were cogent and respectful, even praiseworthy.
"He made me appreciate my Catholic faith even more," one commentator wrote. "He cannot become a saint fast enough as he has done more to spread the Catholic faith than just about anyone else."
But most of the 77 comments the story had received as of Wednesday morning trashed Sheen, the Catholic faith, religion in general and Peoria in particular.
"So after 40 years Peoria needs a cash cow tourist attraction? Seems sainthood has been diluted quite a bit over the centuries," one commentator stated.
Among other examples:
• "I recall (Sheen) as creepy, unctuous and extremely right-wing, definitely not someone who merits sainthood."
• "Sheen's gospel of fear of communism during the '50s was the sound track of Catholic life in the '50s. A dreadful man."
• "I wonder how many poor American schoolchildren could be given a laptop with those (exhumation) funds? Boy, we know what is important — moving a dead man's bag of dust and bones from one place to another."
• "The result of the miracle is the little boy now 'laughs at farts!' That will make for interesting reading in (the) hagiography being spawned."
• "I have watched some of Sheen's 'Life is Worth Living' episodes. What I do remember is how weird it was. It was in black and white and his sunken cheeks and eyes gave him the look of someone already dead, maybe dead and resurrected. And his voice and delivery would scare any child."
Comments in that vein go on and on, ad nauseam.
People don't have to agree with Sheen or his message, but they can at least consider how other people might feel about him and it. These days, perhaps that's too much to ask.
One commentator summarized it well:
"I'm Jewish, but I have enough respect for other religions not to put them down as absurdities. If this woman wants to believe that a miracle restored her newborn son to her, what's so harmful about that?"
To quote the best-selling book of all time: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Nick in the Morning didn't hear this song on the way to work, but its first line might be an accurate reaction to The Times' comment section.