Fulton J. Sheen

American catholic bishop and television presenter

Archbishop Fulton John Sheen (8 May 18959 December 1979), born Peter John Sheen, was television's first preacher of note, in the early 1950s on the DuMont Television Network, and later on ABC, He is venerated in the Catholic Church, having been declared Venerable by Pope Francis. His feast day is celebrated every year on 9 December.

If all things in this universe exist, it is because they participate in the Being of God...


If there are some things with life, it is because they are reflections of the life of God; if there are beings endowed with intellect and will — like men and angels — it's because they are a participation of the Sovereign Intellect which is God.
Too many people get credit for being good, when they are only being passive.
One function of the angels is illumination, and the other function is that of being a guardian.
There are angels near you to guide you and protect you, if you would but invoke them. It is not later than we think, it is a bigger world than we think.
  • If there is continuity in the universe, it is fitting that there should be intelligent beings without bodies which are called angels.
    • God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (1925). p. 86
  • If all things in this universe exist, it is because they participate in the Being of God, if there are some things with life, it is because they are reflections of the life of God; if there are beings endowed with intellect and will — like men and angels — it's because they are a participation of the Sovereign Intellect which is God.
    • Religion Without God (1928). p. 90
  • America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.
    • "A Plea For Intolerance" (1931)
  • Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil … a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons … never to truth.
    • "A Plea For Intolerance" (1931)
  • Since a week ago last Saturday, we can no longer expect them to defend the law of God. These sects will work out the very logic of their ways, and in 50 or 100 years there will be only the Catholic Church and paganism. We will be left to fight the battle alone, and we will."
    • Quoted in The Birth Control Review, May 1931, volume XV, no. 5., pp. 143-144. Reaction to the report of the Federal Council of Churches in America which, in March 1931, "endorsed 'the careful and restrained use of contraceptives by married people,' while at the same time conceding that 'serious evils, such as extramarital sex relations, may be increased by general knowledge of contraceptives.'" [1][2]
  • There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.
    • Foreword to Radio Replies Vol. 1, (1938) page ix
  • The principle of democracy is a recognition of the sovereign, inalienable rights of man as a gift from God, the Source of law.
    • Whence Come Wars (1940), p. 60
  • All our anxieties relate to time. … The major problems of psychiatry revolve around an analysis of the despair, pessimism, melancholy, and complexes that are the inheritances of what has been or with the fears, anxieties, worries, that are the imaginings of what will be.
    • "Sanctifying the Moment" in Lift Up Your Heart (1950)
  • It takes three to make love.
    • Three to get married (1951), p. 11
  • The nobler our loves, the nobler our character. To love what is below the human is degradation; to love what is human for the sake of the human is mediocrity; to love the human for the sake of the Divine is enriching; to love the Divine for its own sake is sanctity.
    • Three to get married (1951), p. 11
  • No one can understand Communism who does not believe in the devil. The Communists believe in the devil. The Communists organized a so-called "patriotic" church. A few brain washed were to be in charge of the churches because they were loyal to the anti-God regime.
    One of the first orders given by the Communists to them was that the prayer to Prayer to Saint Michael be no longer said because it invoked the protection of St. Michael against "the wickedness and snares of the devil." As one Communist judge said: "We are those devils."
    It is hard for many in the free world to believe that there are not only bad men, but evil men. Bad men steal, rape, ravage and plunder. Evil men may not always do these things, but they seek to destroy goodness, virtue, morality, decency, truth and honor. Bad men who steal admit honesty; evil men who do not steal, call dishonesty "honesty," totalitarianism "democracy," slavery "freedom." Evil men can be nice at table, polite with women, courteous in Washington, refined in London and calm in Geneva.
    But the principle which guides their every move is the maxim of Lenin: every lie, trickery, knavery and deceit must be used to.
    • "Bishop Sheen Writes...Communism and Tragedy," The Toledo Blade, Sunday, July 26, 1959, sec. 2, p. 5. [3]
  • The only argument the world will listen to now is the argument of personal holiness. It has heard all the rest and rejected them.
    • Retreat to Priests, Washington, D.C., p. 19, quoted in Bernard Hayes, C.R., To Live as Jesus Did (Locust Valley, N.Y.: Living Flame Press, 1981), p. 108. There is no book by Sheen with the title Retreat to Priests. Hayes is presumably quoting from a transcription of Sheen's 1974 retreat for priests of the Washington diocese. This was recorded on reel-to-reel tape and later issued in nine 60-minute tapes under the title Renewal and Reconciliation.
  • Some will not look on suffering because it creates responsibility.
    • Those Mysterious Priests (1974), p. 66
  • Too many people get credit for being good, when they are only being passive. They are too often praised for being broadminded when they are so broadminded they can never make up their minds about anything.
    • As quoted in Seven Words to the Cross (1979) by Ellsworth Kalas, page 93
  • All my sermons are prepared in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. As recreation is most pleasant and profitable in the sun, so homiletic creativity is best nourished before the Eucharist. The most brilliant ideas come from meeting God face to face. The Holy Spirit that presided at the Incarnation is the best atmosphere for illumination. Pope John Paul II keeps a small desk or writing pad near him whenever he is in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament; and I have done this all my life — I am sure for the same reason he does, because a lover always works better when the beloved is with him.
    • Treasure in Clay : The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen (1980)
  • When the record of any human life is set down, there are three pairs of eyes who see it in a different light. There is the life as I see it. as others see it, and as God sees it.
    • Treasure in Clay: the Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, (New York, NY: Image Books/Doubleday, 1980)
  • Another instance of how our Lord associated Peter with himself was in the payment of the temple tax. It is the only time in scripture where God ever associates a human being with himself under the personal pronoun we.... Now at the time of the payment of the temple tax our blessed Lord told Peter to pay it, and he said to pay it “for me and thee.” Then he adds, "that we may not scandalize." Here he makes himself one with Peter. Peter is associated with the Master in a way that no one else can ever be associated. We — Christ and Peter. That is why papal encyclicals begin with the word we.
  • We live in a sensate age. We are no longer governed by Faith, we are no longer governed by reason. We are governed by feelings.

The Armor of God (1943)

New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1943
  • Atheism is not a doctrine; it is a cry of wrath.
    • Ch. 1, p. 2
  • Before you deny God, ask yourself why you deny Him. Is it because of the way you live? A poem of Arthur Hugh Clough satirized those who wish there was no God because He interferes with their dishonesty, their lawlessness, or their license.
    • Ch. 1, p. 2
  • No man has need of religion who is self-righteous, who is all he wants to be and all he ought to be.
    • Ch. 1, p. 4
  • Hitler had no need of God: in his own conceit, he was a god.
    • Ch. 1, p. 4
  • The man who has never made a mistake has no need of an eraser; just so the man who has never done anything wrong has no need of a Redeemer.
    • Ch. 1, p. 4
  • If there is no difference between right and wrong, how can Hitler be wrong and how can we be right? Why are we at war, if it is not because right is more precious than life?
    • Ch. 1, p. 5
  • It makes no difference whether you have any rules in football; it depends upon how you play. It makes no difference whether you believe triangles have three sides; it depends on how you draw. Can we not see that if we believe wrongly, we will act wrongly?
    • Ch. 1, p. 5
  • The trouble with Hitler and other tyrants is that they practice what they preach. Because their doctrines are wrong, their deeds are wrong. Because Nazism as a creed is wrong, its workings are wicked.
    • Ch. 1, p. 5-6

Peace of Soul (1949)

New York: Whittlesey House, 1949
  • Unless souls are saved, nothing is saved; there can be no world peace unless there is soul peace. World wars are only projections of the conflicts waged inside the souls of men and women, for nothing happens in the external world that has not first happened within a soul.
    • Ch. 1, p. 1 (the opening paragraph of the book)
  • Christian theology is, in a certain sense, a psychology, since its primary interest is the soul, the most precious of things. Our Lord balanced a universe against a soul and found the soul worth more than gaining a world.
    • Ch. 1, p. 7
  • The modern man is no longer a unity, but a confused bundle of complexes and nerves. He is so dissociated, so alienated from himself that he sees himself less as a personality than as a battlefield where a civil war rages between a thousand and one conflicting loyalties. There is no single overall purpose in his life. His soul is comparable to a menagerie in which a number of beasts, each seeking its own prey, turn one upon the other. Or he may be likened to a radio, that is tuned in to several stations; instead of getting any one clearly, it receives only an annoying static.

    If the frustrated soul is educated, it has a smattering of uncorrected bits of information with no unifying philosophy. Then the frustrated soul may say to itself: "I sometimes think there are two of me a living soul and a Ph. D." Such a man projects his own mental confusion to the outside world and concludes that, since he knows no truth, nobody can know it. His own skepticism (which he universalizes into a philosophy of life) throws him back more and more upon those powers lurking in the dark, dank caverns of his unconsciousness. He changes his philosophy as he changes his clothes. On Monday, he lays down the tracks of materialism; on Tuesday, he reads a best seller, pulls up the old tracks, and lays the new tracks of an idealist; on Wednesday, his new roadway is Communistic; on Thursday, the new rails of Liberalism are laid; on Friday, he-hears a broadcast and decides to travel on Freudian tracks: on Saturday, he takes a long drink to forget his railroading and, on Sunday, ponders why people are so foolish as to go to Church. Each day he has a new idol, each week a new mood. His authority is public opinion: when that shifts, his frustrated soul shifts with it.

    • Ch. 1, pp. 7–8
  • The revolt of the modern child against his parents is a miniature of the revolt of the modern world against the memory of 1900 years of Christian culture and the great Hebrew, Grecian and Roman cultures which preceded them. Any respect for that tradition is called "reactionary," with the result that the modern soul has developed a commentator mentality which judges yesterday by today, and today by tomorrow. Nothing is more tragic in an individual who once was wise than to lose his memory, and nothing is more tragic to a civilization than the loss of its tradition.
    • Ch. 1, p. 9
  • [N]o man hates God without first hating himself.
  • Anxiety increases in direct ratio and proportion as man departs from God.
    • Ch. 2, p. 19
  • There are no plains in the spiritual life; we are either going uphill or coming down. Furthermore the pose of indifference is only intellectual. The will must choose. And even though an "indifferent" soul does not positively reject the infinite, the infinite rejects it.
    • Ch. 2, p. 20
  • All intense interest in luxury is a mark of inner poverty. The less grace there is in the soul, the more ornament must be on the body.
    • Ch. 2, p. 24
  • It is assumed by many reformers that the principal and major cause of unhappiness is economic insecurity, but this theory forgets that there are economic problems only because men have not solved the problems of their own souls. Economic disorder is a symptom of spiritual disorder.
    • Ch. 2, p. 27
  • There is not a single striving or pursuit or yearning of the human heart, even in the midst of the most sensual pleasures, that is not a dim grasping after the Infinite.
    • Ch. 4, p. 53
  • [T]here is a tremendous egotism and conceit in those popular articles and lectures entitled,"My Idea of Religion," or "My Idea of God." An individual religion can be as misleading and uninformed as an individual astronomy or an individual mathematics.
    • Ch. 4, p. 59
  • By professing no ideal in morality, these nice people can never be accused of not living up to their creed. This is the great advantage that they have over the Christians — whose creed is so lofty that they can often and truly be accused of failing to meet its demands.
    • Ch. 5, p. 71
  • We find only what we seek: nature has many secrets to give us, but she will not surrender them until we sit down patiently before her and obey her laws. Only by such submission do we receive.
    • Ch. 5, p. 85
  • In contrast to the pride of those who deny their guilt to escape self-criticism is the humility of God, who made a world which added not to His glory and then made man to criticize Him.
    • Ch. 5, p. 85
  • By denying any ultimate standard outside of self, one can escape all self-blame and go through life on a perpetual mission of face saving.
    • Ch. 6, p. 103
  • [H]e is of the intelligentsia (which means he has been educated beyond his intelligence).
    • Ch. 6, p. 105
  • [P]eace of soul implies tranquillity of order, with material things ordered to the body, the body to the soul, the personality to neighbor and to God. Peace of mind is subjective tranquillity — a narrower thing. It requires great moral effort to attain peace of soul, but even those who are indifferent to right and wrong sometimes achieve peace of mind (which the Scriptures call "false peace").
    • Ch. 6, p. 112
  • We justify want of faith by saying, "I don't go to church, but I am better than those who do," as one might say, "I don't pay taxes or serve the nation, but I am better than those who do."
    • Ch. 6, p. 113
  • The very good never believe themselves very good, because they are judging themselves by the Ideal.
    • Ch. 6, p. 116

Life Is Worth Living (1951–1957)

Transcripts of many shows were later published as Life is Worth Living: First and Second Series (1999)
  • Right is right if nobody is right, and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong.
    • Program 19
  • Communism is the final logic of the dehumanization of man.
    • Second Series, p. 122
  • The danger today is in believing there are no sick people, there is only a sick society.
    • Second Series, p. 186
  • One function of the angels is illumination, and the other function is that of being a guardian.
  • You have a chance to move in far better society than the Joneses. Why worry about keeping up with the Joneses? Keep up with the Angels and you'll be far wiser and happier.
  • There are angels near you to guide you and protect you, if you would but invoke them. It is not later than we think, it is a bigger world than we think.
    • Angels


  • An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.
    • Though Sheen is quoted as saying this in Look magazine (14 December 1955) the earliest located declaration of this witticism was by John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir on 21 February 1936: "I have heard an atheist defined as a man who had no invisible means of support."

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