Shehan, Lawrence J.
SHEHAN, LAWRENCE J.
Twelfth archbishop of Baltimore; cardinal; b. Baltimore, Maryland, March 18, 1898; d. there, Aug. 26, 1984. The son of Irish immigrant parents, Thomas P. and Anastasia (Schofield) Shehan, young Lawrence was educated in parochial schools of Baltimore. He attended St. Charles College, Catonsville, Maryland (1911–17), St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore (1917–20), and North American College, Rome, Italy (1920–23). Ordained in Rome, Dec. 23, 1922, Shehan engaged in pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Baltimore (1923–47), serving as pastor of St. Patrick Church, Washington, D.C. (1941–47). He held several offices in the diocesan curia from notary in 1934 to officialis of the archdiocese of Baltimore and Washington (1938–45). Pope Pius XII named him a papal chamberlain (1939), and a domestic prelate of the papal household (1945).
In 1945 Pius XII appointed him to the Titular See of Lydda, and as auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and Washington. When in 1947 the Archdiocese of Washington was separated from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Bishop Shehan was named vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Baltimore until he was installed as ordinary of the newly erected See of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1953.
Shehan was president of the National Catholic Education Association (1958–59), episcopal moderator of the National Welfare Conference Bureau of Information (1945–49), and episcopal chairman of the Department of Education in the National Catholic Welfare Conference (1959–62). He was named vice president of the International Eucharistic Congresses (1960), and served as a member of the Episcopal Committee on Motion Pictures, Radio and Television. He was also the National Chaplain of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Promoted by Pope John XXIII to the Titular Archepiscopal See of Nicopolis ad Nestum, July 10, 1961, he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, and was installed Sept. 27, 1961. On the death of Archbishop Francis B. Keough he became the 12th archbishop of Baltimore on December 8 of the same year. Pope Paul VI elevated Archbishop Shehan to the cardinalate on Feb. 22, 1965. His titular church was San Clemente in Rome. In March of that year the new cardinal was appointed to the Consistorial Congregation. During the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul appointed Cardinal Shehan to the Body of Presidents of the council on July 9, 1965. Later that month he was made a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal Shehan was an outstanding ecumenist. In 1962 he established the nation's first Commission for Christian Unity. In November 1963 he was named to the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity, and a year later became head of the U.S. Bishop's Committee for Ecumenical Affairs. In December 1965 the National Conference of Christians and Jews conferred upon him its highest honor, the National Brotherhood Award, in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field of ecumenical relations and religious understanding. As the Vatican Council drew to a close, Cardinal Shehan went to Istanbul as the delegate of Paul VI to deliver an historic document to Patriarch Athenagoras, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, revoking the excommunication imposed 900 years before. At precisely the same moment Metropolitan Meliton handed to Paul VI a similar document lifting the excommunication of the papal legate by Constantinople.
In March 1963 Cardinal Shehan issued his famous pastoral letter on "Racial Justice," calling for an end to discrimination of any kind based upon color, strictly forbidding it in the Catholic hospitals, schools, and other institutions of the archdiocese. In succeeding years, as racial tensions mounted and violence flared in many places, the cardinal never relaxed his efforts to assure justice and equal opportunity for blacks and the nation's other minority groups. He defended the right of priests and nuns to march in civil rights demonstrations, and flew to Montgomery, Alabama, to take part in the funeral ceremonies for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after the black leader was assassinated there in April 1968.
Cardinal Shehan died on Aug. 26, 1984, and was interred beneath the sanctuary of the Cathedral.
Bibliography: l. j. shehan, A Blessing of Years: The Memoirs of Lawrence Cardinal Shehan (Notre Dame 1982).
[t. a. murphy]