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John Francis Whealon

John Francis Whealon
Archbishop of Hartford
Titular Bishop of Andrapa
SeeArchdiocese of Hartford
AppointedDecember 28, 1968
Term endedAugust 2, 1991
PredecessorHenry Joseph O'Brien
SuccessorDaniel Anthony Cronin
Other post(s)Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland
Bishop of Erie (1966–1968)
OrdinationMay 26, 1945
ConsecrationJuly 6, 1961
by Egidio Vagnozzi
Personal details
Born(1921-01-15)January 15, 1921
DiedAugust 2, 1991(1991-08-02) (aged 70)
Hartford, Connecticut, US
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
EducationUniversity of Ottawa
Pontifical Biblical Institute

John Francis Whealon (January 15, 1921 – August 2, 1991) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford in Connecticut from 1968 to 1991.

Whealon previously served as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland in Ohio from 1961 to 1966 and as bishop of the Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania from 1966 to 1968.


Early life

John Whealon was born in Barberton, Ohio, to John Joseph and Mary Christina (née Zanders) Whealon.[1] He received his early education at St. Augustine School in Barberton from 1927 to 1934, and attended St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, from 1934 to 1940.[1] Returning to Ohio, Whealon studied theology at St. Mary's Seminary in Cleveland from 1940 to 1945.[1]


Whealon was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1945.[2] He briefly served as a curate at St. Peter Parish in Akron, Ohio, then entered the University of Ottawa, where he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree.[1]

Upon his return to Ohio, Whealon served as a curate at St. Dominic Parish in Shaker Heights and professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Mary's Seminary from 1946 to 1948.[1] He furthered his studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1948 to 1950.[1] He returned to Ohio and was named a curate at St. Aloysius Parish in Cleveland in 1950.[1]

Whealon resumed his post as professor at St. Mary's Seminary in 1952, and became rector of Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe the following year.[1] He was named a papal chamberlain in 1955, and raised to the rank of domestic prelate in 1959.[1] He contributed to Catholic Biblical Quarterly and was vice president of the Catholic Biblical Association (1959–60).[1]

Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland

On June 5, 1961, Whealon was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland and Titular Bishop of Andrapa by Pope John XXIII.[2] He received his episcopal consecration on July 6, 1961, from Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, with Bishops Paul John Hallinan and Floyd Lawrence Begin serving as co-consecrators.[2] Between 1962 and 1965, Whealon attended all four sessions in Rome of the Second Vatican Council.[3]

Bishop of Erie

Following the resignation of Archbishop John Mark Gannon, Whealon was named the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Erie by Pope Paul VI on December 9, 1966.[2]

Archbishop of Hartford

On December 28, 1968, Whealon was appointed archbishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford by Paul VI following the resignation of Archbishop Henry O'Brien.[2] During his 23-year-long administration, Whealon established a program to train married men to be ordained as deacons, advocated the promotion of women within the structure of the Church, and developed a team ministry in which clerical and lay people administer a parish together.[3] In 1986, he appointed Sister Helen M. Feeney to be first woman chancellor of the archdiocese and only the fifth woman chancellor in the country.[4] Whealon also founded the radio station WJMJ in Hartford. He was active on ecumenical issues, and was chair of the Committee on Ecumenism of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and head of ChrisConn, the Christian conference of Connecticut.[3]

Death and legacy

John Whealon died unexpectedly during a surgical procedure at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford on August 2, 1991. The archdiocese's annual fundraising golf tournament is named in his honor. Additionally, a Waterbury, Connecticut, council of the Knights of Columbus bears his name - the Archbishop John F. Whealon Council 10865.

In 2012, a Connecticut man sued the archdiocese, claiming that he had been sexually abused when an altar boy in the 1970's by Ivan Ferguson, an archdiocesan priest. The plaintiff accused Whealon of covering up Ferguson's criminal acts and allowing his transfers to other assignments. [5] In 2017 another man sued the archdiocese for negligence, claiming that Daniel McSheffery, an archdiocesan priest at St. George Parish in Guilford, Connecticut, sexually abused him over 250 times, starting at age nine. The plaintiff claimed that Whealon knew that McSheffery was a danger to children.[6]



Whealon left the Democratic Party in 1988 because of his opposition to abortion rights for women, declaring in his column in the weekly Catholic Transcript that he was "unable in conscience to remain a registered Democrat" because of the party's support of legal and government-financed abortions.[3] In 1974, he said that Catholic healthcare professionals who participated in abortions faced excommunication.[3] Whealon resigned from a local television station's program advisory committee because the station refused to cancel an episode of the comedy series Maude that dealt with abortion.[3]

Birth Control

Whealon described a State of Connecticut-sponsored advertising campaign that encouraged sexually active adults to use condoms to prevents HIV/AIDS as "a commendable effort but a serious mistake to present condoms as the answer to the threat."[3]


Whealon supported the participation of the United States in Vietnam War and defended the maintenance of nuclear weapons.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. Vol. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop John Francis Whealon".[self-published source]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Fraser, C. Gerald (1991-08-03). "John Francis Whealon Dies at 70; Archbishop of Hartford 22 Years". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Helen M. Feeney". CT Women’s Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  5. ^ "Memos Show Catholic Archdiocese Kept Abusive Priests Pedophilia under Wraps, by Edmund H. Mahony, The Hartford Courant, January 31, 2012". Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  6. ^ "Former altar boy says priest abused him more than 250 times over 2 decades". WLWT. 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2022-11-25.
Catholic Church titles VacantTitle last held byAngelo Cesare Vigiani — TITULAR — Bishop of Andrapa 1961–1966 Vacant Preceded byJohn Mark Gannon Bishop of Erie 1966–1968 Succeeded byAlfred Michael Watson Preceded byHenry Joseph O'Brien Archbishop of Hartford 1968–1991 Succeeded byDaniel Anthony Cronin
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John Francis Whealon
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