Since Shanley had arrived in Fargo, one of his main goals was to promote unity among Catholics and all Christians in North Dakota. Following one of his lectures, an unnamed newspaper editor wrote that his goal was to “…brush away the cobwebs of widespread prejudice prevailing amongst English-speaking people against the Church of Rome the priests and the Pope… He had nothing but the kindliest feelings… but his talk was interspersed with rich roasts of the backsliding, the drunkard, a criminal, and the unbeliever. The Bishop held his audience almost spellbound by this intensely interesting discourse for nearly 2 hours” These sentiments were reaffirmed when Bishop Shanley was invited by Methodist Rev. Eugene May to lecture on the Pope to an audience of non-Catholics. Shanley was also quite concerned with what he saw as the two greatest evils, liquor trafficking and the divorce laws. He dedicated special attention to reducing these evils throughout his career. Having seen the inability of the government to enforce prohibition in North Dakota, he advocated voluntary pledges of sobriety and making the saloons “pay for their sins”. In regards to the divorce laws, he saw them as a threat to marriage and helped to represent the concerns of many religious leaders in Fargo to the state government. It was his efforts, along with those of many other North Dakota religious leaders, that led to the amendment of these laws in 1899.
– Scott Becklund, Digital History, 2012
 Weber, Gerald Michael. 1951. John Shanley: first bishop of Fargo. St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Seminary. 102.