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Does the process of canonization need to be un-reformed? October 16, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Four Last Things, General Catholic, Glory, Interior Life, Papa, priests, religious, Saints, scandals.

Pope John Paul II did away with the “devil’s advocate” in the process of sanctification some years back, “streamlining” the process by removing an antagonist who would point out failings and faults in the person undergoing review for beatification/canonization.  This has caused some discomfiture, with seemingly “political” canonizations of curious timing or merit.  Now, we are told Pope Paul VI, that man of such tremendous self-doubt and seeming manic-depressive tendencies, among other things, is to be beatified next year.  Fr. Ray Blake shares the same qualms I do:

The dying Emperor Augustus cried out, “I’m becoming a God!”
It strikes me dying Popes might cry out, “I am becoming a Beatus!”
Apparently Paul VI might be declared “Blessed” next year, John XXIII is already beatified as is John Paul II, there is strong lobby for Pius XII and of course John Paul I, I have always had a sneaking admiration for Pius XI but no-one else is that interested.
My Orthodox friends are horrified by the haste of some of our beatifications and canonisation, and so I am I. I am not sure what we mean any longer when we beatify someone or canonise them, in the past three criteria where necessary:

  1. They were in heaven: proved by miracles
  2. They had an enduring and wellfounded cultus
  3. Their holiness was outstanding and an example to the faithful
Obviously those who have been beatified and canonised fulfil all of these requirements, however there does seem to be a danger of writing history with an airbrush in our present day haste to raise certain individuals to the altar. Although in all cases there is holiness, in many there seem to be many other issues too. Too often beatification/canonisation can be seen as a political act, placing the Blesseds or Saints actions and words beyond question.
There is always the danger when the following generation beatify their benefactors, their teachers, friends, patrons and masters that it is ideas that are being raised to the altar rather than individuals, it is a piece of nepotism, even more worrying than that of the Borgias
In the case of St Jose-Maria Escriva who was certainly outstanding but with the extreme haste of his canonisation one wonders quite what influence Opus Dei and its money, and the political situation in Spain at the time of his death,  had on the speed of his canonisation. Would a great deal really have been lost by letting the euphoria following his death have settled down for a few decades and for his cultus to have bedded down more firmly in the Church outside of Opus Dei and Spain before his canonisation?
In the case of Pius XII there are obvious questions being asked both inside and outside the Church, not just about his wartime record but also about his private life, which seems to be a little eccentric: that nun, the monkey glands, for example. 
Paul VI, “Hamlet” as his predecessor called him, is possibly even more ambiguous, he certainly suffered, he lived with self-doubt all his life, he was too ill even to attend seminary, even in his lifetime there were rumours about blackmail, which were spread by his enemies, but which have never been answered. I wonder is it right for someone with so many enemies to be raised to the altar, shouldn’t a reconciliation be necessary first?

Not merely enemies, but so many people of good will who have grave concerns over the seeming drive to canonize all Popes of recent memory and who want the process steamrolled for various ends.  Historically, it took many years for even great Saints to be canonized.  Some amazing Saints like John of Avila, recently made Doctor of the Church, spent hundreds of years as Venerables or Blesseds.  Now, individuals of seeming much less merit, but with much more popular acclaim/money behind them, are canonized almost overnight, in Church terms.  Remember the demand for St. Teresa of Calcutta’s canonization after her death.  That drive still exists, though more muted.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but since we’re so overwhelming concerned about ecumenism these days, and this instant canonization so disturbs the Orthodox, shouldn’t we perhaps look at reinstating the devil’s advocate role, or at least making the process less dependent on popular acclaim?


1. Denton - October 17, 2012

I’m going to say yes, it seems way to political nowadays. Not to bash the former Pontiff but I’m not a big fan of John Paul “the great”, he did way to many things that botherd me. I.e Assisi

Woody - October 17, 2012

Well, I was a big fan of him; however, I don’t think you canonize someone just because he was popular. I agree, go back to “old” days, when saints were saints and popular popes were just….popes.

2. servo - October 17, 2012

The whole push to beatify/canonize every single VII Pope reminds me of when Frankie Frisch was on the Veteran’s Committee. He helped through a bunch of his old teammates, who are now recognized as some of the worst players in the Hall of Fame. George Kelly, Chick Hafey, Fred Lindstrom, Pop Haines, etc…Not awful players, they did have a few good years, but…

The fact that Paul VI has a cause makes my head want to wither up and die. It’s pure insanity.

tantamergo - October 17, 2012

I’ve got to agree. The more I read about Pope Paul VI, the more troubled I am at the prospect of his being beatified. He was a very troubled man, and an even more troubled Pope. I don’t know how he was elected when there were so many other great Cardinals to choose from. One day, I need to read about his papal election, but I’m sure it had much to do with the Council and the ‘Spirit’ that dominated it.

servo - October 17, 2012

If the whole ‘Siri was elected but declined’ story is true, it would absolutely rank up near the top of the Crappy Moments in Church History list.

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