Skip to comments.Pope Lists Criteria for Causes of Canonization
Posted on 05/17/2006 8:35:47 AM PDT by NYer
VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI wrote a letter to underline the need for bishops to participate in causes of canonization and to review the procedures that go along with the process.
The Pope, in a letter, also highlights key steps in these canonical processes, such as the miracle attributed to the intercession of the servant of God, and the conditions for the recognition of martyrdom.
The Holy Father addresses the message to Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, on the occasion of the plenary assembly held by this Vatican dicastery at the end of April.
Benedict XVI's letter announces that the Vatican congregation is writing an "Instruction for the Process of the Diocesan Inquiry in the Causes of Saints."
It is a document addressed primarily to diocesan bishops "to ensure the seriousness of the investigations carried out in diocesan inquiries into the virtue of servants of God, and in cases claiming martyrdom or possible miracles."
The papal letter states: "It is clear that it will not be possible to introduce a cause of beatification or canonization if proven holiness does not exist, even if the person concerned was distinguished for conformity with the Gospel and special ecclesial and social merits."
The Pope's insistence on the greater participation of bishops in these causes continues with the indications the Pope John Paul II gave in 1983 in the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," in which he established the norms for the causes of sainthood.
Benedict XVI adds: "To be consistent with these instructions, elected to the Chair of Peter, I was glad to act on the widespread desire that greater emphasis be placed in their celebration on the essential difference between beatification and canonization, and that the particular Churches be more visibly involved in Rites of Beatification on the understanding that the Roman Pontiff alone is competent to declare a devotion to a servant of God."
In the second subject of his letter, Benedict XVI analyzes the question of the miracle, attributed to the intercession of a servant of God, which is required for his beatification (unless he is a martyr) and, in any case, for his canonization.
"As well as reassuring us that the servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles constitute the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the ecclesiastical authority on his/her virtuous life," explains the Pontiff.
In this connection, Benedict XVI affirms that "it should be clearly borne in mind that the uninterrupted practice of the Church establishes the need for a physical miracle, since a moral miracle does not suffice."
The third point of the letter focuses on the criteria to be followed in the recognition of martyrs, persons who gave their life, shedding their blood "freely and consciously in a supreme act of love, witnessing to their faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church."
"If the motive that impels them to martyrdom remains unchanged, since Christ is their source and their model, then what has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies 'ex parte persecutoris' [on the part of persecutors] that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature," he writes.
In this context, the Holy Father affirms that it is "necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim. It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the hatred of the faith of the persecutor."
"If this element is lacking," he adds, "there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church."
"The Last Word Is Given to Theology"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI recently sent to the participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.
* * *
To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
On the occasion of the plenary assembly of this Congregation for the Causes of Saints, I would like to address my cordial greetings to you, Your Eminence, which I gladly extend to the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who are taking part in the meeting. I likewise greet the secretary, the undersecretary, the consultors and medical experts, the postulators and all the members of this dicastery.
Together with my greeting, I also express my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for this congregation's service to the Church in promoting the causes of saints, who "are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love," as I wrote in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (No. 40).
This is why from the outset the Church has held their commemoration and worship in great honor, dedicating down the centuries ever more vigilant attention to the procedures that lead the servants of God to the honors of the altar.
In fact, the causes of saints are "major causes," both because of the nobility of the subject treated and their effect on the life of the People of God. In light of this reality, my Predecessors often intervened with special legislative measures to improve the examination and celebration of their causes. In 1588, Sixtus V willed the Sacred Congregation for Rites to be established for this purpose.
Then how can we forget the provident legislation of Urban VIII, the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the norms of Pius XI for ancient causes, the "motu proprio" "Sanctitas Clarior" and Paul VI's apostolic constitution "Sacra Rituum Congregatio"?
My Predecessor Benedict XIV, rightly considered "the master" of the causes of saints, deserves a grateful mention. More recently, in 1983, beloved John Paul II promulgated the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," followed in the same year by the publication of the "Normae Servandae in Inquisitionibus ab Episcopis Faciendis in Causis Sanctorum" [Norms to be Observed in Inquiries made by Bishops in the Causes of Saints].
More than 20 years' experience has prompted this congregation to draft an appropriate "Instruction for the Process of the Diocesan Inquiry in the Causes of Saints."
This document is addressed primarily to diocesan bishops and its preparation constitutes the first item on the agenda of your plenary meeting. Its intention is to facilitate the faithful application of the "Normae Servandae" cited, in order to ensure the seriousness of the investigations carried out in diocesan inquiries into the virtue of servants of God and in cases claiming martyrdom or possible miracles.
The evidence for the causes is collected and studied with supreme care and with a diligent search for the historic truth through testimonies and documentary proof "omnino plenae," for they have no other aim than the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church and of all who are in search of the Gospel truth and perfection.
The diocesan pastors, deciding "coram Deo" on which causes deserve to be initiated, will first of all evaluate whether the candidates to the honors of the altar truly enjoy a firm and widespread fame of holiness and miracles or martyrdom. This fame, which the Code of Canon Law of 1917 stipulates should be "spontanea, non arte aut diligentia procurata, orta ab honestis et gravibus personis, continua, in dies aucta et vigens in praesenti apud maiorem partem populi" (Canon 2050 §2), is a sign of God who points out to the Church those who deserve to be set on the lamp stand to "give light to all in the house" (cf. Matthew 5:15).
It is clear that it will not be possible to introduce a cause of beatification or canonization if proven holiness does not exist, even if the person concerned was distinguished for conformity with the Gospel and special ecclesial and social merits.
The second theme that your plenary assembly is treating is "the miracle in the causes of saints." It is well known that since ancient times, the process for arriving at canonization passes through the proof of virtues and miracles, attributed to the intercession of the candidate to the honors of the altar.
As well as reassuring us that the servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles constitute the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the ecclesiastical authority on his/her virtuous life. I hope that the plenary meeting will be able to examine this subject in greater depth in the light of the Tradition of the Church, of present-day theology and of the most reliable scientific discoveries.
It should not be forgotten that in the examination of events claimed to be miraculous the competence of scholars and theologians converges, although the last word is given to theology, the only discipline that can give a miracle an interpretation of faith.
This is why the process of saints' causes moves from the scientific evaluation of the medical council or technical experts to a theological examination by the consultors and later by the cardinals and bishops. Moreover, it should be clearly borne in mind that the uninterrupted practice of the Church establishes the need for a physical miracle, since a moral miracle does not suffice.
Martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit
The third subject reflected upon at the plenary meeting concerns martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit and an attribute of the Church in every epoch (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 42). The Venerable Pontiff John Paul II, in his apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," noted that since the Church has once again become the Church of martyrs, "as far as possible, their witness should not be lost" (No. 37).
The martyrs of the past and those of our time gave and give life ("effusio sanguinis") freely and consciously in a supreme act of love, witnessing to their faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church. If the motive that impels them to martyrdom remains unchanged, since Christ is their source and their model, then what has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies "ex parte persecutoris" that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.
It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim. It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the "odium Fidei" [hatred of the faith] of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church. The concept of "martyrdom" as applied to the saints and blessed martyrs should be understood, in conformity with Benedict XIV's teaching, as "voluntaria mortis perpessio sive tolerantia propter Fidem Christi, vel alium virtutis actum in Deum relatum" ("De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione," Prato 1839-1841, Book III, chapter 11, 1). This is the constant teaching of the Church.
The subjects being examined at your plenary meeting are of indisputable interest and the reflections, with the possible suggestions that may arise, will make a valuable contribution to the achievement of the objectives indicated by John Paul II in the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," in which he says: "Most recent experience, finally, has shown us the appropriateness of revising further the manner of instructing causes and of so structuring the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that We might meet the needs of experts and the desires of Our Brother Bishops, who have often called for a simpler process while maintaining the soundness of the investigation in matters of such great import.
"In light of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council on collegiality, We also think that the Bishops themselves should be more closely associated with the Holy See in dealing with the Causes of Saints."
To be consistent with these instructions, elected to the Chair of Peter, I was glad to act on the widespread desire that greater emphasis be placed in their celebration on the essential difference between beatification and canonization, and that the particular Churches be more visibly involved in Rites of Beatification on the understanding that the Roman Pontiff alone is competent to declare a devotion to a servant of God.
Your Eminence, I thank you for this congregation's service to the Church and, while I wish those who are taking part in the work of the plenary meeting every success through the intercession of all the saints and of the Queen of the saints, I invoke upon each one the light of the Holy Spirit. For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer as I cordially bless you all.
From the Vatican, April 24, 2006
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
I'd be interested to know precisely how "proven holiness" differs from "distinguished for conformity with the Gospel and special ecclesial and social merits."
Thanks for the example! I wouldn't consider him "distinguished for conformity with the Gospel," given that the Gospel requires observance of the Ten Commandments. But maybe that's the kind of thing Pope Benedict has in mind.
Typical woman!!! He beat-up a few broads and he considered adulterous fornication a form of relaxation and so you think he isn't a Saint. What are you, a feminist?
LOL! Don't forget plagiarizing his dissertation.
However, if plagarism was really that bad, what would the media elite do without all these liberal plagarists? . I mean, you got a WHOLE bunch of 'em; Steven Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joe Biden, Jason Blair, Alan Dershowitz, Al Gore, nearly everyone at the Kennedy School of Govt,Charles Ogletree, Laurence Tribe, Nina Totenberg...
Let's consider G.K. Chesterton (1874--1936), a tremendously gifted writer and visionary in the Christian tradition, who converted to the CAtholic faith in the late 1920's. Most definitely, his life was in conformity with the Gospel (generosity; personal kindness; happiness, etc); and he was recognized in his lifetime for his work for the good of Christianity and English society. But even I, who wrote a letter to the Vatican in 1992 inquiring whether there existed a cause for his beatification (there wasn't), would be hard pressed to defend his cause on the basis of "proven holiness." He was a devout man, and surely a prayerful man, and received the sacraments. But proven holiness, i.e., a life that revolved around mystical identification with the Risen Lord, and the privations that accompany that kind of identification? Well, let's just say that it was not obvious.
I suspect that Penn and Teller, James Randi or any competent magician could become a saint by fooling the gullible or self-deluded fairytale believers among us.
do they know they have to die first?
Sure, they might need to wait but I suspect they could fake that too!
It doesn't work.
Such is the animus toward the Catholic Church that if it were possible to embarrass the Church in this way, someone would already have done it, including some of those whom you mention. Penn Jillette in particular, has distinguished himself by his outbursts against the Catholic Church.
Contrary to popular belief, the road to sainthood is long and exacting and the gullible are not those who accept the Catholic Church's judgements in these matters, but rather those who fall for the recycled, centuries-old schtick of conjurers, shamans and magicians.
Very good point. Nonetheless, I'm sure G.K. is chortling in the hereafter as we speak :-).
I'm not sure what you mean by nebulous language like "belief in miracles".
A miracle by definition, is something which can not be explained by the laws of nature. It is something which has no known or rational explanation. These things occur, indisputably and have been amply documented. It's to what we attribute these miracles or unexplained events that is the subject of dispute, I believe.
For instance, taking the example which you raised about communion wafers. Some communion wafers have exuded blood and turned into tissue. This is one example. Using the dictionary definition of the word, this qualifies as a miracle as it is something which falls outside the laws of nature.
Now the difference between the unbeliever and the believer lies in how we explain this miracle. Maybe this is what you mean by "belief in miracles". It is certainly a miracle using the dictionary definition. The believer attributes this to an act of God which suspends the normal laws of nature which are subject to Him. The unbeliever disagrees and as he likewise has no rational explanation for this, attributes it to a fake, a hoax or some freak of nature as yet undiscovered.
The real irony here, of course, is that faith plays just as much a part in the unbeliever's conviction as it does in the believer's. The unbeliever can not explain the event by virtue of his false god, rationalism, yet his faith tells him there must be an explanation other than one involving Almighty God. He simply believes that we have yet to find that explanation.
Again, faith. Just faith in a different "god".