Are Canonizations Based on Papal Infallibility?

pope-john-paul & John 23

A few days previously Catholic Family News published an interview with Italian professor Roberto de Mattei.  The subject of the interview, which one should certainly read before perusing my own thoughts, is on the subject of the upcoming canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.  In particular, de Mattei discusses his concerns regarding recent canonizations, and challenges the accepted theological consensus on the infallibility of the pope in the proclamation of saints.  Professor de Mattei is an expert on the Christian foundations of Europe, and I myself am grateful for his scholarship defending the Christian roots of Western society. As regards this piece, though, I wanted to offer an alternative perspective.

There is much I agree with in the short interview, which give a summary of the positions held by some thinkers on the traditionalist side of the Church.  As an historian of saints and sainthood, I agree with many of his assessments about the current state of the canonization process.  In particular I too would very much like to slow the process down, and provide greater scope for careful meditation and scholarly analysis.  While I approve of the shift from a simply juridical mechanism to an historical and contextual analysis in the reforms of 1983, I too fear that the transition away from an adversarial process has reduced its thoroughness somewhat.  The professor also raises a concern about the constant impetus to recognize the holiness of recent occupants of the papal office, while so few in the past 700 years have been raised to the honors of the altar.  Such recent pressure raises questions about the motivations of those pursuing the causes.  All of these are valid questions raised by Professor de Mattei.

As an historian of sainthood, my greatest hesitation with the current process stems from the canonizations done by John Paul II himself.  While his laudable intention was to provide models of holiness drawn from all cultures and states in life, he tended to divorce canonization from its original and fundamental purpose.  This was to have an official, public, and formal recognition of an existing cult of the Christian faithful, one that had been confirmed by the divine testimony of miracles.  Cult precedes canonization; it was not meant to be the other way around.  We are in danger then of using canonization as a tool to promote interests and movements, rather than being a recognition and approval of an extant cultus.  It is a similar case with doctrines of faith and morals.  For example, Bl. Pius IX didn’t pull the Immaculate Conception out of the air.  His definition of 1854 was a recognition of the immemorial faith of the Christian people, slowly developed and unfolded by theologians over centuries.

These things said, it is perhaps understandable where Prof. de Mattei’s criticisms flow from.  The problem is that his critiques draw him away from the very theological tradition that he is attempting to defend.  In the first place he contends that a canonization is a certification of personal holiness, presented by the Church to the faithful.  He disregards out of hand the traditional position that what the Church actually declares is that a person so proclaimed currently enjoys the Beatific Vision.  Personal holiness and valid miracles are merely the preconditions of such a definition.  As St. Thomas says in Quodlibet 9, q. 16 “the honor we pay the saints is in a certain way a profession of faith, i.e., a belief in the glory of the Saints.”  When the Pope solemnly canonizes a saint he certifies that a man or woman is in heaven.  While this definition is certainly rooted in holiness and miracles, such are not the object of the definition.

As a result of his position, de Mattei proposes that when the Church so honors a bishop or pope, they are proclaiming that such an individual was a “perfect pastor” or that their period of ministry was one of unqualified prosperity for the Church.  This is not the case at all.  It is not required for sanctity that one find worldly success, or produce unlimited good spiritual fruit in others.  Holiness in not predicated on such success.  Any number of saints were failures in their tasks, sometimes miserably, and yet they persevered in heroic virtue until the end, which is what makes a saint.  Further there are any number of saintly bishops and popes whose tenure damaged sections of the Church.  St. Peter Celestine was a horrible pope, but he was an exceptionally saintly man.  His papacy was a disaster (he is the Pope of Dante’s “Great Refusal”), yet he was canonized for his sanctity mere decades after his death.  Likewise there were many popes whose papacies were unqualified successes in strengthening the Church of God, who have not received the recognition of canonization, men like Alexander III, Innocent III, and Leo XIII.

Having done this, De Mattei then proceeds to undermine the theological consensus for the infallibility of the Pope in canonization, an opinion so common since Thomas and Bonaventure as to constitute unanimity.  In his classic study, Die Unfehlbarkeit des Papstes in der Heiligsprechung, Max Schenk traces this unanimity through 1965, a period it would seem that de Mattei would respect.  Between the late 1300s and the 1600s, there are only four thinkers who dissented from the teaching.  After Pope Benedict XIV’s (r. 1740-1758) definitive 7-volume work on canonization, there was total unanimity.  While de Mattei is correct that Benedict XIV taught as a private theologian on the matter, nonetheless he is the greatest authority in history on the subject (indeed one could even call him the “Thomas Aquinas” of canonization).  His opinion obtained universally.

Further the careful investigation of candidates and the assertion of infallibility prevailed for nearly a half-a-millennium before Benedict XIV, having its origins in the early 1200s.  The principles laid down in the medieval practice of canonization laid the foundation for the doctrine of personal infallibility of the Pope (as I argue in an upcoming book from Cornell University Press).  The language used, for example, in the dogmatic decree Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII (1302), in Benedictus Deus of Benedict XII (1336), or Ineffabilis Deus of Pius IX (1854) are drawn from the canonization bulls of the late 12th and early 13th centuries.  Canonizations, one could say, are the places where theologians first discerned the personal infallibility of the Roman pontiff.

It is the act of canonization that is the infallible act of the pope since, as Thomas argues, it is no mere disciplinary decision, but the quasi-profession of faith in the glory of a saint.  It is not the investigation, but the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that certifies this reality for us (Quod. 9, q. 16, ad 1).  Popes are not infallible because of the quality of investigations that precede the definition, they are infallible precisely because of the act they perform in the liturgical setting of canonization. De Mattei is misinterpreting Thomas here (as the liberal historian Brian Tierney tried to do in the 1970s), first by attributing infallibility to the Church alone and also not to the Pope himself, but also by admitting the possibility of exceptions.

If infallible acts admitted of exceptions, then how would the Christian faithful know if any dogmatic declaration were true?  We know that Francis and Dominic are in heaven, because this fact is dogmatically asserted by the Church in the infallible act of canonization. Thomas again provides the reasoning: (Quod 9, q. 16, contra 1) “In the church there is not able to be a damnable error.  But it would be a damnable error if she would venerate a saint who was a sinner, because anyone knowing their sin, might believe the church to be false; and if this were to happen, they might be led into error.  Therefore the church is not able to err in such things.”  By the year 1300 it was clear to everyone that to deny the sanctity of a canonized saint in the Church was a heresy.  While it is true that opposition to this or that saint is possible and open to debate before a formal canonization, after such an act, doubt is precluded and must be received with religious submission of intellect and will.

Since the early 1300s the Popes themselves have understood their act of canonization as infallible.  Some, such as Sixtus IV, Sixtus V, and Clement VIII have explicitly cited this infallibility in the contexts of their own acts of canonization.  One cannot dismiss this theological consensus simply because procedures develop and emphases shift.  On April 27, in a liturgical formula fixed since the canonizations of John XXII in the early 1300s (and very probably before, those are our first records) three petitions will be made.  The first will beseech the aid of Mary and the saints in the “solemn act we undertake.”  The second will invoke the Holy Spirit “that he might not permit the Church to err in a matter of such importance.  Then the Veni Creator will be sung (as before any solemn definition, papal or conciliar).  The third will beg the Pope to enroll the saints, in the name of the Spirit “who in every age preserves the supreme magisterium from every error.”  The pope will then utter the ancient words of canonization, the prototype for all dogmatic definitions:

To the honor of the Holy Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith, and for the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and Our own, after due deliberation and having implored the Divine Assistance by prayer, and by the counsel of many of our brothers, we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints, and we enroll them in the catalog of the saints, commanding that they be held among the saints by the universal Church, and to be invoked as such by pious devotion. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This is not unclear language; in act and in intention the Popes define these things to be held by all the faithful.  We cannot simply discount nearly a 1000 years of theological development in this case, particularly to suit one’s own discomfiture with certain recent happenings.  For to be Catholic is to stubbornly maintain, as St. Thomas did, that in the Church there can never be a “damnable error.”

Donald S. Prudlo

By

Donald S. Prudlo is Associate Professor of Ancient and Medieval History at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He is also Assistant Professor of Theology and Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. His specialty is saints and sainthood in the Christian tradition, and he is the author of The Martyred Inquisitor: The Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (Ashgate, 2008) and has recently edited The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies (Brill, 2011).

  • For a real Pope yes but for an Antipope (my thinking e.g. not canonically elected, heretical, excommunicated, etc.) no.
    There is a general certitude for Bl. Pope John Paul II (my personal feeling as well). Process was essentially complete and heaven had spoken (miracles). Pope Francis just put his stamp on it. Additionally there is ‘santo subito’, and other testimonies e.g. Pope emeritus Benedict, etc. Personally I have my doubts on Pope John XIII: no second miracle yet and … he and Pope Francis modernists? Also to me, I was disappointed that Pope Francis did not allow for Bl. John Paul II to have his own day.
    For a Pope who we think is Pope but before G_d is Antipope, I guess then it for a genuine successor of his and/or subsequent council to (infallibly?) undo the Antipope’s supposed infallible proclamations.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      But the People of God (pastors and people together) are infallible in their belief. If the decree is received by the whole Church, that, in itself would establish its infallibility..

      After all, we believe the pope to be infallible because a General Council said so (Vatican I) but our belief in the infallibility of General Councils cannot rest on the infallibility of the pope or of a General Council, but only because it has always been held and believed in the Church, otherwise we shall find ourselves arguing in a vicious circle

      • @Michael Paterson-Seymour: Your second paragraph is accurate but “But the People of God (pastors and people together) are infallible in their belief.” This is new.
        Aloha @Michael Paterson-Seymour: I believe I understand what you are trying to say but you have stated it inaccurately.

        Please let me refer you to Saint Vincent of Lérins’ Canon on the Catholic Faith and heresy, the maxim: quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (i.e. only “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” is the Catholic Faith of Christianity).

        The Successor of Peter Teaches Infallibly | Pope John Paul II | General Audience ” March 17, 1993:
        Here is what Vatican I said on the matter:

        “When the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in exercising his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians he defines with his supreme apostolic authority that a doctrine on faith and morals is to be held by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised him in the person of St. Peter, he enjoys that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining a doctrine on faith and morals. Therefore, these definitions of the Roman Pontiff are unreformable per se, and not because of the Church’s consent” (DS 3074).

        This doctrine was taken up again, confirmed and further explained by Vatican II, which states:
        “And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32), by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but, as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith” (LG 25).

        My argument is simply: For a real Pope yes but for an Antipope no. and the test for what any Pope has proclaimed infallibly is very simple and just as you have stated in line with St. Vincent of Lérins’ : has it been believed everywhere, always, and by all? So unless the faithful rose up against such a Pope while in office when a Pope attempted to make as infallible, a fallible proclamation (apparently this has occurred?), I believe it is then common sense that it belongs to those who come after him to clean the mess up.
        On this you are absolutely correct: The Catholic Faith and those who truly possess and profess it, will know right away – no Pope or council needed – that a mistake was made (to the simple, it is plain immediately).

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.” LG 12

          • Like I said there was inaccuracy, you statement above in line with my reply is more accurate than “But the People of God (pastors and people together) are infallible in their belief.”

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              “the condemnation of say Arianism, etc. was not received by its proponents in the church.”

              There were no proponents of Arianism in the Church, after the Council of Nicea severed them from its communion.

              I agree that, if the sensus fidelium is to be a real test, then we have to be able to define the “fideles” in extension.

              Mgr Ronald Knox provides a simple test: “The fideles, be they many or few, be their doctrine apparently traditional or apparently innovatory, be their champions honest or unscrupulous, are simply those who are in visible communion with the see of Rome. No doubt, in the long run this means the people who are so orthodox that Rome has seen no reason to excommunicate them, so that unity and orthodoxy still react upon one another. But the fact remains that the Roman theory does give a test for defining the fideles without the question-begging preliminary of ascertaining who the fideles are, from an examination of their tenets. And, in fact, there can be little doubt that, in the West, our labelling of this party as orthodox and that as heterodox in early Church history comes down to us from authors who were applying this test of orthodoxy and no other.”

              • Thanks you @Michael Paterson-Seymour for our exchanges and for bringing to my attention LG 12. Thank you!
                May God bless His Work at our hands. God bless you and all near and dear to you.

  • JohnB

    You make a good case, but how are we to understand JPII’s reducing the status of certain Saints (I’m thinking particularly of St. George the Dragon Slayer)? The details aren’t readily available to me, but I remember being disconcerted at the time. Your argument makes me even more concerned about those pronouncements. I’m sure JPII was right in making them, but how do I reconcile that with the infallible nature of the prior pronouncements that he undid? Hopefully your new book will put my mind to rest on this point.

    • Matthew B. Rose

      John, as I see it (and this was something that Dr. Prudlo examined in this article), once a person is declared a saint by the Church, he cannot be un-canonized. The canonization declares for the whole faithful that a person is in Heaven. It doesn’t put them in Heaven. Later popes can’t say “St. Such-and-such of So-and-so is not a saint anymore.” What popes can and do often do is remove the saint from the liturgical books, that is, remove their collect, etc, for their feast day. Feasts can be elevated and demoted, and have been throughout history. Just because a feast is demoted to a lower class feast (or removed from the liturgical calender) does not mean that the saint is not a saint anymore.

      This is not something restricted to the reforms following the Second Vatican Council. Even older missals do not include Masses all of the saints at that time. If a priest wishes to say a Mass in honor of a saint not officially included in the missal, all he has to do is insert the saint’s name into the Mass for that type of saint. So if a priest wanted to offer Mass in honor of, say, St. Lydwing, he could insert her name into the Mass for mystics or something like that.

      John Paul II did not undo an prior infallible pronouncements, and we can be confident that his canonizations are infallible too.

      • Sheila Connolly

        Also, some saints were never canonized, but simply entered into calendars based on a cult of theirs that existed beforehand. The custom of actually examining and canonizing saints came about much later. No examination into their life was made, and it this point it’s too late to do so. We know virtually nothing about Sts. George, Christopher, Philomena, Valentine, etc., and they were never canonized in any official way. So it’s simply a matter of taking them out of the calendar again.

  • Bernonensis

    It is true that much of the opposition to the canonizations taking place Sunday has been centered on how they will affect our understanding of the pontificates of John XXIII and John Paul II, above all in our interpretation of the chimaera known as Vatican II. But, as some have pointed out, what matters here is the man, not the pontificate; St. Celestine was a bad pope, but a great Christian (one who had the humility to abdicate when it became clear that he was not up to the job). Very well, let’s leave official acts (and omissions) aside.

    Benedict XIV and the theologians who follow him were never faced with the prospect of canonizing a man who permitted Buddhists to place their idol on a consecrated altar; who, with the whole world watching him by virtue of his prominence in the Church, reverently kissed a copy of a fraudulent revelation that denied the divinity of Christ and the truth of His death upon the cross; who, in the years that passed between these events and his death, never disavowed these things or apologized for them, although he could not have been unaware of the scandal he had caused to millions, both within the Church and outside her. These are not official acts of the Holy See, but the personal failings of Karol Wojtyla.

    If, as punishment for our many sins and imperfections, God permits the canonization of John Paul II two days from now, we will know that the theological consensus was wrong, and that canonizations, at least when following a departure from the traditional process, are not infallible.

    I will never enter a church, chapel, shrine, school, convent, cemetery or retreat house named for the Qur’an-kisser, and, unlike his many admirers, I will not pray to him, but for him, because I am a Christian,

    • Sheila Connolly

      So in other words, the Church is infallible until it does something you disagree with?

      I am not entirely convinced that canonizations are infallible, but this article gives some good reasons to believe they are. And if they are, we ought to trust the Church’s authority to canonize more than we trust our own conviction about a person. Does God preserve the Church from error, by his own power, or do you suppose we just got lucky the past 2,000 years?

      There are surely Qur’an kissers in heaven, either because it is not sinful (there could be sinful and non-sinful interior dispositions to such an act) or because they are forgiven. There will also be repentant adulterers and rapists, murderers and heretics.

      I hope when you reach the last judgment and see them entering into heaven ahead of you, you will not turn and walk away.

      • Bernonensis

        If you truly believe that you’ve summarized my position “in other words”, there’s no need to read further, since you clearly won’t understand. This isn’t the forum to answer fully but I will make some explanation.

        I have full trust in the Church’s authority in all those things concerning which the Lord gave her authority. So, when she tells me that whoever denies Christ before men, Christ will deny before His Father, I believe it. When she tells me that whoever dies in a state of grace will have eternal life, I believe it. When she tells me that whoever exercises heroic virtue is worthy of the honor of sainthood, I believe this. She has the authority to tell me these things because she is the guardian of the Deposit of Faith and the authentic expositor of revealed truth. But the state of John Paul II’s soul at the moment of his death is not part of the Deposit of Faith, not a revealed truth. The canonization process recognizes that an individual’s sanctity must be a prudential judgment based on an examination of the candidate’s life, his works of charity, his fidelity to the orthodox faith. The whole point of requiring miracles is to seek divine assistance arriving at a conclusion that surpasses the powers of human judgment. In the case of John Paul, neither his orthodoxy or the reality of the miracles attributed to him are beyond question.

        You’re right in saying that kissing the Qur’an may not be sinful. But what are these non-sinful dispositions you suppose? ignorance of the teachings contained in the book? or sincere belief in its teachings? Which of these are you proposing as a defense for John Paul’s action?

        Or, if you admit that it was sinful, where is his repentance? He may have done so privately, you say? But then what about the need to repair the scandal his kiss caused, which he could easily have done by publicly repudiating his error?

        I hope to be among those repentant sinners entering heaven, and hope the same for you.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          ” But the state of John Paul II’s soul at the moment of his death is not part of the Deposit of Faith, not a revealed truth. ”

          But neither is the fact that the Third Council of Constantinople was a true ecumenical council or that the acts of the Council of Ephesus are a faithful record of its canons or that Innocent X was a true pope or that the five propositions condemned in Cum Occasione are contained in Jansen’s Augustinus, but all are to believed of faith, as “dogmatic facts.” Unless this were so, we could never be certain that any doctrine whatsoever had been infallibly defined. In such cases, our faith rests on the infallibility and indefectibility of the whole Church.

          • Bernonensis

            True enough, but consider the difference between the examples you mention and canonization.
            If the Church is to exist as a visible society and carry out her mission as teacher and sanctifier, she must be able to know and indicate clearly what are true teachings and what are errors; and she must be able to tell who are the legitimate exponents of her doctrines and disciplines. It is long been held by theologians, and was certainly the teaching of the First Vatican Council, that the charism of infallibility extends to pronouncements of those truths which, though not themselves revealed, follow necessarily from revealed truth. So, the status of Ephesus III or the pontificate of Innocent X are things we can be sure of because the acceptance of these things by the whole Church in the years since those events is witness to the ordinary magisterium of the (indefectible) Church.

            How is certain knowledge of John Paul’s sanctity (or yours or mine, for that matter) a necessary consequence of revealed truth?

        • cpsho

          You are absolutely right John Paul 2 is not a saint. Never mind what the sycophants are saying.

          http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/02/27/category-archive-message-board-14/

          • John Byde

            Both popes were great men and shepherds but I have reservations about popes being canonised. After all, it’s it their job to be holy and saintly. It makes it seem like a medal or an OBE for a civil servant after he’s done his time. Just sayin’

            • cpsho

              John Paul 2 was not great for the church. Many of the children that were sexually abused (whom he failed to protect or give justice), lost their faith because of his policies. That is not greatness.

              • cpsho

                Here is what Fr Thomas P. Doyle who worked with the Nuncio in the 80s says:

                ‘It is hard to believe that this pope, who was supposed to be one of the smartest men alive at the time, could not have understood the gravity of
                significant numbers of priests raping and violating little children. The excuse that he did nothing because of his “purity of thought” is as ridiculous as the excuse that he wanted to preserve the priesthood for which he held such high esteem.”

    • To me this is another snare of the evil one (oh has he laid them, His most sought after prize, one’s faith): ‘that if this happens, I will leave the Church’.cf Jn 6:68-69: And it is Peter: ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of G_d.’ If I were to leave, that would mean my faith, ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy catholic Church’ was not well founded and grounded.
      Our vantage is very limited and different from the what G_d sees or how he plans things. A crucified messiah is (still) a stumbling block for the Jews and folly for the gentiles.
      I am sure that G_d will explain all to us later.

      • mikidiki

        Hi, just a simple question:- what is your problem with the word ‘God’? Should we all adopt your spelling? Thanks in advance.

        • No you don’t and thank you for asking. I explained it to @John Piazza in the post Down the Slippery Slope: A Timeline of Social Revolution if you don’t mind checking it there.

          • mikidiki

            Okay, so I checked it there.
            “I picked it up from a Jewish lady’s post some time ago. I took it as respecting the LORD’s name.”
            So, why would you not want me to show the same degree of respect for the LORD’s name as you do? If using G_d is important to you should you not be urging myself and others to follow suit?
            Quite frankly, I am unable to rationalise your use of G_d with your use of the LORD. Surely the latter should be the L__d?
            In my humble opinion, and with due respect, I think you should drop the idea which, in conflict with the intention of the Jewish lady and your good self, in fact diminishes the status of God by replacing His accepted name with a manufactured ‘cleverism’.
            Also, again in my opinion, its usage detracts from the sensible comments you usually post.

            • @mikidiki this is a correction well given and I am grateful to receive it! Thank you, thanks be to God, and God bless! I am also grateful for your appreciative comments.

              • mikidiki

                Thank you in return. I am so pleased that my comments have not upset nor antagonised you, and I hope you will succeed in avoiding the ‘cleverism’ in future. Sincerely, God’s blessings be upon you.

                • One, you and the other gentleman paid attention and enquired about it. That was impressive to me. Secondly, you made a whole lot of sense. You have read some of my posts, given I believe, that the Church is in a huge crisis at a critical time, being upset or antagonized (you did none of those things), would, as you so well say, detract from what is really important. May God bless His Work at our hands …

      • Bernonensis

        I agree with all you’ve said. But if you think that I meant that I would leave the Church over the canonization, you’ve misunderstood me badly.

        • I am very sorry for the misunderstanding @Bernonensis

    • Have you read Crossing the Threshold of Hope written in 1994 by Pope John Paul II?
      Also what makes a C

      • Bernonensis

        No, I haven’t read Crossing the Threshold, nor do I intend to. Thank you for recommending it, though, and let me return the favor by recommending “On the Orthodox Faith” by St. John of Damascus.

        What makes a church holy? Well, the one and only Church is most definitely holy because of who dwells in her: the Holy Spirit.

        If faced with the problem you ask, I’d do what I could to avoid offending my guests/hosts. I might try to choke down the offering; Lord knows I ate enough questionable cold cuts for my lunch in school, when my sandwiches sometimes sat five or six hours in a 90-degree room before I got to it. If it were a Friday, I’d politely explain that my religion requires me to abstain. And if they told me that eating this meat made me a sharer in the worship of the Great Centipede, to whom it had been offered, I like to think that I would have the grace and the courage to refuse no matter how they might take it.

        But now I’ll ask you about a situation that more closely parallels the case of John Paul. Suppose you were visiting a tribe who murdered several Christian missionaries many years ago. They have preserved the crucifixes the missionaries wore, and now their custom is to present them to visitors to spit upon, thus demonstrating respect for their glorious god Wazoo, who mightlly defeated the foreign devils in the days of the ancestors. Your move?

        • Crossing the Threshold:
          Buddha?

          “Nevertheless, it needs to be said right away that the doctrines of salvation in Buddhism and Christianity are opposed.”; “Buddhism is in large measure an “atheistic” system. We do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad.”
          Muhammad?

          “Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside. ”
          Given this, I then saw the Pope John Paul II say ‘kiss the Qur’an’, if I can, I would ask him, if not, I would at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
          When people give you their gift, I think they are giving of themselves, and of what the perceive as good and noble in them. And you are right, it behooves anyone not to offend a gift given in sincerity.
          And you are again right, if accalepting that gift meant that you sinned or caused scand

          • Bernonensis

            You say you would give the pope the benefit of the doubt, but what is in doubt? Do you doubt he knew that he was kissing a book that denies the divinity of Christ and the reality of His death on the Cross? Do you doubt that he was aware that his action would confirm the Muslims in their false beliefs? Do you doubt that he knew, or at least should have known, that it would encourage indifferentism and lead members of the Church astray?

            The chief difference between food offered to idols and the Qur’an is that the food has nutritive value no matter what superstitious use it may have been put to and you may need to eat it, while the Qur’an is never anything but a damnable lie, and there never can be a good reason to kiss it.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              The Qur’an contains much that is true and good. According to Nostra Aetate, “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honour Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, alms-giving and fasting.”
              St John Paul II’s kissing of their holy book was an expression of that esteem.

        • “Well, the one and only Church is most definitely holy because of who dwells in her: the Holy Spirit.” And in churches in the parishes, Our Lord truly and substantially present in the tabernacle awaiting our (daily) visit …
          I would hope that my lack of admiration for a particular saint after whom the church was named after would not be an impendence to my access to the LORD of the temple and my availing myself to the graces I would receive from such a church.

  • Andrew

    I’m ashamed of the second to last commenter saying Pope John XXIII is a modernist; has he not read the Journal of a Soul, the autobiography of John XXIII? He is not a Modernist, he is a very traditional, his two Popes he has devotion to is Pope St. Pius X and Bl. Pius IX, and here is his own words from his Journal: “Of special note is the fact that Angelo Roncalli, on the day of his first Mass, was blessed personally by Pope Pius X, as we will see mentioned in two of the following diary entries.

    [Prayer to St. Pius X]
    On the day of my first Mass your hands were laid on my head, the head of a newly ordained priest kneeling as you passed by in the Vatican.
    I have always treasured in my heart the memory of that gesture and of the gentle words of good wishes and blessings which accompanied it.
    Now fifty years have passed. You are a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, you rejoice in the glory of the saints, and all Christians pray to you.
    The humble young priest of long ago has been placed in the Chair of St. Mark, where you, too, presided with such splendour of doctrine, virtue, and example. O Holy Father Pius X, I put my trust in you. I do not fear to die. I do not refuse to work. May your powerful arm assist me, so that all that is still left for me to do in my life may be to the edification, the blessing and the joy of these beloved children of Venice, your children and mine, with whom it is sweet to live but still more precious and joyful to sacrifice myself in an outpouring of lovingkindness and pastoral care. [Prayer for the 50th anniversary of Roncalli’s ordination as priest, August 1954, while Patriarch of Venice.] ”

    The maxim “Know thyself” suffices for my spiritual serenity and keeps me on the alert. The secret of my success must lie there: in not “searching into things which are above my ability” and in being content to be “meek and humble of heart.” Meekness and humbleness of heart give graciousness in receiving, speaking and dealing with people, and the patience to bear, to pity, to keep silent and to encourage. Above all, one must always be ready for the Lord’s surprise moves, for although he treats his loved ones well, he generally likes to test them with all sorts of trials such as bodily infirmities, bitterness of soul and sometimes opposition so powerful as to transform and wear out the life of the servant of God, the life of the servant of the servants of God, making it a real martyrdom. I always think of Pius IX of sacred and glorious memory and, by imitating him in his sufferings, I would like to be worthy to celebrate his canonization. (Journal, p. 299, between 29 Nov. and 5 Dec. 1959)

    And an outpouring of gratitude for his priestly ministry:

    My heart is touched when I think of this anniversary of my ordination as a priest—10 August, 1904—in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo, Piazza del Popolo. … I remember it all, at a distance of fifty-seven years. Ever since then I have felt ashamed of my worthlessness. “My God, my mercy.” … After my first Mass over the tomb of St. Peter I felt the hands of the Holy Father Pius X laid on my head in a blessing full of good augury for me and for the priestly life I was just entering upon; and after more than half a century (fifty-seven years precisely) here are my own hands extended in a blessing for the Catholics, and not only the Catholics, of the whole world, in a gesture of universal fatherhood. I am successor to this same Pius X who has been proclaimed a saint, and I am still living in the same priestly service as he, his predecessors and his successors, all placed like St. Peter at the head of the whole Church of Christ, one, holy, catholic and apostolic. (Journal, p. 302; on 10 August 1961)
    I am very ashamed of what was said about my dear John XXIII; even though I was born in 1988, he has become a spiritual father, teacher and guide to me, and so has his two favorite Saintly Popes.

    • @Andrew, if it is me you are referring to, I made no accusation one way of the other regarding Pope John XXIII. I just posed the question whether he and Pope Francis are modernists.
      To be honest, I know very little of Pope John XIII, my questions coming after the ascension of Pope Francis and my unshakeable take that something is terribly wrong with his papacy/the direction of his papacy. That led Pope Pius X’s (you mention him above) encyclical on the doctrines of the modernists. Then I came to learn of the havoc in the church wrecked by Vatican II that Pope John XIII convened. In addition there is talk of some Popes being freemasons (my thinking is that that it is via secret societies/their members that the modernists have infiltrated the Church). As @mikidiki:disqus says above and Our LORD too, we know people by their fruits. From my understanding, Pope John XIII rationale for convening the council is disturbing.

      • Regarding the status of Bl. John XXIII as a ‘modernist’, Peter Kwasniewski over at the NLM blog is posting a series of articles, “John XXIII in his own words” specifically to counteract this misconception. A wonderful introduction to this soon-to-be saint, who was anything but a modernist:

        http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2014/04/john-xxiii-in-his-own-words-3-devotion.html#.U1rmH9q9KSM

        • Mahalo @Chatto:disqus, I will continue educating myself on the matter and of course will submit to any final judgment of the Church.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        “Modernism” never had any existence outside the fevered imagination of those who compiled Lamentabili and Pascendi.

        Roger D. Haight, S.J. explains this very well: “In constructing the abstract and coherent system, the Encyclical draws together ideas from the actual movement of thought, especially from the writings of Alfred Loisy and George Tyrrell. As a consequence, Loisy and Tyrrell are often considered the archetypal “Modernists” and their thought is ipso facto considered heterodox and condemned. The Encyclical, however, precisely because it was describing a self-consistent mosaic out of the pieces of the period, did not have to be faithful to the context or integrity of anyone’s thought. It is not surprising, then, that neither Loisy nor Tyrrell recognized their integral positions in the Encyclical account of “Modernism,” because indeed it does not represent them. The result is that, historically, it must be honestly asked not only whether or not Loisy and Tyrrell were “Modernists,” but also whether or not there were any “Modernists” at all.”

        • You lost me …

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Pascendi condemned a heresy that no one actually believed; not in 1907 and certainly not now.
            There never were any “Modernists.”

      • Andrew

        Aloha, @FMShyanguya, I didn’t know too much about Pope John XXIII either, until I heard about his Journal he had kept since he was a child; The Journal of the Soul; and then I began to use his Rosary Meditations to pray the Rosary, pretty soon he became known to me through his meditations and then I bought a copy of his Journal and began to read it and he began to move my soul, he inspired me to keep a Journal like his and I have done so, through his own Journal with God’s help and in keeping one, it has helped me to grow even closer to God and help to trust in him more as we all are to do. I suggest you read his Journal and may he help you learn about him and come to know him, and yourself in order to grow closer to God.

        • Thanks @Andrew! Hopefully I get to read and meditate on Pope John XXIII’s “The Journal of the Soul” and his Rosary Meditations. Thanks be to God that they are doing you so much good.

  • mikidiki

    With the imminent canonisation of JP2 and J23 it is absolutely impossible for me to accept that current elevations to sainthood are infallible, as will also be the case when moves are set in motion similarly to install B16 and P6. By their words and deeds shall we know them — enough said.

  • hombre111

    I certainly learned the teaching about the infallibility of the act of canonization, and held the idea in high esteem. However, the numerous canonizations by Pope John Paul do create a question. Still, it is not hard for me to believe that John Paul and John XXIII enjoy the beatific vision, if that is what canonization means. But I hope the Church can wring some of the controversy out of this thing. Maybe restore the fifty year waiting period?

  • John O’Neill

    It is truly sad that in the midst of all this hoopla for popular popes that the work of canonizing Pius XII has been put in the slow lane. Pius XII is a much maligned pope who was smeared by Josef Stalin at the end of WWII and who was slurred by many European and American Leftists who joined Stalin in calling Pius XII a Nazi. This was quite a charge considering the number of Jews who were saved by Pius XII but the Left and Stalin wanted to attribute all the evil of the Nazi regime to anyone who opposed the communist doctrines and were successful at it. In France the so called Resistance murdered thousands of Frenchmen who were anti communist and got away with it by claiming that they were collaborators without a shred of proof; the same scenario occurred in Eastern Europe.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The liturgical honours paid to the saints certainly pertain to faith (as St Thomas has it).

    Not only papal canonizations, but a universal (as opposed to a merely local) cultus, including liturgical honours, has been held by many theologians to make their sanctity the object of ecclesiastical faith, resting as it does on the sensus fidelium (pastors and people together) For example, none of the saints included in the Roman Canon were ever formally canonised, but there is no doubting the Church’s judgment in so honouring them.

    It is difficult to believe that the Church could err, when she enjoins the faithful in her public liturgies to ask God to hear our prayers “through the merits and intercession” of a particular person. As Bl John Henry Newman says of St Cyril of Alexandria, “Catholics must believe that Providence would have interposed to prevent his receiving the honours of a Saint in East and West, unless he really was deserving of them.” This was written before Leo XIII pronounced him a Doctor of the Church.

  • hombre111

    Hmm. A canonization is an example of papal infallibility? Pope John Paul put that theory to the test. Canonizations by the gross and double dozens. Why so many? Oh, yeah. He got to be infallible again, and then again, and then again….. Beat the heck out of writing encyclicals on tense moral subjects.

  • Margaret O’Hagan

    I think one can understand the urgency behind the decisions to canonise certain people who may not necessarily have long departed. These days, in the Church where there is much confusion and indeed dissent, we need the affirmation and guidance and what better way is there to direct ourselves to the example of our canonised saints who have lived in the world we are living in. St John Paul, St Josemaria Escriva, Sr Faustina are wonderful examples……

    • Margaret O’Hagan

      And let’s not forget St Gianna Beretta Molla…..

  • Papist

    Excellent, very persuasive piece — the observation that papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals actually developed from the infallibility of canonizations — or as the author puts it, “Canonizations, one could say, are the places where theologians first discerned the personal infallibility of the Roman pontiff” — was worth the price of admission.

  • dmw

    Lumen gentium, no. 25, states the following: “And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.” At first glance, this seems to imply that canonizations (i.e. statements that this or that person enjoys the beatific vision) cannot be infallible acts because knowledge of individuals seeing the beatific vision is not a part of the deposit of revelation. Thoughts? It seems that canonizations would fall under what must be held with the submission of intellect and will: “religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra” (LG 25).

MENU