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Guest Article:

What's Up With The Recent Papal Canonizations?

Questionable Canonizations: Politics & Agendas

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Guest Article:

What's Up With The Recent Papal Canonizations?

Questionable Canonizations: Politics & Agendas

By: Mr. Anthony

I join the many tradition-minded Catholics who are confused and scandalized by the recent papal canonizations. This is a difficult issue to be sure, especially when dealing with those who are great fans of these two popes or with those outside the Church who misunderstand what is going on. I had hoped God would prevent the canonizations in a dramatic way or at least show His displeasure with a few well-placed lightning bolts, but then I realized the quandary: tradition-minded Catholics would know this was done because these popes shouldn't be canonized due to their revolutionary or scandalous actions, but liberals and others outside the Church might delude themselves into thinking God was angry at these supposedly 'conservative' popes because they held the line against things like abortion & women priests.

Recollecting my thoughts, some top reasons I have concerns about these canonizations are...

  • These canonizations would NEVER have happened under old rules. This alone is enough for me. If Pope John Paul II himself hadn't relaxed the rules, he could NEVER have been canonized. I don't think the rules for such an important matter as canonization should be relaxed - we need certainty regarding our canonized saints. Furthermore, I don't think the person who relaxed the rules should himself benefit by his own changes. This seems like a conflict of interest. Pope John Paul II had a duty to act for the benefit of the Church, yet relaxing these rules certainly doesn't benefit the Church - but it does 'benefit' (so to speak) the Pope who relaxed the rules.

  • An insufficient amount of time has passed. The passage of time is important to avoid the situation where emotions come into play. Canonizations are less likely to be objective if they are conducted by parties who intimately knew & liked the candidates. Such parties would have a hard time being objective about any negative facts concerning their favored candidates. The passage of time is also important to make sure we have all the facts and can best see the fruits of a person's actions. For instance, there has not been nearly enough time to fully evaluate various aspects of Pope John Paul II's papacy (for example his actions - or lack thereof - concerning the disgraced 'Legion of Christ' founder Marcial Maciel). There has also not been nearly enough time to carefully scrutinize the voluminous (and to me, sometimes worrying) writings of Pope John Paul II. Even the media has spoken of the "hurry" to complete the canonization of John Paul II - but such an important matter should NOT be rushed! Rather, the Church should take her time and make a long and careful study to be sure that she will not be embarrassed by future discoveries.

  • Concerns about miracles. As one news report says concerning the 'first miracle' attributed to Pope John Paul II regarding the supposed cure of a nun who apparently had Parkinson's, "one of the doctors charged with scrutinising the nun's case believed she might have been suffering from a similar nervous disease, not Parkinson's, which could go into sudden remission. A report on the paper's website went further, saying that the 49-year-old nun had become sick again with the same illness." So, there already have been some concerns about this supposed 'first miracle' attributed to John Paul II. Also, in the interest of pushing forward the canonization of Pope John XXIII, the powers-that-be simply skirted the (already weakened) rules and didn't require the normally required 'second miracle' for this pope's canonization. (I guess they didn't want to wait around to see if God would confirm him as a saint!) Furthermore, as I understand it, recent canonizations have brought to light allegations that those who sought to provide negative information against candidates were refused from having their say. In other cases, 'miracles' used for canonization have been patently suspect (e.g. 'miraculous cures' happening after medical intervention). So I am already unconfident in a process that (1) requires fewer miracles, (2) apparently considers the non-miraculous to be miraculous, and (3) may fail to give all parties a say. And in the two specific cases of John Paul II and John XXIII, are we really supposed to be confident when the subject of one of the papal candidate's "miracles" apparently suffered a "brief relapse" after her "miraculous cure" and the other papal candidate had the requirement of a miracle waived? And furthermore, since Pope John Paul II relaxed the rules so that fewer miracles are now required for canonization, how can we have confidence in a process that requires even less confirmation from God? (Speaking of miracles, how is it that Pope John Paul II is considered a saint when it has been reported he said he "can't do anything" to help a person who prayed for his intercession? Instead, the helpless Pope John Paul II allegedly referred the petitioner to Pope Pius XII for help.) [Note: Click here for news brief]

  • It is painfully obvious that the pontificates of John XXIII and of John Paul II have been disastrous for the Church. The statistics bear this out. [Note: Try here for examples.] How can we canonize any pope who let error and other scandals flourish in the Church? Who would reward a CEO if his company suffered plummeting stock values under his watch? He may not be responsible for everything, but certainly he does bear some – if not a huge part – of the responsibility.

  • These canonizations seem politically motivated - in fact, they seem to be an attempt to 'canonize' Vatican II. Are we really supposed to believe that all post-Vatican II popes are saintly? While all deceased post-Vatican II popes have now either been canonized or have had their causes advanced, in the 400ish years before Vatican II, there have been only two canonized popes. This seems obviously suspect. Then again, all those prior popes' causes were scrutinized under the more stringent, and more likely accurate, process.

  • Actions of these two popes are in direct contradiction to actions of other canonized persons. For example, consider the actions of John Paul II with respect to those in false religions. Other saints would have gladly been martyred rather than participate in activities that this pope participated in. And those martyred persons would have been canonized by the Church for their faithfulness! So how can it be a pope who did just the opposite is now canonized?

  • These canonizations (particularly Pope John Paul II's) seem to be based on their popularity instead of their record - yet canonization is not supposed to be a popularity contest.

  • To be canonized, a pope should approach impeccable theology, whereas Pope John Paul II propagated many novel teachings (although he did hold to traditional teachings on such things as being anti-abortion - but bear in mind that this is the very least that should be expected of a man under the protection of the Holy Spirit). This pope also failed to clearly teach the Church's doctrine of no salvation outside the Church, but rather seemed to promote the opposite idea. His actions and writings have sowed much confusion and scandal among the faithful - and even among those outside the Church.

  • Pope John Paul II also failed to stop the spectacle of false apparitions at Medjugorje from flourishing while effectively placing the important & true apparition of Fatima in the background (e.g. propagating his new rosary mysteries, omitting the Fatima prayer, claiming that Fatima was in the past, etc.).

  • Popes have the duty to pass on what they have received, but post-Vatican II popes have engaged in a wide assortment of novel teachings & actions. Yet these popes took an oath against modernism! When a pope fails to live up to an oath before God, how can the Church consider him a candidate for canonization?

  • The public & scandalous actions of Pope John Paul II that were not repented of should have been more than enough to prevent this pontiff from being canonized. For example, consider Pope John Paul II's scandalous kissing of the Koran, the scandal of Assisi, his scandalous receiving of a 'blessing' from idolaters, his scandalous appearance in temples of idols, the scandalous 'ecumenical directory' he directly approved, etc. How can a pope who publicly scandalized the faithful in such a manner - and who never repented of it - ever be canonized? Excepting the Blessed Virgin Mary, all saints are sinners (at least to some degree), but John Paul II's entire orientation was ecumenical - it was NOT some minor part of his pontificate or life. His orientation and resulting actions have caused confusion, serious harm to Catholics' belief in the doctrine of no salvation outside the Church, and damage to non-Catholics' understanding of what changes are necessary for their salvation. This is a serious matter affecting the salvation of souls - the most important job of a pontiff! Thinking a pope is cool, a nice guy, popular or well-traveled will not get you to heaven.

  • I believe these canonizations will ultimately bring harm to the Church. For example, every novel thing these popes said or did may be considered 'dogma' and 'beyond dispute' in the minds of some Catholics now that these popes are canonized. The canonizations may further entrench various novelties (e.g. new rosary mysteries, new stations of cross, the 'Divine Mercy' devotion, etc.). In the future, the Church could suffer embarrassment when these papacies are evaluated objectively in light of the abundant negative fruits resulting from their actions (or inactions, e.g. the abuse scandals). It is already apparent that the faithful have worsened under the watch of these popes (e.g. Catholics' ignorance in matters of religion, faulty theology, increase in sinful behaviors, reduced Mass attendance, etc.). The actual records of these popes and the fruits of their pontificates must be taken into account if we are going to consider these popes to be saints.

So, where does this leave us? Are canonizations infallible? Although many have considered them to be so in the past...

  • Infallibility of canonizations has NOT been formally defined as a dogma of the faith. While the majority of theologians do hold that they are infallible, it is still an open question that could be (and has been) subject to discussion.

  • As far as I can see the subject matter of canonizations is not actually a matter for papal infallibility - it is rather a 'judgment call' on a person's life (and much of that is hidden and unknown). Note that the criteria for papal infallibility as set forth by the First Vatican Council is that "the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, possesses that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff of themselves, and not from the consensus of the Church, are irreformable." [Emphasis added] I do not see how a 'judgment call' regarding a specific person's life can be considered as defining "a doctrine regarding faith or morals." Also, we know that infallible doctrines of the faith are "of themselves" irreformable, yet how can the determination regarding a single individual's life be considered absolutely irreformable as a doctrine regarding faith or morals would be? When a matter is truly an infallible dogma of the faith, it would be impossible for something to truly contradict it or legitimately cause it to be the subject of a future review. However, since canonizations are not matters that are divinely revealed but are essentially determined based on limited amounts of fallible human testimony, it is possible that evidence at some future time could be uncovered that would support a future review of a canonization (as shocking or unlikely as that seems, I mention it only as a possibility - and that of course, is something which would be impossible for truly infallible dogmas of the faith which are inherently irreformable).

  • The Church holds, and has always held, that there can be no new revelations since the death of the Apostles. Therefore, it seems to me that infallibility must necessarily be limited to doctrines always held - at least implicitly - since the beginning of the Church, even if those doctrines are now "more fully developed" than they originally were (providing, of course that they are aligned with the original teaching and are not contradictory to it). However, since the subjects of canonizations - the individuals themselves - did not exist since Christ's time, how can determinations with respect to those individuals' lives possibly be the subject of infallible dogma? Especially since they are not per se "dogma" at all, but rather 'judgment calls' concerning specific individuals? And furthermore, keep in mind that these 'judgment calls' have NOT been divinely revealed, unlike doctrines which have always been held by the Church. Remember that the First Vatican Council states that "The Holy Spirit [and thus infallibility] was not promised to the successor of Peter that by the revelation of the Holy Spirit they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the Apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth." Doesn't this clearly demonstrate that infallibility is for the purpose of safely passing on existing - divinely revealed - doctrine, NOT for adding new doctrine?

  • Typically, decisions regarding canonization are confirmed by miracles, but the Church cannot infallibly say that any given 'miracle' outside of scripture is an actual miracle. Therefore, how can the Church rule infallibly on canonization based on something that is fallible (an alleged miracle)?

  • Some argue that canonizations are infallible based on a feast being added to the calendar, but this is NOT a guarantee of infallibility. In the past, there have been feasts added to the calendar that did NOT represent an infallible decision on the part of the Church (e.g. Feast of the Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel, feasts based on Marian apparitions, etc.). These feasts were added based on popular piety and a belief that they were true, but adding them to the calendar in itself is NOT a guarantee of infallibility (the Church can't rule infallibly on apparitions).

  • Some argue that canonizations are infallible because they think popes can never error. History attests this is not true. Likewise, some believe canonizations are infallible because the Church can't ever teach error. However, recent history disputes this claim. Not everything put forth by the Church is infallible. The protection of infallibility is limited and anything that doesn't fall under infallibility is potentially fallible. Outside the scope of infallible pronouncements, a number of errors have been propagated by segments of the Church since Vatican II. This is simply a fact that is beyond dispute. Look at the directory on ecumenism (approved by Pope John Paul II) for examples. To illustrate, compare the various scandalous items in this document (e.g. allowing or encouraging Catholics to pray together and engage in 'worship' services together with heretics & schismatics, lending Catholic churches to heretics & schismatics, etc.) that are, in their essence, contrary to points in The Syllabus of Errors, scripture, and generally to the entire history of the Church! There are also some troubling novelties in the post-Vatican II Catechism of the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that when new statements contradict old statements, both cannot be correct. This is simply a matter of logic. If there is a contradiction, therefore, it follows that there is an error in one of the contradictory statements - either the old or the new one (in either case, there IS an error). And, we know (dogmatically!) that dogma cannot change from the past, so we know that errors must lie in the novelties, NOT in the traditional teachings. And since there has, in actual fact, been contradiction, we know there has, in actual fact, been error. And if there is error, there cannot be infallibility. So again, the protection of infallibility is limited and anything that does not fall under infallibility IS potentially fallible. Furthermore, similar to papal infallibility, I do not think infallibility of the ordinary & universal magisterium of the Church applies to particular instances of modern canonizations since the subjects of those canonizations are individuals' lives rather than dogmatic teachings concerning faith or morals. Also, particular canonizations in our generation can't have continuity (universality) since the individuals canonized didn't exist since Christ's time. Just because the bishops generally agree on the canonizations and are in union with the Pope in considering them to be something 'definitively held' by the faithful, does not by itself guarantee their infallibility, no more than the same set of circumstances could guarantee infallibility regarding ecumenism. While ecumenism may meet some of these same tests (i.e. general agreement of the bishops in union with the Pope on a matter they think should be 'definitively held' by the faithful), ecumenism is clearly NOT infallible because it is novel & contradictory to the past. Likewise, the subjects of these recent papal canonizations promoted novelties and their actions have lacked continuity with the past. Modern canonizations would, in fact, inherently fail the test of universality because the subject matter for particular canonizations didn't exist since Christ's time and could not therefore have always been held by the Church. Nor are canonizations dogmas of the faith, but are rather judgment calls regarding persons' lives. And the Church can be - and has been - wrong regarding various non-dogmatic judgment calls.

  • The canonization process - itself not an infallible dogma of the faith, but a human process subject to human error - has been harmed with the weak rules that Pope John Paul II put in place. These new procedures have eliminated safeguards which would have been more likely to ensure reliability of the results (e.g. the imprudent elimination of the 'devil's advocate', no longer waiting 50 years before starting the cause, requiring fewer miracles, etc.). The new process has been dubbed a 'saint factory' by some due to the record numbers of canonizations which have taken place since Pope John Paul II's election. This has served to degrade, not strengthen, the value of canonization - and that is assuming the weakened canonization rules are actually followed. In the case of both these popes, even those diminished rules were not followed in an effort to push through their canonizations. From merely a natural perspective, wouldn't it seem strange think to think that infallibility could be guaranteed from a hurried, politically motivated, weakened, agenda-driven, non-infallible process involving a (not divinely revealed) non-dogma that isn't even conducted according to the rules? If these popes are truly 'canonization material', why is it that they would never have been canonized under the old rules?

Faithful Catholics should not bury their heads in the sand regarding such important matters. Like it or not, facts are facts and the truth is the truth. And lastly, to answer one final objection, I do not believe the fact that these canonizations have occurred is a guarantee that they are God's will. God allows many things to occur as part of His permissive will (even evil things like abortion, murder, rape, priestly abuse scandals, propagation of false teachings, errors & lies, Eucharistic abuse, ecumenical outrages, etc.), but that certainly does not mean that He directly wills those things. I certainly have no intention of being temerarius, impious, or causing any scandal, but does seem quite rational to me that faithful Catholics can legitimately have some problems of conscience with regard to these recent canonizations that, again, would NOT have occurred under the old rules.

[MCS Note: We have added links above which are not part of the original article.]

Also See...

* User-Submitted Article: "Great" Popes: When a Pope Should Be & Should Not Be Called Great

* Second Vatican Council (Topic Page)

* Modernism (Topic Page)

* Vatican View

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