Friday, October 26, 2018

Thoughts on the Canonization of Paul VI

Because everybody seems to be weighing in with their opinion on the canonization of Pope Paul VI two weeks ago, I have put together an essay, "Argument for the Infallibility of Canonizations", on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website addressing some of the speculations I am seeing. It is not so much my own argument as it is a synthesis of others. It does not address Paul VI directly but rather examines the theological arguments in favor of the infallibility of canonizations, an argument to which I adhere.

I completely understand the frustration, confusion, anger, and exasperation of many of my fellow Catholics on this topic. Many of them, people I admire and count as friends, have taken a different position and argued that this canonization is invalid. I do not at all doubt their good intentions. I wish them the best, but I cannot follow along in that conclusion. I remember how vehemently I argued against (what I still take to be) the rash and imprudent canonization of John Paul II. But he has been canonized nonetheless, and I accepted it and moved on. That's what I am doing with Paul VI. If the Church ever decides to suppress the (non-existent) cultus of Paul VI, I will accept that as well. I still think Paul VI was a sub-par pope—and that's being charitable. Ideally, a canonization is supposed to be not only a declaration that so-and-so is enrolled among the saints, but that the manner of their life (and how they carry out the obligations relevant to their state in life) is worthy of imitation. This has never meant that every thing a saint does has had to be approve; canonization was never meant to be the canonization of a saint's every word and deed. But, to borrow the language of the Catechism, it nevertheless was meant to identify that saint's life as a "sure norm" for Christian living.

That aspect of canonization has been totally compromised due to the canonization of "mixed bag" sort of popes who, though they may have had a deep personal piety worthy of admiration, nevertheless left a lot to be desired in their exercise of public office. The bar is supposed to be very high. There is a reason why only two popes from 1566 to 1914 had been canonized.

Even so, I personally am not willing to cast doubt on the certitude of Church's entire process of canonization rather than accept that one man has been declared a saint. I understand that others are, but that's not a line I am going to cross. It's much more reasonable for me to shrug and say "Well, Paul VI is a saint now" than to try to argue that canonizations are not infallible or that Francis is not really the pope. And make no mistake, if you argue against this canonization, those are the only two alternatives: either none of the Church's canonizations are certain, or Francis is not pope. In my opinion, both of those assertions put you out in la-la land. Maybe you want to say, "No, Boniface, I'm not casting doubt on all canonizations, just those after a certain date." Okay, when? Was it 1965 at the close of the Council? Or 1969 when Paul VI began tinkering with the methodology of canonization? Was it 1983 with the publication of Divinis Perfectionis Magister, the document of John Paul II which created the current process? When do you cut it off and why?

And if canonizations were not always possessed of infallible certitude, then pray tell when did they become infallible? Was it in 1170 when Pope Alexander III declared canonizations reserved to the Holy See? If we insist on the procedural argument, it's important to note that Alexander III did not institute any new procedures in 1170; he merely translated the jurisdiction of canonization from local bishops to the Holy See, so if we hang our hats on the date 1170 based on a procedural argument, no new procedures were instituted then. They came in gradually later, piecemeal, here a little, there a little. The rigorous process we associate with the pre-conciliar methodology did not become completely standardized until the 1750's.

But maybe 1170 is not our date. Perhaps it was when the role of the Devil's Advocate was first utilized by Leo X (1513-1521), or was it when the office of Promoter Fidei was formally established in 1587? Was it in 1634 when Urban VIII reserved the entire process, including beatification, to the Roman pontiff? Was it in 1588 when the Congregation of Rites was established, or perhaps in 1607 when the Promoter Fidei (Devil's Advocate) was made the supreme official of that Congregation with authority over scrutinizing beati? Was it during the late 1700s when the excellent principles of Prospero Lambertini (Pope Benedict XIV) enunciated in De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et de Beatorum Canonizatione became the norms of the canonization process? Who knows? The fact is, if we argue that canonizations only became infallible at a certain time or only lost their certitude at a certain time, we are left with totally arbitrary, subjective determinations of when, how, and why; subjective determinations that solve no problems, answer no questions, and leave the entire canonization process open to skepticism.

So yes, I am shrugging and moving on. That's how I handled the canonization of John Paul II, and I have to say, it was not damaging to my faith at all. Ultimately, I am just a lay person and the Church's solemn judgments have more authority to me than my own subjective opinions about a person.

Also, I am not interested in debating this endlessly. Everything I have to say is said in the above article and the other resources I linked within it. You all can say whatever you want about it, but that's my two cents. Quod scripsi, scripsi


MaryP said...

If canonization defines that someone is in heaven, then there is no problem with infallibility. But Aquinas says canonization cannot be infallible if it is taken to mean that someone is a model of heroic virtue, because, he says, the Church cannot know the particulars of someone's soul. As to Paul VI: if Francis isn't pope, then his canonization of Paul VI isn't a canonization. Francis may not be pope, according to some. But I am quite happy to think that Pope Paul and Escriva "de Balaguer" and Oscar Romero made it to heaven. So did my grandma, most likely.

Anonymous said...

It is clear by your rather bitter comments, that you haven't moved on from the fact that John Paul II has been recognized as a Saint. This is the problem with these ultra traditionalist Catholic blogs, their hatred for the Supreme Pontiff, no matter who it is, and their diatribe towards the Second Vatican Council, these blogs are also part of the crisis afflicting the Church

Boniface said...

^Lol...what are you even talking aout?

"[John Paul II] has been canonized nonetheless, and I accepted it and moved on. That's what I am doing with Paul VI...I am shrugging and moving on. That's how I handled the canonization of John Paul II, and I have to say, it was not damaging to my faith at all. Ultimately, I am just a lay person and the Church's solemn judgments have more authority to me than my own subjective opinions about a person."

Where was I bitter about JPII's canonization? How can you deduce that I "hate" the Supreme Pontiff based on any of these comments? I don't even know what you mean by "ultra Traditionalist." I attend the NO and go to the TLM only about once a month. What makes you think I have hatred for John Paul II or any pope? I have a picture of Pope Francis in my house, as I did of Benedict before him. I certainly don't hate the pope.

Mr o'shays said...

No idea regarding all VI but JPII is recorded in the Maria Movement of Priests as being Her Pope.
It's recorded so in the book of messages.

Boniface said...


William said...

Hi buddy. I dont think I agree with your assessment of the canonizations of the conciliar and post conciliar popes. I dont have to be a political tactician to recognize that these canonizations are primarily serving to canonize the second Vatican council. We should hang out soon and chat about it, and more interestingly, other things lol.

Alexander Verbum said...

Let's just all agree not to call these guys "saint" or put it front of their names when typing about them. It doesn't necessarily deny any authority in canonization, and it's just a small step in not promoting their cult (or lack thereof with some of these guys).

Personally, I cannot call Paul VI or JPII "Saint" as it is indeed damaging to my faith. Their status is heaven is nothing to contest - as even the most intentionally vile people can make it heaven through a conversion (deathbed or otherwise).

Calling JPII a "saint" when he helped people break the first commandment and as a result helped those people worship demons is extremely offensive. If I call these people "saints" I feel like I am betraying the Catholic faith and offending God - whether that is correct or not, I simply cannot call them saints. I cannot call people who did harm to the Catholic faith, without repentance or correction, a "saint." But again, they can be "saints" in heaven, and that is not my issue.

The process of canonization has become a joke and a political tool in some cases - as noted the real issue is imitation, heroic virtue, a safe model of Catholicity.

Karl said...

Alex Long,

"Personally, I cannot. My faith. If I call these people. I feel like I am. I simply cannot. I cannot."

Your name should be Alex Short, for the shallowness of your thought.

Allow me also to say, that canonisations have always been a question of money, politics and influence. Perhaps the next step is not to call them Popes because they disagree with you.

Aaron D. said...

Why do you say people are in lala land if they think pope Francis is an antipope? There have been them before and there will be again so why not. And the pictures of Benedict in white keep coming. Still having a hard time finding a black cassok in Rome? I don't claim to know but it is mentally more easy for me to come to the antipope conclusion then accept all this crap that has happened under Francis. Also I love the comment that calls this an untra traditionalist blog. Cleary they have not spent much time on catholic blogs.

Alexander Verbum said...


"Alex Short" lol did it take you a whole 4 seconds to think of that?
Perhaps calling people names is the theme of the those who support the canonization of these men?

I already gave you one example for your thoughts: The 1986 Assisi meeting.

Yet, you offer no rebuttal as to why JPII who accommodates pagans in breaking the first commandment on consecrated Church ground, a public act against the faith with no public correction, should be called a "saint."

JPII and Paul VI have several actions and words against the Catholic faith - public and no repentance. Saints do not do this. Saints know not to promote worship of demons on sacred Church ground. This is as basic 2+2 = 4. This is why their canonizations are imprudent. This is why we should not call them saints *because it helps to promote all of their sandals against the Catholic faith that have no public repentance or correction.*

Now, instead of throwing around lame name calling, why not engage in the substance of the matter, son?

Karl said...

Alex Short,

your name should be Palex Short, called after a humourless mind.

To answer, you are commenting on an article linking to an essay dealing with these very questions. And you have chosen to ignore both of those, which is the third and final reason I see no point in engaging you.

Alexander Verbum said...

@Karl wrote:

"To answer, you are commenting on an article linking to an essay dealing with these very questions. And you have chosen to ignore both of those, which is the third and final reason I see no point in engaging you."

What do you mean, infallibility?

All the articles are talking about infallibility with canonizations.

I am *not* talking about infallibility.

I really don't think you can process what I am trying to get at.

I will dumb it down for you: Do not call these men "saints" as that will spread their cult and directly or indirectly bolster the destruction they have caused in the minds of the faithful.

Read carefully and slowly, it's very simple. Nothing about denying infallibility here.

You throw childish insults around and you can't even understand something a 6th grader can comprehend. Bizarre - or maybe very appropriate.

Boniface said...


Alex is not speaking to the question of infallibility. He is saying, "Okay, for the sake of argument lets say the canonizations are infallible. Even so, let's refrain from going out of our way to promote the cultus of Paul VI or JPII because they are such mixed bags and the promotion of their cultus could be confusing."

Anonymous said...

william price: My exact thoughts verbatim. Scary! The next step: 'canonize' medjugorje to further validate the spirit of vii

Karl said...

@@@ Palex Short
@@@ Boniface

Let us not go out of our way but care about important things, not because of any of us matter, but because important things matter. Some 19th century Popes, part of a 19th century plot, don't matter. Today I couldn't recall what all of the joyful mysteries are. For shame!

Karl said...

Just stumbled over De Matteis sad article regarding this at Rorate Caeli. It was hard to see. And then I remembered a sermon by father Wolfe of the FSSP. In it, he angrily proclaims something along the lines of: "If we doubt that someone like the Pope who is mentioned in tens of thousands of masses and rosaries every day, can be saved, then boy are we all in trouble."

I find that comforting to remember.