Tightening the Plumbing When Loosening is Called For

My internet friends know I’m a severe critic of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. This story is catching some traction in the blogosphere, but I hope what caught my eye was just a reporter’s inaccuracy:

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the instructions were needed to reflect the “new spirit introduced by Pope Benedict XVI in beatification procedures.”

The cardinal spoke in an interview published Jan. 8 by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, under the headline: “More precision will be asked in diocesan canonization processes.”

The local diocese offers much more hope for lay people, including married couples, to be recognized for the saintliness with which they enrich the Church. For the lay pipeline to tighten while the spigots of religious orders flows freely strikes me as a prejudice. At worst, it is a particular blindness of the Holy Father, if indeed these changes were drawn up at his request.

This isn’t to say I object to the saintly founders of religious orders being formally recognized. But I think rank-and-file Catholics are more in need of patrons who have lived as they lived. I’m talking about parents, lawyers, doctors, architects, musicians, artists, athletes, teachers, laborers, and maybe even business owners. In particular, children and young people need heroes that urge them to holiness where they are.

Perhaps it would be prudent to remove most of the saints’ causes from the curia. At the very least, national conferences could discern people of holiness. The diocesan bishop, perhaps, should also have the authority to add saints to the local calendar, perhaps in advance of sending the case to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. A demonstrated local devotion would assist the discussion and might give further evidence of the saint’s intercession.

Some saints are made for the world: Mother Teresa and John Paul II. Others like the Spanish Civil War martyrs are more for their own nation. Mother Guerin seems a great patron for the order she founded, and for the people she touched in Indiana. Every diocese needs a few people like that. And why should religious orders wait for the go-ahead from Rome? Many already keep special liturgical calendars.

That’s why my sense is thumbs down on this initial report. We need more saints, not fewer. And we don’t need Rome to confirm every one of them.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to Tightening the Plumbing When Loosening is Called For

  1. freder1ck says:

    The diocesan process is the initial process, isn’t it? In general, a holy person is recognized locally and then proposed for everywhere.

    I agree that “we don’t need Rome to confirm every one of them.” So, it doesn’t bug me that every few years, they tweak the process.

  2. John Heavrin says:

    “Others like the Spanish Civil War martyrs are more for their own nation.”

    Wrong. These martyrs, like all martyrs, are saints because they were killed for their faith in Christ and the Church, not because of some political cause particular to time and place. They died for Christ, not Franco; nothing more universal than that.

  3. Todd says:

    I disagree, John. We have martyrs here in North America, as they have in Europe, Asia, and the Third World. Yes, all were killed for their faith in Christ, and we honor that. But saints also lived for Christ in holiness that is applicable everywhere.

    You won’t see the Spanish martyrs on the universal Roman calendar as anything more than an optional memorial. But in Spain they might be and should be something more.

    Isaac Jogues also died for the faith. The Jesuits, especially on this continent might recognize him and his companions with a memorial or feast. Perhaps Catholics in the Northeast. Otherwise, appropriate as an optional memorial.

    The liturgical calendar has regional priorities, and it needs them. We probably need more local saints to observe, and leave the universal ones for the judgment of the faithful through organic development. Just because saints are left off the calendar in some places, or are optional observances doesn’t in any way denigrate their witness to Christ.

  4. Rob F. says:

    Hi Todd,

    You said, “The diocesan bishop, perhaps, should also have the authority to add saints to the local calendar, perhaps in advance of sending the case to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.”

    I think there is a downside to local control of the Calendar, and that downside is especially clear to those of use who pray the Office this time of year.

    Here in the U.S., our ICEL breviaries are all screwed up this time of year, 6 years out of 7. (Although this year, in particular, is not one of the 6). Obviously, the ICEL publishers did not consider the office important enough to do a careful job, as a simple dry run through the office would have caught the error they introduced when they willfully mistranslated the rubrics for Christmastide in order to “improve” them.

    I have escaped these consequences by praying the 2002 Latin edition of the Liturgia Horarum, but the USCCB has seen fit to add 3 memorials to the calendar during Christmastide, two of them not optional. Needless to say, they have not provided a supplement to the Latin breviary for these mandatory memorials. I have a hard time believing that Rome would ever be so careless with the Liturgy.

    The bishops already have the authority to add canonized saints to the calendar of their particular church, but I have never known one to do so. I have never seen the dedication feast day of a cathedral celebrated, although that is supposed to be in the proper calendar of the diocese. Heck, I have never even seen the dedication solemnity of a parish church celebrated. The bishops show little evidence of a desire to implement any sort of local calendar at all. What will giving them more authority do? Will they have any interest in using that authority?

    The bottom line is: unless the bishops have enough interest and competence to actually improve the calendar, rather than just make it worse, I see no benefit for me to giving them greater control than they already have.

  5. Todd says:

    Rob, good points all. Regarding, “unless the bishops have enough interest and competence to actually improve the calendar, rather than just make it worse, I see no benefit for me to giving them greater control than they already have,” I have to agree.

  6. Rob F. says:

    Hi Todd,

    Sorry for the garbled comment above. Apparently, I suffered from some sort of cut-and-paste error. Please delete it and I will re-post. Or just delete or ignore everything above the dashed line.

  7. Dale Price says:

    My modest proposal is that the orders be required to sponsor a lay candidate for canonization on a 1:1 basis for each new proposed saint from their ranks.

  8. Jimmy Mac says:

    I propose a One Hundred Year Moratorium on this activity. It has become embarrassing, what with JPII’s “Saint of The Month Club.”

    Enough, already. 99% of the Catholic world doesn’t even know of the existence of 99% of those sainted folk anyway.

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