Thanks for the comments on the “Hero Worship” thread. It wasn’t my main intention to get into a debate on the merits of Pius XII’s stance with or aid to Jewish refugees in the 1940′s. It’s certainly not a surprise that the man is a controversial figure. But some obvious questions and observations are afoot regarding saints.
1. Clearly, not all saints avoid the controversies of virtue, morality, and inaction. Let’s keep this in mind when discussing merits of potential saints in the future.
2. Being declared a saint is probably more about hero worship than most Catholics would want to admit. We cheer for countrywomen and men. We cheer for ideological mates. We cheer for people whose personal qualities or experiences (loneliness, persecution, etc.) mirror our own, or at least touch on our affective side.
3. It’s all relative. A little controversy in Rome is no problem, but in Latin America, forget it. We can appeal to the emotions (The santo subito! of JPII) or just as easily turn off that spigot when we want to talk about theology or doctrine. Likewise the privations and sufferings of the martyrs: feel bad for them. But maybe not so much when other Christians or even Catholics delivered the blow. You never know: they might have been heretics.
The question goes begging: what makes a saint? Can one be a saint without any followers at all? Does one need to have earthly support to achieve sanctity? Does the Roman process of declared saints always add to the sanctity of the pilgrim Church or does it sometimes detract from it?