22 March 2011

Reservations-- Can They Be Addressed 'Subito'?

This lengthy article, published by Michael Matt of The Remnant, lays out the case for a delay in the cause of beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. One needn't agree with all of these objections to note that there are indeed several troubling aspects of the late pontificate that may give one pause. Hurrying (as compared to the normal process traditionally followed in the Church) this declaration to a world that does not understand the difference between beatification and canonization, nor that the Church's infallibility is only invoked upon the latter, is a question of prudential judgement.

Before you get too excited, read the article. I would be interested to read your respectful take, pro or con, about the piece. Here is the introduction, which states the question:

A Statement of Reservations Concerning the Impending Beatification of Pope John Paul II

The impending beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1, 2011 has aroused serious concern among not a few Catholics around the world, who are concerned about the condition of the Church and the scandals that have afflicted her in recent years—scandals that prompted the future Benedict XVI to exclaim on Good Friday 2005: “How much filth there is in the Church, even among those who, in the priesthood, should belong entirely to Him.” We give voice to our own concern in this public way in keeping with the law of the Church, which provides:

In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence which they possess, the Christian faithful have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals and reverence towards their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons. [CIC (1983), Can. 212, § 3.]

We are compelled by what we believe in conscience to be the common good of the Church to express our reservations concerning this beatification. We do so on the following grounds, among others that could be brought forth.

The Real Question

We stress at the outset that we do not present these considerations as an argument against the personal piety or integrity of John Paul II, which ought to be presumed. The question is not personal piety or integrity as such, but rather whether there is, objectively speaking, a basis for the claim that John Paul exhibited such heroic virtue in the exercise of his exalted office as Pope that he should be placed immediately on the road to sainthood as a Pope to be emulated by all his successors.

The Church has always recognized that the matter of heroic virtue involved in a beatification is inextricably bound up with whether the candidate performed heroically the duties of his station in life. As Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) explained in his teaching on beatification, the heroic performance of duties involves acts so difficult they are “above the common strength of man,” are “accomplished promptly, easily,” “with holy joy” and “quite frequently, when the occasion to do so presents itself.” [Cf. De servorum Dei beatificatione, Bk. III, chap. 21 in Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of Interior Life, Vol. 2, p. 443].

Suppose the father of a large family were a candidate for beatification. One would hardly expect his cause to advance if it were the case that, while pious, he consistently failed to discipline and properly form his children, who habitually disobeyed him and fomented disorder in the home, even openly opposing the Faith while living under his roof; or if, while attentive to his prayers and spiritual duties, he neglected the industrious support of his family and allowed his household to fall into disarray.

When the candidate for beatification is a Pope—the Holy Father of the universal Church—the question is not simply his personal piety and holiness, but also his care of the vast household of the Faith that God has entrusted to him, for which purpose God grants the Pope extraordinary graces of state. This is the real question: Did John Paul II perform heroically his duties as Supreme Pontiff in the manner of the sainted predecessors we will mention here: opposing error, swiftly and courageously defending the flock from the ravening wolves who spread it, and protecting the integrity of the Church’s doctrine and sacred worship? We fear that under the circumstances surrounding this “fast track” beatification the real question has not received the careful and unhurried consideration it deserves.


Athunes said...

Whenever I bring up the fact that JPII should not be beautified or canonized amongst other people they claim that it is only personal holiness that counts and nothing more. They say it does not matter that scandal was caused against the faith; these were only mistakes with good intentions – it is his personal holiness that counts. I don’t buy this argument but that is what everyone is calming now.

Anonymous said...

What gives me little hope that this movement contra beatification will have any effect is this very important fact: the disorderly children who have been allowed to do as they wish are the ones who get to decide.
How many of them do you expect to say, "You know, I just think he should have been more strict with us"?

I think the dubiousness of the cure alone should be enough to cause the Vatican to slow the process. Talk about egg on your face, what would it look like if the healed nun were sitting there at the beatification experiencing the very symptoms she is said to have been cured of!

Anonymous said...

I guess this also raises about the holiness of Benedict XVI who is doing the beatification...

Anonymous said...

I believe that many conservative Catholics that have been raised after the changes took place, myself included, are in fact, perhaps through no fault of their own, ignorant of most of these if not all of these reasons to delay this process. I found myself becoming emotionally "touched" by the Santo Subito cries of the people at the time of the Holy Father's death. I agree with this article after reading it slowly and contemplating all of the influences of popular culture and what has been presented to us as Catholicism for the last 40 some years. Based upon what has been presented, not by the church herself, but by those acting as stewards of her great Tradidtions, it is no wonder that people are demanding sainthood. What confusing times we live in. Perhaps he will be beatified and remain in that state for several years without being canonized as history unfolds.
I remember being approached by people from all faiths agreeing that Pope John Paul II was a holy man. I also thought that it could not be denied that he was indeed a very heroic and holy man using the judging the tree by fruits thing. But if one doesn't even know how to discern the difference between healthy and rotten fruit, how can one judge the tree? The point is that I firmly belive that people generally have NO idea what is going on here and that John Paul II could do know wrong.
Only after educating myself, although minimally, have I been able to grasp at least a glimpse of what is rotten fruit and what is not. Since Christ shall never leave his church, I remain hopeful for a true restoration to take place. Ok...I'm at work and have rambled my broken thoughts enough....

thetimman said...

I don't think the beatification touches upon Pope Benedict's "holiness" one way or the other. Just as some of the issues raised by JPII's pontificate don't necessarily speak to personal piety. I think it is a question of prudential judgement that Catholics can debate.

X said...

I have often said that JPII inherited a Church in crisis and left us a Church in total collapse. One of his final acts, the elevation of the disgraced Cardinal Law to his position of Archpriest at St. Mary Majora in Rome was just the final kick in the teeth to those (really all faithfull Catholics) who suffered under the massive Priestly scandals of his disastrous papacy. This is just a preemptive attempt to retroactively sanitize an otherwise diabolical era and remove it from all meaningful discussion or debate.
John Paul the Great? Ah, that's the question, the Great what? The Great Pretender or maybe worse, who can say? But is this the stuff of which Saints are made of?

Katahdin said...

I would have to say that rush towards Beatification/Canonization is far too rushed for my liking. The Church has a prescribed "cooling off period" for a reason. i respect all those in the square who chanted Santa Subito at his funeral but the fact remains that we will be dissecting his legacy for years to come. And, as heretical as it mat sound, I have grave reservations about the veracity of the attributed miracle ... a tad bit too convenient for my liking. If the man was truly a Saint, what is the harm in letting time temper our perspective of his holiness?

Anonymous said...

Like all of us, JPII had his strengths, and his weaknesses. He was the first Pope to use the media to his advantage, and his incredible energy to travel to all parts of the globe were truly astounding. He certainly knew how to connect to the youth of the world as well - the future of our church.
He was a mystic as well - spending a full hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament when he first woke up here in St. Louis on his 25 hour visit.
He was a thorn in the flesh for virtually all political parties around the world, citing the evils of both communism and capitalism. (E.g. he used the term "abortion" 3 times while in St. Louis, but "capital punishment" over 20 times.)
And ... he seemed incredibly naive about how to handle the international abuse crisis, one that may have been going on for centuries. Instead of immediately citing the horrible evils of breaking the trust of children, he seemed to want to hide behind the clericalism of priests, as if they were a superior form of mankind.

I totally agree with you, Timman, that we should never rush to judgement - ever.

Barb Schoeneberger said...

We should not rush the beatification because we need to have years to separate the cult of personality - deserved, I think - from whether he practiced heroic virtue. Certainly he was a pro-life beacon.

One problem I see is that no only did he inherit a largely disobedient clergy and bishops, but we don't know if he actually could have intervened more effectively than he did. Then there is the matter of Assisi and the kissing of the Koran. And his judgment of keeping Piero Marini as his MC - the one who bastardized the sacred liturgy every chance he got. Yes, we need to slow this down.

thetimman said...

JJR said (part one of two):

Dear Timman,

I have not yet had the opportunity to do more than skim the article by Michael Matt (I am on the way to class at the moment), but I thought that I would send a few thoughts regarding the issue. The first is the difference you note regarding the infallibility of the canonization vis-a-vis beatification. This seems to me a dangerous distinction. The latter, though not as potent as the act of canonization, is still a crucial element of the Church's liturgical life. A person who is beatified enjoys the full sanction of public cult as offered by the Church. She presents the figure of, say, a Mother Teresa, as someone worthy of emulation and even of prayers from the faithful. This is no little matter, as the article and your introduction imply. However, if we begin drawing a line in the sand regarding the infallibility of this decision then I think we are undermining the indefectibility of the Church in a real way. Would not the fact that (in theory) the Church was capable of praying in a public and an official manner to someone in Hell be a way that the gates of Hell prevailed against Her? The Church's entire mission is to defend and to guide souls along the way to Heaven, and the praise of certain figures is an integral part of that goal. Obviously, I do not mean to imply that any "blessed" are in Hell, but it seems to me if we accept the argument that beatifications can be wrong (and that would mean that the Church can be wrong about who is in Heaven, at least on the beatification level), then we have to admit that these figures can be in Hell.

Closely tied to this thought is a historical perspective. The Church is full of saints that seem at times, well, unsaintly. :-) (One of my favorite examples is St. Jerome, who argued and insulted SS Augustine and Ambrose in his writings.) More germane to the matter at hand, are the examples of Bl. Urban V and St. Celestine. I noted in skimming that Mr. Matt makes a point regarding the fulfillment of duties as a critierion of public recognition of sanctity. He is quite right to do so, but the examples of these two pontiffs demonstrate that the Church's eyes and understanding are not always are own. Urban V disobeyed a direct order from God to remain in Rome, given him by St. Bridget of Sweden. Instead, he believed that it was in the Church's best interest for him to leave the Eternal City once more and return to Avignon. The decision was a disaster: True to St. Bridget's prophecy, the pope died shortly thereafter - a fact that could easily be construed as a sign of God's punishment. More importantly, his weakness paved the way for the Great Western Schism that would rack the Church less than a decade later. Clearly, he made some poor decisions, and yet Bl. Pius IX beautified him and held him as an example to subsequent popes and faithful.
St. Celestine V (who was actually canonized Pietro Angelerio, his non-pope name) was the monk who abdicated from the papal throne because his five-month reign was an absolute disaster. A case can be made that his canonization under his baptismal name (something his immediate successor did in order to demonstrate the validity of his abdication) shows that this is a different case, but in common language we talk about "St" Celestine V and tie his papacy into his life and canonization. (After all, his papacy did form a part of his earthly life and possibly contributed in no small way to his growth in holiness.) Regardless, Boniface VIII saw it fit to canonized the man even though it was not universally accepted. Dante apparently - at least to some commentators - placed Celestine in Hell. (Please forgive the lack of citation; I do not have the copy of the Inferno before me.) Why? Precisely because he felt that this holy monk had failed to do his duty as pope and remain rather than abdicate.

thetimman said...

JJR said, part two:

Since time forces me to wrap up these loose thoughts, I would like to conclude by noting that I agree with many Catholics hesitations regarding Pope John Paul's decisions that are regrettable. Nonetheless, many saints have done similar things in their lives, and it is only in the context of our hindsight and the distance of time that we gloss over those all-too-human elements of the saints and focus on their triumphs. We are agreed, I am sure, in the recognition of the recent Holy Father's piety, especially to our Lady. Who knows how God is working through him or did so during his life? Besides, a miracle has been claimed, which I assume is authentic. Do we really need more evidence? After all, Christ claimed miracles as His testimony; He uses them also as testimony for His dear friends.

The Church's system of beatifications, canonizations, etc is the result of a historical process much like that of the College of Cardinals; the real heart of the matter, it seems to me, is whether the Church encourages her children to pray and emulate a certain individual within the context of her official cult. To question this is a dangerous precipice... or so it seems to me.

These, of course, are only my opinions. I look forward to any points that may argue against or reveal the weaknesses within my own position. What I think would be interesting to note is who first voiced the idea that beatifications are not infallible. Is there an official teaching to this effect? Of this, I am ignorant, and I think that it has bearing in this discussion.

In Sancta Familia,

thetimman said...

JJR, I agree with most everything you say. The beatification/canonization thing I will research.

As to your particular point about JPII's well-known love for our Lady and his encouragement of devotion to her, that is undisputed. Yet, even the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae departed fairly substantially with the Church's traditional thinking about the Rosary, failed to cite Our Lady as the Mediatrix of All Graces, and of course introduced the plain novelty of the "luminous mysteries", which destroys not only the traditional set of mysteries that Our Lady herself gave St. Dominic but also destroys its intentional relation to the psalter. In short, that document is of a piece with most other conciliar and post-conciliar documents-- ambiguous and all things to all people, reducing everything to camps of adherents, instead of clearly and concisely stating the Church's position. You can read an article on this here: JJR, I agree with most everything you say. The beatification/canonization thing I will research.

As to your particular point about JPII's well-known love for our Lady and his encouragement of devotion to her, that is undisputed. Yet, even the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae departed fairly substantially with the Church's traditional thinking about the Rosary, failed to cite Our Lady as the Mediatrix of All Graces, and of course introduced the plain novelty of the "luminous mysteries", which destroys not only the traditional set of mysteries that Our Lady herself gave St. Dominic but also destroys its intentional relation to the psalter. In short, that document is of a piece with most other conciliar and post-conciliar documents-- ambiguous and all things to all people, reducing everything to camps of adherents, instead of clearly and concisely stating the Church's position. You can read an article on this here: http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2003/features_may03.html

Dante did put Pope St. Celestine in the Ante-Hell, with the "neutrals", or as some translate it, the pusillanimous. He really, really didn't like Boniface VIII, and faulted Celestine for giving way to him. Mostly, but not totally, a political beef. He is not named per se, as you know, but instead as "him who made the great refusal."

Dante did put Pope St. Celestine in the Ante-Hell, with the "neutrals", or as some translate it, the pusillanimous. He really, really didn't like Boniface VIII, and faulted Celestine for giving way to him. Mostly, but not totally, a political beef. He is not named per se, as you know, but instead as "him who made the great refusal."

thetimman said...

As usual, the Catholic Encyclopedia is very helpful:

Papal infallibility and canonization

Is the pope infallible in issuing a decree of canonization? Most theologians answer in the affirmative. It is the opinion of St. Antoninus, Melchior Cano, Suarez, Bellarmine, Bañez, Vasquez, and, among the canonists, of Gonzales Tellez, Fagnanus, Schmalzgrüber, Barbosa, Reiffenstül, Covarruvias (Variar. resol., I, x, no 13), Albitius (De Inconstantiâ in fide, xi, no 205), Petra (Comm. in Const. Apost., I, in notes to Const. I, Alex., III, no 17 sqq.), Joannes a S. Thomâ (on II-II, Q. I, disp. 9, a. 2), Silvester (Summa, s.v. Canonizatio), Del Bene (De Officio Inquisit. II, dub. 253), and many others. In Quodlib. IX, a. 16, St. Thomas says: "Since the honour we pay the saints is in a certain sense a profession of faith, i.e., a belief in the glory of the Saints [quâ sanctorum gloriam credimus] we must piously believe that in this matter also the judgment of the Church is not liable to error." These words of St. Thomas, as is evident from the authorities just cited, all favouring a positive infallibility, have been interpreted by his school in favour of papal infallibility in the matter of canonization, and this interpretation is supported by several other passages in the same Quodlibet. This infallibility, however according to the holy doctor, is only a point of pious belief. Theologians generally agree as to the fact of papal infallibility in this matter of canonization, but disagree as to the quality of certitude due to a papal decree in such matter. In the opinion of some it is of faith (Arriaga, De fide, disp. 9, p. 5, no 27); others hold that to refuse assent to such a judgment of the Holy See would be both impious and rash, as Francisco Suárez (De fide, disp. 5 p. 8, no 8); many more (and this is the general view) hold such a pronouncement to be theologically certain, not being of Divine Faith as its purport has not been immediately revealed, nor of ecclesiastical Faith as having thus far not been defined by the Church.

What is the object of this infallible judgment of the pope? Does he define that the person canonized is in heaven or only that he has practiced Christian virtues in an heroic degree? I have never seen this question discussed; my own opinion is that nothing else is defined than that the person canonized is in heaven. ...

There is no question of heroic virtue in this formula; on the other hand, sanctity does not necessarily imply the exercise of heroic virtue, since one who had not hitherto practised heroic virtue would, by the one transient heroic act in which he yielded up his life for Christ, have justly deserved to be considered a saint. This view seems all the more certain if we reflect that all the arguments of theologians for papal infallibility in the canonization of saints are based on the fact that on such occasions the popes believe and assert that the decision which they publish is infallible (Pesch, Prael. Dogm., I, 552).

This general agreement of theologians as to papal infallibility in canonization must not be extended to beatification, not withstanding the contrary teaching of the canonical commentary known as "Glossa" [in cap. un. de reliquiis et venerat. SS. (III, 22) in 6; Innocent., Comm. in quinque Decretalium libros, tit. de reliquiis, etc., no 4; Ostiensis in eumd. tit. no 10; Felini, cap. lii, De testibus, etc., X (II, 20); Caietani, tract. De indulgentiis adversus Lutherum ad Julium Mediceum; Augustini de Ancona, seu Triumphi, De potestate eccl., Q. xiv, a. 4). Canonists and theologians generally deny the infallible character of decrees of beatification, whether formal or equivalent, since it is always a permission, not a command; while it leads to canonization, it is not the last step. Moreover, in most cases, the cultus permitted by beatification, is restricted to a determined province, city, or religious body (Benedict XIV, op. cit., I, xlii). S

Athunes said...

JJR's post has one weakness:

JPII's actions, whether intentional or not, were directly contrary to the faith. Meaning that kissing the Qur’an, engaging in a pagan ritual or giving a pectoral cross to people who are not even bishops is contrary to the Catholic faith. It is vastly different then making a administrative mistake with the intentions to do good in the Church. It is vastly different than Urban or Celestine.

Dave said...

Athunes, they would only be contrary to the faith if John Paul II were intending to practice false religions. To be more specific:

1. Kissing the Koran -- it was presented to the Holy Father as a gift. In Middle Eastern culture, the way one shows gratitude for a gift is to kiss it -- nothing worshipful about it. I will admit that I really don't agree with what His Holiness did, as I believe it could cause confusion. But then again, what was he supposed to do? If, in a given culture, you show gratitude by kissing a gift, then you'd be perceived as extremely rude if you tried showing gratitude via some other way. And the Holy Father surely knew the importance of giving a good example to others, which even includes practicing proper etiquette. I mean, would you consider someone who acts rude and crude to be a more powerful witness to Christ, or someone who practices proper etiquette regardless of the culture? Besides, some folks' faith is so weak that the smallest slight would be enough to turn them off to the Church!

2. Where did John Paul II engage in a pagan ritual? If you're referring to Assisi (which, by the way, is a subject to deal with some other time), he did NOT participate in any pagan rituals there. Or were you fooled by the picture that reputedly showed John Paul II receiving the "mark of Shiva" from a Hindu priestess? The woman in question wasn't a Hindu priestess but a Catholic laywoman! Furthermore, she was giving the Holy Father a traditional Indian greeting called an "aarti," which is commonly given among Indian Catholics, especially to greet the main celebrant of a liturgical function. But it really has no religious significance at all.

3. Pectoral cross -- I'm not so sure that's appropriate either, since Anglican bishops have no real authority. But then again, is giving a pectoral cross as a gift meant to give honor to a non-Catholic sect? Or is it just a gesture of good will? I mean, Anglican bishops DO use the pectoral cross, right or wrong, much like Catholic bishops. Oh yeah, Benedict XVI gave a pectoral cross as a gift to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2009.

Athunes said...


The actions are contrary, not the intent.

Point 1 you made: A mode of expression that would convey thankfulness but would not be a scandal to WESTERN audiences that will obviously see and know this has happened is the point. People have died rather than kiss this book as one prerequisite for saving their life. Even in context it is wrong, but a mistake with good intentions of course. Further there was no public repentance for this act with increase the severity of the situation.

Point 2: The article linked in this blog post states as much. They could be wrong. Also there was an incident where a pagan ritual was done to him (some form of exorcism form the Zapotec Indians); it’s none of the things you mentioned as I am already aware of the misinterpretations of those. While not engaging in the event, simply allowing it to happen and/or let it continue happen AND making no corrections or public explanations afterwards (the most important point, IMO, because sometimes you do not know what your MC is going to do) is a scandal. Or even still not removing Marini for okaying it.

Point 3: It is a sign of authority. I know things were done for good intentions and to have everyone get along but sometimes you shouldn’t do these things if it is going to give an ambiguous or bad signal to the rest of the world.
I mean, I am still trying to figure out if the Vatican’s website has the accurate translation of him praying to John the Baptist to protect Islam (not Islamic people, but Islam). That makes no sense except to booster relations and soften tensions – but even then it’s still wrong.
Its not like I am saying he’s evil or in hell, I think he was a very pious man but he acted just too nice and embracing when it came to events like this. Obvious mistakes but contrary to the faith and with no corrections made to them later. That is the crux of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I think we should trust the Holy Spirit to lead where he will. We can make many accusations against JPII, but we don't have the vantage point of seeing all that was involved behind them. Perhaps some of the stuff he confessed. We will never know. It is easy to judge him given the high position he held in the Church, but I think we need to exercise more caution. I am not criticising may have some issues with the beatification, I'm just saying that we need to humbly realize that there is so much we don't know and can't make a firm judgement about. God alone sees whether JPII is a saint or not. If it is His will that the pope should be raised to the altar, then may it be done. If it is not, then His will be done.