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The problem with 'fast track' canonizations

Opinion: declaration of sainthood should be a lengthy process

  • Pat Archbold for National Catholic Register
  • International
  • April 30, 2014
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So the Church and the world have two more saints.

I wrote two weeks ago about the infallibility of canonizations and we can rest assured of the infallibility that Popes John Paul II and John XXII are in heaven.

Of course, there are lots and lots of people in Heaven who will never be nor considered for canonization by the Church.  The reason why is that only few saints live lives of public significance and of such heroic virtue that they will be put forth by the Church as clear models to be emulated.

Whom the Church chooses to put through this process, the reasons why, and the process itself are all fallible prudential decisions made by people of the Church.

Establishing heroic virtue and and putting people forth as persons to be emulated is tricky business.  It is tricky because at the end of the day, these people are people and during their earthly sojourns, they undoubtedly made mistakes.  There is more to sainthood than just the declaration that someone is in heaven. The Good Thief is a perfect example.  He undoubtedly is in Heaven, but his life is also undoubtedly not one of consistent heroic virtue.  Those mistakes need to be put in context.  This is all rather obvious when you think about it.

There are obviously many prudential reasons why the Church decided to fast track the canonizations of Saint John Paul Il and Saint John XXII.  In the case of the former, the five year waiting period to begin investigation was waived and in the case of the latter, the requirement for a second miracle was waived.

I think in the past that the Church showed incredible prudence in making the process for determining heroic virtue in someone's life a long and arduous one.  There are many things that can come up in the life of someone now in Heaven that would not necessarily be great example of heroic virtue.  For this fact I am eternally grateful.

But time and process are the best determinants of these things, and if these undiscovered things come out later after a person is canonized and without the proper context, this can damage the canonizations as suspect in the eyes of some and wound the Church.   This is why the Church always sought abundant prudence in these matters, even appointing the Devil's advocate to argue against sainthood for these very reasons.

I have no doubt that everyone the Church declares to be a saint is in Heaven, but the continual fast-tracking of canonizations could lead to a future embarrassing or even damaging moment for the Church.  Let the process do its job.  Let time do its job.  Fast-tracking a canonization is not getting anyone into heaven any quicker.  Let's take our time.  

Full Story: Can We Close Down The Sainthood Fast Track?

Source: National Catholic Register

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