another modern day papal saint….really???

I’ve already shared my thoughts about papal canonizations, especially the increasing desire to crown all recent popes with saintly honours. At the moment of their election, popes automatically become the most prominent and visible Catholic in the world. They are each greatly loved by some, and not so loved by others. When they die, they are memorialized in grand monuments and remembered in history books. Is it really necessary to beatify and canonize them also?

Politics have played too great a role behind these papal canonizations, as ideological groups in the church vie to have their heroes named as official saints. Now, Pope Paul VI is to be beatified by Pope Francis. The timing and location of the beatification has undeniable political overtones. Paul VI, the author of Humane Vitae, is to be beatified at the close of the Synod for the Family in October. Here is an excerpt from my latest Prairie Messenger column,

Pope Paul VI courageously oversaw the completion of the Second Vatican Council, which was no easy task. But, he is perhaps best known for the damning condemnation of all artificial means of birth control in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. The greater truth of the dignity and beauty of human sexuality that was meant to be the core of his teaching was overshadowed by the loud “thou shalt not” that was heard around the world. Women and men of faith were forced to choose between unbending moral teachings and the practical realities of life. Understanding priests tried to lessen fears of eternal damnation by counselling the right use of conscience. Eventually, most Catholics simply ignored the teaching.

Scheduling the beatification of Pope Paul VI at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, whether intended or not, can be interpreted as once again closing the door on much-needed dialogue around the question of ethical and responsible reproduction. It also shifts the intended focus from families back to the hierarchical leadership. Paul VI was the pope who founded and promoted the modern Synod of Bishops, but the bishops are meant to meet not for their own sake and promotion, but for the service of the greater church. It seems rather disingenuous to speak of the importance of the family, only to cap off the synod with another papal beatification….read more

17 thoughts on “another modern day papal saint….really???

  1. Amen, Isabella!
    I am pleased that our diocese is putting its resources behind the cause for sainthood of Madeleine Delbrel (1904-1064). She was a lay woman and social worker, who lived and worked in some tough urban neighborhoods in a time when communism was the reigning ideology among the working classes. She testified to Christ by her presence to those around her, by her work for justice, by her simple living, and in her writings that reveal a mystic sensibility and spirituality. The title of one of her best-known works translates as “The Holiness of Ordinary People.”

      • Hi Linda. Welcome to the dialogue! I think that you only need one approved miracle for beatification, and Paul VI has this miracle. Another is required for the final process of canonization, though this can be bypassed as was the case with the recent canonization of Pope John XXIII.

    • We need more lay women and men saints. Madeleine sounds like she has provided us with the perfect promotional slogan…”The Holiness of Ordinary People”. Thanks for this, Mary.

  2. Should add that Madeleine lived in Ivry-sur-Seine in France. And, a fun fact for Marianists: she was born in Mussidan, a town where Blessed Joseph Chaminade studied and later taught!

  3. You are quite right Isabella or, at least, I fully agree with you. If “sainthood” is intended to establish icons of faith which we are encouraged to emulate then one cannot but conclude that his position on conception AND his Papal direction on the matter are part and parcel of that message. I have no reservations about the man’s holiness or whether he is enjoying the “Beatific Vision”, but this element of his iconic message is untenable to most right-thinking Catholics of good will and fraught with the inevitability of further conflict and pain of conscience and hardship for the docilly faithful.
    Unfortunately, it would seem to also presage the reaffirmation of this direction as a “presummption of outcome” for the Synod of the Family, an even more questionable “presumption” than the apparent call to increase and multiply of the preparatory questionnaire.

    Personally, I think the cause of sainthood and call to the heroic levels of human and Christly values would be better served by the canonization of Mattie Stepanic.

  4. I agree it appears we are heading for “spiritual academy awards”. So sad, especially at a time when it appeared that finally we have a pope who wants a more humble and pastoral church. About JP II, I still think that while he did some great things his almost three decades as a pope remain greatly tainted by the sex abuse scandals that have had a devastating effect on the Catholic church. The man simply did not do his job. Why do we continue to ignore that fact? The other person who was complicit during that whole era and followed him as pope, when will he be made a saint?? They are not making it easy for us to be loyal to our church.

    • I gave up on the canonization process when Pius 9th was selected. He kidnapped a child from his Jewish family because he had been Baptized by a family servant when she thought the child was going to die. Then there is the whole infallibility issue that caused a large number of Bishops to leave Vatican 1 in protest. Collegiality “my foot.” The process rides on money and power, just like politics in the USA.

      • Thanks, Jerry. Pius IX is a perfect example of questionable conduct that should be considered before raising a person to official sainthood in the church. No one leads a pure and blameless life here on earth, but if there is any whiff of scandal or if their life causes such great debate…..then someone should put the brakes on the process.

    • Exactly, Louise! As Dennis said in his comment above, it’s not that we question whether these popes have entered eternal glory or not. But, these fast track beatifications and canonizations (especially when there is cause to question an important aspect of their pontificate) can cause more harm than good.

  5. Another thought provoking and well written reflection that is jam-packed.

    A friend of mine once told me that he was surprised that I was still praying for his deceased wife since she is a saint without doubt. While I knew her to be a kind and loving mother and friend, how can anyone be so sure that someone is a saint? Isn’t this presumption? Aren’t we placing ourselves in the place of God? Do we know the mind of God? If so, than do we really need God? Or do the words “who am I to judge” also apply here? Scripture tells us in many places that only God knows the heart of a person – even our own hearts we ourselves are not able always to know in their entirety.

    I am not sure if the process for canonization’s being long and requiring much paper work, is what is meant by “marred with controversy”, but doesn’t canonizing someone warrant thoroughness as a good respectful method by persons who are trained and experienced?Even the saints continued to live with their imperfections and shortcomings – perfection and holiness are not identical things are they?

    And should we be surprised that saints include a high number of priests and religious? Isn’t that a good thing? After all they sacrifice themselves to dedicate everything in the service of others – often in places and for persons abandoned by the society the rest of us thrive in.

    If politics plays into “saint making’ what possible political advantages could there be? Who wins? What do they win? Where does this notion of partisanship come from? And if “ideologies” motivate our minds and spirits to the point of dividing us from each other than shouldn’t we get rid of them since didn’t Jesus pray ‘for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.’

    As this blog so aptly says, we are all to be seekers of the Truth – popes included. We shouldn’t be afraid if one of us finds Truth – regardless of which ‘side’ he or she is perceived to be on. We don’t ‘own’ the Truth; we find It and then sell everything to possess It. Farmers plant the seed; they don’t make the seed; they are merely stewards. Popes are stewards of the truth, they don’t make up the Truth. They write the encyclicals that point to the Truth, but they don’t fashion the Truth. Truth reveals itself – sometimes even in dialogue. Whether we receive these truths for what they are – as infallible as the promises of Jesus to build His Church on the Rock of Peter; and that ‘those who hear you, hear Me'; and that ‘whatever you bind on earh will be bound in heaven’ – infallible words addressed, in this case, to 12 imperfect men – or whether we ignore them as ‘damning condemnations'; or as loud “thou shalt not”, and ‘unbending moral teachings’ should cause each of us to examine our own motives for doing so. But then how many if us are truly capable of being totally honest with ourselves? Isn’t that why Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church to “all Truth” – popes included?

    Without doubt there are saints among us living unspectacularly their lives – and not all of them Catholics. The fact that some of them aren’t canonized doesn’t make them or any that the Church officially recognizes as saints any less than what they are in the eyes of God – all politics aside.

    Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.

Comments are closed.