Rorate Caeli

Editorial Note: What? A Pope with a lousy Pontificate
should never be beatified, or canonized!

From (double!) coronation to abdication, a terrible pontificate, with far-reaching dangerous consequences - from the biography of Pope Saint Celestine V (Peter Celestine - Pietro da Murrone), who died on May 19, 1296:

In reply to the request of the cardinals, that he should come to Perugia to be crowned, Pietro, at the instigation of Charles, summoned the Sacred College to meet him at Aquila, a frontier town of the Kingdom of Naples. Reluctantly they came, and one by one, Gaetani being the last to appear. Seated on an humble ass, the rope held by two monarchs, the new pontiff proceeded to Aquila, and, although only three of the cardinals had arrived, the king ordered him to be crowned, a ceremony which had to be repeated in traditional form some days later, the only instance of a double papal coronation. Cardinal Latino was so grief-stricken at the course which affairs were evidently taking that he fell sick and died. Pietro took the name of Celestine V. Urged by the cardinals to cross over into the States of the Church, Celestine, again at the behest of the king, ordered the entire Curia to repair to Naples. It is wonderful how many serious mistakes the simple old man crowded into five short months. We have no full register of them, because his official acts were annulled by his successor. On the 18th of September he created twelve new cardinals, seven of whom were French, and the rest, with one possible exception, Neapolitans, thus paving the road to Avignon and the Great Schism. Ten days later he embittered the cardinals by renewing the rigorous law of Gregory X, regulating the conclave, which Adrian V had suspended. He is said to have appointed a young son of Charles to the important See of Lyons, but no trace of such appointment appears in Gams or Eubel. At Monte Cassino on his way to Naples, he strove to force the Celestine hermit-rule on the monks; they humoured him while he was with them. At Benevento he created the bishop of the city a cardinal, without observing any of the traditional forms. Meanwhile he scattered privileges and offices with a lavish hand. Refusing no one, he was found to have granted the same place or benefice to three or four rival suitors; he also granted favours in blank. In consequence, the affairs of the Curia fell into extreme disorder. Arrived in Naples, he took up his abode in a single apartment of the Castel Nuovo, and on the approach of Advent had a little cell built on the model of his beloved hut in the Abruzzi. But he was ill at ease. Affairs of State took up time that ought to be devoted to exercises of piety. He feared that his soul was in danger. The thought of abdication seems to have occurred simultaneously to the pope and to his discontented cardinals, whom he rarely consulted.
Some years after his canonization by Clement V in 1313, his remains were transferred from Ferentino to the church of his order at Aquila, where they are still the object of great veneration. His feast is celebrated on 19 May.
(Catholic Encyclopedia)

Wait a second: he was canonized just 17 years after his death? Now, there is a process ripe for reexamination.


We posted the above on the feast of St. Peter Celestine in 2011, at the time of the beatification of Pope John Paul II by Pope Benedict XVI. It is even more applicable now near the date of his canonization, along with that of Pope John XXIII.

One of the glorious historic characteristics of the Catholic Church, an expression of her stern Roman sobriety, has been her great hesitation to succumb to the appeals of popular opinion on the great and powerful of this world. Two great examples, of course, have included the refusal of the Church of Rome to explicitly extend to the Universal Church the cultus of great men who did much for the Church but had many personal misgivings: Constantine the Great, venerated by Churches of the East, and in specific particular churches of the West; Charlemagne, venerated in specific particular churches of the West.

Even more symbolic has been the Church of Rome's refusal to simply canonize her former Bishops en masse, though there were so many great ones in the periods that followed the early centuries of great persecutions during which so many popes were martyred. Not many were recognized as saints later on, and even fewer were so after the canonization process developed more clearly in the second millennium.

In both cases, this hesitation of the Church of Rome (which itself explains the historical development of the procedures for beatification and canonization) indicates an admirable freedom of action in which she refuses to succumb to the pressures of princes and masses, or to a repulsive use of canonization to express self-congratulation for her own greatness. She is great because the Lord made her so, through no merit of her own. This noble simplicity and certainty of her own self is a mark of Rome, Mother and Teacher of all Churches.

It is doubtless the case that the Church of Rome must avoid falling in the proud vain tone characteristic of canonizations (or "canonizations") elsewhere. Canonizations involve a serious exercise in papal power, engaging all Catholics. Canonizations do not force any Catholic to carry on a personal devotion for a specific saint. And yet, once this papal prerogative is solemnly exercised and declared according to the Apostolic authority of the Roman Pontiff, canonizations cannot simply be dismissed or rejected, but gently accepted.