Rorate Caeli

De Mattei: True and False Saints in the Church

Roberto de Mattei
Corrispondenza Romana
October 17, 2018

Risultati immagini per images of paul VI

Among the anniversaries of 2018 there is one that has gone unnoticed: the sixty years since the death of Venerable Pius XII, after a 19-year reign, at Castelgandolfo on October 9th 1958. Yet today his memory still lives on, especially, as Cristina Siccardi notes, as an icon of holiness, worthy of the Vicar of Christ, and for the vastness of his Magisterium, in the context of tragic events, like the Second World War, which erupted six months after his election to the Papacy on March 20th 1939. The death of Pius XII closed an era, which today is referred contemptuously as “pre-conciliar” or “Constantinian”.  With the election of John XXIII (October 28th 1958) and the calling of the Second Vatican Council, a new era in the history of the Church opened: that which had its moment of triumph, on October 14th, with the canonization of Paul VI, after that of Pope Roncalli.  

Blessed Pius IX  is still awaiting canonization and Pius XII has still not been beatified, but all the Council and Post-Council Popes have been canonized, with the exception of John Paul I. It seems that what they want to canonize, through its main actors, is an age, which however, is perhaps the darkest the Church has ever experienced in Her history.  

Immorality spreads through the entire body of the Church, starting from the highest levels.  Pope Francis has refused to admit the reality of the tragic scenario brought to light by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Doctrinal confusion is total, to the point that Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, has publically stated that: “the bishops and especially the Successor of Peter are falling short in faithfully and in unity, maintaining and transmitting the Deposit of the Faith.” *

This drama has its roots in the Second Vatican Council and the Post–Council, and those primarily responsible were the Popes who have governed the Church over the last sixty years. Their canonization proclaims heroic virtues in the governing of the Church. The Council and Post-Council have denied doctrine for the sake of ‘the pastoral’ and for the sake of this ‘pastoralism’ they have refused to define truth and condemn error.  The only truth which is proclaimed solemnly today is the impeccability of the conciliar Popes  - and them alone. The intent seems to be that of suggesting as infallible their political and pastoral choices rather than the canonizing of men.   

But what credit must we give to these canonizations?  Even if most theologians retain that canonizations are infallible acts of the Church, we are not dealing with a dogma of faith.  The last great exponent of the “Roman Theological School”, Monsignor Brunero Gherardini (1925-2017), voiced all his doubts about the infallibility of canonizations in the publication Divinitas. For the Roman theologian the decree of canonization is not infallible as the conditions of infallibility are lacking, starting with the fact that the canonization does not have as direct or explicit object, a truth of the faith or morals contained in Revelation, but only a fact indirectly linked to dogma, without strictly being a “dogmatic fact”.  Indeed, neither the Codes of Canon Law of 1917 and 1983, nor the old or new Catechisms of the Catholic Church, make clear the doctrine of the Church on canonizations. 

Another valid contemporary theologian, Father Jan-Michel Gleize, of the Fraternity of Pius X, admits the infallibility of canonizations, but not those after the Second Vatican Council, for the following reasons: the reforms after the Council entailed certain insufficiencies in the procedure and introduced a new collegial intention, two consequences which are incompatible with the certainty of the beatifications and the infallibility of the canonizations. Thirdly, the judgment that is expressed in the process allows for an ambiguous conception at least, and thus doubt about the sanctity and heroic virtue.  Infallibility is based on a rigorous complex of investigations and verifications. There is no doubt that after the reform of the procedure wanted by John Paul II in 1983, this process in the verification of the truth has become more fragile and there has been a change in the concept of sanctity itself. 

Other important contributions have recently been published along the same line. Peter Kwasniewski notes on Onepeterfive** that the worst change in the canonical process is in the number of miracles required: “In the old system, two miracles were required for both beatification and canonization – that is, a total of four investigated and certified miracles. The point of this requirement is to give the Church sufficient moral certainty of God’s “approval” of the proposed blessed or saint by the evidence of His exercise of power at the intercession of this individual. Moreover, the miracles traditionally had to be outstanding in their clarity – that is, admitting of no possible natural or scientific explanation. The new system cuts the number of miracles in half, which, one might say, also cuts the moral certainty in half – and, as many have observed, the miracles put forward often seem to be lightweight, leaving one scratching one’s head: was that really a miracle, or was it just an extremely improbable event?”

Christopher Ferrara, for his part, in an accurate article in The Remnant*** , after stressing the decisive role that the testimony of miracles plays in the canonizations, noted none of the miracles attributed to Paul VI and Monsignor Romero satisfy the traditional criteria for the verification of  the divine in a miracle: “Those criteria are (1) acure that is (2) instantaneous, (3) complete, (4) lasting, and (5) scientifically inexplicable, meaning not the result of treatment or natural processes of healing but rather an event originating outside the natural order.”

John Lamont, who dedicated a wide and convincing study on the theme of the authority of canonizations on Rorate Caeli ****, concludes his investigations with these words: “We need not hold that the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II were infallible, because the conditions needed for such infallibility were not present. Their canonizations are not connected to any doctrine of the faith, they were not the result of a devotion that is central to the life of the Church, and they were not the product of careful and rigorous examination. But we need not exclude all canonizations whatsoever from the charism of infallibility; we can still argue that those canonizations that followed the rigorous procedure of former centuries benefited from this charism.”

Thus, canonization not being a dogma of faith, there is no positive obligation for Catholics to lend assent to it.  The exercise of reason demonstrates plainly that the Conciliar papacies have been of no advantage to the Church. Faith transcends reason and elevates it, but doesn’t contradict it, since God, Truth in essence, is not contradictory. Hence we may in [good] conscience maintain our reservations about these canonizations. 

The most devastating act of Paul VI’s pontificate was the destruction of the Old  Roman Rite. Historians know that the Novus Ordo Missae was not Monsignor’s Bugnini’s, but that prepared, wanted and carried into effect by Pope Montini, causing, as Peter Kwasniewski writes, an explosive internal rupture: “This was the equivalent of dropping an atomic bomb on the People of God, which either wiped out their faith or caused cancers by its radiation”.

The most commendable act of Pius XII’s pontificate was the beatification (1951) and subsequently the canonization of St. Pope Pius X (1954), after a long and rigorous canonical process and four inconfutable miracles.  It is thanks to Pius XII that the name of Pius X shines in the firmament of the Church and represents a sure guide in the midst of the confusion of our times.


Translation. Contributor Francesca Romana