Canonization of Saints

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Question from Denise on 5/1/2008:

Does the Canonization of Saints fall under papal infallibility? Thank you.
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 5/23/2008:

This is a quote from a decree of canonization: "Therefore, today, in a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Square, before an immense multitude of the faithful, we have pronounced the following formula: In honor of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity, for the uplifting of Catholic faith and the increase of Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and our own, after careful deliberation, having called frequently upon God's help, and with the advice of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed So and So to be a Saint, and we inscribe his name in the catalogue of the Saints, ordaining that, throughout the universal Church, he be devoutly honored among the Saints. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And what we have declared, we desire to be in force both now and in the future, anything to the contrary notwithstanding."

This is the infallibility canon: "Canon 749, §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held. §2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively. §3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident."

It seems like I have been asked this question before, and to be honest, I can't remember how I answered it.

Certainly the pope is invoking his supreme authority in canonizing. Certainly there is no possibility for a Catholic to reject in good conscience such a declaration.

A problem with saying, however, that a canonization is infallible is that infallibility extends to matters of faith and morals, that is, a doctrine that is part of the deposit of faith. Is the canonization of a particular individual part of the deposit of faith?

Also, in terms of the law, the canon requires that something be declared as "definitive." The actual papal decree canonizing the saint does not use the term "definitive."

1 comment:

  1. Two years ago when I was doing search for my just-released book, My Cousin the Saint (HarperCollins), I spoke with several officials in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. They confirmed for that that indeed canonization was an infallible act on the part of the pope. It was explained that fully vetted and established miracles were critical to this process. If the pope is going to risk naming a new saint, a miracle is part of the evidence needed to ensure that the person in question is indeed worthy. Chapter 16 in my book explains this process in detail through interviews with three experienced Vatican officials.

    My interest in this? Saint Gaetano Catanoso, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in his first such ceremony on Oct. 23, 2005.

    Justin Catanoso, author