Holy Popes!

On Sunday, for the first time in history, two popes will be solemnly canonised at the same time, i.e. formally declared to be saints. Only God can make saints, but the Church has the power to recognize individuals as holy and hold them up as models to be followed, people whose prayers and intercession can be invoked with confidence. So far so good. Unlike some, I have no problem acknowledging the holiness of either man. Sanctity transcends personal preferences because it is all about God’s choice rather than ours. Those who think, for example, that John Paul II cannot be a saint because he failed to do what they think he should have done about some of the sex abuse scandals in the Church are wide of the mark. The Church doesn’t demand omniscience or infallibility in the popular sense of the word: it demands heroic virtue and love, and it is possible to be both virtuous and loving yet still fail to be perfect in everything.

Where I do have difficulty is with the suggestion that it could become a matter of course to canonise popes, as though sanctity went with the job, so to say. That makes me uneasy. In the nineteenth century, it was almost de rigeur to try to get the founder of one’s Religious Order canonised, and a great deal of time and effort went into trying to prove what could not be proved as the number of causes that never got beyond ‘Approved Cult’ status testifies. Tomorrow, I shall give thanks with the rest of the Church . . . and quietly ask the intercession of our two new saints that canonising recently dead popes does not become the new ecclesiastical fashion.


8 thoughts on “Holy Popes!”

  1. I too wonder, but it’s not my place to criticise who or who not might be recognised or canonised as a Saint.

    God’s choice might be obvious to some and obscure to the rest of us, and we shouldn’t try to second guess that choice.

    What I do find amazing is that two Popes in my lifetime will be declared Saint’s – I’m still wondering about Pius the 12th? Why not him?

  2. As there is some confusion about the canonisation process of the Catholic Church, here is a simple guide: https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/cause/process.asp
    In earlier centuries saints were declared to be such less formally. No one has ever suggested that the only saints are those canonised by the Church. See also what the Caetchism has to say about the communion of saints (or read some of my previous posts on All Saints, etc) http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p5.htm.

  3. One saint we can be sure about is St Dismas. (Tablet, this week) Jesus declared to those at the foot of the cross that the good thief would be with Him in paradise.

  4. Not to discredit Pope John Paul II’s heroic virtue and love, it is puzzling nonetheless that the alleged sins of omission of Pope Pius XII resulted in his being thrown under the bus, whereas those of celebrity status John Paul II are set aside. There will be many who will not be celebrating his canonization. Not trying to fashter the simcha but great evil was permitted for a long period of time.

  5. Popes don’t always do what we think they should, but then, how many of us always do what popes think we should? I don’t suppose the implied accusation against Pope John Paul II was intended but insofar as the comment stands, I must dissociate this blog from it.

    • Dear Sister, you raised the subject in your blog post before any comments were left. The entire Church would like to dissociate ourselves from the scandal, but sadly we cannot. Those who knew what was taking place long before it hit the media bear a particular responsibility.

      • Jean, please read what I said carefully. I said that those who wanted to deny JPII’s sanctity because he didn’t do what they thought he should were wide of the mark. You have implied his personal responsibility. That is different and places me in a very awkward position. Not only have I always tried to ensure that this blog is free from personal accusations (libel laws, justice), I am also mindful that I am not, in Church terms, a private individual. I am a nun and bound by canon law. Opinions you could express freely on your own blog cannot be expressed by me, even if I shared them, or on a blog owned and administered by a monastic community as this is. Don’t you see?

        • Sister, I am not implying or accusing St. John Paul II of personal responsibility for the actions of others. Those involved to whatever degree know who they are. My husband and I, and many we speak with wonder, as UK Viewer asked “What about Pope Pius XII?” We understand the process involves a long and thorough set of criteria. Issues surrounding any papacy are always separate from the investigation of sanctity. I understand your position with this blog and hope you better understand the questions that came to mind regarding the process, not the sanctity or personal integrity of any individual, the latter hardly being anything any of us has a right to judge.

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