You Can Make This Up

Father Z explains the old and new rules for becoming a saint after the Vatican’s recent expansion of the categories of beatification:

In the Church we have had the ancient teaching and tradition of “red” or bloody martyrdom for the sake of charity whereby the martyr dies giving witness in the face of hatred for Christ, the Church, the Faith or some aspect of the Christian life that is inseparable from our Christian identity. There is also a long tradition of identifying “white” martyrdom, coined by St. Jerome, whereby a person gives witness through an ascetic life, withdrawal from the world, pilgrimages involving great sacrifice, or who suffer greatly for the Faith but who do not die in bearing witness. Coming from another tradition there is a kind of “blue” (or “green”) martyrdom, involving great penance and mortifications without necessarily the sort of withdrawal from life that a hermit or a cenobite might live. Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, writes of different kinds of martyrdom, bloody, public martyrdom in time of persecution and secret martyrdom, not in time of persecution. He wrote that secret martyrs are no less worthy of honor, because they also endured sufferings and the attacks of hidden enemies, but they persevered in charity.

In principle I think that this is a good move… if we are going to stay on the course of so many causes for beatification, that is. Once upon a time, it was an extremely difficult process to investigate a life, gather proofs and organize all the documentation properly, and then study it thoroughly, etc. Now, with the modern means of travel and communication, that process is easier. Many more causes have resulted and, because they in fact corresponded to the criteria established, more causes have been successful. Also, it was the clear desire of John Paul II that there be more examples of Christians “raised to the altar” for our edification and imitation, so as to say, “Yes, it IS possible to be a saint!” I think that results have varied in that project. In a way, it is good to encourage people to aspire to sainthood. However, once the number of beatifications and canonizations multiplied, they seems less “special”.

Whatever happened to faith in Christ (doesn’t look like that Joint Declaration with the Lutherans on justification changed all that much the sufficiency of Christ)?

Meanwhile, for the rest of the church, beatification is not the end but purgatory:

Let’s start by reviewing what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1030-1032) teaches about Purgatory:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. … The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire…”

“This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture…”

“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God…”

“The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead…”

Is the lesson then that a hierarchical church produces a hierarchical plan of salvation? The saints and the rest?

In Protestantism, all believers are saints. Even Paul knew that:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Cor:
1-2)

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The Call's Fine Print

Still waiting for Jason and the Callers to weigh in on these matters:

In life, Archbishop Fulton Sheen was exceptional, a riveting Catholic preacher on radio who outpolled star comedian Milton Berle in the early days of television, winning two Emmys and a following that was the envy of Bible-thumping Protestants.

After his death in 1979, it was no surprise that Sheen would be pushed for sainthood. But now two bishops have clashed in an unusual public dispute over who holds claim to Sheen’s body: the New York archdiocese, where he is buried, or the diocese of Peoria, Ill., where he was raised and ordained.

The fight between Illinois Bishop Daniel Jenky and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York erupted into public view Wednesday, when Jenky issued a statement blasting the New York archdiocese for thwarting Sheen’s expected beatification next year by reneging on an agreement to return the late archbishop’s body to Peoria.

“Bishop Jenky was personally assured on several occasions by the Archdiocese of New York that the transfer of the body would take place at the appropriate time,” the Peoria diocese said in a statement.

The statement said that senior Vatican officials were set to approve a miracle attributed to Sheen’s intervention — the revival after an hour of a stillborn baby — clearing the way for him to be beatified in a few months, the final step before formal canonization, which would require a second miracle.

Rome expected that Sheen’s body would be transferred from the crypt under St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he is buried, to Peoria to collect relics from the body, the Illinois diocese said. Peoria has been in charge of Sheen’s cause for canonization since it was opened in 2002. In 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI declared Sheen “venerable,” a requisite first step before beatification.

But the New York archdiocese denied Jenky’s request to move the body and “after further discussion with Rome, it was decided that the Sheen Cause would now have to be relegated to the Congregation’s historic archive.”

The Callers’ spin? The veneration of relics is biblical:

I began to appreciate was just how biblical the practice really was. I realized that the veneration of relics, belief in their miraculous powers, and in the intercession of departed saints and angels was deeply Hebraic and Jewish.

Never mind how deeply political and messy and unedifying the making of saints is. Just set your mind on things above (except when you’re receiving notices from the Vatican and looking at maps on your way to the remains of your favorite saint).

The Callers' Dilemma

On the one hand (from a traditionalist Roman Catholic perspective):

If John Paul II is truly a saint, the Catholic faithful must recognize that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox communities are sister churches, responsible together for safeguarding the one Church of God. . . . If John Paul II is truly a saint, the Catholic faithful must recognize the Anglicans as brothers and sisters in Christ and express this recognition by praying together. . . . If John Paul II is truly a saint, the Catholic faithful must hold that what divides Catholics and Protestants . . . is minimal in comparison to that which unites them. . . . The Catholic faithful must recognize the value of the religious witness of the Jewish people. . . . The Catholic faithful must recognize that after the final resurrection, God will be satisfied with the Moslems and they will be satisfied with Him. . . . Faithful Catholics must recognize that heads of state may not arrogate to themselves the right to prevent the public profession of a false religion.

On the other hand (from a culture wars perspective):

I think the article (quite contrary to its intent) makes a pretty good case for why John Paul II should be canonized: In the West’s MSM narrative, he was a reactionary because he opposed abortion, contraception, and women’s ordination — but the SSPX offers us a helpful reminder of how deep his commitment was to the agenda of Vatican II, to opening the Catholic Church in outreach to other Christians and members of other religions.

Don’t expect Jason and the Callers to weigh in — too many early church fathers to read.

(Thanks to an e-correspondent.)