Follow usTwitterFacebook


06 Nov 2015 News Vatican No comments

A World without Poverty - Pope Francis

In his quest towards ensuring the Catholic Church supports the poor and the needy, Pope Francis invited a homeless street vendor for an intimate meeting at the …

Read more

25 Mar 2015 Q&A Comments (19)

Did Jesus alter the commandment about observing the sabbath?

Full Question In a recent This Rock article ("Changing the Sabbath," December 1993), you stated that Christ used his authority to alter the sabbath in Matt…

Read more

30 Mar 2015 Q&A No comments

Is it possible to be Catholic and a body-builder?

Full Question Is it possible to be Catholic and a body-builder? I don't see why God would not want me to be my physical best, but I can see how he wouldn't…

Read more

08 Apr 2016 Articles No comments

Pope Francis's New Document on Marriage: 12 Things to Know and Share

Pope Francis’s much-anticipated document on the family has now been released. Here are 12 things to know and share. 1. What are the basic facts about the …

Read more

15 Apr 2016 Articles No comments

The Ultimate Apologist’s Reading List

This is not an exhaustive list, and just because a book is on this list does not mean I endorse everything in it. Instead, this list should serve as a hel…

Read more

07 Sep 2016 Articles Comments (7)

Why young Catholics love the Extraordinary Form

But don't expect them to disparage the Novus Ordo As a young Catholic growing up in an increasingly secular (or even post-secular) Britain, I am lucky to be ab…

Read more

02 Nov 2014 Articles Comments (3)

Can Lying Ever be Right?

St. Augustine wrote the first extensive treatise on lying (De Mendacio). In it he cites the case of a holy bishop, Firmus of Thagasta, who wished to protect a m…

Read more

21 Dec 2015 Q&A Comments (3)

The priest refused to administer the Sacrament of anointing the sick to my sick baby. Why?

Full Question I asked for the anointing of the sick for my very ill baby, but the priest said that the sacrament is only for people older than six years ol…

Read more

07 Sep 2015 News Vatican Comments (1)

Pope opens the Vatican to refugees, calls on Europe’s churches to follow suit

In light of the massive refugee crisis in Europe, Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will give temporary housing in the Vatican to at least two refugee famil…

Read more
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

When did the custom of canonizing saints start, and is it true that canonizations are infallible?

Full Question

When did the custom of canonizing saints start, and is it true that canonizations are infallible?


Here are excerpts from two articles on the canonization of saints; they are taken from The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967):

The solemn act by which the pope, with definitive sentence, inscribes in the catalogue of saints a person who has previously been beatified. By this act he declares that the person placed on the altar now reigns in eternal glory and decrees that the universal Church show him the honor due to a saint. The formulas indicate that the pope imposes a precept on the faithful, e.g. "We decide and define that they are saints and inscribe them in the catalogue of saints, stating that their memory should be kept with pious devotion by the universal Church."
The faithful of the primitive Church believed that martyrs were perfect Christians and saints since they had shown the supreme proof of love by giving their lives for Christ; by their sufferings, they had attained eternal life and were indefectibly united to Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body. These reasons induced the Christians, still oppressed by persecution, to invoke the intercession of the martyrs. They begged them to intercede before God to obtain for the faithful on earth the grace to imitate the martyrs in the unquestioning and complete profession of faith (1 Tm 2:1-5, Phil 3:17) .
Toward the end of the great Roman persecutions, this phenomenon of veneration, which had been reserved to martyrs, was extended to those who, even without dying for the faith, had nonetheless defended it and suffered for it, confessors of the faith (confessores fidei). Within a short time, this same veneration was extended to those who had been outstanding for their exemplary Christian life, especially in austerity and penitence, as well as to those who excelled in Catholic doctrine (doctors), in apostolic zeal (bishops and missionaries), or in charity and the evangelical spirit. . . .
In the first centuries the popular fame or the vox populi represented in practice the only criterion by which a person's holiness was ascertained. A new element was gradually introduced, namely, the intervention of the ecclesiastical authority, i.e., of the competent bishop. However, the fame of sanctity, as a result of which the faithful piously visited the person's tomb, invoked his intercession, and proclaimed the thaumaturgic [miraculous] effects of it, remained the starting point of those inquiries that culminated with a definite pronouncement on the part of the bishop. A biography of the deceased person and a history of his alleged miracles were presented to the bishop. Following a judgment of approval, the body was exhumed and transferred to an altar. Finally, a day was assigned for the celebration of the liturgical feast within the diocese or province.
The transition from episcopal to papal canonization came about somewhat casually. The custom was gradually introduced of having recourse to the pope in order to receive a formal approval of canonization. This practice was prompted obviously because a canonization decreed by the pope would necessarily have greater prestige, owing to his supreme authority. The first papal canonization of which there are positive documents was that of St. Udalricus in 973. . . . Through the gradual multiplications of the Roman pontiffs, papal canonization received a more definite structure and juridical value. Procedural norms were formulated, and such canonical processes became the main source of investigation into the saint's life and miracles. Under Gregory IX, this practice became the only legitimate form of inquiry (1234). . . .
The dogma that saints are to be venerated and invoked as set forth in the profession of faith of Trent (cf. Denz. 1867) has as its correlative the power to canonize. . . . St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Honor we show the saints is a certain profession of faith by which we believe in their glory, and it is to be piously believed that even in this the judgment of the Church is not able to err" (Quodl. 9:8:16).
The pope cannot by solemn definition induce errors concerning faith and morals into the teaching of the universal Church. Should the Church hold up for universal veneration a man's life and habits that in reality led to [his] damnation, it would lead the faithful into error. It is now theologically certain that the solemn canonization of a saint is an infallible and irrevocable decision of the supreme pontiff. God speaks infallibly through his Church as it demonstrates and exemplifies its universal teaching in a particular person or judges that person's acts to be in accord with its teaching.
May the Church ever "uncanonize" a saint? Once completed, the act of canonization is irrevocable. In some cases a person has been popularly "canonized" without official solemnization by the Church . . . yet any act short of solemn canonization by the Roman pontiff is not an infallible declaration of sanctity. Should circumstances demand, the Church may limit the public cult of such a person popularly "canonized." (vol. 3, 55-56, 59, 61)



Leave a Reply

  1. most read post
  2. Most Commented
  3. Choose Categories