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Why We Need Not (and Should Not) Call Paul VI ‘Saint’

Many who have studied the life and pontificate of Pope Paul VI are convinced that he was far from exemplary in his conduct as pastor; that he not only did not possess heroic virtue, but lacked certain key virtues; that his promulgation of a titanic liturgical reform was incompatible with his papal office of handing on that which he had received; that he offers us a portrait of failed governance and tradition betrayed. In short, for us, it is impossible to accept that a pope such as this could ever be canonized. Not surprisingly, then, we are vexed about Pope Francis’s “canonization” of Giovanni Battista Montini on Sunday, October 14, 2018 and have grave doubts in conscience about its legitimacy or credibility.

But are we allowed to have such doubts? Surely (people will say), canonization is an infallible exercise of the papal magisterium and therefore binding on all – indeed, the very language used in the ceremony indicates that! – therefore we must accept that Paul VI is a saint in Heaven, honor him and imitate him, and embrace all that he did and taught as pope.

Not so fast. In reality, the situation is more complicated. In this tempestuous time, it is just as well that we know the complexity of it, rather than seeking refuge in naïve simplifications. In this article, I will cover seven topics: (1) The status of canonizations, (2) The purpose of canonizations, (3) The process of canonization, (4) What is objectionable in Paul VI?, (5) What is admirable in Paul VI?, (6) The limits of canonization’s meaning, and (7) Practical consequences.

  1. The status of canonizations

While historically the majority of theologians have defended the view of the infallibility of canonizations – especially neoscholastic theologians who tend to be extreme ultramontanists [1] – the Church herself has, in fact, never taught this as binding doctrine [2]. The exact status of canonizations remains a legitimate subject of theological debate, and it is all the more debatable given the changing expectations, procedures, and motivations for the act of canonization itself (points to which I shall return).

The infallibility of canonizations is not taught by the Church, nor is it necessarily implied by any de fide doctrine of the Faith. Catholics are therefore not required to believe it as a matter of faith and may even, for serious reasons, doubt or question the truthfulness of a certain canonization. This conclusion is rigorously established and defended in John Lamont’s “The Authority of Canonisations” (Rorate Caeli, August 24, 2018), which, in my opinion, in the best treatment of the subject yet published and well worth reading in full, especially by those who are troubled in conscience about this question [3].

[Addendum on 10/17/18: In attempted refutation of this article, many have quoted the lines from the CDF’s “Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei,” signed by then-Cardinal Ratzinger and then-Archbishop Bertone on June 29, 1998, which says the following: “With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations.”

However, documents of the CDF have magisterial weight only insofar as they are acts of the supreme pontiff, which they become when he officially authorizes their publication. This “Doctrinal Commentary,” unlike many other documents from the CDF (such as a ‘Notification’ published 5 days earlier), lacks the concluding formula: “The Supreme Pontiff approved this and ordered it to be published.” And surely this lack was not accidental, as if they forgot to show it to John Paul II, or he was too busy to sign it; rather, it shows that this document is a commentary furnished by Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone, expressive of their opinions (which are, of course, worthy of consideration both intrinsically and circumstantially), but not something requiring obsequium religiosum. Hence, even after this “Doctrinal Commentary,” the infallibility of canonizations remains a theologically debatable issue. And it must be said that we are being given more reasons today than ever before to question certain things that may once have been taken for granted.]

  1. The purpose of canonizations

Traditionally, canonization is not merely a recognition that a certain individual is in Heaven; it is the recognition that this man  lived a life of such heroic virtue (above all, the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity), had fulfilled in so exemplary a fashion the duties of his state in life (and this would include, for a cleric, the duties of his office), and had so practiced asceticism as befits a soldier of Christ that public veneration (including liturgical) should be offered to him by the universal Church, and his example deserves to be followed as a model to imitate (cf. 1 Cor 11:1) [4]. We can see all of these features shining in the “classic” saints, to whom there is much popular devotion.

In recent pontificates, we have seen a shift take place in why individuals – at least, certain individuals – are canonized. Donald Prudlo observes:

As an historian of sainthood, my greatest hesitation with the current process stems from the canonizations done by John Paul II himself. While his laudable intention was to provide models of holiness drawn from all cultures and states in life, he tended to divorce canonization from its original and fundamental purpose. This was to have an official, public, and formal recognition of an existing cult of the Christian faithful, one that had been confirmed by the divine testimony of miracles. Cult precedes canonization; it was not meant to be the other way around. We are in danger then of using canonization as a tool to promote interests and movements, rather than being a recognition and approval of an extant cultus. [5]

Prudlo is making the obvious point that beatification and canonization are supposed to be responses of the Church to a strong popular devotion shown to a particular individual, whose heavenly intercession God has endorsed, so to speak, by working several demonstrable miracles. It is not supposed to be the Vatican rubber-stamping particular individuals the Vatican happens to want to promote. There is no serious cultus of Paul VI, nor has there ever been, and it is doubtful that papal fiat can create a cultus ex nihilo.

In reality, we see that Pope Francis has carried to its extreme the “politicization” of the process, whereby the individual to be beatified or canonized is instrumentalized for an agenda. As Fr. Hunwicke points out:

There has been, in some quarters, an uneasy suspicion for some time that canonisations have turned into a way of setting a seal upon the ‘policies’ of some popes. If these ‘policies’ are themselves a matter of divisive discussion and debate, then the promotion of the idea that canonisations are infallible becomes itself an additional element in the conflict. Canonisation, you will remind me, does not, theologically, imply approval of everything a Saint has done or said. Not formally, indeed. But the suspicion among some is that, de facto and humanly, such can seem to be its aim. This is confirmed by a prevailing assumption on all sides that the canonisations of the ‘Conciliar Popes’ does bear some sort of meaning or message.

Similarly, Fr. “Pio Pace” writes:

We must dare say it: by canonizing all Vatican II popes, it is Vatican II that is canonized. But, likewise, canonization itself is devalued when it becomes a sort of medal thrown on top of a casket. Maybe a council that was “pastoral” and not dogmatic is deserving of canonizations that are “pastoral” and not dogmatic. [6]

Most keenly, Prof. Roberto de Mattei observes:

For the papolater, the pope is not the vicar of Christ on Earth, who has the duty of handing on the doctrine he has received, but is a successor of Christ who perfects the doctrine of his predecessors, adapting it to the changing of the times. The doctrine of the Gospel is in perpetual evolution, because it coincides with the magisterium of the reigning pontiff. The “living” magisterium substitutes [for] the perennial Magisterium, expressed by pastoral teaching which changes daily, and has its regula fidei (rule of faith) in the subject of the authority and not in the object of the transmitted truth.

A consequence of papolatry is the pretext of canonizing all and each of the popes of the past, so that retroactively, each word of theirs, every act of governing is “infallibilized.” However, this concerns only the popes following Vatican II and not those who preceded that Council.

At this point arises the question: the golden era of the history of the Church is the Middle Ages, and yet the only medieval popes canonized by the Church are Gregory VII and Celestine V [we would also need to include Leo IX – PK]. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there were great popes, but none of these were canonized. For seven hundred years, between the fourteenth and twentieth centuries, only Saint Pius V and Saint Pius X were canonized. Were all the others unworthy popes and sinners? Certainly not. But heroism in the governing of the Church is an exception, not the rule, and if all the popes were saints, then nobody is a saint. Sanctity is such an exception that it loses meaning when it becomes the rule. [7]

This last paragraph is particularly worth emphasizing: it should cause the deepest astonishment and skepticism to note that while the Church had canonized exactly two popes from a 700-year period [8], in recent years, she has “canonized” three popes from a period of scarcely over 50 years – a half-century that magically coincides with the preparation, execution, and aftermath of that most magical of all Councils, Vatican II. Must be that “new Pentecost” effect. If this is not enough to make a cynic of someone, I’m not sure what would be [9].

  1. The process of canonization

In order to expedite the making of saints, John Paul II introduced many significant changes in the canonization process that had been stably in place since the work of Prosper Lambertini (1734-1738), who later became Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758). This process was based, in turn, on norms going back to Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644). It was none other than Paul VI who, in this area as in so many others, initiated a simplification of the procedures in 1969, a process John Paul II completed in 1983.

Studying a comparison of the old process and the new process is illuminating. A comparative chart has been provided at the Unam Sanctam Catholicam site. After noting the obvious fact that the old process is considerably more involved and thorough, Unam Sanctam proffers this evaluation:

The difference between the old and new procedures is not in their length, but in their character. In the pre-1969 procedure, you will note the care with which the integrity of the process itself is safeguarded. The Sacred Congregation must attest to the validity of the methodology used by the diocesan tribunals. The Promotor Fidei must sign off on the canonical form of every act of the Postulator and the Congregation. The validity of the inquiries into the candidate’s miracles [is] scrutinized. There is a very strict attention to form and methodology in the pre-1969 procedure which is simply lacking in the post-1983 system. … Essentially, while the modern canonization procedure maintains the nuts-n’-bolts of the pre-1969 system, the aspect of “checks and balances” that characterized the pre-1969 procedure is weakened. The rigid oversight is missing in the [modern] system. [10]

The role of the promotor fidei, the so-called “devil’s advocate,” was massively reduced. In the old system, this person’s crucial role was:

… to prevent any rash decisions concerning miracles or virtues of the candidates for the honours of the altar. All documents of beatification and canonization processes must be submitted to his examination, and the difficulties and doubts he raises over the virtues and miracles are laid before the congregation and must be satisfactorily answered before any further steps can be taken in the processes. It is his duty to suggest natural explanations for alleged miracles, and even to bring forward human and selfish motives for deeds that have been accounted heroic virtues[.] … His duty requires him to prepare in writing all possible arguments, even at times seemingly slight, against the raising of any one to the honours of the altar. The interest and honour of the Church are concerned in preventing any one from receiving those honours whose death is not juridically proved to have been “precious in the sight of God.” [11]

This paragraph bears repeated reading. Rash decisions concerning miracles or virtues…all documents must be submitted…apparent virtues must be argued against…the Church’s interest and honor must be defended at all costs…

The loosening up of the process, together with the chaos that often seems to reign in the Vatican in its free-wheeling postconciliar years, has meant that nothing comparable to the above stringent “devil’s advocate” role has been seen since 1983 (and, arguably, since 1969, when instability was first introduced into the process).

Among other things, it was taken for granted that all of the documentary archives associated with a proposed blessed or saint should be reviewed carefully for doctrinal, moral, and psychological issues that might be red flags.

Here I must share some disturbing information. A person who works at the Vatican in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints told me personally that orders were received from “on high” that the canonization process for Paul VI should be sped along as quickly as possible – and that, as a result, the Congregation did not examine all of the documents by or about Paul VI housed in the Vatican archives. This glaring lacuna is all the more grave when we recall that Paul VI was accused of being an active homosexual, a charge that was taken seriously enough to be denied [12]. It is also grave because of his involvement in secret negotiations with communists and his endorsement of “Ostpolitik,” under which many injustices were committed [13]. One would think a desire for transparent truth about every aspect of Montini would have led to an exhaustive examination of the relevant documents. However, this was purposefully bypassed. It goes without saying that this lack of due diligence, all by itself, is sufficient to cast into doubt the legitimacy of the canonization.

Arguably the worst change to the process is 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? The two miracles for Paul VI (one may read about them here) are, to be frank, underwhelming. I mean, it’s lovely that two babies were “healed” or “protected” in the way described, but that we are dealing with a naturally inexplicable supernatural intervention by the force of Paul VI’s prayers is not patently obvious. Four miracles that were all robust, like the restoration of sight to the blind or the raising of the dead, would carry a great deal more conviction.

With the greatly increasing number of canonizations; the removal of half of the number of miracles required (which are sometimes even waived [14]); the lack of a robust advocatus diaboli role; and, at times, the rushed manner in which documentation is examined or at times passed over (as, apparently, has been the case with Paul VI), it seems to me not only that it has become impossible to claim that today’s canonizations always require our consent, but also that there may be canonizations about which one would have an obligation to withhold assent.

  1. What is objectionable in Paul VI?

Beyond the general consideration of the status of canonizations, the purpose that should animate them, and the procedures by which they are securely or insecurely conducted, we must also consider the particular merits of the case at hand. Why, specifically, do traditional Catholics object to the canonization of Paul VI?

During his pontificate, Montini presented a lack of heroic virtue in shouldering his solemn responsibilities as shepherd of the universal flock. Instead, he displayed a habitual incapacity for effective discipline, as he wavered between extreme indulgence and extreme sharpness (e.g., rarely punishing the most obnoxiously heretical theologians but treating Archbishop Lefebvre as if he were worse than Martin Luther or empowering Annibale Bugnini with continual papal access and support throughout the course of the liturgical reform, then suddenly banishing him to Iran). The contradictory signals he gave – encouraging modernism, then curtailing it; intervening in controversial matters and then withdrawing, back and forth, like Hamlet (a character to whom he compared himself in a private note from 1978), only compounded the confusion and anarchy of the period. What was needed was a pilot with a steady hand in the midst of the storm, not a self-doubting soft modernist suffering an existential crisis.

Particularly glaring problem areas include the liturgical reform, where Paul VI gave ample evidence of operating under rationalist Pistoian principles incompatible with Catholicism and of gross negligence in reviewing materials. (There seem to have been quite a number of things he signed off on without being familiar with their details.) His Ostpolik dealings with communists, including his disobedience to Pius XII, are well known. Although Paul VI reached the right conclusion on birth control, the manner in which he failed to respond to the media barrage connected with the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, failed to discipline dissenters from Humanae Vitae, and even allowed to be marginalized those who upheld the papal teaching all conspired to undermine that teaching’s effectiveness. The irrational harshness of his dealings with traditional Catholics was shameful, as when he turned down the petition of a large group of over 6,000 Spanish priests [15] who wished to continue celebrating the immemorial Roman Rite of St. Gregory and St. Pius V (while later granting this permission to priests in England and Wales – once more showing the stuff out of which Hamlets are made). He abused his papal authority by discarding what should have been revered and by treating as forbidden what could never be forbidden.

The pope has a solemn obligation to uphold and defend the traditions and rites of the Church; he has no moral authority to modify them past recognition. No pope in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church ever came close to modifying more traditions and rites, and more extensively, than Paul VI did. This alone should make him forever suspicious in the eyes of any orthodox believer. Either this pope was the great liberator who delivered the Church from centuries, perhaps over a millennium, of bondage to harmful forms of worship – in which case the Holy Spirit had fallen asleep on the job and the Protestants were correct all along that the true Church of Christ had disappeared or gone “underground” – or he was the great destroyer who tore down what Divine Providence had lovingly built up and sold the Church into a slavery to intellectual fashion more humiliating than the physical bondage suffered by the Israelites.

Paul VI did not helplessly watch the Church’s “autodemolition” (his own term for the collapse after the Council); he did not merely preside over the single greatest exodus of Catholic laity, clergy, and religious since the Protestant Revolt. He aided and abetted this internal devastation by his own actions. By pushing ahead at breakneck speed a radical liturgical and institutional “reform” that left nothing untouched, he multiplied a hundredfold the destabilizing forces at work in the 1960s. Anyone who enjoyed the functionality of reason would have been able to see that it was dangerous, not to mention impious, to change so much, so fast. But no: Paul VI was a willing votary of the ideology of modernization, a high priest of progress, who boldly went where none of his predecessors had ever gone before.

Ironically, it is none other than Pope Francis, the willful canonizer of Paul VI, who has demonstrated past all doubt the self-destructive trajectory of postconciliar Catholicism, when its own tendencies are acted on without restraint (rather as Theodore McCarrick acted on his own tendencies without restraint).

Many Catholics are rightfully anxious about Pope Francis. But what he has done in the past five years is arguably small potatoes compared with what Paul VI had the audacity to do: substituting a new liturgy for the ancient Roman Mass and sacramental rites, causing the biggest internal rupture the Catholic Church has ever suffered. 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. It was the very negation of paternity, of the papacy’s fatherly function of conserving and passing on the family heritage. Everything that has happened after Paul VI is no more than an echo of this violation of the sacred temple. Once the most holy thing is profaned, nothing else is safe; nothing else is stable.

At this point, someone may object: “Okay, so what if Paul VI wasn’t very good at being pope? Surely he could still have been a holy man on the inside. He was living in a tempestuous period, when everyone was confused, and he was doing his very best. We should admire his intentions and his great desires, even if we might criticize in retrospect certain decisions and actions. Sanctity isn’t a blanket approval of everything a person says or does.”

The problem with this objection is that it fails to recognize that how a Catholic lives out his primary vocation in life is part and parcel of his sanctity. How a bishop of the Church – and all the more, a pope – exercises his ecclesiastical office is not incidental, but essential to his sanctity (or lack thereof). Imagine it this way: could we canonize a man who, in spite of beating his wife and neglecting his children, was dutiful in attending daily Mass, praying the Rosary, and giving alms to the poor? It would be absurd, because we would rightly say: “A married man with children has to be holy as a husband and father, not in spite of being a husband and father.” It is no less absurd to say: “Such-and-such a pope was negligent, irresponsible, indecisive, rash, and revolutionary in his papal decisions, but his heart was in the right place, and he was always striving for the glory of God and the salvation of men.” A pope is a saint because he “poped” well. He showed heroic faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, etc. in his very activity of governing the Church. this cannot be reasonably maintained for Paul VI.

If we are supposed to venerate Paul VI, then inconsistency, ambiguity, pusillanimity, injustice, reckless change, negligence, indecisiveness, false signaling, despondency, wishful thinking, irritability, scorn, and contempt for tradition are not merely virtues, but virtues one can exercise to such a heroic degree that they are actually sources of sanctifying grace, deserving of general admiration, veneration, and emulation. Sorry, I’m having none of it. Such things have always been, and will always be, vices. Montini was a terrible ruler of the Church, and if the virtuous fulfillment of one’s responsibilities in one’s state in life is constitutive of sanctity, we may conclude that it is impossible to imagine a worse role model for any ruler than Montini.

To read more about the flaws of Paul VI as pope, the following are recommended:

  1. What is admirable in Paul VI?

Do traditionally-minded Catholics admire Paul VI for anything? Yes, of course. We would be foolish not to acknowledge the good he did. But that good is not sufficient to cancel out the many and serious problems discussed in the preceding section. Indeed, the history of Montini’s pontificate is as vivid a demonstration as one could wish to have of the difference between the person and the office. In the case of saintly popes, the grace of office seems to take up and enfold the person and transform him into a luminous icon of St. Peter and of Christ. In the case of bad popes or mediocre popes, the grace of office is something that occasionally flares up, that comes out of hiding in emergency situations, but does not transform the incumbent in the same way. The latter is what we see with Paul VI, as an editorial at Rorate Caeli astutely expressed it (with my emphasis):

Pope Paul VI is described by most historians as a kind of tragic figure, trying to control the whirlwind of events surrounding him, but unable to do much. It is probably because of this, because it seemed that Montini often bent to the opinions of the world, because it seemed that he frequently accepted the fabricated notions and texts which committees of false sages delivered to him (with very small modifications), that the moments in which he did not bend shine so clearly with the simple brightness of Peter. The Nota Prævia to Lumen Gentium, the vigorous defense of the traditional Eucharistic doctrines (in Mysterium Fidei) and of the teachings on Indulgences (in Indulgentiarum Doctrina), the Credo of the People of God are pillars which remain standing in a crumbling edifice, signs of supernatural protection. Amidst the moral collapse of the 1960s, and against the commission set up by his predecessor to reexamine the matter, Peter spoke though [Pope] Paul in Humanæ Vitae: “it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it.”

If such good actions and teachings had been habitual, normal, and characteristic of Paul VI, and had been imbued with the panoply of Christian virtues St. Thomas discusses in the Second Part of the Summa, and on top of this, a popular cultus had arisen around a beloved pontiff, culminating in many indisputable miracles, then – and only then – would we have had reason to elevate Paul VI to the altars.

Here is is worthwhile to point out that time will show, as we have already begun to see, that the good for which Paul VI was responsible is not at all the point of his canonization. In fact, all of the things listed above as “good moments” are contrary to the prevailing trends of the Bergoglio party. We are therefore ringside witnesses of the most cynical case of “promoveatur ut amoveatur” ever seen in Church historythat is, promoting someone to another, usually more distant position in order to remove them from their current more influential position. I have argued this point here.

  1. The limits of canonization’s meaning

There is, as usual, a divine irony in all of this. Even if the canonization of Paul VI turns out to have been legitimate – one may have one’s serious doubts, obviously, but one cannot rule out this possibility altogether – it would not, strictly speaking, accomplish what its political proponents intend by it. They intend that by canonizing Paul VI, they effectively canonize his entire Vatican II program and, above all, the liturgical reform. But, as Shawn Tribe of the Liturgical Arts Journal noted:

Anyone who would try to use the canonization of Paul VI to seriously propose that therefore all of the ecclesial and liturgical reforms that took place around his pontificate are therefore canonized and cannot be questioned (let alone reformed/rescinded) is either being intentionally and deceitfully manipulative or is woefully misinformed and uncatechized. Personal sanctity does not equate to infallibility; saints are often found at cross purposes with other saints; not every utterance/policy/decision/opinion of a saint stands the test of time nor the eventual judgement of the Church, nor is it dogmatic – not to mention that the Conciliar and liturgical reforms are not the personal possession of Paul VI but rather of a whole host of people and figures.

Gregory DiPippo extends the same argument at New Liturgical Movement:

The canonization of a Saint does not change the facts of his earthly life. It does not rectify the mistakes he may have made, whether knowingly or unknowingly. It does not change his failures into successes, whether they came about through his fault or that of others. …

[T]he intrinsic merits or demerits of the post-Conciliar reform, and its status as a success or a failure, will not change in any way, shape or form if Pope Paul VI is indeed canonized. No one can honestly say otherwise, and no one has the right to criticize, attack, silence or call for the silencing of other Catholics if they contest that reform. If that reform went beyond the spirit and the letter of what Vatican II asked for in Sacrosanctum Concilium, as its own creators openly bragged that it did; if it was based on bad scholarship and a significant degree of basic incompetence, leading to the many changes now known to be mistakes; if it failed utterly to bring about the flourishing of liturgical piety that the Fathers of Vatican II desired, none of these things will change if Paul VI is canonized. Just as the canonizations of Pius V and X, and the future canonization of XII, did not place their liturgical reforms beyond question or debate, the canonization of Paul VI will not put anything about his reform beyond debate, and no one has any right to say otherwise.

  1. Practical consequences

Given the foregoing, what are the practical consequences for clergy, religious, and laity who doubt the validity of this canonization? This topic deserves a separate fuller treatment, but briefly, anyone with such a doubt or difficulty is permitted to refrain from praying to Paul VI and need not support his cultus. We are all obliged to pray for the salvation of our Holy Father and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church on Earth. This intention implicitly includes a petition that the papacy, the Roman Curia, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and the very process of beatification and canonization all be reformed in due season, so that they may better serve the needs of Christ’s faithful and give glory to Almighty God, who is “wondrous in His saints” (Ps 67:36).


[1] For example, arguing that all papal disciplinary acts that bear on the entire church must be inerrant and certainly favoring the common good – a position that one might have defended earlier in history, but which, at the present moment, is nothing less than grossly risible.

[2] It is therefore harmful when popularizers write things like this: “Beatification requires one attested miracle and allows the beatified person to be venerated by his local church. Canonization requires two attested miracles and allows veneration of the saint by the universal Church. Canonization is an infallible statement by the Church that the saint is in heaven” ( This is to state too much, unless some qualifications are added.

[3] In order not to make my own article unduly long, I will not summarize his argument here, but merely note that it responds fully and amply to the objections usually raised by proponents of the infallibility of canonizations. Inter alia, Lamont refutes the claim that the use of certain Latin terms in the rite of canonization adequately establishes its infallible nature. Additional worthwhile treatments of the subject include this and this.

[4] For example: “A canonization … is a formal papal decree that the candidate was holy and is now in heaven with God; the decree allows public remembrance of the saint at liturgies throughout the church. It also means that churches can be dedicated to the person without special Vatican permission. … ‘In addition to reassuring us that the servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles are the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by church authorities about the virtuous life’ lived by the candidate, Pope Benedict said in a speech to members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes in 2006” (, emphases added).

[5] Cited by Christopher Ferrara in “The Canonization Crisis.”

[6] Fr. Hunwicke similarly noted prior to the event: “As if he has not yet created enough divisions within the Church Militant, Pope Francis intends this month to perform the highly divisive act of canonising Blessed Paul VI. Even he, judging from what he said in giving this information to the Clergy of the City, can see that this canonisation business has become a silly giggle: ‘And Benedict and I are on the waiting list,’ he quipped. Delightfully humorous. A very witty joke. Very drole, Sovereign Pontiff. I share the views of many, however, that the joke is a bad one, in as far as this projected canonisation is fundamentally a political action to be linked with the apparent conviction of Pope Francis that he himself is the champion and beneficiary of Bl Paul’s work at Vatican II and afterwards.”

[7]; emphasis added. De Mattei is evidently restricting the term “Middle Ages” to the period after the year 1000. Moreover, Victor III and Urban II, the two popes after Gregory, are blesseds.

[8] This is surely not for lack of many heroic individuals in that 700-year period – but, as we have said, if there was no popular cultus yielding indisputable miracles, the Church was not going to go rifling through the archives to find whatever candidates for honors she could find and push their causes.

[9] I might add that our skepticism should extend to the canonization of John Paul II as well, since his own governance of the Church was severely problematic in many ways. I have noted some of these in my recent article “RIP Vatican II Catholicism (1962–2018).” See also “The Pennsylvania Truth: John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II were no saints.


[11] From the article “Promotor Fidei” in the old Catholic Encyclopedia. To learn more about the “devil’s advocate,” read this informative article.

[12] Wikipedia capably summarizes the basic information: “Roger Peyrefitte, who had already written in two of his books that Paul VI had a longtime homosexual relationship, repeated his charges in a magazine interview with a French gay magazine that, when reprinted in Italian, brought the rumors to a wider public and caused an uproar. He said that the pope was a hypocrite who had a longtime sexual relationship with a movie actor. Widespread rumors identified the actor as Paolo Carlini, who had a small part in the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday (1953). In a brief address to a crowd of approximately 20,000 in St. Peters Square on 18 April, Paul VI called the charges ‘horrible and slanderous insinuations’ and appealed for prayers on his behalf. … The charges have resurfaced periodically. In 1994, Franco Bellegrandi, a former Vatican honour chamberlain and correspondent for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, alleged that Paul VI had been blackmailed and had promoted other gay men to positions of power within the Vatican. In 2006, the newspaper L’Espresso confirmed the blackmail story based on the private papers of police commander General Giorgio Manes. It reported that Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro had been asked to help.” As incredible as such a story may seem, we are more inclined to believe it today because of the indisputable evidence we have of Pope Francis promoting homosexuals to positions of power within the Vatican.

[13] See George Weigel on Ostpolitik. Again, we see that Bergoglio is simply following in Montini’s footsteps by his negotiations and compromises with Communist China.

[14] Or redefined: see this revealing article by John Thavis. Pope Francis waived the requirement of a second miracle for the “canonization” of John XXIII. Thus, incredibly, a pope who does not stand out for notable sanctity and whose cultus was never particularly strong or widespread was elevated to the honors of the altar on the basis of one miracle. We can see in this a fine example of the crass abuse of pontifical power that Francis depends on for his ideological consolidation.

[15] Namely, the “Hermandad Sacerdotal Española de San Antonio Mª Claret y San Juan de Ávila,” which was formed by the “Hermandad Sacerdotal Espanola,” founded in 1969 by Spanish priests to defend Tradition in the face of the changes in the Church, and another similar group, based in Catalonia, called “Asociación de Sacerdotes y Religiosos de San Antonio Maria Claret.” They sent a letter to the Vatican in 1969 petitioning the continued use of the old Roman missal – and Paul VI refused them flatly. Unfortunately, as Spanish and Italian traditionalism was characterized by absolute obedience to Rome, the Novus Ordo was thereafter accepted without cavil, and to this day tradition has difficulty making inroads into either of these cultural spheres.

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