I reprint, below, a post originally published on 31 January this year, together with its thread. Three new points.
(1) I am not impressed by such discussion as I have seen on the technicalities of this subject during the three months since 31 January. My current working hypothesis is as it was on that day: that the opinion of Benedict XIV still applies and canonisations are not certainly de fide in any sense that carries the implication that a dissident must be deemed a heretic or a schismatic.
(2) Discussions, both on the 'left' and on the 'right', have seemed to concern simply the alleged political aspects of the imminent canonisations. I think this is the wrong place to start.
(3) The rule that canonisations should not get under way until a number of years have passed seems to me important, and I think it unfortunate that this was not adhered to in the case of Papa Wojtyla. It also seems to me unfortunate that the lack of a second miracle for Papa Roncalli was dispensed. The modern, and quite excessive, personality cult of Roman Pontiffs inevitably results in the cry santo subito after they are dead. Arguably, in the case of popes, the 'cooling off' period after their deaths ought to be very much distinctly longer than in the case of other people, and any technical obstacles ought to be the more irremovable. This would also make possible a relaxed consideration, undertaken with a long view, of doctrinal questions. Because, for the media and for ordinary priests and people, canonisation of a pope can easily be misunderstood as implying the infallibility of everything which he did or said. [Beatification, allowing a limited and suitable local cult within Rome itself, may be a different matter. But there is a problem here too, in as far as Beatification is popularly seen as merely a preliminary to Canonisation. It need not be that.]
It distresses me to write point (3), because Benedict XVI (cui concedat Omnipotens multos annos!) must surely count as one of the most saintly pontiffs of the last two centuries; probably the most worthy to be canonised of the lot of them. But a stop needs to be put to the passion and pressures for canonising popes.
I have some queries which are genuinely queries. My mind really is not made up regarding the Infallibility of an act whereby the Roman Pontiff 'canonises'; and the probably but certainly related question of whether a de fide assent is required. I shall be entirely capricious in binning comments which just rant, especially if they are preoccupied with the canonisations due next April. I assume that everybody with an interest in this subject knows exactly what the Vatican I text of Pastor aeternus said and did not say about Papal infallibility. It is useful to have read parts of Benedict XIV's De Beatificatione et Canonizatione, and Liber1 Caput LXV really is required reading; it can be found by googling Benedicti papae XIV Doctrina de Servorum Dei beatificatione et ..., and then scrolling down to pages 55-56 (42-43 in the printed book which Google copied). It was written before the election of the erudite and admirable Prospero Lambertini to the See of Rome.
Theologians of distinction can be listed who have taught that Canonisation is an infallible act of the Papal Magisterium. But, with regard to those who wrote before 1870, is there not a prior question that has to be asked? The Church had then not defined (i.e. put limits, 'fines', to) the dogma of Papal Infallibility. The terms of Pastor aeternus are (to the chagrin of Manning and the palpable relief of Newman) extremely limited. Therefore, can we be sure that those earlier theologians really were categorising canonisation as infallible in the sense of the word infallible as defined with all the limitations of the 1870 decrees? Or, because of the limits imposed by that definition, might they have used a different term had they needed to develop their arguments within the confines of what Pastor aeternus lays down? Is this why Benedict XIV accepts the possibility of arguing that what a Roman Pontiff decrees may be infallible, but still not be de fide? After 1870, I surmise, that possibility may not be open to us: because the scope and function of the term infallibilis have changed to imply that a proposition is of faith. Am I right?
In assessing the arguments of such pre-1870 writers, should we pay attention to the general extent which they assert when talking about the authority of the Roman Pontiff? That is: if a writer is generous in his estimate of the fields to which papal infallibility extends, should we be less willing to assume that he is writing in terms of something like the limited 1870 definition, than we would be when considering a writer who is very much more sparing and circumspect in associating infallibility with papal interventions?
As a consequence of this, when we turn to theologians who wrote later than 1870, and who argued that papal canonisations are infallible, should we not subtract from the arguments with which they sustain their conclusions the mere citation, qua authorities, and without further discussion, of those earlier theologians? In other words, should not the event of 1870 have the effect of pruning back some previous theologically luxuriant growths?
And there is another question raised by the Definition and Practice of Papal infallibility which the pontificate of B Pius IX bequeathed us. It implies an assumption that the Roman Pontiff is acting with the morally unanimous, collegial, assent of the whole ecclesia docens. I know that, for SSPXers, Collegiality is a dirty word; but B Pius IX and Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the entire world seeking their counsel before defining the two Marian Dogmas ('Is it definable? Is it opportune to define it?') and ... well ... I'm just an ordinary Catholic ... the praxis of those two pontiffs is good enough for me! But do Popes seek the counsel of all their Venerable Brethren before canonising?
Papal infallibilty is nothing but one modality within the infallibility of the Church. So is it rational to assign infallibility to some canonisations - those personally enacted by the Pope - and not to those enacted by a different authority (the oft-quoted Quodlibet IX:16 of S Thomas is not necessarily limited to papal canonisations)? We know that popes cannot delegate their infallibility. There are the saints on the calendars of sui iuris churches: such as that of the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch (after all, it is arguable that, as a successor of S Peter, this Patriarch is, after the Bishop of Rome himself, the senior prelate of the Catholic Church) which include some who lived outside visible unity with the See of Rome in recent centuries and were canonised by Byzantine synods ... and whose names are certainly not on any Roman 'list'. I believe the Ukrainian Church includes Saints canonised up to the time of the Synod of Brest. And the 'two lungs' rhetoric of JP2 implies that, although the Latin Church is de facto very much larger than the Oriental Churches in Full Communion with Rome, theologically these latter are not just almost-irrelevant, tolerated, anomalies. What would a rounded and complete understanding of Canonisation within the Catholic Church have to say about Melkite and Ukrainian praxis? And what would be the bearing of that upon the question of the Infallibility of Canonisation?
Papal infallibilty resides in the papal munus docendi, the ministry of doctrinally binding the whole Church, not part of it: so is there a distinction between those Saints who are by papal authority to have a compulsory cultus in every local Church, and those whose commemoration is confined to some localties; or is optional in the Universal Church? If the sui iuris Churches not of Latin Rite do not include a Saint on their Calendars, and the Roman Pontiff tolerates this, does this mean that he is not imposing that cult on the Universal Church and thus is not using his Universal munus docendi? The actual formula of canonisation is in fact merely an order that X be placed on the List* of Saints of the 'ecclesia universalis'. What exactly ... physically ... is this 'list'? Benedict XIV explicitly says that "writing a name down in the Martyrology does not yet bring about formal or equipollent canonisation" (descriptio in martyrologio nondum importat canonizationem formalem, aut aequipollentem). But even if it did, would this mean that the Martyrologium Romanum, theologically and juridically, applies to sui iuris Churches not of the Roman Rite? If it doesn't, does this mean that 'ecclesia universalis', in the context of papal canonisation, really means 'ecclesia Latina universalis' (because, after all, the Latin Church is pretty world-wide)? What about the observation of Benedict XIV that an act of 'canonisation' which lacks complete preceptive universality is not in the strict sense canonisation? Are there other loose ends arising from the fact that Roman documents seem quite often to sound as though they are majestically addressing the whole Church, but, when you get down to it, are really pretty obviously addressing the Latin Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium is an example of that)?
Finally: S Thomas held that canonisation was medium inter res fidei, et particulares; and Benedict XIV concludes his discussion of this matter by saying that plures magni nominis auctores deny that an act of canonisation is de fide; gives a fair wind to their arguments; then summarises the arguments of those, inferioris notae doctores, who affirm that it is de fide; concludes by saying Utraque opinio in sua probabilitate relinquenda videtur, donec Sedes Apostolica de hac re judicium proferat. Benedict XIV went on to give his own private opinion as favouring the positive thesis (canonisations are of faith), but added "But before a judgement of the Apostolic See, it does not seem that the mark of heresy should be branded onto the contrary opinion."
And in 1998, the motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem of B John Paul II was accompanied by a Commentary written by the CDF and signed by its Cardinal Prefect. Paragraph 6 of this, combined with paragraphs 8 and 11, appears to lead to the conclusion that canonisations are to be given the same "full and irrevocable assent" as that required by the Creeds and the doctrinal definitions of Ecumenical Councils and of Roman Pontiffs speaking ex cathedra. Have I understood this correctly? Would this be "a judgement of the Apostolic See" as described by Benedict XIV? What is the Magisterial status of a dicasterial 'Commentary'?
To be frank with you, I am, so far, more impressed by writers who call the public rejection of a papal act of canonisation 'temerarious', than I am by those who invoke the I-word. The I-word surely means, from 1870 onwards, that, as a matter of divine Faith, one must accept something in ones heart. Use of temerarious (Suarez; Benedict XIV) means (I take it) that a public rejection is profoundly rash and unsafe and that, accordingly, one should refrain from disturbing the peace of the believing community by publicly attacking an authoritative inclusion of a person on the List* of Saints; and, furthermore, that one should preserve an interior awareness of ones own fallibility (after all, someone has to decide whether X goes into ... or does not go into ... the canon, and the decision is certainly way above my pay grade).
And I have a prejudice against potentially causing people problems of conscience by telling them that something is of divine Faith when it might not be. And it potentially damages the august authority of the Sovereign Pontiff to be rash in spraying the I-word too liberally around ... a point which poor Manning never grasped.
*List: canon in Greek; catalogus in Latin (if you see what I mean!)