St. Cory (?) — Canonization 101 for dummies

Cory Gawing Santo

It was Bulgar‘s headline that  can be understood in two ways 1. that Corry Aquino will be canonized as saint, which will automatically make the headline grammatically flawed as it is already in “pangnagdaan” or the past test; or 2. as an imperative to the effect that the paper, Bulgar, a Tagalog tabloid  known for its sensationalized local showbiz coverage and its steamy sex stories] is calling for an unknown authority to make the late former president a saint.

The previous post I wrote on Cory’s death is currently one of the featured blogs in the president’s website. Everyone is in a state of utter shock and to make up for this every Filipino is in a state of religiousity only achieved whenever the nation is challenged by calamities, political upheaval, controversial showbiz happenings, or death of a leader. And so everyone is calling for Cory’s sainthood without  understanding the complicated process of canonization.

Canonization is the act by which a particular Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint and is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process.

Canonization, whether formal or informal, does not make someone a saint: it is only a declaration that the person is a saint and was a saint even before canonization.

Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister of 25 January 1983 and the norms issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 7 February 1983 for its implementation on diocesan level continued the work of simplification already initiated by Pope Paul VI.

Servant of God. The process leading towards canonization begins at the diocesan level. A bishop with jurisdiction—usually the bishop of the place where the candidate died or is buried, although another ordinary can be given this authority—gives permission to open an investigation into the virtues of the individual, responding to a petition by members of the faithful, either actually or pro formal. This investigation may open no sooner than five years after the death of the person being investigated. However, the pope has the authority to waive this five year waiting period, as was done for Mother Teresa by Pope John Paul II and for John Paul II himself by his immediate successor, Benedict XVI. Normally, a guild or organization to promote the cause of the candidate’s sainthood is created, an exhaustive search of the candidate’s writings, speeches and sermons is undertaken, a detailed biography is written and eyewitness accounts are gathered. When sufficient information has been gathered, the investigation of the candidate, who is called “Servant of God”, is presented by the local bishop to the Roman Curia—the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints—where it is assigned a postulator, whose task is to gather further information about the life of the Servant of God.

Cory Aquino was a close friend of Bishop Soc Villanueva who may give permission to look into Cory’s life as a Christian. Still five years will have to be waited unless Pope Benedict 14th waive this. I am not aware if they have prior correspondence but granting that the Pope watches CNN or BBC, the first stage is good to go. Or we can wait for five years, which is a bad idea if we consider the propensity of Filipinos to forget everything after a month.

Declaration ‘Non Cultus’. At some point, permission is then granted for the body of the Servant of God to be exhumed and examined, a certification (“non cultus”) that no superstitious or heretical worship or improper cult has grown up around the servant or his or her tomb is made, and relics are taken.

The body of Cory was not cremated so it follows that exhumation of the body will not stall this process. And as far as public knowledge is concerned, she was never an animist nor did she question the Church’s teachings. She was a faithful daughter of the Roman Catholic Church.

Venerable/Heroic in Virtue. When enough information has been gathered, the congregation will recommend to the pope that he make a proclamation of the Servant of God’s heroic virtue (that is, that the servant exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, to an heroic degree). From this point the one said to be “heroic in virtue” is referred to by the title “Venerable”. A Venerable has as of yet no feast day, no churches may be built in his or her honor, and the church has made no statement on the person’s probable or certain presence in heaven, but prayer cards and other materials may be printed to encourage the faithful to pray for a miracle wrought by his or her intercession as a sign of God’s will that the person be canonized.

Aquino being considered as a national hero may, in a way, allow us to deduce that she has heroic virtues. Easy.

“Blessed” Beatification is a statement by the church that it is “worthy of belief” that the person is in heaven, having come to salvation. This step depends on whether the Venerable is a martyr or a “confessor”.

For a martyr, the pope has only to make a declaration of martyrdom, a certification that the venerable gave his or her life voluntarily as a witness for the faith and/or in an act of heroic charity for others. This allows beatification, giving the venerable the new title “Blessed” (abbreviated “Bl.”) or, in Latin, Beatus or Beata. A feast day will be designated, but its observance is normally restricted to the Blessed’s home diocese, to certain locations associated with him or her, and/or to the churches or houses of the blessed’s religious order, if they belonged to one. Parishes may not normally be named in honor of a Blessed.

If the Venerable was not a martyr – all non-martyrs are “confessors” as they “confessed” or bore witness to their faith by how they lived their lives – it must be proven that a miracle has taken place by his or her intercession – that is, that God has shown a sign that the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision by God performing a miracle in response to the Blessed’s prayers. Today, these miracles are almost always miraculous cures, as these are the easiest to establish based on the Catholic Church’s requirements for a “miracle.” (The patient was sick, there was no known cure for the ailment, prayers were directed to the Venerable, the patient was cured, the cure was spontaneous, instantaneous, complete and lasting, and doctors cannot find any natural explanation.)

But since she did not die as a martyr, we’ll have to look into the second part of the mechanics. She must have performed miracles. (Please refer to the example.) At this point it is clear that the cononization will be a failure since there has been no report that she indeed performed “spontaneous, instantaneous, complete, and lasting” cure to whatever illness when she was still living.

“Saint” (abbreviated “St” and “S.”) To be canonized a saint, one (more) miracle is necessary. Canonization is a statement by the church that the person certainly enjoys the Beatific Vision. The saint is assigned a feast day which may be celebrated anywhere within the Catholic Church, although it may or may not appear on the general calendar or local calendars as an obligatory feast, parish churches may be built in his or her honor, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honor the saint.

Although a recognition of sainthood by the pope does not directly concern a fact of divine revelation, it must still be “definitively held” by the faithful as infallible under (at the very least) the Universal Magisterium of the Church since it is a truth connected to revelation by historical necessity.

Nah. This one is too technical to be helpful.

As of press time Bulgar’s headline is a pipe dream.


8 thoughts on “St. Cory (?) — Canonization 101 for dummies”

  1. Jason, thank you so much for the exhaustive response, the corrections on the lapses in information, and of course the time spent reading this post. Again, the articles in this blog are written for a general audience, if there is another purpose other than to express my opinions right at the moment I am writing, it is to challenge my readers to give a contrasting, if not contradicting view. I welcome dissent.

    I hope that I am not giving you an impression that I am stubborn, but as far as the call for her canonization is concerned, regardless of the prominence and the ardor of the people calling for it, it still strikes me as absurd. Let’s not cheapen her heroism by subjecting her to methodologies that are sectarian and unnecessary.

    I’ll stand by it.

  2. Mabuhay! Peace and health! I came across your post while searching for updates on the calls for Cory’s canonization. In the interest of dialogue, fairness and truth, allow me to provide some corrections:

    1. The current Pope is Pope Benedict XVI (16th), not Pope Benedict 14th.

    2. The bishop who is Cory’s close friend is Balanga Bishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas; there is no Bishop Soc Villanueva in the Philippines’ roster of Catholic bishops.

    3. The bishop who has the task of investigating Cory’s life is not Bishop Soc, but Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of the diocese of Cubao (if he is still the bishop of that territory five years from now), since Cory was a parishioner of a church within that diocese.

    4. The miracles attributed to Cory’s intercession should have occurred after Cory died, not while she was alive. Therefore it is incorrect to say that “it is clear that the canonization will be a failure since there has been no report that she indeed performed ‘spontaneous, instantaneous, complete, and lasting’ cure to whatever illness when she was still living.”

    That has yet to be seen: No official process vis-a-vis Cory’s sainthood, including the conferment on her of titles like Servant of God, Venerable, or Blessed, or the search for miracles can begin until 2014, which will see her fifth death anniversary.

    A miracle through Cory’s intercession after her death, not before it, will prove that she is in the presence of God and is enjoying “Beatific Vision.” That she wrought nothing supernatural while she lived is no stumbling block to her canonization.

    5. It is inaccurate to say that “everyone is calling for Cory’s sainthood without understanding the complicated process of canonization.”

    If that were true, then people like Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, University of the Philippines professor Solita “Winnie” Collas-Monsod, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist John Nery, and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism stalwart Malou Mangahas–all of whom have voiced support for the moves to eventually have Cory canonized–will have to be included among the “people [sic] without understanding [of the] complicated process of canonization.” And to think that they are just some of the people who are aware about the canonization process.

    I hope I have been able to shed some light on the issue at hand.

  3. I fully agree with you faith. that’s the point of this post – that we should stop this petty call for cory’s sainthood. it’s bad taste.

  4. being a saint cannot be judge only by the people only the holy spirit can tell whether that person can be a saint or not let us not argue with that only God knows what will happen let us solve first the problem of our nation pres. cory will be happy if we do that!!!!

  5. being a saint cannot be judge only by the people only the holy spirit can tell whether that person can be a saint or not let us argue with that only God knows what will happen let us solve first the problem of our nation pres. cory will be happy if we do that!!!!

  6. I empathize with you. I was also hypertensive as people treated Cory like that. They were just carried away by the media.

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