Friday, March 28, 2008

Did He Make It?

This story from Catholic News got me thinking:

“The office in charge of promoting Pope John Paul II's sainthood cause is looking for English speakers who have a story to tell about their meeting with the late pope, their prayers for his intercession or graces received after asking for his help.

In a March 17 statement, the Rome diocesan office for the sainthood cause said English submissions to the cause's Web site were seriously falling behind those in Italian, Polish and French.

…A spokeswoman for the office said: "It does not have to be a miracle or something extraordinary. We would like to hear and share stories about an encounter or a grace received or a hope.”

First, I find it interesting that there is an “office” devoted to promoting JPII’s sainthood. What is in this for people?

Second, I have to wonder why Popes, the great “Vicars of Christ”, wouldn’t be fast-tracked to sainthood. Do Catholics believe that God would send his number one representative on earth to hell, or is time in purgatory the wild card?

My questions are rhetorical, I am not looking for answers – just sharing my thoughts on the inconsistency and futility of it all.

20 comments:

------- Theo ------- said...

"Do Catholics believe that God would send his number one representative on earth to hell, or is time in purgatory the wild card?"

Carrie:

I know the question is intended as rhetorical; however, it need not be, as it is an excellent question (seting aside the "wild card" slam).

The answer is "Yes."

Your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

TheDen said...

Carrie,

I'm just looking for clarification. What's futile and inconsistent?

James Swan said...

Jason's comment got deleted.

That's a no no Jason- you mustn't post comments here that are just one line insults. I suggest starting your own blog to make such comments.

James Swan said...

I recall hearing Pacwa debate Walter Martin back in the 80's- Pacwa noted that there probably were some Popes in Hell.

Jason said...

James: Totally your call on the delete, as it's your blog.

It wasn't meant to be an insult as much as it was food for thought and commentary on why it can be frustrating to try and have a conversation about Catholicism with the contributors here. I just thought "not looking for answers" would be a funny in tag in the tradition of the clever "blueprint for anarchy" tag(which I chuckle at even though it's a jab towards me and mine.)

Perhaps this comment will be better received:

"Do Catholics believe that God would send his number one representative to hell...?"

Let me ask you this: Didn't Adam fall?

Carrie said...

I recall hearing Pacwa debate Walter Martin back in the 80's- Pacwa noted that there probably were some Popes in Hell.

That seems like an honest answer considering some of the more despicable Popes from history, but that just goes back to the original issue. Why would "Christ's representative on earth" be, in actuality, no representative of Christ-like behavior? He supposedly has the power to bind and loose, but no power to keep himself out of hell.

It's funny, because I was just remembering the other day (while listening to something on the radio) how I would have expected the RCs to leave the Church in droves after all the child molestation scandals, yet they didn't. In light of that, I wouldn't expect a few Popes in hell causing any RCs to question the validity of the claims of Holy Mother Church.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

My Catholic Friends,

I'd like to respectfully ask a few questions.

I find this whole sainthood process both fascinating and a bit strange. How is it that the church can essentially "vote" on the special or extraordinary merits of an individual, the result of which seems to be that God is now somehow duty-bound to honour? And how do they determine how much affirmative voting is required to meet the goal? To be "behind" in the voting indicates to me that it has already been pre-determined that JPII will be declared a Saint, come Hell or high water. What if people just fabricate miracles, meetings and instances in order to assure that the goal is attained? How could it be known for sure?

And if JPII becomes a "Saint" in RCC terms, does this mean that he has more clout with God through his intercession? If he has an overabundance, shall we say, of merit, can that merit then be imputed to members of the church on earth? And if so, why can't Christ's merit be imputed to believers as the only true treasury of merit?

Thank you for considering these things.

Blessings,

Pilgrimsarbour

Mike Burgess said...

Carrie,
I agree with Theo that the question isn't rhetorical. I also agree that the answer is yes. Chrysostom famously said that the road to Hell is paved with the bones and skulls of priests and bishops, probably following Athanasius. No doubt there are some Borgia popes and others there, I'm afaraid. As to impeccability and infallibility, you are to be Christ's representative and "be holy as your Father is holy," and yet, doubtless you fail from time to time. This does not mean God is not able to keep people from sinning nor does it mean those He has called to teach and/or preserve His truth need perfectly reflect Him.

PilgrimsArbour,
Miracles have been fabricated before and the Church has authoritatively pronounced them frauds. The point you raise is well taken, but if it's the will of God for Wojtyla to be recognized as a saint, He will use the means He established to give us a sure word on the matter.

A saint has more "clout" because a saint is someone we know is in Heaven and thus perfectly united to Christ and perfectly righteous. The prayers wherefrom availing much, etc.

Do you understand what the treasury of merit is and what it can and can't do? It doesn't seem like it or you wouldn't be asking the question. Temporal punishment is one thing. Forgiven sins often still have temporal restitutional requirements. Of course all is ultimately Christ's merit, because all the merits of the saints come from His grace. You know this.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

How is it that the church can essentially "vote" on the special or extraordinary merits of an individual, the result of which seems to be that God is now somehow duty-bound to honour?

The confusion here has to do with the direction of causality.

Canonization does not "make" someone a saint, which God has to honor; rather, God makes someone saint by admitting that person into the beatific vision and the canonization process is designed to recognize God's action.

As for your concerns about the integrity of the canonization process, I imagine those concerns are fair. An answer to those concerns is to point out that the Church has been doing this for quite some time, has a rigorous process for vetting the character of candidates and related miracles, is concerned about doing the right thing, and has many, many applications that have not resulted in canonization.

As for having "clout", well sure: the fervent prayers of a righteous man is very powerful. James 5:16.

As for the conundrum of adding to the infinitely superabundant grace of Christ, Aquinas once observed that that God has granted the "dignity of causation" to human beings, which is sort of the point made in James 5:16. After all, if Christ's grace is all sufficient for everything, how could the fervent prayers of a righteous man have any power at all?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Carrie, Noone has ever doubted that God could and would send "his number one representative on earth to hell. And no Catholic has ever said otherwise. Just read Dante's "Inferno" for example. Dante had no problem populating hell with popes and clerics. Scripture tells us that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, not particular members of it. The doctrine of infallibility is a safeguard protecting the Church from error, not its popes from sin. They have to work out their salvation with fear and trembling like the rest of us.

beowulf2k8 said...

Tell her voices are real. Use her to fight your stinking war. Tell her voices are false. Burn her at the stake for heresy. Make her a saint.

Since JPII didn't go through the requisite stages, he can't be made a saint.

------- Theo ------- said...

My Catholic Friends,
I'd like to respectfully ask a few questions.


Dear PA:
As a Catholic friend, I’d like to respectfully answer—so I will as much as my limited ability allows—and you’ll soon see limits here.
I hope you don’t mind my using the old interlinear format. I think it will work well with your post.

I find this whole sainthood process both fascinating and a bit strange.

It’s small wonder. I find it the same, and it seems we very often share the same outlook.

How is it that the church can essentially "vote" on the special or extraordinary merits of an individual, the result of which seems to be that God is now somehow duty-bound to honour?

That’s a great question PA!

The answer lies in understanding that your question is not quite accurate. It carries or at least implies two common misconceptions—which are absolutely understandable given the language we Catholics use.

First, we commonly describe the process of canonization of a saint as “elevation” to sainthood. This can be misleading in that canonization does not “make” the person a saint, but merely recognizes their sainthood. Only God in Christ makes saints, saints. The “elevation” refers to the status that the Church recognizes for the person. This is a very important distinction. God is not bound by duty (or anything else) to place an unsanctified soul into heaven. Although He did say what we bind and loose on earth is bound and loosed in Heaven, we recognize that the judging of souls is ultimately God’s alone.

The other misconception surrounds the word “canonize” which many people think means “infallibly declare.” It does not. This misconception often comes into play in Canon of Scripture and canon law misunderstandings as well. A “canon” is simply a list. There are canon and there are Canon. Unless a canon is declared ex cathedra it is as fallible as any other. Scripture infallibly declares the martyrs are Saints. The Church has done so with Mary. I’m unsure whether there have been others. However, you might know that St. Christopher who had been listed in the canon was removed, as were number of others whose very historic existence or Christian testimony is questionable.


And how do they determine how much affirmative voting is required to meet the goal?

That is rather complicated—and frankly beyond my ability to address. Here’s one of the “limits” I mentioned earlier. I can only add that the process is long, requires a great deal of corroboration and (IMHO) really shouldn’t be “fast-tracked,” although it happens, as with JPII.

To be "behind" in the voting indicates to me that it has already been pre-determined that JPII will be declared a Saint, come Hell or high water.

I’m not sure I follow you. (Limit # 2)

What if people just fabricate miracles, meetings and instances in order to assure that the goal is attained?

That would be wrong—very wrong. Frankly I do not understand why anyone would do that, but you can bet the farm that it’s been done. This leads nicely into your next question:

How could it be known for sure?

Well, that’s why the process is supposed to be very long and require an inordinate amount of corroboration regarding the testimony on the life of the person. We Catholics place a great deal of weight on the wisdom and correctness of the process (and very few of us tend to think otherwise), so our confidence is there. I can see why you would not be all that confident. This again leads nicely into your next question.

And if JPII becomes a "Saint" in RCC terms… [Just a reminder, the process would not “make him a saint.” One test is whether intercessions after death have been effectual, indicating the sainthood is already accomplished.] …does this mean that he has more clout with God through his intercession?

Because we believe that saints in heaven have access to God and that the prayers of the righteous “availeth much” we do believe any saint will have God’s ear in ways we do not. At first blush this might seem irrational; however, consider what people you know in life and which ones you tend to go to when you want a Christian to agree with you in prayer. The odds are you seek out those whose Christian walk seems the most Christ-like for you. If you are asking whether he would have “more clout” upon the moment of canonization, I believe the answer is no—again because it “recognizes” existing sainthood.

If he has an overabundance, shall we say, of merit, can that merit then be imputed to members of the church on earth?

No.

And if so, why can't Christ's merit be imputed to believers as the only true treasury of merit?

We have a saying in the Church, Christ’s death holds boundless merit for him who but repents.” Salvation is always ultimately a gift of God through grace. No real discussion of merit without acknowledging that truth has… well, merit.

Thank you for considering these things.

PA, I’m always glad to consider your insightful thoughts and questions. Although I pray you do not imagine I am trying to “dupe” you, I hope and pray you recognize that I truly thank God upon every remembrance of you. Your example as a Christian has been and remains for me one well worth imitation.

With prayer for your blessings in Christ our Lord, I remain,
Your bro,
--Theo

Blessings,

Pilgrimsarbour

------- Theo ------- said...

Wow, Peter. I should have read yours before writing mine: lots of overlap.

------- Theo ------- said...

I wrote in part:
"However, you might know that St. Christopher who had been listed in the canon was removed, as were number of others whose very historic existence or Christian testimony is questionable.'

I forgot to mention that this in turn points two more excellent questions:

1) What then happened to all those prayers for intercession through St. Christopher and other "recalled" saints?

2) Assuming that saints in heaven even hear me, what point is there in asking someone to intercede who isn't necessarily in heaven? (Catholics ask "dead" folks to pray for them before they are canonized, and even if canonized, although rare, some could be "recalled".)

----

I've got answers for these--but alas, not enough time to compose and post them. I'm tossing them in anyway. I'm sure Mike, Peter, Paul and others have some great responses at the ready,

Your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Peter Sean Bradley said...

"However, you might know that St. Christopher who had been listed in the canon was removed, as were number of others whose very historic existence or Christian testimony is questionable.'

Theo, thanks for the compliment.

My understanding is that St. Christopher is still recognized as a saint.

What happened in the '60s was not that St. Christopher was "decanonized" in the sense of declaring that he never existed, rather he was removed from Church's calendar of feasts. There are of course innumerable saints who are not recognized with a feast day.

The best example of a "non-existing" saint might be Saint Josaphat, but, truly, all I know about that comes from Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Heinlein claimed that the Buddha was canonized as St. Josaphat.

It might be something to look into.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Greetings all,

"Do you understand what the treasury of merit is and what it can and can't do? It doesn't seem like it or you wouldn't be asking the question."

Mike, I suspect your interactions with Protestants have been, in the main, cynical. I admit to not knowing everything I would like to know about everything. This is why I ask questions. I don't do it to trick or trap people.

Thanks Peter and Theo. Your answers are, as usual, helpful. I especially like what you say here, Theo, as it brings much clarification:

"...canonization does not “make” the person a saint, but merely recognizes their sainthood."

It makes sense in that it is exactly the same argument Protestants make for the canon of Scripture, namely, that the Church recognises or "receives" the Scriptures as being inherently the Word of God. Those books are then "elevated" as you say to canonical status by the testimony of the believing Church.

In a March 17 statement, the Rome diocesan office for the sainthood cause said English submissions to the cause's Web site were seriously falling behind those in Italian, Polish and French.

This struck me odd. If all they are saying is that English submissions are much fewer than others, then I understand. Perhaps the article is not worded very well, but it seemed to me that they are expecting a certain result rather than just tabulating the submissions. If so, then it's a done deal but they need a lot more English submissions to justify their ultimate declaration.

Thank you all. There is much more I would like to learn in my ongoing efforts to dialogue intelligently with those outside of Protestantism.

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Oh, uh, one more thing...

I heard a Protestant speaker quote the Pope as having said:

"Churches of the Reformation believe that the Word creates the valid ministry. We believe the valid ministry creates the Word."

Is this an accurate description of Catholic belief? If so, can I extrapolate from that the Roman Church, in creating the canon, believes that it did create the Word? (This touches on my statement/question above about the differences between the Protestant view of the canon and the Catholic view).

Thanks and God Bless,

PA

Peter Sean Bradley said...

I heard a Protestant speaker quote the Pope as having said:

"Churches of the Reformation believe that the Word creates the valid ministry. We believe the valid ministry creates the Word."


I suspect that this is not an accurate quote or representation of Catholicism. I couldn't find anything similar to it through Google, so I would have to have a source before I would accept is anything said by any pope.

Nonetheless, save that there is some context that would explain the alleged quote, I don't think that the formula makes any sense from a Catholic standpoint. Catholicism, of course, teaches that the "ministry" - presumably meaning the priesthood - was created by the Word, i.e., Jesus Christ inasmuch as the Jesus ordained the apostles from whom apostolic succession derives. Likewise, the theology of the papacy is that the Petrine office was established by Christ.

Concerning the Canon of Scripture, I think that the Catholic position is similar to the canonization of saints; the Church doesn't "create" Scripture, rather it recognizes those Scriptures which God has created.

You can see this in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum. Para. 24 affirms that "sacred scriptures contain the word of God, and, because tehy are inspired, they truly are the word of God...." Para. 11 affirms that because sacred Scripture is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have "God as their author, and have been handed on as such tot he church itself." Para. 8 affirms that it is by virtue of the tradition that "the full canon of the sacred books is known to the church..."

So, as is the case with saints, the church doesn't "author" the books, but it does authoritatively recognize the books that God has authored.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Peter,

Thank you. I wanted to be clear that I heard a well-known Protestant speaker claim to quote the Pope. Since there was no context and no source made available, in spite of my admiration for this person, I found it to be logically and theologically questionable.

I will endeavour to contact him and see if I can get a handle on the source and context. Otherwise, your answer, if truly representative of Church doctrine (as I have no reason to doubt), is satisfactory for my curiosity on the matter.

Best in Christ,

PA

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Peter,

Today I received this reply from the Reformed Protestant speaker regarding the alleged quote from the Pope:

I was recalling the summary by Avery Cardinal Dulles (quoting then-Cardinal Ratzinger). However, the following passage from (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is pretty close. It’s Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, trans. Adrian Walker (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996). After advocating the “monarchical episcopate” (i.e., papal office), he writes, “If [Eastern] Orthodoxy starts from the bishop and from the Eucharistic community over which he presides, the point on which the Reformed position is built is the Word: the Word of God gathers men and creates ‘community.’ The proclamation of the Gospel produces—so they say—congregation, and this congregation is the ‘Church.’” I can find that exact quote via Dulles, but I’ll have to hunt that book down.

That's not quite what I was looking for, but it's at least interesting enough to warrant further discussion, in my view. What say ye?

Thanks and blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour