Mother Teresa Canonization Controversy

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

Mother Teresa Canonization Controversy

Many years ago, after I gave a talk on New Age to a group of people in Goa, a member of the audience asked me what my thoughts were on the beatification processes of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

I, at that time, did not know that there was any opposition or objection to Mother Teresa’s being beatified and eventually declared a saint. But I already had my strong views on the canonisations of both the Pope and the founder of the Missionaries of Charity and I expressed them but with the rider that I not be misquoted to the Archbishop. If you would like to know what my opinion is and what my answer was, you will have to scroll down to the end of the present file. For the moment, all that I can say is that my concerns were justified by what I read on the Internet today, and are shared by others, especially by Traditionalists.

And I am not talking about two or three objections that were raised years ago in the press by secular and anti-Catholic writers (there was even a book or two criticizing her life and ministry), the main ones being that she experienced a kind of loss of faith (known as the “Dark Night of the Soul”), that she glorified the physical suffering of others instead of doing something to alleviate it, and that she accepted donations from individuals with poor human rights records or those who amassed their wealth by questionable means.

I think the above types who criticized the nun have no understanding of the Catholic faith or who have no idea what it is for one to live “by faith”, depending on freewill donations and contributions (as our ministry has done for over two decades.

There are also those who criticize the stand of Mother Teresa on abortion and contraception as being inhumane and anti-choice. Those who do so are of course not Catholics.


In early 2012, a Brazilian visitor to my home who has close associations with Propaganda Fide, Rome, lamented Mother Teresa’s statement that one should let a Hindu be a good Hindu… etc., as that flies in the face of the spirit of the Vatican document Ecclesia in Asia and the Great Commission of Jesus (Matthew 28: 18-20). He also promised to send me a picture of Mother Teresa paying obeisance to an icon of Buddha.

He didn’t, but I eventually sourced it from the Internet.

In October 1975, at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa and her nuns prayed before a Buddha (La Contre Reforme Catholique, November 2003).



Mother Teresa is in the lower left corner. To the right is another photograph taken at the same temple.



The above event occurred in Calcutta on October 7, 1975 at a ceremony of thanksgiving for the 25th anniversary of the Missionaries of Charity.

The images are also at,
at, and at


I also found these:

The head priest offered to Mother Teresa « two electric candles that will burn forever ».


On September 28, 1975 at the Jain Digambara Temple in Calcutta with a group of her nuns


This Trad group (wrongly) believes that she is worshiping Mahatma Gandhi



Witchcraft, Islam and Humanism – De Facto Creeds of The New Age EXTRACT

September 8, 2016

Another very recent manifestation seems to come from a most surprising source – the canonization of Mother Teresa. There is no doubt that she and her sisters spent their lives in heroic service to many destitute people and not too many of us can forget the truth she spoke to power at the 1994 prayer breakfast. But there were troubling signs of indifferentism throughout her writings, at least in the early days. There is this quote from A Simple Path: “I’ve always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.” We know that the only way a Hindu, Muslim or anyone else can become “better” is to embrace the One True Faith, not to become further entrenched in their false religions. The Bellarmine Forum carries an article about the relationship between Mother Teresa and Father John Hardon*. While it rightly praises Mother’s many virtues, we see starting in the second paragraph testament to her unwillingness to teach the creeds of the Faith, saying “her sisters were there to help the poor”**. So the imparting of the Faith would not have assisted the poor? But Father was there, at the behest of Pope John Paul II, to equip the sisters to engage in that aspect of charity and I believe that they did. But did Mother ever walk back that statement as quoted from A Simple Path?
It does seem that at least in the first stage of the ministry of the Missionaries of Mercy, Mother Teresa was content to focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy to the exclusion of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  


*Fr. Hardon’s catechetical mission expanded with the catechetical study program, which he wrote for the Holy See after Pope John Paul II requested Mother Teresa to educate her Missionaries of Charity to become catechists. This catechetical course, studied by the Missionaries of Charity worldwide in their formation, has been adapted into home study courses for laity, entitled The Basic Course (16 lessons) and the Advanced Course (36 lessons). This course serves as the formation program for the Marian Catechist Apostolate, founded by Fr. Hardon in 1985 in order to train the laity to be catechists and evangelists in the modern world. This apostolate was directed by Fr. Hardon until his death, and is now headed by National Director Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis.


**I am unable to locate the source of the referred quote on the Internet.


The Myth of Mother Teresa

By Tim Challies, November 2, 2003

Much of this article is anti-Catholic rant and so I exclude those portions in this extract, but there are grave points of consideration herein for orthodox, traditional Catholics who have a problem with the religious indifferentism of Mother Teresa who apparently is not concerned with the priority or primacy of the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20).

While she worked with the poor, Mother Teresa was adamant that any type of evangelism was unnecessary. In her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (Pages 81-82)

With such a statement we can only be left believing that she was more than a Catholic, but was a Universalist, believing essentially that all religion leads to the same God. Time and again we see her expounding such Universalist beliefs.

In an interview with Christian News a nun who worked with Mother Teresa was asked the following in regards to the Hindus they worked with, “These people are waiting to die. What are you telling them to prepare them for death and eternity?” She replied candidly, “We tell them to pray to their Bhagwan, to their gods.”

A Simple Path is a compilation of the teachings and meditations of Mother Teresa.

Labeled as a “unique spiritual guide” we would expect this book to contain unique insights into Scripture and into the Christian life by someone who is perceived as being a Christian spiritual giant. Instead, in the foreword we read,

“The Christian way has always been to love God and ones neighbor as oneself. Yet Mother Teresa has, perhaps with the influence of the East, distilled six steps to creating peace in ourselves and others that can be taken by anyone — even someone of no religious beliefs or of a religious background other than Christian — with no insult to beliefs or practices. This is why, when reading Mother Teresa’s words and those of her community, we may, if we choose, replace the references to Jesus with references to other godheads or symbols of divinity.

The six steps to peace taught by Mother Teresa are silence, prayer, faith, love, service, and peace. For anyone who was unsure of what they believed, she suggested starting with small acts of love towards others. She includes three pages of sample prayers and prefaces them by saying that if you are not a Christian you could replace the name “Jesus” with “God.” (Page 35). Through the entire book there is never a hint that she relies on Christ alone for her salvation. 

Rather, we read things like, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (Page 31).



Consider also the following quote from another source, “I love all religions. … If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there.” Or in another place, “All is God — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, etc., all have access to the same God.

We see, then, that Mother Teresa held beliefs that contradict many Biblical principles. Chief among these principles is that Christ is the only means of salvation.

In John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” By teaching that all religion could bridge the gap between man and God, Mother Teresa taught principles completely opposed to the Bible.


Another anti-Catholic article but continuing the argument of Tim Challies above:

‘Mother Teresa’ canonized as a ‘Catholic saint,’ but she certainly was not a biblical one!

So, is telling Hindus to pray to their god (Bhagwan) something a Christian saint would do?

Of course not.

Teresa was truly a promoter of an interfaith agenda that does not square with the Bible:

If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are …. What God is in your mind you must accept” (from Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, by Desmond Doig, [Harper & Row, 1976, p.156]).

Of course I convert.
I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him.
” (“Mother Teresa Touched Other Faiths,” AP, Sept. 7, 1997).

I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (A Simple Path, p. 31).

“If the individual thinks and believes that his or her way is the only way to God, then that is their way of salvation” (pp. 74-75). (Mark Michael Zima, Mother Teresa: The Case for the Cause)

The April 7-13, 1990, issue of Radio Times tells the story of Mother Teresa taking care of a dying Hindu priest. “She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to die reconciled with his own gods.” ( accessed 03/15/16)


Some Traditionalist critical perspectives

1. What about the Orthodoxy of Mother Teresa?

By Marian T. Horvat Ph. D., October 29, 2003

The care the Catholic Church traditionally has taken in proclaiming our Blesseds and Saints is well-known and admirable. Painstaking inquiries are made to prove the complete orthodoxy of the servant of God’s writings and sayings, practice of heroic virtue, and exemplary life to be offered as a model for the whole Church. In addition, a miracle is needed for beatification, and another to be named a saint.
Thorough inquiries are made to examine the writings and words attributed to the candidate to be sure that everything adhered strictly to the Magisterium and Tradition of the Holy Church. Even a slight doubt about the orthodoxy of a statement recorded by the person under examination has been enough to stop the process of beatification from going forward. I cite the well-known case of Anne Catherine Emmerich, whose process of beatification was halted on the order of Pope Clement XIV because of questionable interpretations of her visions made by her secretary Clemens Bretano. It is uncertain whether she approved such theses. But because of this doubt, she cannot be beatified and as such presented as an official model for Catholics.

Knowing this great vigilance of Holy Mother Church in ascertaining the orthodoxy of those she raises to the honor of the altar, one can understand the doubts and confusion the recent beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta has caused in some Catholics.
No one questions that she rendered care and assistance to the poor of Calcutta and championed the rights of the unborn. The problem lies in the matter of faith, the first and most important of the heroic virtues necessary to be proclaimed a blessed. It would seem that there would certainly be cause for examination of some statements of Mother Teresa that imply that salvation is possible in all different creeds and beliefs.

I will rephrase the problem: Can someone who affirms or implies that the Catholic Church is not the only true Church – as she did – be beatified?

Let me offer some examples taken from a recently-released book, Everything Starts From Prayer, Mother Teresa’s Meditations on Spiritual Life for People of all Faiths. In the foreword, Anthony Stern points out the ecumenical spirit of Mother Teresa’s work by praising her oft-quoted statement: “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”

She is lauded as a great ecumenical teacher of prayer. Those who praise her spiritual meditations read like a line-up from an Assisi Prayer Encounter: a Jewish Rabbi, a Zen teacher, a Tibetan Buddhist master, a Protestant minister, and the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others. The latter, Bishop Anthony Pilla, calls the meditations “kernels of truth … deep in wisdom and spiritual insight”:

Here is one of those “kernels.” Mother Teresa stated:

Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer, and so whatever religion we are, we must pray together.

This is not an isolated statement taken out of context. It is one of many such testimonials indicating Mother Teresa’s general attitude of indifference to what creed a man professed.1 In this meditation, she shows an unorthodox notion of God, as well as a distorted notion of love.

An unorthodox notion of God

It is one thing to say that God has different names in different languages. For example, one says God in English, Dieu in French, Dios in Spanish, Gott in German, and so on. But it is obvious that the Spanish Catholics, French Catholics, German Catholics and American Catholics all understand the same reality by the word God.

Now, it’s another story to apply this to different creeds and beliefs, which claim quite varied notions about the First Cause that created the world and man. It is absolutely incorrect to say that Ishwar, [the] Allah [of Islam] and the true God are all just different names for the same reality.
The Muslims deny the Trinity of the true God and divinity of Jesus Christ. Therefore, their Allah is far from being the same reality adored by Catholics. The god of Buddhists is not a person as is the true God. It is a kind of immanentist force essentially present in all creatures. Some Buddhist sects worship innumerable deities. The Hindus, following a different doctrine, also worship a whole world of deities, including spirits such as Ishwar, and men and animals like cows and snakes.
So, Mother Teresa presented a false supposition – that these “gods” are all the one true God Whom the Catholic Church adores. This assertion is completely wrong. It stands in opposition to simple natural reason and directly contradicts Catholic dogma.
It is hard to believe that Mother Teresa was beatified after making this kind of statement, which objectively reflects her typical thinking. It is likewise difficult to understand how Catholic authorities can praise such an assertion as a “kernel of truth.”

A false notion of love

Next, the idea she presents that every kind of love is good is, at best, very superficial. “What matters is that we love,” she said above. She repeats this notion often: e.g. “Love is a fruit in season at all times and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set. Everyone can reach this love through meditation, the spirit of prayer and sacrifice. … If we learn to love, we learn to be holy.

What is love? Love is the adhesion of the will to a person, object or ideal. This relation per se is not good or bad, it depends on the purpose of the love. If someone loves with a bad purpose, this love is unworthy. If he loves something for the right cause, it is good. This is the reason why St. Augustine stated quite simply: Only the good can be loved.2

Therefore, when someone loves the true God, Who is all-good, this is a good thing. But if someone has affection toward something evil, toward something that he calls god but is really a devil, this is not a good thing. It is an evil passion, not a good love, and the person needs correction, not empathy. There are, in fact, limits set in love. St. Thomas Aquinas taught this clearly: Passions “are evil if the love is evil, and good if it is good”.3

This teaching is missing, however, in the meditation of Mother Teresa on God.
First, she assumed the false supposition that God is the same for Muslims, pagans and Catholics.
Second, she simplified the notion of love, and implied that one can love both the good and the evil, that the object of one’s love is an indifferent subject. All that matters is love. This contradicts the teaching of basic Catholic Catechism that instructs us to love the true God above all things.
A nun, even a very popular one, who would state these two errors would normally not be a blessed or a saint, since to achieve this honor her teachings on matters of Faith could not contain error, even a slight error. This is crucial not only because it involves the honor and integrity of the Church, but also because a blessed must be model of salvation for the Catholic faithful.
It is obvious that the love Mother Teresa was preaching in such meditations was not a model of Catholic love, nor is the “god” she points to the Most Holy Trinity of the Catholic Church.
Clearly the doctrinal concerns of some Catholics at this rapid beatification of Mother Teresa are fully justified. But disturbing doubts also lurk around the legitimacy of the miracle presented as proof of her sanctity.

An uncertain miracle

Normally the process of beatification can only begin after the candidate is deceased for five years, and after proof of one miracle is given. Miracles are something the Church does not take lightly. In cases of physical cures, it must be clear, without a shadow of a doubt, that the cure cannot have a natural cause.

Now, in the case of Mother Teresa, John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period. Then, in 2002 the Vatican recognized one miracle, the cure of Monica Besra, a 35-year-old villager from northern India cured of an ovarian tumor. Besra and the Missionaries of Charity claim that the tumor vanished in September 1998 when a medallion with an image of the late Albanian nun was applied to the site of her pain.
However, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, chief gynecologist who treated the woman at Balurghat District Hospital in West Bengal, says that it was quite possible that his patient was cured by four anti-TB drugs she was taking at the time, which could have dissolved the tumor.



He said he admires Mother Teresa greatly and thinks she should be beatified for her work among the poor. But not for this case. “She [Besra] had a medical disease which was cured by medical science, not by any miracle,” he says.4
His hospital superiors back him up, saying that records show she responded to the treatment steadily. Five doctors in Rome consulted by the Vatican on the case disregarded this scientific probability and hastily agreed there was no medical explanation for the cure. Mustafi said he was never contacted by the Vatican.5

Monica Besra, of course, believes in the miracle, but admits that she was receiving medical treatments from the doctors at the state-run Balurghat Hospital at that time. “Those who love Mother will believe,” she says simply. That she loves Mother Teresa there is no doubt. But it is not sentiment that determines the value of a miracle in the normal processes of the Catholic Church…


So what do we have? Faulty notions of God and love. A miracle shrouded in doubt. A process put on fast-track by a Pope [John Paul II] who has himself championed the wrong notion of theological pluralism. This concept implies admittance that there is not just one Revelation and one uniform interpretation of it, as the Catholic Church has always taught, but that the “revelations” and false interpretations of other religions would also be correct.
It certainly leads one to seriously suspect that the intention of John Paul II was not just to beatify a person, in this case, Mother Teresa, but to “canonize” the post-Conciliar progressivist thinking on ecumenism and universal salvation that she adhered to.

This beatification also raises suspicions about others, such as that of John XXIII, whose “incorrupt” body was demonstrated to be preserved by scientific means, and who always supported the Modernist errors.

One can’t help but wonder what has happened: Has the Catholic Faith changed, or does a person no longer need to profess it to be beatified?



1. Anthony Stern recounts the following incident as another example of her ecumenical spirit in action: Once, when Mother Teresa was ministering to a dying Buddhist man, a visitor overheard her whisper, “You say a prayer in your religion, and I will say a prayer as I know it. Together we will say this prayer and it will be something beautiful for God.” (Foreword, Everything Starts From Prayer
2. De Trinitate, 8, 3, 4: PL 42: 949-50.
3. Summa Theologica, I-II, 24, 3.
4. “Too Swift to Sainthood,” Newsday, October 15, 2003.
5. Beth Duff-Brown, “To believers, proof of miracle not needed,” National AP Courier and Press internet site, October 18, 2003.



2. Is Mother Teresa of Calcutta a Saint?

By Marian T. Horvat Ph. D., April 7, 2008 

Book review of Mother Teresa: The Case for the Cause by Mark Michael Zima. Nashville: Cold Tree Press, 2007, 268 pp.



Some years ago at a get-together of family and friends, I committed what I soon learned was an almost unpardonable mistake. I questioned the sanctity of Mother Teresa. My objections were based on certain statements she had made that smacked to me of religious indifferentism. For example, in 1997 she told an AP reporter: “Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him” (“Mother Teresa Touched Other Faiths,” AP, Sept. 7, 1997). 

But those relatives and friends gathered around the dinner table did not want to discuss orthodoxy. “Of course she’s a saint!” an aunt proclaimed with heated indignation. “Look at how she takes care of the poor, even lepers.” Another brought forth as evidence of sanctity her courageous opposition to abortion. Yet another pointed to the indisputable support of John Paul II for her work. And so on. 

At the time, I didn’t have at hand the needed facts to counter the gut-reaction justification that rose then – and still rises today – on behalf of the nun the whole world calls “the saint of Calcutta.” Today, I would be able to respond much better, thanks in no small part to a book I recently read by Mark Michael Zima titled Mother Teresa: The Case for the Cause. 

Mother Teresa’s gospel 
Mark Zima, a former brother of two religious communities, does not aim to demonize Mother Teresa. He praises her corporal works of mercy, her mission to care for “the poorest of the poor,” to nurse lepers, to save outcasts, to bury the dead. What he questions are her spiritual works of mercy, especially to convert the sinner, to instruct the ignorant and to counsel the doubtful.

Nor does Zima deny that persons benefit from some of her words or example. He applauds her pro-life stand and courage to reprimand world leaders on this issue. What he questions is her fidelity to the centuries-old missionary character of the Church, which aimed to bring all men to Jesus Christ and the One Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church He founded. In his book, the reader will find not just one or two, but many instances of a different teaching advocated by Mother Teresa: “I convert you to be a better Hindu, a better Catholic, Muslim, Jain or Buddhist” (p. 4). The impression is, of course, that there are many roads to salvation, a belief clearly condemned by the Catholic Church. 
Along these same lines, the author cites numerous quotes of Mother Teresa proposing that God can be addressed as Shiva, Allah, Vishnu or Brahma. The important thing, according to her teaching, is not what religion the person belongs to, but whether he or she is a “good” person. For example, she states, “
Some call him Allah, some simply God. But we all have to acknowledge that it is he who made us for the greater things: to love and be loved” (pp. 4-5). This, however, is a Liberal and Modernist error condemned by the Syllabus, Pascendi and many other papal teachings before Vatican II. 

PIUS X, JULY 3, 1907


The contradictions… 
Mr. Zima admits that much of what Mother Teresa said is orthodox, citing quotes normally produced by those who passionately defend her orthodoxy. But he points out troubling contradictions in her teaching. For example, she rightly affirmed, “Preach only Christ and Christ crucified.” But in her address to the United Nations in 1985, Mother Teresa told the world something completely different: “
No color, no religion, no nationality should come between us. We are all children of God” (p. 6).

Mother Teresa often said that all souls need to be converted, which appears to be good doctrine if one assumes that the conversion is to the Catholic Faith. But, to the contrary, she said that her goal was “to make the Christian the better Christian, the Muslim a better Muslim, and a Hindu a better Hindu.” This echoes the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Ramakrishna that all religions are true (pp 29-31). It is not, however, Catholic teaching. 
Mother Teresa often stated she wanted to give Jesus to all, that Christ was the way to salvation, which is absolutely true. But at the same time she said non-Catholics could replace the Name of Jesus with God: “
You could replace Jesus by God if you are not a Christian” (pp. 79-80). Again, another error condemned by the Syllabus of Pius IX and Pascendi of St. Pius X (pp. 71-72). 

The ticket for St. Peter 
Another baffling contradiction that Mark Zima examines in chapter VII regards Mother Teresa’s repeated claim that “her mission was not to convert.” Mother Teresa and her sisters said they helped the dying to receive the rituals of their various faiths: “for Hindus, water from the Ganges on their lips; for Muslims reading from the Koran; for the rare Christian, the last rites” (p. 142). 
At the same time, speaking at the Vatican in 1992 she boasted that all those who died in her shelter in Calcutta had “received the special ticket for St. Peter” (p. 126). That ticket is the name for baptism, well, a baptism of sorts… 
According to the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, the policy was to ask those who were about to die “if they want a blessing by which their sins will be forgiven and they will see God” (p. 127). If they agreed, and apparently most did agree, the sisters would put a wet cloth on the head of the person and quietly say the form of words for Baptism (p. 127).

There are obvious problems with such procedure. Questions must be asked if this strange procedure is a valid Baptism. First, for a valid Baptism, the water must be applied by sprinkling, immersion or pouring. Does laying a wet cloth on the forehead comply with the rule? 
Second, the formula of Baptism should be said aloud in an audible voice, and it is not clear if the sisters did so. 

Third, for adults to be properly disposed for Baptism, they should clearly express their desire to embrace the Catholic Faith as the one true faith revealed by God. It is almost certain that this requirement was not fulfilled in the “ticket for St. Peter” administrated by Mother Teresa and her nuns. Clearly, Hindus, Muslims and agnostics who have never been instructed in the Catholic faith and who did not accept Jesus Christ are not properly disposed. 
Therefore, Mark Zima concludes, one must question whether Mother Teresa violated the preparation, manner, form and qualifications for Baptism (pp. 129-130). Instead of instructing pagans in the Catholic Faith, did she propagate the faith by deception and covert Sacraments? Such questions should have been carefully examined in a serious canonization process. 

Other problematic teachings 
The author raises yet other problematic teachings of Mother Teresa, countering them with the teachings of past Popes, Saints and Church Doctors. Let me mention a few:
God as incarnate in every human being. Mother Teresa often spoke of God being incarnate in each of the poor she served. Regarding abortion, she said “When we destroy an unborn child, we destroy God.” In fact, abortion is horrendous because it is a terrible crime, the murder of a child. But, as Mr. Zima points out, only “a pantheist would believe that destroying an unborn child is destroying God” (pp. 54, 88-111). 
The nature of man is good. When Mother Teresa insists, as she did, that man is not born evil, it is difficult not to interpret this as a denial of the dogma of original sin (p. 43). 
The primacy of conscience. Mother Teresa said that what mattered was that the individual think and believe that his or her way is the only way to God: “Man is free to embrace the religion that gives him peace, joy and love. There is no freedom if a person is not free to choose according to his own conscience” (pp. 32, 168). The relativism of her words are clear: “If the individual thinks and believes that his or her way is the only way to God, then that is their way of salvation” (pp. 74-75). 
The wide gate to Heaven. Contrary to the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ who warns us that the gate of Heaven is narrow (Mt 7:13-14), Mother Teresa often comforted persons by assuring them that “we will meet all our friends and family members who died before us in Heaven.” Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants – all were “going home to God” (p. 123-125). 

Should Mother Teresa be considered a saint? 
Was what Mother Teresa said, did and taught regarding the Catholic Faith what has been “believed everywhere, always, and by all (ubique, semper, ab omnibus)? This is the question at the crux of Mark Zima’s book: Should Mother Teresa be canonized?

Let me provide a little background on the topic. On Oct. 19, 2003, John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997. The process leading up to the beatification was the shortest in modern history. Less than two years after her death, he waived the normal five-year waiting period and allowed the immediate opening of her canonization cause. So Zima’s question is timely. Was the process too fast? Should the case be examined more carefully in light of Catholic dogma? 
To answer that question, the reader is asked to set aside any emotional attachment to the nun and her work of assisting the poor, and examine her words and actions in light of the constant, unchanging teaching of the Catholic Church. He must objectively ask himself, Can Mother Teresa’s teaching harmonize with the Church Magisterium? 
The reader must remember that all the works, words and actions of a candidate to the altars must be shown to be orthodox. Under that light, one quite simply cannot affirm unequivocally that Mother Teresa is a saint. 
In his final chapter, Mr. Zima asserts that Catholics have the right and duty, for the love of the Faith, to petition the Congregation for Cause of Saints, [emphasis theirs] asking that Mother Teresa’s cause to be re-examined more carefully and objectively, raising the objections presented in his book.
1 I think it is a good proposal because a very serious matter is at stake in this case. It is the integrity itself of the Catholic Faith. 
To canonize Mother Teresa is to fulfill the progressivist desire for a new criterion for making saints. A criterion that, ignoring doctrinal soundness, is based solely on good will and charity toward our fellow man. With her canonization, we would come a step closer to establishing a common list of saints with the other religions, the “common martyrology” coined by John Paul II in the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (no. 84). What will be next? The rehabilitation of Luther? 
That in fact has become a sad and shocking reality. See



To canonize Mother Teresa raises a grave question: Has the Catholic Faith, which cannot change, in fact changed? To accept her teaching is to renounce doctrinal opposition to the false religions. Despite her good works, her words and actions imply the death of militancy and true missionary spirit in the Catholic Church. 
I strongly advise reading this important book. It is not only an objective, honest examination of the life and cause of Mother Teresa, but also an invaluable reference work that sets forth the teachings of Saints, Popes and Doctors of the Catholic Church.



1. The Congregations’ address: Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Piazza Pio XII 10, 00193 Rome, Italy



3. Open Letter by author Mark Zima to Pope Benedict XVI 
Evidence of Error in Mother Teresa’s Life – She Cannot Be a Saint

By Mark Zima, October 21, 2008 [Mark Zima is not a Traditionalist]

Your Holiness, 
One year ago, on the 10th anniversary of her death, Fr. Kolodiejchuk released Mother Teresa’s private letters. Since their release, her letters have led to a global questioning of her spiritual state.

Before her community was approved, in her letters, Mother Teresa declares, “There are millions who live in Indian cities and villages in ignorance of God and of Christ, in abominable sinfulness. We shall bring them to Christ and Christ to them” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p. 116). But when her community was approved, she taught, “I convert you to be a better Hindu, a better Catholic, Muslim, Jain, or Buddhist” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 4). There are some who argue that she did not mean what she said and she wanted to convert those she met. There is some truth to their claim. Nevertheless, her words are misleading to the hearer and the reader.

Mother Teresa said, “We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men – simply better – we will be satisfied” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 47).

In 1990, she spoke at the Vatican. She told an audience of priests, “We call baptism the ticket for St. Peter.” She said, “Not one has died without the ticket for St. Peter. We call baptism the ticket for St. Peter because He [God] won’t let them go to heaven without that ticket” (ibid., p. 126). Clearly, Mother Teresa was not ‘satisfied’ that these people did not ‘convert.’ 
Mother Teresa wanted to preach, “The Kingdom must be preached to all” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p. 133). But the kingdom she preached was, “
I love all religions but I am in love with my own. If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there. They come closer and closer to God. When they come closer, they have to choose” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 47). 
Contradiction was a state of life for Mother Teresa. She was afraid of the loss of souls, “Souls are being lost in the slums and in the streets, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more and more suffering – and here I am waiting” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p. 119). But she taught, “
When we die we are going to be with God, and with all those we have known who have gone before us; our family and our friends will be there waiting for us. Heaven must be a beautiful place” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 115).

The first rule of the Missionaries of Charity was “to instruct in Christian Doctrine the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the infirmed, and the dying” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p.139). Did she teach “Christian Doctrine” when she taught, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 29)? 
Are the faithful being asked to believe that a Saint teaches “Christian Doctrine” when they “help” a “Hindu become a better Hindu”? Are the faithful being asked to believe that Mother Teresa was purged and illuminated by God to “convert” Buddhists into “better” Buddhists? Was Mother Teresa purged from essential “ignorance and imperfections” relating to the faith? 

In his book, Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross also taught, “Two contraries (even as philosophy teaches us) cannot coexist in one person; and that darkness, which is affection set upon the creatures, and light, which is God, are contrary to each other, and have no likeness or accord between one another, even as Saint Paul taught the Corinthians, saying: Quoe conventio luci ad tenebras? That is to say: ‘What communion can there be between light and darkness?’ Hence it is that the light of Divine union cannot dwell in the soul if these affections first flee not away from it. In order that we may the better prove what has been said, it must be known that the affection and attachment which the soul has for creatures renders the soul like to these creatures; and, the greater is its affection, the closer is the equality and likeness between them; for love creates a likeness between that which loves and that which is loved” (apud Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 175). 
“Two contraries cannot coexist in one person.” Mother Teresa’s statements are not paradoxical; they are contradictory. The Church and the world should praise Mother Teresa’s corporal works of mercy, but if St. John of the Cross or any other Saint read the above quoted words of Mother Teresa do you believe that they would conclude that her words were those of a Saint who experienced the dark night of the soul (Mother Teresa: The Case for The Cause, p. 24)? Mother Teresa said, “If there is hell – this must be one. How terrible it is to be without God – no prayer – no faith – no love” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p. 250). Do you believe that the Saints would find this quote indicative of a Saint who experienced the dark night of the soul or a soul who experienced a dark night? 
In canonizing, the Church seeks to honor “the holy and undivided Trinity,” exalt “the Catholic faith,” and cultivate “the Christian religion.” The candidate for canonization must be someone who possessed and demonstrated heroic faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. How were these virtues heroically fulfilled by Mother Teresa?

I am aware that you have a great respect for Mother Teresa (Deus Caritas Est, §§ 18, 36, 40) and I am aware that what I am saying may be causing you some pain, but I beg you to reflect on this letter before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Please ask yourself, “If anyone else who was not Mother Teresa said and did these things, what would I think? How would I respond?” 


St. Thomas Aquinas said, “the lover is not satisfied with a superficial apprehension of the beloved, but strives to gain an intimate knowledge of everything pertaining to the beloved, so as to penetrate into his very soul” (Summa Theologica, I,II., q. 28, a. 2). Accordingly, anyone who loves Mother Teresa cannot desire to represent her other than who she really was. The proper interpretation of Mother Teresa’s true spiritual reality is the next step in the story of a woman who has become a religious icon for the Church and the world. I believe that you will conclude that the common presupposition of Mother Teresa’s “dark night” must give way to a new interpretation of her person. 
Mother Teresa’s cause is complex because it is a high-profile case. For this reason, it is imperative her case is settled promptly, so that the errors surrounding her life are ended and scandal abated. Silence does not save souls but it will lead them astray. Failure to act now ensures a more difficult case for the Church to correct in the future. If Mother Teresa is a Saint, no one can take away the canonization God has already bestowed upon her. However, if she is not a Saint, then those who love her must expose the truth so multitudes do not pray for her intercession, but instead intercede for her soul.


Is Mother Teresa worthy of Canonization?

September 6, 2016

I’m fully prepared for the onslaught of comments that I am going to receive for this post. “Oh, wow! You don’t think Mother Teresa is a Saint! Well why don’t you help the poor like she did for your entire life and then you can talk!” or “But she did so much good! Are you better than Mother Teresa” or even “Wow look at the Pharisee!” comments. The fun thing is I won’t approve anybody who leaves a comment like that because I’ve heard it all already. As it is my blog, I am free to talk about things that I want to discuss.

Here’s where my line of thinking is when it comes to Mother Teresa.

Is she in Heaven? Yes. She received last rites before she died and the Church has made the pronouncement that she is a Saint, so yes, she is obviously in Heaven.


Is she worthy of veneration as a saint? I don’t think so and here’s why.

Her corporal works of mercy in helping the poor is to be lauded as an exemplary example of how all Catholics should strive in their love for neighbor and in assisting them when they are at their lowest. What is lacking from what I have gathered is her apparent disregard for the spiritual works of mercy, that is admonishing the sinner and preaching the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that we must accept Him if we are to have eternal life.

There are many quotes attributed to Mother Teresa in which she says:

I’ve always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.

While this statement may appear to be in line with modern Catholic thought thanks to the Second Vatican Council, it is condemned by the Church as given by Pope Pius IX:

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. — Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. — Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.

17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

The only way we as Catholics can help a Hindu become a better Hindu is by having him renounce his faith and become Catholic, as Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.”

This quote isn’t the only disturbing statement from Mother Teresa. Other quotes that raise concern:

Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer, and so whatever religion we are, we must pray together.

Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him.

You could replace Jesus by God if you are not a Christian.

These are, but a handful of quotes and Marian Horvat has two great articles here and here which go into more depth.

One thing that surprises me during this entire discussion on Mother Teresa is how quickly many are willing to ignore these theological errors because they like her. To me, it’s dishonest to be upset with the many heretics who are currently derailing the Church with their false beliefs when Mother Teresa subscribed to many of these beliefs. You can’t be upset with Pope Francis for his religious indifference but be completely fine with Mother Teresa’s.

I have also heard that she baptized 20,000 people in one of her houses, but from details I have heard, she or one of the other sisters in the house would put a wet cloth on the forehead of the person and silently say the words of baptism. It is debatable if this counts as a valid baptism as 1. The individual must have full consent and give his verbal approval, 2. The baptism must be done via pouring of water over the head or submersion, and 3. The words of baptism must be audible.

At the end of the day, Mother Teresa is in Heaven, thanks to the sacraments, her faith, Our Lord’s mercy, and her willingness to repent of all of her sins on her death bed. A well provided for death is something to be truly happy about.



But we should look for Saints who model the virtues throughout their entire life, or at least amended their ways as they progressed through it. Many saints did not live holy lives in their younger days, but repented of their evil ways and taught others the Truth.

If you like St. Mother Teresa, that’s fine and dandy and ask for her intercession if you so choose, but realize that there are a lot of sketchy things she said and did that are not in line with authentic Catholic thought. And now that she’s been declared a saint, these erroneous quotes will be immortalized as being “saintly” when they are just flat out wrong.



Mother Teresa: “I love all religions”

July 6, 2013

The Indifferentism and Apostasy of Mother Teresa

1989 Interview with TIME Magazine – Mother Teresa proclaims she “loves all religions”

Is Mother Teresa of Calcutta a Saint? A Book Review by non-sedevacantist Marian Horvat

She Cannot Be A Saint: The Case Against Mother Teresa in a letter by a Novus Ordo Believer to “Pope” Benedict XVI

Photo: Mother Teresa Worships Buddha on October 7, 1975

Against Mother Teresa’s popular “I love all religions” slogan, which puts Christ and His Truth on the same level as Satan and his lies, we need but quote the popular 19th-century Redemptorist priest Fr. Michael Muller, who addressed this blasphemous idea directly:

It is impious to say, “I respect every religion.” This is as much as to say: I respect the devil as much as God, vice as much as virtue, falsehood as much as truth, dishonesty as much as honesty, Hell as much as Heaven. (Fr. Michael Müller, C.Ss.R., The Church and Her Enemies [1880])

We must reinforce this most neglected and politically-incorrect truth that the True Faith is essential for salvation, that all works of charity can only be fruitful and availing to salvation if they are performed inside the Roman Catholic Church, either as a member or as someone joined to her through faith, hope, charity and perfect contrition, because outside this Church, no one can attain eternal salvation:


Catholic Reality Check

— “[This council] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” (Council of Florence, Decree Cantate Domino [1442]; Denzinger)

—“…merely naturally good acts are only a counterfeit of virtue since they are neither permanent nor sufficient for salvation” (Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Editae Saepe [1910], par. 28)

—“…since charity is based on a complete and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united principally by the bond of one faith.” (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos [1928], par. 9)

—“Let no Christian therefore … embrace eagerly and lightly whatever novelty happens to be thought up from day to day, but rather let him weigh it with painstaking care and a balanced judgment, lest he lose or corrupt the truth he already has, with grave danger and damage to his faith.” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis [1950], par. 30)

—“It must not be forgotten that the works of mercy demand more than a humanitarian basis if they are to serve as instruments in bringing about our eternal salvation. The proper motive is indispensable and this must be one drawn from the supernatural order.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia [1911], s.v. Mercy, Corporal and Spiritual Works of”)

—“And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

—“But without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

—“Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any man come to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him, God speed you.” (2 John 1:9-10)

—“And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5)



Doubt and Confusion: The New “Canonizations”

By John Vennari, March 31, 2014

Speaking of the rigorous pre-Vatican procedure for beatifications, eminent Catholic historian William Thomas Walsh, who died in 1949, wrote the following:



“No secular court trying a man for his life is more thorough and scrupulous than the Congregation of Rites in seeking to establish whether or not the servant of God practiced virtues both theological and cardinal, and to a heroic degree. If that is established, the advocate of the cause must next prove that his presence in Heaven has been indicated by at least two miracles, while a cardinal who is an expert theologian does all he can to discredit the evidence—hence his popular title of advocatus diaboli, or Devil’s Advocate. If the evidence survives every attempt to destroy it after months, years and sometimes centuries of discussion, he is then beatified, that is, he is declared to be blessed.”

We will later note the new 1983 process of canonization dispenses with the Devil’s Advocate, and eliminates the stringent juridical method in favor of an academic approach. The discarding of the “thorough and scrupulous” procedure praised by Mr. Walsh cannot help but introduce doubt to the integrity of the entire new process—especially in the case of “fast-track” canonizations.

Mr. Walsh further noted the following about the traditional process: “The final stage of canonization, the last of twenty distinct steps, may take even more years or centuries. It must be proved beyond any reasonable doubt that two additional miracles have been performed through the instance of the servant of God, since the beatification. When and if this is done, the Pope issues a bull (a sealed letter) of canonization.”


Sound Orthodoxy

Walsh also stressed the demand for sound orthodoxy regarding anyone considered for canonization: “Theologians carefully scrutinize all the available writings—books, letters and so on—of the servant of God whose claim to holiness is being urged, together with all the depositions obtainable from those who spoke with him and knew him well. If nothing contrary to faith or morals is found, a decree is published authorizing further investigation.”[1]


This type of thinking is due primarily to the more lax system of canonization introduced in 1983, as well as to the “new understanding” of what it means to be Catholic that was spawned by the Second Vatican Council, and by its most zealous evangelist, Pope John Paul II.


The New Process

On January 25, 1983, Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, the long-awaited revision of the beatifi­cation and canonization process. Cardinal Suenens, Paul VI, and other pro­gressivists since the Council, had encouraged such an update. John Paul brought it to fruition. [8]

JANUARY 25, 1983

The change was part of the alleged goal to make the canonization process “simpler, faster, cheaper, more ‘collegial’ and ultimately more productive.”[9]

In the new system, the Devil’s Advocate has been eliminated. The “Promoter of the Faith,” as the Devil’s Advocate has been called, is given the new title “Prelate Theologian.” His main task is to choose the theological consulters and preside at the meetings.

Catholic journalist Kenneth L. Woodward spotlights the root difference between the old and new systems: “At the core of the reform is a striking paradigm shift: no longer would the Church look to the courtroom as its model for arriving at the truth of a saint’s life; instead, it would employ the academic model of researching and writing a doctoral dissertation.”

Woodward continues, “In effect, then, the relator had replaced both the Devil’s Advocate and the defense lawyer. He alone was responsible for establishing martyrdom or heroic virtue, and it was up to the theological and historical consultants to give his work a passing or failing grade.”[10]

Though there may have been some abuses by the lawyers over the centuries, the elimination of lawyers radically transforms the procedure that had been at the heart of the saint-making process for half a millennium: a system deemed necessary by the great master of ascetical and mystical theology, Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) in his monumental work, The Beatification and Canonization of Saints. [11]

Though many in the post-Conciliar Vatican welcomed John Paul II’s new method, not all were thrilled. Msgr. Luigi Porsi, a 20-year veteran of the Church legal system, decried the elimination of the Devil’s Advocate and the accompanying lawyers as part of the beatification process. In an unanswered letter to Pope John Paul II, Porsi complained the reform went too far: “There is no longer any room for an adversarial function.”[12]

Thus a central question arises: if there is a radical change in what was the rigorous procedure for making saints, how can we expect the same secure results?

Indeed, the fast-track beatifications of the past few decades already introduce doubt to the integrity of the process. The two cases that first come to mind are that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Opus Dei Founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer.


Mother Teresa: Doctors Insist, No Miracle

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a popular figure recognized as ‘saint’ while she was still alive, even though, despite her many good works, she seemed to embrace a theology of indifferentism. She is on record saying, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”[13]

In 1976, Mother Teresa organized a 25th-anniversary celebration of the Missionaries of Charity. As part of the celebration, she obtained permission from the Archbishop of Calcutta for her and her sisters to pray in some pagan temples—non-Christian houses of worship—each day of the jubilee.



“Her desire was for each group to hold its own worship service of thanksgiving. Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jains, Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and so forth joined her and her sisters to thank the one true God in their own way. She and her sister prayed at eighteen different worship sites,” including Hindu temples. [14]

The central “miracle” employed to justify Mother Teresa’s 2003 “beatifi­cation” was the alleged cure of Monica Besra in September 1998. Besra, from Dangram, 460 miles northeast of Calcutta, claimed to have been cured of a tumor after praying to Mother Teresa while pressing a medallion of Mother Teresa’s image to her side.

Despite this claim, Besra’s doctors insist the cure had nothing miraculous about it, but was the result of strong anti-TB drugs administered over a period of nine months.

“This miraculous claim is absolute nonsense and should be condemned by everyone,” said Dr. R. K. Musafi. “She had a medium-sized tumor in her lower abdomen caused by tuberculosis. The drugs she was given eventually reduced the cystic mass and it disappeared after a year’s treatment.”

Likewise Dr. T. K. Biswas, the first doctor to treat Besra, said, “With all due respect to Mother Teresa, there should not be any talk of a miracle by her. We advised her a prolonged anti-tubercular treatment and she was cured.”

Remember, the Catholic Church has always demanded that a miraculous cure requires rigorous proof beyond any reasonable doubt. The integrity of the Mother Teresa “miracle” is thus seriously compromised.

Dr. Manju Murshet, Superintendent of the Balurghat Hospital, complained that the doctors were under pressure from Church members to declare a miraculous cure: “They want us to say Monica Besra’s recovery was a miracle and beyond the comprehension of medical science.”[15]

Besra’s husband Deiku also challenges the claim of a miraculous cure. “It is much ado about nothing,” he said, “My wife was cured by the doctors, not by any miracle.”[16]

Further, Besra’s medical records have disappeared from the hospital. The records containing her physician’s notes, prescriptions, and sonograms were taken by Sister Betta of the Missionaries of Charity. When Time magazine contacted Sister Betta to ask about Besra’s medical records, the only response was “no comment.”[17]

Besra herself now claims she has been abandoned by the Missionary sisters who flocked to her home at the time of the alleged miracle and promised support. “My hut was frequented by nuns of the Missionaries of Charity before the beatification of Mother Teresa,” said Mrs. Besra, squatting on the floor of her thatched and mud house. “They made a lot of promises to me and assured me of financial help for my livelihood and my children’s education. After that, they forgot me. I am living in penury. My husband is sick. My children have stopped going to school as I have no money. I have to work in the fields to feed my husband and five children.”[18]

It is not our intention to pass a judgment on these events. We merely wish to observe the following: it is hard to imagine this flurry of questions and abuses occurring under the former rigorous system of canonization. With the Devil’s Advocate now eliminated, abuse and suspicion sully not only Mother Teresa’s case, but the entire new beatification process itself.



Assisi: Catholic Youngsters Can’t Believe It

It seems clear that the real purpose of the upcoming “canonizations” of John XXIII and John Paul II is to “canonize” Vatican II and its entire liberal orientation of religious liberty, ecumenism, and pan-religious activity.

For now we will content ourselves with another objection to John Paul’s canonization.

At the time of the 2011 “beatification” of John Paul II, I learned of a homeschool online discussion taking place among 6th to 9th graders. A traditional Catholic youth (whom I know) was telling non-traditionalist Catholic acquaintances about Pope John Paul II’s pan-religious meeting at Assisi; that John Paul invited Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Jains, and pagans to pray together at the event in October 1986. He also posted photos of the Assisi gathering.

The homeschooled youngsters refused to believe it. They claimed it could not be true; that the John Paul II/Assisi photos were doctored, that no pope—especially one “beatified” by the allegedly conservative Benedict XVI—would perform this act of ecclesiastical treason.

The young traditional Catholic who told his acquaintances about Assisi was accused of making up the account; of trying to defame the name of “Blessed” Pope John Paul II; of inventing a malicious story about a pagan-packed, pan-religious prayer-fest that no pope would countenance.

Here then is the striking point: The children knew the Assisi prayer meeting was not Catholic. The children knew it was not a manifestation of heroic virtue. The children knew it was a scandal of colossal dimension, and refused to believe John Paul could be guilty of it. To their credit, these youngsters displayed a better sensus Catholicus than today’s Vatican leaders.

If Catholic homeschool children, age 13 and under, recognize the outrage of the pan-religious meeting at Assisi, why did not Pope Benedict XVI who placed Papa Wojtyla on the fast-track to beatification? Why does not Pope Francis, who on July 5 approved John Paul II’s “canonization”? Under today’s streamlined procedure, these crucial questions are ignored as irrelevant.


Defect in Procedure

There is an apparent quick-fix solution to the modern canonization dilemma: it is to declare that today’s popes are not popes at all; that they have lost their office due to heresy, and that we have not had a true pope since Pius XII. Yet this sedevacantist reaction, I believe, merely substitutes one collection of thorny questions with others of greater magnitude. A thorough response to the details of our unprecedented situation calls for the genius of a Bellarmine or a Garrigou-Lagrange—genius seemingly lacking in our post-Conciliar period. [22]


To conclude: Fast-track beatifications where the will to beatify supersedes the worthiness of the proposed candidate is a dangerous and questionable development. This is what we see with the determined push to rapidly canonize John XXIII and John Paul II. Under the new system that eliminates the Devil’s Advocate, legitimate challenges to the sanctity, orthodoxy, and miraculous intervention of the candidate are left unaddressed. As Vatican postulator Msgr. Luigi Porsi warned, “There is no longer any room for an adversarial function.”

Everything in the Catholic Faith conforms to reason. [23] It seems unreasonable, then, to assume that a drastic loosening in the procedure for canonization would yield the same secure results as the “thorough and scrupulous” method that had been in place for centuries. [24]

Thus I believe modern beatifications and canonizations are at best doubtful due to defect in procedure, and due to a new criteria for holiness engendered by the new “ecumenical Catholicism” from Vatican II. [25]



1 William Thomas Walsh, The Saints in Action (New York: Hanover, 1961), p. 14 (emphasis added). Though Walsh died in 1949, The Saints in Action was not published until 1961.

8 Some background: In the year 1234, Pope Gregory IX established procedures to investigate the life of a candidate saint and any attributed miracles. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V entrusted the Congregation of Rites (later named the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints) to oversee the entire process. Beginning with Pope Urban VIII in 1634, various Popes have revised and improved the norms and procedures for canonization. Prospero Lambertini, a brilliant canonist who had come from the ranks of the Congregation of Rites to become Pope Benedict XIV, set himself the task of reviewing and clarifying the Church’s practice of making saints. His long and masterful work in five volumes, De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione (On the Beatification of the Servants of God and the Canonization of the Blesseds), published between 1734 and 1738, is the touchstone text for the making of saints.

9 Kenneth L. Woodward, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn’t, and Why (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), p. 91.

10 Ibid., p. 91 (emphasis added).

11 See Catholic Encyclopedia entry, “Advocatus Diaboli,” (Devil’s Advocate), Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. I, Robert Appleton Company, 1907.

12 Making Saints, p. 95.

13 Mark Zima, Mother Teresa: The Case for the Cause (Is Mother Teresa of Calcutta a Saint?) (Nashville: Cold Tree Press, 2007), p. 29.

14 Ibid., p. 65.

15 Quotes from Doctors Musafi, Biswas, and Murshet from Zima’s Mother Teresa: The Case for the Cause, pp. 190-191.

16 “Mother Teresa ‘miracle’ patient accuses nuns,” Telegraph, September 5, 2007.

17 What’s Mother Teresa Got to Do with It?” October 14, 2002.

18 “Mother Teresa ‘miracle’ patient accuses nuns.” It should be noted that Besra still believes she was miraculously cured by Mother Teresa. Her doctors, however, testify that there was nothing miraculous about it.

22 For example, it is argued that any ‘infallibility’ that deals with canonization would not extend beyond the fact that the soul of the saint is in heaven. Period. Yet the way in which the Church would judge that the soul is in heaven was by means of authentic miracles attributed to the ‘saint’s’ intercession. This is why the old system for determining this was, as William Thomas Walsh noted, “thorough and scrupulous.” Yet if the stringent procedure for determining a miracle is not followed—such as what appears to be the case with the ‘miracle’ attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta—how is the ‘saint’s’ presence in heaven determined beyond the pronouncement of a post-Conciliar pope and his will to canonize a given individual?

23 Though the mysteries, such as the Blessed Trinity and Transubstantiation, are said to be above reason, but not contrary to it.

24 Fr. Joseph de Sainte Marie was a capable Carmelite theologian who worked in Rome in the 1970s and ’80s. An expert on Fatima and a loyal son of Pope John Paul II, he helped compose the formula for the Pope’s 1982 Consecration of the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Despite this, Father de Saint Marie issued the following warning about the unfortunate present state of the Church and those at its highest levels: “In our time, and it is one of the most obvious signs of the extraordinarily abnormal character of the current state of the Church, it is very often the case that the acts of the Holy See demand of us prudence and discernment.” (Cited from Apropos, Isle of Sky, No. 16, 1994, p. 5.) Fr. Joseph de Saint Marie thus tells in a respectful and gentlemanly manner, that our Holy Church now passes through an extraordinary period of history. He uses the word “abnormal.” Yet in the face of this “extraordinarily abnormal character of the current state of the Church,” he does not advise us to follow the Pope blindly. Aligning himself, rather, with the traditional teaching of Popes and Saints (for example, that of Pope Innocent III, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Francis de Sales, John of St. Thomas and others) Father de Saint Marie cautions us that “in our time,” we have to be careful. We have to exercise “prudence and discernment” when it comes to the actions of the Holy See itself; that is, even when it comes to papal actions. Further, he tells us it is “very often the case” that we have to now exercise this caution.

25 Other points we hope to discuss in a follow up interview with a European scholar: The fact that the Church itself never defined that canonizations are infallible, but it is the majority of theologians; the unlikelihood of modern “canonizations” of John Paul II and John XXIII standing the test of time; the fact that heroic virtue for a proposed saint must comprise his duty of state (if the purpose of the papacy is to govern the Church, how could John XXIIII and John Paul II be said to have practiced heroic virtue if the Church was not only in unprecedented crisis on their watch, but in most cases these modern popes were the main contributors to the crisis due to their insistence on initiating and advancing the Conciliar program that contains within it points contrary to the Catholic Faith of all time, such as religious liberty and ecumenism?) See pages 19 ff.




Should Mother Teresa be canonized?

September 4, 2007

I feel I may be opening a can of worms here, but I think that it might be worth it to bring up this important topic. I have been motivated to write on Mother Teresa after reading some of Athanasius’ posts on the late John Paul II. There, Athanasius posited the argument that though nobody doubted the sincerity and virtue of the late Pontiff, his failures in his role as shepherd and guardian of the deposit of faith make him an unsuitable candidate for canonization. I here propose a similar assertion for Mother Teresa: while nobody doubts the goodness of her deeds working among the poor in Calcutta, her statements about God in reference to non-believers, are extremely problematic. This is especially troubling since missionary work was her primary goal (i.e., the conversion of souls to the true faith for love of God). In looking at her cause for sainthood, the problem lies in the matter of faith, the first and most important of the heroic virtues necessary to be proclaimed a blessed.

Before I go on, let me warn you against having a knee-jerk reaction against what I am about to say. “How can you say that about Mother Teresa? She did so much good – you don’t know her heart!” True – she did more good than I’ll ever do. But this isn’t about “knowing her heart”; it’s about reading some very troubling statements she made in writing. So, if you want to accuse me of arrogance or foolishness in stating that she should not be a saint, please direct your comments towards the actual words of Mother Teresa, which are the subject of this post.

So, what did Mother Teresa do that was so suspect to sound doctrine? Take this quote, taken from her authorized biography:

I would die for my Catholic faith but I would never try to force it upon any one. We never know how God is speaking to a person. I hope to help Muslims become better Muslims, Hindus better Hindus, Christians better Christians.” (Symbol of Selflessness, World, Vol. 12, No. 18 (Sept. 20, 1997), 11.

Make “Hindus better Hindus?” How about making Hindus into Catholics! Working among the poor is great, but if it does not lead to conversions, then you are wasting your time in ministering only to the bodily needs while neglecting the more weighty matters of the soul. “Better to enter eternal life maimed than to have your whole body cast into hell…”Nor is this an isolated statement of Mother Teresa. Here is a similar quote:

There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls – 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs—all different religions. But they all come to our prayers.” (

In fact, this seems to be something she likes to repeat again and again. Elsewhere, in Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work (by Desmond Doig, Harper & Row, NYC, 1976, p.156), Mother Teresa affirms, “If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, and a better whatever we are…. What God is in your mind you must accept“. “What God is in your mind you must accept”? That sounds like the God of alcoholics anonymous, not of Catholicism.

Not only was she looking to make “better Muslims”, but she herself frequently allowed her sisters to participate in the idolatrous worship of false religions. Take this quote from one of her recollections:

We went every day to pray in some temple or church. The Archbishop gave us permission to do so. We prayed with the Jews, the Armenians, the Anglicans, the Jains, the Sikhs, the Buddhists, and the Hindus. It was extraordinary. All hearts united in prayer to the one true God” (Proclaiming the Gospel, April 1997).

“Hearts united in prayer to the one true God”? Hinduism has an estimated 330 million Gods. Which of these 330 million was Mother Teresa praying to, and how did she know that it was synonymous with the “one true God?” This is my main problem with her: Mother Teresa seems to have been a believer in syncretism, that all religions basically worship the same God and that they are all equally valid paths to Him. This she proclaims in a letter written to the Indian President: “Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer, and so whatever religion we are, we must pray together.” For any traditional Catholic, the idea that the Trinitarian God is the same as Allah or Ishwar is blasphemous.

Furthermore, her one “miracle” is weakly attested. In 2002 the Vatican recognized one miracle, the cure of Monica Besra, a 35-year-old villager from northern India cured of an ovarian tumor. Besra and the Missionaries of Charity claim that the tumor vanished in September 1998 when a medallion with an image of the late Albanian nun was applied to the site of her pain.

However, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, chief gynecologist who treated the woman at Balurghat District Hospital in West Bengal, says that it was quite possible that his patient was cured by four anti-TB drugs she was taking at the time, which could have dissolved the tumor. He said he admires Mother Teresa greatly and thinks she should be beatified for her work among the poor. But not for this case. “She [Besra] had a medical disease which was cured by medical science, not by any miracle,” he says. His hospital superiors back him up, saying that records show she responded to the treatment steadily. Five doctors in Rome consulted by the Vatican on the case disregarded this scientific probability and hastily agreed there was no medical explanation for the cure. Mustafi said he was never contacted by the Vatican.



Monica Besra, of course, believes in the miracle (by the way, her own husband disbelieves in the miracle and attributes the healing to the doctors), but admits that she was receiving medical treatments from the doctors at the state-run Balurghat Hospital at that time. “Those who love Mother will believe,” she says simply. That she loves Mother Teresa there is no doubt. But it is not sentiment that determines the value of a miracle in the normal processes of the Catholic Church…

This is a far cry from the kind of scrupulous verification that went into determining the authenticity of the Lourdes miracles in 1858. How can the Vatican approve a miracle when they never even contacted the doctor in the case? Besra’s statement that “Those who love Mother will believe” sounds a lot like the Medjugorje enthusiasts who blindly defend Medjugorje no matter what facts present themselves that the supposed apparitions are fraudulent. So in this case: the woman appeals to emotion and “love” over the head of careful inquiry and scrupulous analysis.

I do not think Mother Teresa deserves to be raised to the altars. Do I believe she is in Heaven? I think she is absolutely on her way there. She loved Jesus passionately and exercised heroic virtue when it came to serving men. But she unfortunately did this at the expense of the pure truth of the faith. As Athanasius says about John Paul II, I will pray for Mother Teresa, but not to her.

We should also ask, how many conversions did she effect in India? St. Vincent Ferrer is said to have converted over 50,000 Muslims. We hear so many stories of Mother Teresa’s acts of compassion and love and how people were changed by her; how many conversions have the Sisters of Charity recorded? I haven’t heard any numbers on this. My guess is because there aren’t many. Why would there be? After all, Mother Teresa herself said, “It is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim.”

Mother Teresa is a wonderful role model for serving the poorest of the poor. But let us reject all forms of syncretism and remember the words of Sacred Scripture: “All the gods of the heathen are demons, but the Lord made the heavens” (Psalm 95:5).

One of the readers asked:

I can never get a straight answer on whether or not canonizations are infallible.

This was the blog poster’s response:

It is my understanding that canonizations are infallible; in fact, that they are the most frequent infallible declarations of the Church. I don’t think the Church could ask us to pray to them and also have the Mass offered in their honor if there was any doubt that they were among the Blessed.
However, it is my understanding that only the canonization itself is infallible; the motives for canonization, evidence leading to canonization and alleged miracles could all be fraudulent, but in the end, the declaration (that so-and-so is in heaven) can still be authentic.
So, Mother Teresa’s “miracle” could be fake, the reasons for speeding up her canonization based on promoting the “new ecumenism”, and the judgment of her heroic virtue even misguided. But in the end, if she is proclaimed a Saint, this is protected and led by the Holy Spirit, though it may not be for any of the reasons that the Church authorities cited. 
I have often wondered this about certain saints who were canonized for political reasons, as was common in the Middle Ages. I do not doubt one bit that St. Thomas More or St. Thomas Becket, both martyrs, are in heaven (Tradition itself says that martyrdom alone merits heaven), but I also know that their canonizations were heavily motivated by the papacy’s desire to make a political statement about the affairs of the Church in England at those given periods. Regardless of the motivation, the canonizations are solid.
However, I know of no documentation to back this up; it is just my understanding and a little bit of common sense.

And I concur. For more on the issue of the infallibility of canonizations, see pages 19 ff.


Mother Teresa not such a good role model

December 24, 2015

Twenty years ago, in January 1996, writing for Hot Press, I phoned the Los Angeles district attorney’s office to check whether there had been progress in persuading Mother Teresa to hand back a million dollars stolen from the poor. Not a lot, assistant district attorney Paul Turley told me.

The money had been filched from the pockets of pensioners and small savers by the notorious conman, Charles Keating, head of what turned out to be a front for fraud, Lincoln Savings and Loan.

Keating had siphoned $225 million from the accounts of thousands of victims, and had bunged a million of this loot to Mother Teresa. (The closest Irish equivalents of US savings and loan associations are credit unions.)

Four years earlier, in 1992, Turley had appealed to Teresa: “If you contact me, I will put you in direct contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.” Any developments since, I wondered?

“She has ignored us,” Turley told me. “We have honestly given up on this. It is obvious she is determined to keep it.”

Sentenced to 10 years, Keating may have taken comfort from contemplation of the crucifix on the wall of his cell personally blessed by Pope John Paul and delivered by a messenger from Mother Teresa.

It has commonly been suggested, including in recent days by commentators sceptical about Mother Teresa’s sanctity, that in this and similar matters she had been blinded by intense religiosity, her mode of thought too other-worldly to appreciate mundane stuff like money.

As an excuse for the criminal offence of knowingly receiving stolen property, this would be laughed out of any court in the land. Thomas “Slab” Murphy had a better defence.




A more subtle argument advanced by Catholic traditionalists is that what matters most at a time of ideological turmoil and creeping secularisation within the church is the unwavering adherence and global witness she gave to the teachings of the church now most under siege, on contraception, divorce, abortion etc. It is this, they suggest, which, despite all, makes her a suitable role model for the times we live in.

But this won’t wash either. The journalist Daphne Barak quoted Mother Teresa in April 1996 in Ladies’ Home Journal, commenting on the break-up of the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. “I think it is such a sad story. Diana is such a sad soul . . . You know what? It is good that it is over. Nobody was happy. I know I should preach for family love and unity, but in their case . . .” Then her voice “trailed off.”

The masses are told under pain of hellfire that they must unquestioningly obey the rules of the church, but when it comes to the useful rich and glamorous, immutable laws of God can be amended on the instant.


Related scandals

Her confessor

The Pedophile Spiritual Director of Mother Teresa

By Margaret C. Galitzin, December 12, 2007 


He was the confessor of Mother Teresa and a spiritual director of the Daughters of Charity. He gave retreats around the world. He was one of the most prominent Jesuits of his day. 
Fr. Donald McGuire, however, since the late 1960s was a pedophile priest. And despite repeated reports to religious authorities, nothing was done. Finally, in 2003 a civil lawsuit was filed against him for molesting two teenage boys at Loyola Academy near Chicago in 1969. His abuse of boys apparently began in the wave of novelties of Vatican II, which included a lax approach regarding morality. Eventually, in 2006, McGuire was convicted of sexual assault, sentenced to seven years in prison and was out pending appeal.1 

The Chicago Jesuit Province protested that they had no notion that anything was wrong with their famous protégé.2 But this was proved not to be true. 
Today, Fr. McGuire is again in custody, held without bond in Chicago, facing more charges of molesting two boys from a devout Catholic home-schooling family. One says the abuse began when he was 13, and that it continued from 1999 to 2003 in 12 states and six countries. The other says the abuse began in 1988 when he was age 9 and continued to age 14. More lawsuits are in the works claiming McGuire has abused boys sexually for years and that his superiors and other Church authorities paid no attention to concerns expressed by parents.3 
In effect, all the warnings, complaints and suspicions about McGuire since 1969 – and there were many – were ignored. The result is that for some 35 years the sexual predator was allowed free access to youth. 

Who answers for the crimes committed? 
For me, there are several things that make this case particularly nauseating. 
First and foremost, there is the complicity of McGuire’s superiors. All his superiors refused to investigate and discipline him. This isn’t a case from the distant past; it is a story of abuse that continued right up to 2003 despite repeated complaints from families to religious authorities. It could well be going on right up to now but for the civil suit filed against McGuire in 2003. 
Marc Pearlman, the attorney for several plaintiffs, recently released a strong arsenal of documents as part of the civil lawsuit process. Many of these documents are posted online – letters going back and forth between parents and Jesuit authorities for 34 years, from 1969 until the first civil lawsuit was filed in 2003. The letters from families accuse McGuire of inappropriate contact, sharing his bed with young boys, showing pornography and suspected sexual abuse. One family especially persisted in calling and writing Catholic authorities during the years 2001-2003.4 This is, let me repeat, not the distant past, but even after the Dallas Charter was supposedly in effect… 
The letters from the religious authorities are placating: “We’ll look into it.” “Be assured appropriate measures will be taken.” In fact, no one enforced discipline on McGuire and no Church authority ever reported his behavior to the law enforcement. Instead he continued enjoying his status as a high profile Jesuit.



According to the release documents, at least three separate Catholic institutions and 10 separate Church officials were aware of McGuire’s transgressions.5 
Let me point to only three authorities who were informed, and did nothing, or next to nothing. 

The Jesuit Provincial of Chicago: At first, any knowledge of abuse by Fr. McGuire was denied. Then federal prosecutors produced documents showing many warning and letters from parents. They also cited documents showing that McGuire’s Jesuit supervisors must have known something because they directed him in 1991 “not to travel on any overnight trip with any person male or female under the age of 21.” 
So, the story changed. Excuses were offered: Provincial Edward Schmidt, trying to deny his guilt, said it just wasn’t possible to control McGuire because of his travels and independent schedule. Regrets were made. Schmidt admitted “there are lots of things we should have done differently… I wish we had.” On November 2, the Chicago Province of Jesuits issued a statement saying they expressed “apologies to anyone who was abused”.6 Ties were severed. The Chicago Province decided to wash their hands of McGuire and dismissed him from the Order.7 
That’s it. The Jesuit Provincial of Chicago apparently does not have to accept any personal consequences for his part in the crimes committed while McGuire was under his watch.


The Archdiocese of Chicago: In 2002 a home-schooling father contacted the Archdiocese of Chicago to complain that McGuire was sharing a bed with a youth, and assaulting another teen with porn and sex talk. After receiving the letters, the Archdiocese did nothing. They did not contact civil authorities; they did not immediately remove McGuire from public ministry – in direct contradiction of the Dallas provisions8. 
Will the Cardinal of the Archdiocese Francis George, new president of the U.S. Bishops, have any accounting to make for this grave neglect? 

The Bishop of Savannah: A couple wrote to Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah in 2000 and 2003 seeking his help for their teen-age son who had a “relationship” with McGuire. Only in September 2003, a month after the first lawsuit against McGuire was filed, did Bishop Boland respond by writing a letter to the Chicago Jesuits.9 
The Savannah local paper is praising his action. It seems to me it came more than a tad too late. Further, his letter was not public, nor did he alert law enforcement. He passed on the parental complaint, but privately. Shouldn’t he have acted more responsibly? Will Bishop Boland have to answer for his entre nous response on such a serious matter of clerical abuse? 

Abuse of Confession 
Further, Fr. McGuire made use of the sacred rite of Confession to initiate the sexual abuse. According to testimonies from the victims, the alleged abuse would begin with a confession, with a special emphasis on sexual sins and temptations. Then came the corrective “guidelines,” which included naked showers, massage, pornography and oral sex. 
“He made a mockery of the priesthood and the confessional” said a father who claims the Jesuit priest molested his two sons during confession.10 

The complacence continues… 
The Dallas Charter makes no provisions of penance or punishment for the Church authorities who ignore the order of “One-strike-and-you’re-out.” It is a document without teeth with regard to the accomplice Bishops without spines. 
The Charter isn’t working. Better proof than any theoretical-juridical analysis are the incidents that keep cropping up. The case of Fr. McGuire is just one of many. I am sorry to say that the solution of establishing lay boards in most of the dioceses to help control the scandals either is not effective, or their work is being neutralized by religious authorities, such as Cardinal Francis George who ignored for months a review board’s advice to remove a priest accused of molesting three boys. 
What is also astonishing is that a whole religious Congregation – the Missionaries of the Charity – and its own founder – Mother Teresa – were not informed about the calamitous moral state of Fr. McGuire, or disregarded such information. If the latter is true, it would cast serious doubts on the sanctity of Mother Teresa. If she were not informed, to not have noticed that something was wrong with her spiritual director speaks little for her discernment of soul.



1. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “Papers: Jesuits were warned about Abusive Priest,” NPR online, November 13, 2007 online.
2. Ibid.
3. “Prominent Jesuit Priest Charged with Molesting Boys,” Belleville News Democrat online, Nov. 2, 2007
4. Hagerty, “Papers: Jesuits Were Warned.”
5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. “Jesuit order severing ties to McGuire,” GazetteXtra online, December 11, 2007
8. “McGuire: What was known and when?” Commonweal, November 11, 2007
9. “Bishop Sought Help for Alleged Sex-Abuse Victim,” Savannah Morning News, Nov. 1, 2007T
10. “Priest convicted of child molestation accused of abusing 2 more boys,” Chicago Sun-Times online, October 24, 2007





Her successor

Sister Nirmala, who took over as head of the Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa, prays to Hindu gods. The following is from The Deccan Herald, an Indian newspaper:
“Sister Nirmala was today elected to succeed Mother Teresa. … A former Hindu, Sister Nirmala (63) was baptised in 1958. … A calm and composed Sister Nirmala said ‘it is a big responsibility. Looking at myself I feel afraid whether I will be able to bear the responsibility but looking at god I think I can.’ …

Sister Nirmala’s parents, high-caste Hindu Brahmins, did not oppose her joining the Missionaries of Charity. The relatives said that during trips to Kathmandu Sister Nirmala often visited Lord Pashupatinath temple, a sacred Hindu shrine which non-Hindus are not allowed to enter. She would offer prayers from the gate of the temple. ‘She told us that all gods were equal and worshipped them equally,’ said Ms. Nina Joshi, Sister Nirmala’s niece” (The Deccan Herald, March 14, 1997, cited from News from the Front Newsletter, Take Heed Ministries, Belfast, N. Ireland, October 1997).


New Age

There is an Institute of Alternative Medicine in Kolkata that is recognized by the Indian Government. It teaches every single occult & esoteric New Age alternative therapy listed in the February 3, 2003, Vatican Document, and a few hundred more. For several years now, the photograph of a beaming Mother Teresa proudly adorns their brochure, a copy of which is in my possession! It shows her on their platform with their large banner behind her.

In this context, we must know that Mother Teresa blessed and inaugurated two yoga centres founded by Bombay Archdiocesan and internationally acknowledged yoga guru Fr. Joe Pereira who also heads the Indian branch of the New Age “Christian Meditation” of the World Community for Christian Meditation. Many of the nuns, religious brothers and priests of her congregation regularly attend his “orientation” programmes. This shows an alarming lack of spiritual discernment on the part of Mother Teresa.




Canonizations and infallibility (see also pages 14, 16)

Canonizations and infallibility

By Fr. Edward McNamara LC, Rome, August 23, 2011

Q: When the Pope presides over an ordinary public consistory regarding the cause of canonization of three blesseds, as Benedict XVI did last February in the Vatican Apostolic Palace for Guido Maria Conforti, Luigi Guanella and Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, is the proclamation made at the consistory — that the blesseds are saints — an infallible proclamation? — R.J., Villanova, Pennsylvania


A: The short answer is no, or at least not yet. The reason is that the decisions emanating from the consistory are juridical and not theological in nature.

A public consistory is a gathering of cardinals convoked by the Holy Father for a specific purpose. Some others, such as apostolic protonotaries, the auditors of the Roman Rota, and other prelates, may also attend a public consistory. The purpose is usually either to elevate new cardinals or, at least technically, to seek the cardinals’ opinion regarding the canonization of blessed.

By “technically” I mean that the cardinals have usually already given their opinion and the canonization has already been decided. Thus, nowadays the consistory is a kind of legal fiction in which everybody ceremoniously votes “yes.” At the end of the consistory the Holy Father accepts the opinion of the cardinals and announces the date or dates on which the canonizations will take place.

The juridical nature of the consistory can be seen from one of Blessed John Paul II’s final acts as Pope. In February 2005 he wrote to his secretary of state regarding a consistory he was unable to attend. He said:

“I had convoked the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops living in Rome for the celebration of an Ordinary Public Consistory, for today, 24 February, in view of the conclusion of the process of the Causes of Canonization of some Blesseds. I have been advised, for the sake of prudence, to follow this event from my apartment via television link-up. Consequently, I entrust to you, Venerable Cardinal, the duty to preside at this reunion, giving you the authority to conduct in my name the scheduled events. Therefore, I wish to announce that, following the favorable opinion that has already been submitted in writing by the Venerable Cardinals throughout the world and by the Archbishops and Bishops who live in Rome, I intend to set Sunday, 23 October 2005, as the date for the Canonization of the following five Blesseds: Bl. Józef Bilczewski, Bishop; Bl. Gaetano Catanoso, priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face; Bl. Zygmunt Gorazdowski, priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph; Bl. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, priest of the Society of Jesus; Bl. Felix of Nicosia (in the world: Filippo Giacomo Amoroso), Religious of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin



.… United in prayer to the participants in the Ordinary Public Consistory, I ask you, Venerable Cardinal, to preside at the celebration of the Hour of Sext, as I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all.”

As we know, it was Benedict XVI who would eventually canonize these saints during the concluding Mass of the Synod on the Eucharist.

Therefore it is clear that the consistory does not imply an exercise of infallibility. On the one hand, the Holy Father delegated the declaration to a cardinal; second, it consisted in the proclamation of a date of canonization — and not in the canonization itself.

The exercise of infallibility comes only when the pope himself proclaims a person a saint. The proclamation is made in a Latin formula of which we offer an approximate translation:

“In honor of the Holy Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and of Our Own, after long reflection, having invoked divine assistance many times and listened to the opinion of many of our Brothers in the Episcopate, We declare and define as Saint Blessed N. and inscribe his/her name in the list of the saints and establish that throughout the Church they be devoutly honored among the saints.”

In the case above, Benedict XVI proceeded as planned with the canonization on the date determined by John Paul II. In theory at least, he could have postponed, brought forward or even canceled the canonization ceremony. In such a hypothetical and unlikely case, I would say that since the process of canonization had already been concluded, a future pope could simply set a new date for the canonization. However, until the actual rite of canonization is performed, the blessed cannot be accorded the title and liturgical honors of a saint.

Although beatification does not imply the same degree of commitment by the Church, it is notable that Benedict XVI did postpone indefinitely a beatification whose date had already been set by John Paul II. This was because certain new information on the candidate had surfaced in the meantime which Benedict XVI believed required clarification before proceeding with the beatification.

By Fr. Edward McNamara LC, Rome, September 6, 2011

In the wake of our article on canonizations and infallibility (see above), a reader requested further clarification. To wit:

“I read your essay on this subject; it is one that has puzzled me for some time. But there are several things unexplained in your piece. The Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals. The canonization, much less the miracle that supports it, cannot be a matter of faith because that refers to Revelation, and the period of Revelation is over: There is nothing more to be revealed before Jesus returns. So it must be under morals that his infallibility lies. I have for some time felt that this exercise occurs when he declares a man or woman to have lived a life of heroic virtue. It would, it seems to me, be scandalous to encourage people to imitate and pray to someone who did not fit that description. The further stages, I would say, are based on God’s verification that the person’s cult is influential. You do not mention in your piece whether your statements are official Church teaching or, like my explanation above, your understanding of the process, which is bound to be more knowledgeable than mine. Obviously, if the Pope uses the word ‘define,’ that suggests his exercise of this authority, but you did say it was an approximate translation.”

First, let me say that the word define (definimus) is used in the original Latin, and the Pope is thus exercising his authority.

Second, the object of canonization is that the person declared as a saint is now in heaven and can be invoked as an intercessor by all the faithful. The infallibility of this action is accepted by the majority of Catholic theologians but has not itself been the subject of a definition.

Thus, with the act of canonization the Pope, so to speak, imposes a precept upon the faithful by saying that the universal Church must henceforth keep the memory of the canonized with pious devotion.

The 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the theological foundation for the infallibility of canonization: “The dogma that saints are to be venerated and invoked as set forth in the profession of faith of Trent (cf. Denzinger. 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.”

At the same time, it is important to note that while the decree of heroic virtues and the miracle form a necessary part of the process of canonization, they are not the specific object of the declaration of infallibility.

Although the saint is proposed as a model of virtues and Christian living, it is not the specific object of canonization. For example, it is quite possible that a martyr show heroic virtue in the face of death without necessarily having lived all the virtues to an exemplary degree. Nor does canonization make the saints immune from the judgment of history insofar as hindsight might show that some of their external actions proved to be unwise or had negative consequences.

This argument therefore would place the infallibility of canonization within the area of faith insofar as the venerability of saints is a dogma grounded in Revelation, and the determination as to which persons can be thus venerated is a necessary exercise of infallible authority.



This is sometimes called the secondary object of infallibility. It is not revealed dogma per se but truths regarding faith and morals which are not formally revealed but are so bound up with divine Revelation that to deny them would lead us to many difficulties and even lead to a denial of some aspect of Revelation itself.

According to Ludwig Ott’s classical manual of dogmatic theology there are four kinds of teaching involved in this exercise of infallibility: Theological conclusions derived from formally revealed truths by aid of the natural truth of reason; historical facts on the determination of which the certainty of a truth of Revelation depends (so-called “dogmatic facts,” for example, “Is Pope N. truly the duly elected and rightful successor to the throne of Peter?”); natural truths of reason which are intimately connected with Revelation (e.g., the morality of certain medical procedures); the canonization of saints (see Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 299).

A further argument can be offered. With a canonization, the Pope mandates (rather than permits, as is the case of beatification) that a saint be venerated in the Church’s liturgy and especially with the Eucharistic celebration in his honor. Considering that the Mass is the highest and most perfect form of worship, it is logical that the Holy Spirit would guard the Pope and the Church from any error regarding a canonized person’s definitive state.

At the same time, it must be recognized that this is an argument based on congruence and is not apodictic. The institution of a liturgical celebration does not in itself imply an exercise of infallibility.


Are Canonizations infallible?

July 10, 2014

Mgr. Giuseppe Sciacca discusses canonizations and papal infallibility: “Papal supremacy gives the Pope the power to proclaim saints but has nothing to do with infallibility as defined in the First Vatican Council”

Is the Pope infallible when he proclaims a new saint, extending their liturgical cult to the universal Church? Many theologians – most in fact – believe he is and it is a commonly held and taught belief. Vatican Insider discusses this with Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, e distinguished canonist and Adjunct Secretary of the Apostolic Signatura.

Is the Pope infallible when he proclaims a new saint? 
“According to the prevailing doctrine of the Church, when the Pope canonizes a saint his judgment is infallible. As is known, canonization is the decree with which the Pope solemnly proclaims that the heavenly glory shines upon the Blessed and extends the cult of the new saint to the universal Church in a binding and definitive manner. There is no question then that canonization is an act carried out by the Petrine primate. At the same time, however, it should not be considered infallible according to the infallibility criteria set out in the First Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution ‘Pastor aeternus‘.”


So, according to you, this means the Pope can make a mistake when he proclaims someone a saint?
“That’s not what I said. I am not denying that the decree issued for a canonization cause is definitive, so it would be rash and indeed unholy to state that the Pope can make a mistake. What I am saying, is that the proclamation of a person’s sainthood is not a truth of faith because it is not a dogmatic definition and is not directly or explicitly linked to a truth of faith or a moral truth contained in the revelation, but is only indirectly linked to this. It is no coincidence that neither the Code of Canon Law of 1917 nor the one currently in force, nor the Catechism of the Catholic Church present the Church’s doctrine regarding canonizations.”

Monsignor, it has to be said though that the majority of those who support the infallibility idea have an important ally on their side: St. Thomas…
“Of course, I am well aware of that. Thomas Aquinas is the most prestigious author supporting this theory. But it should be said that the use of the concept of infallibility and of language relating to it, in a context that is so far from that of the 19th century when the First Vatican Council was held, risks being anachronistic. St. Thomas placed canonization half way between things that pertain to the faith and judgments on certain factors that can be contaminated by false testimonies, concluding that the Church could not make mistakes: in fact, he claimed that: “thinking that judgment is infallible, is holy.” As I said before and I repeat again, the “Pastor aeternus” rigorously defines and restricts the concept of papal infallibility which could previously also encompass and contain or be likened to the concepts of “inerrancy” and “indefectibility” in relation to the Church. Canonization is like a doctrine which cannot be contested but which cannot be defined as a doctrine of faith as all faithful must necessarily believe in it.”

And what about the words which Pope Benedict XIV, born Prospero Lambertini, used in the “De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizazione”, about the non-infallibility theory “smelling of heresy”?
“His theory is not binding as it forms part of the work he did as a great canonist, but as part of his private studies. It has nothing to do with his pontifical magisterium.

But there was a doctrinal text issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in May 1998 which also mentions infallibility in canonizations.
“It is patently clear that the purpose of the passage in question is purely illustrative and is not intended as a definition. The recurring argument according to which the Church cannot teach or accept mistakes is intrinsically weak in this case. But saying that an act is not infallible does not mean to say that the act is wrong or deceiving. Indeed, the mistake may have been made either rarely or never. Canonization, which everyone admits does not derive directly from faith, is never an actual definition relating to faith or tradition…”

Is there are any historical evidence to support your stance?
“The “protestatio” formula used until Leo X’s pontificate seems to me to be particularly revealing regarding the Pope’s awareness of infallibility which was problematic at the very least. Immediately prior to proceeding with the act of canonization, the Popes solemnly and publicly declared that they had no intention of acting against the faith, the Catholic Church or God’s honour. Then there are the brief prayers which Mgr. Antonio Bacci-turned-cardinal who cultivated the “stylus Curiae” pronounced on behalf of the Pope during the canonization rites in St. Peter’s after the peroration of the consistorial lawyer. These included expressions which don’t do much to bolster the infallibility theory, for example: “inerrans oraculum” (inerrant, non-infallible oracle), “immutabile sententiam” (unchangeable, non-infallible decree) and “expectatissimam sententiam” (long-awaited, non-infallible decree). Furthermore, a historian like Heinrich Hoffmann admitted that one objection towards infallibility could stem from the fact that the Popes expressed hesitation – “mentem vacillantem” – just before the solemn declaration, invoking “specialem Sancti Spiritus assistentiam”, the special assistance of the Holy Spirit. This was within the canonization rite celebrated up until the reform introduced by Paul VI.

Sorry, what exactly is canonization then? 
“It is the definitive and immutable conclusion of a process; it is the final decree issued at the end of a historical and canonic process which relates to a real historical question. To incorporate it in infallibility means extending the concept of infallibility itself way beyond the limits defined by the First Vatican Council.”

And yet today, at the moment of the proclamation, the Pope says “decernimus e definimus”, in other words “we decree and define”. It basically sounds like a “definition”…
“This is why I agree with some important canonists who suggest setting aside the formula currently used to define the truths of faith, proposing instead a more suitable formula: “declaramus”, “we declare”. As one “classical” theologian of last century’s Roman school of thought, Mgr. Antonio Piolanti, one of the conditions for infallibility requires the Pope through the style of the formula used, to demonstrate a clear intention of presenting as dogma some truth within the revelation to the entire Church. As was the case with the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the dogma of the Assumption in 1950. 


Papal infallibility and canonization

Is the pope infallible in issuing a decree of canonization? Most theologians answer in the affirmative. It is the opinion of St. Antoninus, Melchior Cano, Suarez, Bellarmine, Bañez, Vasquez, and, among the canonists, of Gonzales Tellez, Fagnanus, Schmalzgrüber,Barbosa, Reiffenstül, Covarruvias (Variar. resol., I, x, no 13), Albitius (De Inconstantiâ in fide, xi, no 205), Petra (Comm. in Const. Apost., I, in notes to Const. I, Alex., III, no 17 sqq.), Joannes a S. Thomâ (on II-II, Q. I, disp. 9, a. 2), Silvester (Summa, s.v. Canonizatio), Del Bene (De Officio Inquisit. II, dub. 253), and many others. In Quodlib. IX, a. 16, St. Thomas says: “Since the honour we pay the saints is in a certain sense a profession of faith, i.e., a belief in the glory of the Saints [quâ sanctorum gloriam credimus] we must piously believe that in this matter also the judgment of the Church is not liable to error.” These words of St. Thomas, as is evident from the authorities just cited, all favouring a positive infallibility, have been interpreted by his school in favour of papal infallibility in the matter of canonization, and this interpretation is supported by several other passages in the same Quodlibet. This infallibility, however according to the holy doctor, is only a point of pious belief. Theologians generally agree as to the fact of papal infallibility in this matter of canonization, but disagree as to the quality of certitude due to a papal decree in such matter. In the opinion of some it is of faith (Arriaga, De fide, disp. 9, p. 5, no 27); others hold that to refuse assent to such a judgment of the Holy See would be both impious and rash, as Francisco Suárez (De fide, disp. 5 p. 8, no 8); many more (and this is the general view) hold such a pronouncement to be theologically certain, not being of Divine Faith as its purport has not been immediately revealed, nor of ecclesiastical Faith as having thus far not been defined by the Church.

What is the object of this infallible judgment of the pope? Does he define that the person canonized is in heaven or only that he has practiced Christian virtues in an heroic degree? I have never seen this question discussed; my own opinion is that nothing else is defined than that the person canonized is in heaven. The formula used in the act of canonization has nothing more than this:

“In honour of . . . we decree and define that Blessed N. is a Saint, and we inscribe his name in the catalogue of saints, and order that his memory by devoutly and piously celebrated yearly on the . . . day of . . . his feast.”

(Ad honorem . . . beatum N. Sanctum esse decernimus et definimus ac sanctorum catalogo adscribimus statuentes ab ecclesiâ universali illius memoriam quolibet anno, die ejus natali . . . piâ devotione recoli debere.)




There is no question of heroic virtue in this formula; on the other hand, sanctity does not necessarily imply the exercise of heroic virtue, since one who had not hitherto practised heroic virtue would, by the one transient heroic act in which he yielded up his life for Christ, have justly deserved to be considered a saint. This view seems all the more certain if we reflect that all the arguments of theologians for papal infallibility in the canonization of saints are based on the fact that on such occasions the popes believe and assert that the decision which they publish is infallible (Pesch, Prael. Dogm., I, 552).

This general agreement of theologians as to papal infallibility in canonization must not be extended to beatification, notwithstanding the contrary teaching of the canonical commentary known as “Glossa” [in cap. un. de reliquiis et venerat. SS. (III, 22) in 6; Innocent, Comm. in quinque Decretalium libros, tit. de reliquiis, etc., no 4; Ostiensis in eumd. tit. no 10; Felini, cap. lii, De testibus, etc., X (II, 20); Caietani, tract. De indulgentiis adversus Lutherum ad Julium Mediceum; Augustini de Ancona, seu Triumphi, De potestate eccl., Q. xiv, a. 4). Canonists and theologians generally deny the infallible character of decrees of beatification, whether formal or equivalent, since it is always a permission, not a command; while it leads to canonization, it is not the last step. Moreover, in most cases, the cultus permitted by beatification, is restricted to a determined province, city, or religious body (Benedict XIV, op. cit., I, xlii). Some, however, have thought otherwise (Arriaga, Theol., V, disp. 7, p. 6; Amicus, Theol., IV, disp. 7, p. 4, no 98;Turrianus on II-II, V, disp. 17, no 6; Del Bene, De S. Inquisit. II, dub. 254).


Are Canonizations Infallible? Yes and No

By Pat Archbold, April 17, 2014

The discussion around the infallibility of canonizations comes up from time to time, and with the approaching canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII we see it naturally being revisited.

Particularly with the lives of Popes, there is always elements of the exercise of the Office or personality that people can reasonably critique. This is true of everyone, but more so with such prominent public figures.

I will not go into the details of any of these criticisms for the above mentioned as any such thing is debatable at best and tangential to my point.

The question is whether canonization is an infallible act and if so, how can it be that people who perhaps did questionable things and perhaps even have exercised demonstrably poor judgment be canonized? It is a good question. I think I have an answer.

Let me stipulate that this is my own personal interpretation of such decrees and in no way do I represent this as Church teaching, although I don’t think it contradicts Church teaching in any way. This is for discussion purposes.

I think that a canonization conveys two elements:
1) The person is in heaven.
2) The person lived a heroic life of virtue for their state in life and is to be emulated.

I think element 1 is an infallible statement. Via EWTN The 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the theological foundation for the infallibility of canonization: “The dogma that saints are to be venerated and invoked as set forth in the profession of faith of Trent (cf. Denzinger 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).

So yes, in this respect I think it is impossible for the Church to err with respect to the individual being in Heaven.


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. Denzinger 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)


Papal Infallibility and the Canonization of Saints

By Ronald L. Conte Jr., March 15, 2005/January 10, 2015

Currently, it is the opinion of a majority of Catholic theologians that the canonization of Saints by the Pope is an exercise of papal infallibility. The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (CCS) supports this opinion. And some Bishops also believe and teach this idea.
Now there is some difference of opinion among these theologians as to which assertions, related to canonization, would fall under papal infallibility. Is it merely the assertion that the Saint led a holy life, died in a state of grace, and now dwells in eternity with God? Or does it extend to the assertion that the Saint did not spend any time in Purgatory and so went directly to Heaven upon their death? Both claims raise the question as to what kinds of truth can be defined under papal infallibility.

First Vatican Council
The First Vatican Council exercised the infallibility of an Ecumenical Council to define papal infallibility:
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God our Saviour, the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in the discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable. But if anyone—which may God avert!—presume to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema. (First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4.)

Notice that when the Pope exercises this infallibility, “he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church.” Again, the Pope is endowed by God with this infallibility “in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals.” This infallible conciliar definition clearly teaches that the Pope cannot define any and all truths on any and all subjects. The scope of papal infallibility is limited to a certain range of truths. The truths that are defined under papal infallibility must be doctrines, and they must regard faith or morals. Any truths that are not doctrines of faith or morals cannot be taught under papal infallibility, no matter how certain those truths may be, because the infallible definition of the First Vatican Council taught that papal infallibility has such a limit.
Is the canonization of a Saint a doctrine of faith or morals? Is it a teaching of the Church “to be held by the universal Church” that each and every Saint who was canonized by a Pope: led a holy life, died in a state of grace, and now dwells in Heaven forever? Is it infallibly true that no Saint canonized by a Pope has ever passed through the sufferings of Purgatory, however briefly, on their way to Heaven?

Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed and clarified the infallible teaching of the First Vatican Council on the extent of papal infallibility. 
And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. (Lumen Gentium, n. 25)

The extent and limit of papal infallibility, and of any and all infallibility given to the Church by God, has the same extent and limit as the Deposit of Divine Revelation, that is, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Truly, then, no Pope or Ecumenical Council has the ability to add any truths to this infallible Deposit of Faith. It is therefore a matter of faith and the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the Magisterium can never, in any of its functions, whether infallible or not, teach any truths not found in some manner within that Deposit of Faith. For the purpose of the Magisterium, of which papal infallibility is one function, is to guard and to expound the truths Divinely revealed in Tradition and Scripture, not to attempt to add to such truths.
The term ‘faith and morals’ is often used to refer to the truths of Divine Revelation. However, no truths, even if they are related to faith or to the Church, can be taught by the Magisterium at all, neither non-infallibly nor infallibly, unless they are found within Tradition or Scripture. Now if one uses a narrower definition of the term ‘faith and morals,’ as is often the case in usage, then there are truths asserted by Divine Revelation which are beyond faith and morals. In this case, it must be understood that all truths asserted by Tradition or Scripture are part of Divine Revelation, are infallibly true, and can be taught by the Magisterium. But if one extends the definition of the term ‘faith’ to extend to all the truths of Divine Revelation (for whatever is revealed by God on any subject within that Revelation is certainly, in some sense, a matter of faith), then the extent and limit of the teachings of the Magisterium would be termed ‘faith’ or ‘faith and morals.’
The natural law, including the whole moral law, is certainly also found, at least implicitly in Tradition and Scripture. Truly, even the single act of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation contains the whole moral law implicitly. And the entire moral law is a part of the truths of faith. But, even though morals are included in the things of faith, it is usually and aptly expressed as ‘faith and morals,’ not because morals are separate from the faith, but in order to give that part of the faith a special emphasis. (Those truths said to have “a necessary connection” with the truths of Tradition or Scripture are what I term “implicit” in those sources.)
This teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the limits of infallibility is a definitive teaching of an Ecumenical Council. This teaching meets all five criteria for an infallible teaching by a Council. (These five criteria are nearly the same as the five criteria for papal infallibility, except that it is the Bishops with the Pope who exercise this charism, not the Pope alone, and they exercise it in a Council or other gathering.)
The criteria are as follows:
1. ‘the Body of Bishops together with him [the Pope]’
2. ‘when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church’
3. ‘defines a judgment’ or ‘definitions’
4. ‘they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself’
5. ‘which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with’ (Lumen Gentium, n. 25).
These five criteria tell us: 
1. who exercises infallibility (the bishops and the Pope)
2. when they exercise it (when acting as teachers of the Church, not as private persons)
3. how they exercise infallibility (by defining or pronouncing a teaching, i.e. by giving a definitive decision on doctrine)
4. what can be taught infallibly, its extent and limits (truths of the Deposit of Revelation: Tradition and Scripture)
5. who must adhere to these infallible teachings (the universal Church).
The teaching of Vatican II on the infallibility of the Magisterium meets all five criteria for an infallible teaching. Therefore, it is the infallible teaching of the Second Vatican Council that Magisterium, whether it is acting by means of papal infallibility, or by means of a gathering of the Body of Bishops with the Pope, or by means of the Body of Bishops dispersed through the world yet united with the Pope, can teach infallibly only to the extent and limit of the teachings found within the Deposit of Divine Revelation. No truths whatsoever can be taught by the Magisterium, if such truths are found outside of the Sacred Deposit of Faith, namely Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. This limit is the infallible teaching of the Second Vatican Council and whoever denies it denies a certain truth of the Faith.

The Canonization of Saints by the Pope
The cause for canonization of a Saint requires an examination of the facts of that person’s life. If witnesses are still alive who knew the Saint personally, they provide testimony. Copies of the Saint’s writings, sometimes in their own handwriting, are examined, along with records of that Saint’s life. Lastly, evidence of a miracle, received after praying for that Saint’s intercession, is presented. The evidence is frequently in the form of a miraculous healing, so that medical testimony or other evidence is examined. Without such evidence, the cause for canonization could not go forward, and no conclusion could be reached about that person’s sanctity.
The decision of the Church on the canonization of a Saint is necessarily and almost entirely dependent on the claims of fallible human persons and on a subjective evaluation of evidence that is not certain.



This evidence and testimony establishes their sanctity, and its degree, and its perseverance, and its manifestation in reported miracles due to their intercession. But none of this evidence is infallible. None of this evidence is found in the Sacred Deposit of Faith (Tradition and Scripture). But the Magisterium is absolutely limited to teaching the truths found, explicitly or implicitly, in Tradition and Scripture. Therefore, the Magisterium is completely unable to teach that any person is a Saint (except for those persons mentioned in Tradition or Scripture). Neither the Pope himself, nor the entire Body of Bishops united with him, can teach that such a person is a Saint. The Pope cannot teach this infallibly, under papal infallibility, nor can he teach it even non-infallibly, under the Ordinary Magisterium. Likewise, the Bishops united with the Pope, even in an Ecumenical Council, cannot teach that such a person is a Saint. For the Magisterium is unable to teach truths found entirely outside of the Deposit of Faith.
Now the Saints who are mentioned in Tradition and Scripture, such as Saint Peter the Apostle, are a separate case. Since their lives and holiness is attested to in infallible Divine Revelation, the Church can infallibly teach their holiness and can infallibly declare them to be Saints. But most Saints have lived long after the canon of Scripture was closed. For unless the life of a Saint is a part of Sacred Tradition (e.g. the mother of the Virgin Mary), or unless a Saint is mentioned in Sacred Scripture (e.g. the father of the Virgin Mary, called Heli), such a Saint’s canonization cannot be considered a part of the teachings of the Church, nor of the Magisterium, neither infallibly nor non-infallibly.

A Judgment of the Temporal Authority
Instead, such canonizations fall under the Temporal Authority of the Church (not under the authority of the Magisterium itself, which applies only to teachings from the Deposit of Faith). The Temporal Authority of the Church is never infallible and it does not teach, but it can make practical rules and judgments. In the case of Saints, it judges that a person lived a holy life, most probably died in a state of grace, and therefore most probably dwells in Heaven. As to whether or not any of the Saints ever had to pass through Purgatory, however briefly, the canonization of a Saint does not determine the answer to that question.
A true Saint may well have to pass through Purgatory, briefly, because the will of God sometimes prefers a man to enter a situation where he might perhaps sin more (but only venially), and also do more good, rather than to avoid all possible situations where any sin might be found, and so be prevented from doing significant good. (If you hide under your bed all day, you might sin less, but you will not do much good.) A baptized infant who dies in infancy has no sins. A Saint who dies in old age has personal sins, perhaps more than a few, yet he has done very much more good than the infant, and so, despite his greater sins, he has a higher place in Heaven. Therefore, some Saints may pass through Purgatory and still be true Saints.
A Saint’s sanctity might not be at its height at the hour, or even in the year, of his death. The holiest portion of some Saints’ lives was not their youth. Saint Augustine misspent his youth and his early adult years. Similarly, some Saints might decline in holiness in the latter years of their life (as wise king Solomon did). A missionary who suffers much in his work may reach a degree of holiness which he cannot maintain to the same degree later in life, due to changes in his circumstances and his retirement from active life. Some Saints find it easier to be holier in active service to those in need, and others in contemplative service before God. A Saint who was holy during one part of his life, might be less holy in his last days, if he is forced to change from an active life to an inactive one, or vice versa. Therefore, some Saints may spend some brief time in Purgatory, in order to reacquire, as it were, their past holiness.

Answers to Questions
Is the canonization of a Saint a doctrine of faith or morals?

No, it is a judgment and decision, make by proper authority in the Church, that a person lived an exemplary holy life and was faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church. Canonization is not a teaching, so it cannot fall under the teaching authority of the Church.

Is it a teaching of the Church “to be held by the universal Church” that each and every Saint who was canonized by a Pope: led a holy life, died in a state of grace, and now dwells in Heaven forever?

No, no one is obligated to believe, as an article of faith, that a particular person (someone not referred to in Tradition or Scripture) is a Saint. There is no obligation under the sacred assent due to infallible teachings of the Magisterium, nor under the ordinary assent due to the non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium. Judgments of the Temporal Authority of the Church are, in some sense, binding on the faithful, but they are not in the realm of belief and faith, because the Temporal Authority issues rulings, not teachings.

Is it infallibly true that no Saint canonized by a Pope has ever passed through the sufferings of Purgatory on their way to Heaven?

No, a person can be a holy Saint and still have passed, however briefly, through the holy and purifying sufferings of Purgatory.

Reply to Objections
1. The wording in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Church’s Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes in a definitive way truths having a necessary connection with them. (CCC, n. 88).


This passage from the Catechism does not conflict with the above article, if the passage is properly understood. It first refers to ‘truths contained in divine Revelation,’ in other words, to truths explicitly taught by Tradition or Scripture. It then refers to ‘truths having a necessary connection’ with the first, in other words, to the truths implicit in Divine Revelation. All these truths are found within Divine Revelation, that is, Tradition and Scripture. So, one way of explaining these truths is to say that there are truths contained in Divine Revelation, and these other truths are necessarily connected to them. But a simpler and clearer way of explaining this is to say that some truths are explicit, and others implicit, in Divine Revelation. Therefore, this passage from the Catechism should not be understood as referring to truths which are outside of the Deposit of Faith, but rather to truths which are implicit in the Deposit of Faith.
Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium all teach from one and the same Deposit of Divine Revelation. The explicit teachings in each differ, for each has a different way of presenting these truths. However, each and every teaching of one and the same Deposit of Truth is at least implicit within each and all of these: Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. It is not possible for there to be any truth taught by Tradition, which is not also at least implicit in the teachings of Scripture and Magisterium. It is not possible for there to be any truth taught by Scripture, which is not also at least implicit in the teachings of Tradition and Magisterium. It is not possible for there to be any truth taught by the Sacred Magisterium, which is not also at least implicit in the teachings of Tradition and Scripture. For Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium are a reflection of the Most Holy Trinity, which has only one Divine Nature.

2. The secondary object of infallibility
Many theologians claim that the infallible teaching authority of the Church has two objects: First, the truths of Tradition and Scripture, that is, Divine Revelation, and second, those truths necessarily connected with the first, which are termed the secondary objects of infallibility. An example of this point of view is as follows:
The object of the Church’s infallibility is two-fold: a) The primary object of the Church’s infallibility is the formally revealed truths of Christian Doctrine concerning faith and morals. b) The secondary object of the Church’s infallibility is truths of the Christian teaching on faith and morals, which are not formally revealed, but which are closely connected with the teaching of Revelation. Included in the secondary object of infallibility are the following: 1) theological conclusions; 2) dogmatic facts 3) general discipline of the Church; 4) approval of religious orders; 5) canonization of saints. 
(Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI, Omaha, NE, Pastoral Letter, Pentecost, 1996,

There are a number of problems with this view. First, the general discipline of the Church, as well as the approval of religious orders and their rules, are not teachings at all, but decisions and judgments on temporal matters. Such things fall under the Temporal Authority of the Church, not under its Spiritual Authority (the Magisterium). Likewise, the canonization of Saint is not a teaching, but a judgment that a particular person lived a holy life according to the teachings of the Church. And theological conclusions must be based on Tradition and Scripture, in order to be taught by the Magisterium; only then can they be taught infallibly or non-infallibly.
If the term ‘secondary object of infallibility’ is to be used, it must be understood as referring to truths implicit in Tradition and Scripture. Otherwise, the claim that the Magisterium can teach what is beyond Divine Revelation contradicts the infallible teaching of the First and Second Vatican Councils and exalts the Magisterium above and beyond Divine Revelation. This over-emphasis on the ability and authority of the Magisterium, which seeks to devise theological explanations that can extend the Magisterium ever further, tends toward arrogance, and even idolatry, rather than humility. The Magisterium exists to serve God, the faithful, and the Deposit of Faith. The Magisterium cannot teach infallibly, except from the infallible Deposit of Faith given to the Church by God. 


Are Canonizations Based on Papal Infallibility?

By Donald S. Prudlo, April 25, 2014

A few days previously Catholic Family News published an interview with Italian professor Roberto de Mattei.  The subject of the interview, which one should certainly read before perusing my own thoughts, is on the subject of the upcoming canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.  In particular, de Mattei discusses his concerns regarding recent canonizations, and challenges the accepted theological consensus on the infallibility of the pope in the proclamation of saints.  Professor de Mattei is an expert on the Christian foundations of Europe, and I myself am grateful for his scholarship defending the Christian roots of Western society. As regards this piece, though, I wanted to offer an alternative perspective.

There is much I agree with in the short interview, which give a summary of the positions held by some thinkers on the traditionalist side of the Church.  As an historian of saints and sainthood, I agree with many of his assessments about the current state of the canonization process.  In particular I too would very much like to slow the process down, and provide greater scope for careful meditation and scholarly analysis.  While I approve of the shift from a simply juridical mechanism to an historical and contextual analysis in the reforms of 1983, I too fear that the transition away from an adversarial process has reduced its thoroughness somewhat.  The professor also raises a concern about the constant impetus to recognize the holiness of recent occupants of the papal office, while so few in the past 700 years have been raised to the honors of the altar.  Such recent pressure raises questions about the motivations of those pursuing the causes.  All of these are valid questions raised by Professor de Mattei.

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.  It is a similar case with doctrines of faith and morals.  For example, Bl. Pius IX didn’t pull the Immaculate Conception out of the air.  His definition of 1854 was a recognition of the immemorial faith of the Christian people, slowly developed and unfolded by theologians over centuries.

These things said, it is perhaps understandable where Prof. de Mattei’s criticisms flow from.  The problem is that his critiques draw him away from the very theological tradition that he is attempting to defend.  In the first place he contends that a canonization is a certification of personal holiness, presented by the Church to the faithful.  He disregards out of hand the traditional position that what the Church actually declares is that a person so proclaimed currently enjoys the Beatific Vision.  Personal holiness and valid miracles are merely the preconditions of such a definition.  As St. Thomas says in Quodlibet 9, q. 16 “the honor we pay the saints is in a certain way a profession of faith, i.e., a belief in the glory of the Saints.”  When the Pope solemnly canonizes a saint he certifies that a man or woman is in heaven.  While this definition is certainly rooted in holiness and miracles, such are not the object of the definition.

As a result of his position, de Mattei proposes that when the Church so honors a bishop or pope, they are proclaiming that such an individual was a “perfect pastor” or that their period of ministry was one of unqualified prosperity for the Church.  This is not the case at all.  It is not required for sanctity that one find worldly success, or produce unlimited good spiritual fruit in others.  Holiness in not predicated on such success.  Any number of saints were failures in their tasks, sometimes miserably, and yet they persevered in heroic virtue until the end, which is what makes a saint.  Further there are any number of saintly bishops and popes whose tenure damaged sections of the Church.  St. Peter Celestine was a horrible pope, but he was an exceptionally saintly man.  His papacy was a disaster (he is the Pope of Dante’s “Great Refusal”), yet he was canonized for his sanctity mere decades after his death.  Likewise there were many popes whose papacies were unqualified successes in strengthening the Church of God, who have not received the recognition of canonization, men like Alexander III, Innocent III, and Leo XIII.

Having done this, De Mattei then proceeds to undermine the theological consensus for the infallibility of the Pope in canonization, an opinion so common since Thomas and Bonaventure as to constitute unanimity.  In his classic study, Die Unfehlbarkeit des Papstes in der Heiligsprechung, Max Schenk traces this unanimity through 1965, a period it would seem that de Mattei would respect.  Between the late 1300s and the 1600s, there are only four thinkers who dissented from the teaching.  After Pope Benedict XIV’s (r. 1740-1758) definitive 7-volume work on canonization, there was total unanimity.  While de Mattei is correct that Benedict XIV taught as a private theologian on the matter, nonetheless he is the greatest authority in history on the subject (indeed one could even call him the “Thomas Aquinas” of canonization).  His opinion obtained universally.

Further the careful investigation of candidates and the assertion of infallibility prevailed for nearly a half-a-millennium before Benedict XIV, having its origins in the early 1200s.  The principles laid down in the medieval practice of canonization laid the foundation for the doctrine of personal infallibility of the Pope (as I argue in an upcoming book from Cornell University Press).  The language used, for example, in the dogmatic decree Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII (1302), in Benedictus Deus of Benedict XII (1336), or Ineffabilis Deus of Pius IX (1854) are drawn from the canonization bulls of the late 12th and early 13th centuries.  Canonizations, one could say, are the places where theologians first discerned the personal infallibility of the Roman pontiff.

It is the act of canonization that is the infallible act of the pope since, as Thomas argues, it is no mere disciplinary decision, but the quasi-profession of faith in the glory of a saint.  It is not the investigation, but the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that certifies this reality for us (Quod. 9, q. 16, ad 1).  Popes are not infallible because of the quality of investigations that precede the definition, they are infallible precisely because of the act they perform in the liturgical setting of canonization. De Mattei is misinterpreting Thomas here (as the liberal historian Brian Tierney tried to do in the 1970s), first by attributing infallibility to the Church alone and also not to the Pope himself, but also by admitting the possibility of exceptions.

If infallible acts admitted of exceptions, then how would the Christian faithful know if any dogmatic declaration were true?  We know that Francis and Dominic are in heaven, because this fact is dogmatically asserted by the Church in the infallible act of canonization. Thomas again provides the reasoning: (Quod 9, q. 16, contra 1) “In the church there is not able to be a damnable error.  But it would be a damnable error if she would venerate a saint who was a sinner, because anyone knowing their sin, might believe the church to be false; and if this were to happen, they might be led into error.  Therefore the church is not able to err in such things.”  By the year 1300 it was clear to everyone that to deny the sanctity of a canonized saint in the Church was a heresy.  While it is true that opposition to this or that saint is possible and open to debate before a formal canonization, after such an act, doubt is precluded and must be received with religious submission of intellect and will.

Since the early 1300s the Popes themselves have understood their act of canonization as infallible.  Some, such as Sixtus IV, Sixtus V, and Clement VIII have explicitly cited this infallibility in the contexts of their own acts of canonization.  One cannot dismiss this theological consensus simply because procedures develop and emphases shift.  On April 27, in a liturgical formula fixed since the canonizations of John XXII in the early 1300s (and very probably before, those are our first records) three petitions will be made.  The first will beseech the aid of Mary and the saints in the “solemn act we undertake.”  The second will invoke the Holy Spirit “that he might not permit the Church to err in a matter of such importance.  Then the Veni Creator will be sung (as before any solemn definition, papal or conciliar). 





The third will beg the Pope to enroll the saints, in the name of the Spirit “who in every age preserves the supreme magisterium from every error.”  The pope will then utter the ancient words of canonization, the prototype for all dogmatic definitions:

To the honor of the Holy Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith, and for the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and Our own, after due deliberation and having implored the Divine Assistance by prayer, and by the counsel of many of our brothers, we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints, and we enroll them in the catalog of the saints, commanding that they be held among the saints by the universal Church, and to be invoked as such by pious devotion. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This is not unclear language; in act and in intention the Popes define these things to be held by all the faithful.  We cannot simply discount nearly a 1000 years of theological development in this case, particularly to suit one’s own discomfiture with certain recent happenings.  For to be Catholic is to stubbornly maintain, as St. Thomas did, that in the Church there can never be a “damnable error.”

Donald S. Prudlo is Associate Professor of Ancient and Medieval History at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He is also Assistant Professor of Theology and Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. His specialty is saints and sainthood in the Christian tradition, and he is the author of The Martyred Inquisitor: The Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (Ashgate, 2008) and has recently edited The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies (Brill, 2011).


Bellarmine’s Defence of Canonized Saints

By Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. 118, April 1948, pp. 265-273

With two of his religious brethren being raised to the honors of the altar recently, if Robert Bellarmine were alive today he would very likely have re-edited his classic treatise on the canonization of the saints. [1] The errors against which it was originally directed are just as alive today as they were in the sixteenth century—only now our separated brethren ignore the saints instead of attacking them. In any case, Bellarmine’s apologia of sanctity deserves to be better known. It forms a substantial part of his two-million-word “Controversies against the Reformers” which Pius XI declared to be the main reason, after his personal holiness, why Bellarmine was made a Doctor of the Universal Church.

St. Robert was not a polemicist by nature, but by force of circumstances. How could any red-blooded Tuscan remain silent when apostates like Martin Luther were openly charging that “The only persons beings canonized are Popish saints, not Christian ones. The foundations made in their honor serve only to fatten lazy gluttons”? The story is told how on May 31, 1523, the Venerable Bishop Benno of Meissen was canonized by his fellow-countryman, the German Adrian VI. Luther was incensed in the extreme at the thought of the special celebration to be held the following year in honor of the new saint. He accordingly published his diatribe, “Against the new idol and olden devil about to be set up at Meissen.” He vindicates his use of the term “devil” in the title on the very first page: “Now that by the grace of God, the Gospel has again arisen and shines brightly, Satan incarnate is avenging himself by means of such foolery and is causing himself to be worshipped with great pomp under the name of Benno.” [2]

Bellarmine went to the heart of the Protestant opposition to canonized saints. It would be no use defending the Church’s right to say that certain persons were in heaven if there was no heaven for them to enter. He quotes Calvin as saying that, “It is stupid to inquire where the souls of the just now live and whether they are in glory or not. Sacred Scripture explicitly teaches us that they must all wait until the second coming of Christ before entering into their glory. [3] Bellarmine counters with a score of arguments, like the following excerpt from the Collect for the Mass of Gregory the Great: “O God, Who hast given to the soul of Thy servant Gregory the rewards of eternal beatitude”; and the prayer of St. Paul when he exclaimed, “I wish to be dissolved and be with Christ.” To which Bellarmine adds that if the souls of the saved are detained in some other place than heaven, Paul’s desire would have been a Utopian dream since Christ is assuredly in heaven.

Having disposed of the heretical denial that the souls of the blessed are even now in heaven, St. Robert proceeds to defend the Church’s custom of canonizing her heroic dead. “There is more than one problem we have to deal with here. Is there any reason why the saints should be canonized at all? If so, who has the power and the right to canonize them? And is his judgment infallible when he pronounces on their sanctity? [4]

Before answering these questions, Bellarmine first explains what is meant by the process of canonization.

Canonization is nothing else than the public testimony of the Church witnessing to the genuine sanctity and certain possession of heavenly glory of some person who has died. Consequently it is at once both a judgment pronounced on the saint himself and a statement issued on the honors which he should now receive as one of the elect who happily reigns with God. [5]

There are seven special and distinctive honors which the Church decrees in favor of those whom she raises to the dignity of sainthood:

Persons who are canonized are thereby inscribed in the catalog of the saints, which means that the faithful are obliged to call them and to publicly worship them as saints. They are henceforth to be invoked in the public worship as saints. They are henceforth to be invoked in the public prayers of the Church. Churches and altars may be erected in their memory. The Sacrifice of the Eucharist and the Divine Office may be publicly offered to God in their honor.




They are assigned a special feast day in the ecclesiastical calendar. Pictures and statues can be made of them, including a distinctive nimbus or halo to signify the glory which they now enjoy in heaven. And finally, their relics may be preserved in precious reliquaries and publicly honored. [6]

According to John Calvin, “It is idolatrous to worship in any degree any of the angels or so-called saints who have died.” [7] That the worship of the saints is not idolatry is amply proved from the most ancient tradition of the Church. What Bellarmine is especially concerned with at this point is to show that the Church’s apparently arbitrary procedure in canonizing certain people is not only not capricious but perfectly consistent with God’s manifest will in dealing with mankind.

Take the Scriptures, for example. Just about every chapter of the historical books of the Old Testament describes the glorious exploits and heroic death of some great man—minutely detailed under the inspiring hand of God. In one small section of Ecclesiasticus, the author canonizes upwards of twenty holy men who had lived before his time: Henoch, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Phineas, Josue, Caleb, Samuel, David, Elias, Eliseus and others. In the New Testament we have the same things. St. Luke in his Acts canonizes St. Stephen, the elder James, besides Peter, Paul, Silas and Barnabas. The least we can argue from Scriptural tradition, therefore, is that most probably God has not discontinued a practice which He had sanctioned and encouraged for thousands of years, up to and including Apostolic times. [8]

Moreover, on the direct authority of Holy Write, we are bidden to honor saints, “Let the people show forth their wisdom and the Church declare their praise” (Ecclus., 45:15). Apart from revelation, however, reason itself testifies that just as wickedness and sin deserve to be hated and blamed, so virtue and holiness should be rewarded with due recognition and praise:

Besides, the honor which we pay to the saints eventually redounds to our own advantage because they will repay our attentions by obtaining many graces for us through their powerful intercession with God. But how can we venerate the saints as we should, unless we first know who they are and can distinguish the true saints from those who are not saints at all? [9]

A third element that enters into the picture is the duty of imitation:

The saints are so many models of virtue and norms of right conduct which God has given us to guide us in our course through life. But again, it is quite impossible to follow another person’s example if we do not know who he is or what virtues he practiced and trials he underwent. We cannot imitate an abstract generality. To paraphrase a statement of Christ, the sanctity of the saints is the candle that must not be put under a bushel but upon a candlestick—which the Church literally fulfills every time she canonizes one of the elect of God. [10]

For all their sanctity, however, the saints are not so far removed from us as to cease to be our brethren in Christ.

We are all members of one Body, and consequently are expected to share each other’s joys and sorrows. So that in God’s plan the saints are destined to show us their sympathy and do what they can to relieve our needs. No doubt they fulfill their obligations in this regard most faithfully; and not only in general sort of way but even to the extent of an individual saint caring for the needs of an individual person on earth. We on our part are supposed to join in their happiness and thank Almighty God for the glory which He has bestowed upon them; which is clearly difficult—not to say impossible—unless we know who the saints are, what heroic deeds they accomplished and wherein their dignity specifically consists. [11]

So much for the positive advantages of knowing definitely who is in heaven and why. By the same token a great many embarrassments—to put it mildly—are also avoided. Bellarmine writes:

Suppose for a moment that the Church did not explicitly identify definite people among the blessed as worthy of our veneration. The result would be confusion twice confounded. Real saints might possibly be recognized, but at the same time not a few of the damned would also be honored as saints. A case in point is what happened in the time of St. Martin, as related by the chronicler Sulpicius. For some inexplicable reason, the local townsfolk began to venerate a certain recently deceased individual as a martyr. The man was killed it was true, but why? Martin suspected the whole business, made extensive investigations but could reach no definite conclusions until in answer to his prayers the “martyr” appeared to him in a dream and identified himself. He was not a martyr but a thief who had fallen victim to his own misdeeds and was now condemned to suffer the pains of hell for all eternity. [12]

The heresiarch Luther, whom St. Robert was answering, had brazenly proclaimed that “Every man is free to canonize as much as he pleases.” [13] The practical question suggests itself, therefore: is Luther correct or not? And if not, who does have the power to canonize the saints? Bellarmine distinguishes two kinds of canonization, depending on whether a person is to be considered a saint only in his own province and locality, or whether his sanctity is to be proclaimed to the whole Christian world. In the latter case, not only is the person’s holiness officially testified to all the faithful but they are also forbidden under censure to call his sanctity into question—which would not be true, absolutely speaking, where a saint is honored only locally.

Bellarmine is also careful to point out the difference between historical practice and objective privilege in “canonizing” territorial saints. According to ancient authorities, an ordinary bishop was permitted to canonize a saint for veneration in his own Episcopal territory.

We read in one of St. Cyprian’s letters, for example, where he orders his priests to inform him when someone is martyred for the Faith that he may immediately celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in his honor and assign the date of his death as a special feast in the calendar of the diocese. We also know that in olden days there were hundreds of saintly person whose memory was honored in one or another province but who were quite unknown outside the immediate locality where they lived and died. To take only a single instance of this, we are told in the Acts of the Council of Florence that the Greeks honored Simeon Metaphrastes as a saint, whereas the Latin’s were surprise to learn that the worthy man had ever existed! However, this was the custom, which has since been prohibited because of the many abuses to which it gave rise.



Since the time of Alexander III and Innocent III no one may be even locally venerated as a saint unless and until his cult has been formally approved by the Roman Pontiff. [14]

But when it comes to canonizing a person for the Universal Church, all the authorities agree that this power belongs to no one under the Sovereign Pontiff. Quite reasonably, because it finally rests in his hands as the head of the Church to propose to the whole Church what her members are to believe and what they are to do in the practice of their religion. We make no scruple about saying that the Pope has the power of declaring what person are excommunicated and ordering the faithful to treat them as such; why then should we derogate from him the corresponding power of declaring what people are saints and commanding all the faithful to honor them accordingly? [15]

The Reformers of Bellarmine’s day denied the power of the Pope to canonize the saints because, so they said, there are so many saints in the Roman Liturgy who have never been canonized by the Popes. If, therefore, the Church honors as saints those whom she has never canonized, what need is there of Popish canonizations at all? Bellarmine is willing to concede the historical fact but violently rejects the specious conclusions that the Protestants draw from it. According to his calculation, the first papal canonization on record took place under Pope Leo III, about the year 816, when he inscribed St. Suibert in the canon of the saints and assigned September 4 as his feast day. He quotes a manuscript of the historian Surius in support of his claim. Now the problem:

Thomas of Canterbury, Dominic and Francis of Assisi have been duly canonized by the Popes. But what about the objection of the Reformers on all the saints before this time? Is there anything to it? Not much. These ancient saints began to be venerated by the Universal Church not in virtue of any single positive legislation but through immemorial custom. And legitimate custom, as we know from St. Thomas, has the moral force of law when the ruler of a given society gives at least his tacit consent to the custom in question. Consequently the worship of any saint which may have begun as a local custom, once it becomes accepted by the Church as a whole and the Sovereign Pontiff either tacitly or explicitly approves the practice, becomes ipso facto an ecclesiastical law binding in conscience on all believing Christians. [16]

Here again the heretical camp is divided against the Catholic position. It was John Wyclif’s conviction, quoted by Bellarmine, that, “The Pope is no more infallible when he pretends to canonize a saint than the King of Ethiopia or the Sultan of Turkey would be if they made the same pretense.” [17] Luther’s main difficulty against canonizing people was that it went counter to Sacred Scripture: “Before Judgment Day we are told, ‘to pronounce no man holy.” And although Luther had to back down somewhat to recognize the undoubted sanctity of men like Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, Bernard and Francis, still he would not, he said, stake his life on it, seeing there was nothing about them in Holy Scripture. “The Pope, nay all the angels of heaven, have not the power of setting up a new article of faith which is not contained in Scripture.” [18]

Needless to say, the Catholic doctrine is just the opposite. It is thus expressed by Bellarmine:

We hold that the Church does not err in the canonization of her saints. Proofs for this are not difficult to find. If we were ever granted the privilege of doubting whether a canonized saint is really a saint or not; we should also have the liberty of doubting whether he has to be worshipped or not. But this, to borrow a phrase from Augustine, would be dogmatic suicide because then we should be allowed to call into question whether we have to do anything that the whole Church of Christ is doing.

Furthermore, if the Church could make a mistake in her canonizations, at least two serious evils would result.

On the one hand, those among the canonized who were not in heaven would be deprived of all the suffrages of the living since we are forbidden to pray for the repose of the souls of canonized saints. “We do the martyrs an injustice when we pray for them,” says St. Augustine. The same holds for all the canonized, according to the teaching of Innocent III. On the other hand, people on earth would be deprived of the intercession of many of the saints because as often as not they would be paying their respects to the souls in hell instead of those in heaven. What is worse, the Church would be calling down on herself the most dreadful maledictions every time she prayed that God might grant us His graces according to the glory He has bestowed on those whom we honor as saints. [19]

The whole supposition of the enemies of the Church is that she raises men and women to the honors of the altar without warrant and independently of any investigation. If anything, the Church could be accused of over-severity in this respect. She demands a specified number of well-authenticated and outstanding miracles as the ordinary indispensable condition for canonization.

No intelligent person would, for example, question the historical existence of Julius Caesar or Pompey simply because historians commonly agree that Caesar and Pompey actually lived. Historians are human and therefore liable to error and deception, and yet we believe them. Are we to give less credence to Almighty God who is Infinite Wisdom and Truth Itself, when He testifies to the sanctity of one of His elect and confirms His testimony with incontestable miracles—especially when there is no reason why the person’s sanctity should even be suspected in the first place? [20]

It is interesting to note, by way of contrast, what an abysmal difference there was between Bellarmine’s attitude towards the saints and the attitude of Luther and his followers whom Bellarmine was opposing. Hartman Grisar writes of Luther:

His opposition to the canonization of the saints was dictated by his hatred of all veneration of the saints and by his aversion to the ideal of Christian self-denial, submissive obedience to the Church and Catholic activity of which the canonized saints are models. Nowhere else is his attempt to destroy the sublime ideal of Christian life which he failed to understand and to drag down to the gutter all that was highest, so clearly apparent as here. Striving after great holiness on the part of the individual merely tended to derogate from Christ’s work; the Evangelical Counsels fostered only a mistaken desertion of the world. Real saints must be “good lusty sinners who do not blush to insert in the Our Father, the “Forgive us our trespasses.” [21]




Bellarmine thought otherwise. His devotion to the saints was proverbial. Typical is the following from one of his annual panegyrics for the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, preached on the text from the Psalms: “The just man will continue in everlasting remembrance.”

Although everyone naturally desires to be remembered after his death, and not a few try to achieve this sort of immortality in the buildings, monuments, paintings and books which they produce—in God’s providence only the saints will ever attain to an honorable remembrance in the hearts of those who follow them. And apart from the glory which the hallowed memory of the saints brings to God whose beauty they reflect, it is also very beneficial to ourselves. The saints, more than anyone else, teach us that a life of perfect virtue is not so impossible after all. They are a living witness to the truth of Christ’s own words that for those who are seriously willing to cooperate with His grace, His yoke is not only not bitter or harsh but pleasant and sweet and easy to bear.” [22]



[1] Bl. John de Britto, S.J., missionary to India and martyr, and Bl. Bernardine Realino, S.J., famous Italian missionary and preacher, were canonized by the Holy Father on June 22, 1947.

[2] Grisar, Martin Luther, V, 123.

[3] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 4, chap. 25, no. 6.

[4] Bellarmine, De beatitudine el canonizatione sanctorum, lib. I, cap. 7.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Calvin, op. Cit. Bk. 1, chap. 11, no. 11.

[8] Bellarmine, loc. cit.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Grisar, loc. cit.

[14] Bellarmine, op. cit., cap. 8.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Bellarmine, op. cit., cap. 9.

[18] Grisar, loc. cit.

[19] Bellarmine, op. cit., cap. 9.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Grisar, op. cit., V, 124.

[22] Bellarmine, Exhortationes domesticae (Rome 31, 1605).


Traditionalist perspective

Are canonizations infallible?

Are canonizations of saints an exercise of infallibility? That is to say, when the Church solemnly proclaims that a man or woman is among the blessed and is worthy of veneration, does this statement command the obedience and certitude of faith, or is there room for doubt? Could the Church be in error regarding some of her saints? Is it possible that those we venerate and invoke at our Masses could in fact still be in Purgatory or even be damned?  This concept must cause revulsion in the heart of any loyal Catholic; for those of us raised on the stories of the great deeds of the saints, the very notion that St. Francis, St. Thérèse or St. Augustine could be anywhere but heaven is blasphemous and offensive to pious ears. But even if our heart revolts against the idea, what can we say theologically about this question? In this article I will attempt to show that canonizations are infallible pronouncements of the Church (in fact, the most common kind of infallible teachings). This infallibility is related to two distinct elements: the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff and the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass as a worthy and acceptable offering to God.
In the first place we must remember that there are two objects of the infallibility guaranteed to the Church by the Holy Spirit. The primary purpose or object of infallibility is the formally revealed truths of the Faith concerning faith and morals. This infallibility is necessary for the Church to fulfill its mission as guardian of the depositum fidei, as Vatican I taught in the “Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith” (Dei Filius), Chapter 3:

[I]n order that we may satisfactorily perform the duty of embracing the true faith and of continuously persevering in it, God, through His only-begotten Son, has instituted the Church, and provided it with clear signs of His institution, so that it can be recognized by all as the guardian and teacher of the revealed word (Denzinger 1793).

However, there is a secondary object of infallibility outside of formally revealed dogma. The secondary object of infallibility are those truths of Christianity that are not formally revealed but are so intricately bound up with divine revelation that to deny them would mire us in innumerable difficulties and lead to a denial of some aspect of divine revelation itself. It is under this second object of infallibility that the canonization of saints belongs. Dr. Ludwig Ott, in his great work Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, lists four types of teachings to which the second object of infallibility can be applied:


—Theological conclusions derived from formally revealed truths by aid of the natural truth of reason

—Historical facts on the determination of which the certainty of a truth of Revelation depends (so-called “dogmatic facts”, for example, “Is Pope Benedict XVI truly the duly elected and rightful successor to the throne of Peter?)

—Natural truths of reason which are intimately connected with revelation (e.g., that in vitro fertilization is immoral).

—The canonization of saints (see Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, TAN Books, 1974, p. 299)

St. Thomas says that in some degree, when we confess a certain member of the Church to be among the blessed, this belief is an extension of the confession of faith (Quodl. 9, 16). If we can say in the Creed that we believe in the “communion of saints”, it necessarily follows that the Church must maintain some means for distinguishing who is among the saints that we believe in and confess. This is why the canonization of saints is bound up with the Church’s infallibility; or, as Dr. Ott says, “If the Church could err in her opinion [of canonized saints], consequences would arise which would be incompatible with the sanctity of the Church” (ibid).
Remember, the canonization of a saint means two things: that the person is among the blessed in heaven and that they possess virtues that are worthy of imitation; i.e., they are a role model. Can you imagine the mess that would arise if, through errant canonizations, Catholics were led to admire and imitate persons who were among the damned? It is because of the confusion that would arise in the public worship of the Church, as well as the devotional lives of private Catholics, that canonizations of saints are considered a particular subset of the general infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. This comes to bear especially as we move to the second part of the argument: that canonizations must be infallible because of the sacrifice of the Mass as an intrinsically acceptable offering to God.
The Mass is the most perfect form of worship, and by virtue of the fact that it is Christ Himself who is offered, we can say that the Mass is always intrinsically pleasing to God in the highest degree. Some of the extrinsic elements about the Mass may be displeasing to God (choice of music, decorum, etc.), but the sacrifice of the Mass considered instrinsically will always be pleasing to God insofar as it is Christ Himself who acts as both Priest and Victim. This truth is bound up with the Church’s eminent holiness.
The canonization of saints is primarily a liturgical matter. To be canonized means to be quite literally inserted in “the canon”, that is, the canon of those invoked and commemorated liturgically. In the decree of canonization of any saint, the following formula is read:
“In honor of . . . we decree and define that Blessed N. is a Saint, and we inscribe his name in the catalogue of saints, and order that his memory by devoutly and piously celebrated yearly on the . . . day of . . . his feast.”
Notice the liturgical import of the canonization; it is not merely stating that so-and-so is worthy to be venerated, but is rather establishing a liturgical commemoration. This means that the fact of the saint being among the blessed is intimately connected with the Church’s public worship. As such, it pertains to the Church’s holiness (one of the four marks) that these saints that are connected with the Church’s worship be actually among the blessed of heaven.

The Church is holy. Part of this holiness has to do with the holiness of her sacrifices, as mentioned above. Could the holiness of the Church’s sacraments be preserved if the sacrifice of the Mass was offered in memory of men and women who were not actually in heaven? How could this be squared with the imminent holiness of the sacrifice of the Mass? Can you imagine a scenario where a saint is invoked in the Mass who is actually not a saint but in hell? That’s what it would mean if a canonization were errant. If this were the case, could such a thing be pleasing to God? Would it be consonant with the holiness and perfection of the sacrifice of the Mass for the Church itself to ordain the commemoration liturgically of men who are not really in heaven?
These are but some of the liturgical difficulties we would find ourselves in if canonizations were not infallible. This is why a certainty beyond simple moral certainty is needed when we talk about the formally defined saints, especially when their veneration is connected to the Mass. The “Catholic Encyclopedia” states:

“It must be obvious, however, that while private moral certainty of their sanctity and possession of heavenly glory may suffice for private veneration of the saints, it cannot suffice for public and common acts of that kind” (entry for Canonization).

Following the liturgical argument, it is interesting to notice that this is also implicit in the fact that Rome does not recognize saints from orthodox communions who are not among her own. We share many saints with the east, like St. Athanasius, St. Anthony of Egypt, etc. However, there are many saints of the eastern calendar (or the Russian Orthodox, Coptic, etc.) whom we do not recognize. An example is Emperor Constantine, who is revered as a saint among Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox. Another example is Czar Nicholas II of Russia, who is invoked as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. We could also cite Pontius Pilate, who was considered a saint by certain Ethiopian Orthodox at one time.
The fact that the Catholic Church does not embrace these saints but at the same time mandates the commemoration of her own demonstrates two things: that Rome regards the cults of the saints of other Christian communions to be somewhat dubious at times, and that it also regards her own judgments about her saints to be certain; otherwise how could she mandate their liturgical celebrations?
I think, as a caveat however, that this infallibility extends only to canonized saints (not beata or venerables), and that it pertains only to the final fact of canonization, not the motives for the canonization or the methods involved in the process. I think it possible that somebody can be declared a saint for the wrong motives; it is equally possible that someone can be declared a saint despite an insufficient amount of inquiry or improper procedure. I do not think these elements cancel out the canonization, however. At the end of the day, whatever else might be said, if so-and-so gets canonized, the decree of canonization is infallible (that is, they are certainly among the blessed) even if the procedures that led to the canonization may have been errant or misled. 



To recap the argument: canonizations must be considered infallible teachings of the Church’s Magisterium because (1) their declarations are an extension of the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff due to their intimate connection with revealed dogma and the difficulties they would mire us in if they were not theologically certain, and (2) because of their connection to the sacrifice of the Mass, which is always holy and pure, inasmuch as if canonizations could be errant it would do damage to the intrinsic holiness of the sacrifice of the Mass, something that could not occur without imperiling the holiness of the Church’s sacraments, and because (3) the Church’s failure to honor the saints of other Christian communions shows that the Church regards them as somewhat dubious, which sheds light on the truth that her certainty about the blessedness of her own saints is not in any way dubious. 
Thus, we can have confidence that those whom we invoke here below do indeed exist among the blessed, beholding the vision of God, and interceding for us continually.


Traditionalist perspective

Beatification and canonization since Vatican II: 2

Part I: The traditional principles

In order to proceed with order, we shall begin this part by defining beatification and canonization before demonstrating that canonization is infallible as such, leaving aside the circumstances that have arisen with the aggiornamento of Vatican II.

1. Some Definitions

(a) Beatification
Beatification is an act by which the Sovereign Pontiff grants permission to render public honor to the beatified in certain parts of the Church until canonization. This act is therefore not a precept; it is a temporary, not definitive, act; it is reformable. Beatification amounts to authorization of public veneration. The act of beatification does not directly assert either the glorification or the heroic virtues of the servant of God. [4]

(b) Canonization
Canonization is the act by which the Vicar of Christ in an irreformable judgment inscribes a previously beatified servant of God in the catalogue of saints. The object of canonization is threefold, for this act does not involve the cultus only.

Firstly, the pope declares that the faithful departed is in the glory of heaven; secondly, he declares that the faithful departed merited to reach this glory by the exercise of heroic virtues which serve as an example for the whole Church; thirdly, in order to better set these virtues as an example and to thank God for having made them possible, he prescribes that public veneration be rendered to the faithful departed.

Regarding these three points:

canonization is a precept;

it obliges the whole Church;

it constitutes a definitive and irreformable act.

The catalogue of saints is not the Martyrology; and, moreover, the expression “inscribe in the catalogue of saints” does not refer to a physical document, but it merely evokes the intention of the Church, which by the act of canonization henceforth counts among the number of saints the newly canonized person and commands all the faithful to venerate him as such.

The act of canonization declares definitively the sanctity of the canonized person as well as his glorification, and consequently it prescribes the cultus for the whole Church. (It is another thing to prescribe the celebration of a Mass and recitation of an office in honor of the saint: this is a determination that requires a supplementary act, specific and distinct from canonization.)

The enrollment of a person in the Martyrology does not signify the infallible canonization of the individual. The Martyrology is the list that includes not only all the canonized saints, but also the servants of God that could have been beatified, either by the Sovereign Pontiff or by the bishops before the 12th century, the date at which the pope reserved to himself the privilege of conducting beatifications and canonizations. The titles of “sanctus” and “beatus” do not have in the Martyrology a precise meaning which would enable us to distinguish between canonized saints and blesseds.

(c) Similarities and Differences
Beatification and canonization both have as object to make possible the cultus of one of the faithful departed, which supposes that during his lifetime this person exercised exemplary virtues and attained glory.

The difference is that beatification only makes the cultus possible (it is a permission), while canonization renders the cultus obligatory (it is a precept) and imposes on the faithful the duty to believe explicitly in the reality of the glory and the heroic virtues of the saint.

In all of that, the essential is the exemplary (or heroic) virtue of the faithful departed, and this is what one seeks to verify in the two inquiries, that of the beatification and that of the canonization. In effect, the cultus presupposes this virtue as the effect presupposes its cause. The miracles of themselves are only taken into account as signs that attest the heroic virtue. Without heroic virtue, there can be no sanctity and no veneration.

(d) Consequences
There is a difference between a saint and a canonized saint. Canonization does not cause, but indicates a person’s holiness, and it indicates it as a model. This explains why neither all nor many people are canonized. Good example, to make an impression, must be unique or rare. Inflating the number of saints reduces their value as models. [5]



Indeed, even if saints were numerous, only a small number of them and not the majority should be elevated to the honor of the altars. Then again, the Church has always given the examples of which the faithful are in need in their particular era. In this sense, canonization is a political act in the best sense of the term: not an act of partisan demagoguery, but an act that procures the common good of the whole Church, an act benefitting the commonweal, an act that takes into account present circumstances.

St. Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920, more than 500 years after her death; St. Therese of the Child Jesus was canonized in 1925, less than 30 years after her death. These two examples were beneficial to the Church, but the first would have been hard to comprehend had it occurred earlier, or too soon, before the passage of time had blurred the context and the aftermath of a century-long conflict…

There is another difference to be noted, the one between salvation and sanctity. A person who dies in the odor of sanctity is saved, but one can be saved without having lived like a saint. In the eyes of the faithful, the chief purpose and immediate effect of canonization is to point out (to set as an example) holiness of life. Even if they have been saved and gone to heaven, one is not going to canonize people who have not given the example of holiness during their lifetime.


2. Infallibility

The question of infallibility is twofold.

First, is the sovereign pontiff’s judgment infallible when he canonizes a saint (2.1)?

Then, is it of faith that this judgment is infallible, such that denying it would be heretical (2.2)?

Each of these questions could be answered preliminarily following the indications given by Pope Sixtus V (1585-90) during the final consistory that preceded the canonization of St. Didacus in 1588:

Basing his arguments upon Holy Scripture, theological reasoning, and all manner of proofs, the pope demonstrated that the Roman Pontiff, the true successor of St. Peter and prince of the Apostles for whom Christ prayed, asking that his faith fail not, who is the veritable head of the Church, foundation and column of truth directed and led by the Holy Ghost, cannot be mistaken nor induce into error when he canonizes saints. And he affirmed that this truth must be believed not only as a pious belief, but as the object of a very certain and necessary act of faith; and to establish this point he adduced all the weighty arguments of reason and divine authority. To which he added also, something quite obvious, that the laws of the Church and of the pope are certain and guaranteed whenever they concern the discipline of faith and morals and rest upon sure principles and solid foundations.”[6]

Nevertheless, these words of the pope proceed from him in his capacity as a private doctor. That is why this twofold question must be examined in greater detail and take into consideration the hypotheses of different theologians.


2.1. Canonization is infallible

The infallibility of canonizations is today held to be a common and certain doctrine by the majority of theologians. [7] All the manuals after Vatican I (and before Vatican II), from Billot to Salaverri, teach it as a common thesis in theology. [8]

The chief representative of the adversaries of the infallibility of canonizations is Cajetan (1469-1534) in the eighth chapter of his treatise on indulgences. According to him, the infallibility of a canonization is neither necessary nor possible. [9]

This opinion had already been defended before Cajetan by Agostino Trionfo, or Augustine of Ancona, (1243-1328) in his Summa on the Power of the Church. His fundamental reasoning is identical to that of Cajetan. It consists in saying that, since it is impossible to directly judge the internal forum of consciences, the Church cannot infallibly discern a person’s sanctity.

Since Vatican II, some conciliar theologians have adopted this anti-infallibilist position. Some of them have alleged difficulties of an historical nature to call in question the infallibility of canonizations. [10]

The opinion defended by Augustine of Ancona and Cajetan was recently reprised by Fr. Daniel Ols, O.P., professor at the Pontifical University of the Angelicum and a relator for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in a study on the theological basis for the cultus of saints. [11]

Lastly, Msgr. Brunero Gherardini in an article published in Divinitas drew up an assessment of the controversy over this subject. [12] This study revived the issue insofar as it takes into account the various reactions prompted by the recent canonizations by John Paul II. [13] The end of the article presents a series of objections contrary to infallibility.

Following St. Thomas, [14] the great majority of canonists [15] and theologians [16] defend the thesis of the infallibility of canonizations.

Let us remark that the proposed question is very precise: St. Thomas does not ask if the pope is infallible when he canonizes a saint. The focus of his questioning is to know whether all the saints who have been canonized by the Church are in glory or if some of them may be in hell. This way of asking the question already affects the answer.

For St. Thomas, canonization calls for infallibility not in the first place as disciplinary law, but as the profession of a truth that is virtually revealed. This does not exclude the other two aspects: the example of the saint’s life and the prescribed cultus.

But there is an order among the three judgments the pope makes when he canonizes a saint.

The first judgment bears upon a theoretical fact and states that a deceased person persevered to the end in the heroic exercise of supernatural virtue and is at present glorified in eternal beatitude.

The second judgment gives the heroic virtues practiced during the canonized person’s lifetime to the whole Church as a model to imitate.

The third judgment is a precept that imposes public veneration of the saint on the whole Church.



Canonization gives the heroic virtues of the saint as a model and makes his cultus obligatory. But it assumes the fact of the saint’s glorification. Benedict XIV, who quotes and adopts these reflections of St. Thomas, considers that, in the last analysis, the judgment of canonization rests upon a statement of a speculative truth deduced from revelation. [17]

It remains to prove that this threefold judgment is infallible. To do so, we do not have at our disposition any argument of the supreme teaching authority, for the infallibility of canonizations has not been defined as a dogma.

St. Thomas limits himself to giving what would be the equivalent of an argument from authority: a reductio ad absurdum, which is, if you will, the authority of the first principles of reason and of logic. There are two reductions: denial of the infallibility of canonization would incur an unlikely, twofold detriment, one in the practical order, and the other in the speculative order.

The first reductio ad absurdum on the practical level: if canonization were not infallible, it might happen that the faithful would venerate a sinner as a saint; those who had known him in his lifetime would be led to believe on the Church’s authority that his sinful state was not in reality what it was; but that would result in confounding virtue and vice in the minds of the faithful, and this would be an error deleterious to the Church.

The second reductio ad absurdum is on the theoretical level: St. Augustine says that if there were an error in the teaching of divine revelation consigned to the Scriptures, faith would be deprived of its foundation; but just as our faith is based on the teachings of Sacred Scripture, it is also based on the teaching of the universal Church; hence, if an error were found in the teachings of the universal Church, our faith would likewise be deprived of its foundation; now God cannot deprive the faith of its foundation; hence, like the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the teachings of the universal Church, including canonization, must be infallible.

Dominic Bannez completes this argument by specifying that if one affirms the possibility of error in the canonization of saints, the Church Militant would be scandalized in its morals, its profession of faith would be made suspect, and the Church Militant in heaven would be insulted.

To corroborate these defensive arguments, St. Thomas then uses an argument of theological reason.

The judgment of canonization is a judgment of the pope in a matter that implies a certain profession of faith, since to venerate a saint and imitate his virtues is to say implicitly that one believes he has attained the glory of heaven. Now, in these matters that touch upon the profession of faith, the pope’s judgment is infallible because of God’s promise. The judgment of canonization is hence infallible.

It is at this point useful to turn to clarifications given by John of St. Thomas in order to understand why the divine assistance is here required in particular.

The judgment of canonization can be understood as a conclusion resulting from two premises.

The first is a formally revealed conditional: whoever perseveres to the end in the heroic exercise of supernatural virtues obtains an eternal recompense in glory.

The second is a probable fact attested by human testimony: such a one of the faithful did persevere to the end in the heroic exercise of the supernatural virtues.

The conclusion that flows from these two premises is thus obtained by means of testimony, and that is why it does not flow from a real, absolutely compelling, scientific demonstration.

The judgment of canonization involves a line of argument which the classical logicians would have considered as probable. We find there what must normally be proved in every theological reasoning, since the proposition stated in the conclusion in this case is linked, albeit indirectly, to a truth of faith. [18]

This link is only indirect, for between the truth formally revealed and the conclusion intervenes the mediation of a truth the certitude of which is not that of faith. Though only indirect, the link exists, and the conclusion is rooted despite everything in a formal and explicit profession of faith.

The difference that leads one to say that this argument is only probable is that, to establish a theological conclusion, one reasons from an evident and certain proposition of reason, whereas to establish the judgment of a canonization one reasons from testimonies. That is why divine assistance is necessary, precisely at the level of the discernment of the testimonies: infallibility cannot accompany an act in which one appeals to contingency and of which the certitude remains only probable.

One could object that if canonization is considered as infallible, it is placed on the same level as solemn, ex cathedra definitions, which seems inconceivable. Benedict XIV answers, with all of the most assured theological tradition, [19] that such assimilation is, on the contrary, in the order of things.

Certainly, one cannot univocally reduce canonization to an infallible dogmatic definition; but one may nonetheless consider that the act of the infallible solemn magisterium happens in analogically various ways. An act of the pope having as its end the conservation of the common good of the entire Church is an act of infallible definition.

Now, the pope conserves the common good of the whole Church not only when he acts strictly as supreme Doctor in teaching, but also when he acts more broadly as supreme Pastor in governing. The teaching of the doctor does not exhaust all the activity of the pastor. And it is incumbent on the pastor to make the laws that provide for the common good of the whole Church; as such these laws do not express formally revealed truth; but insofar as they are given for the good of the unity of faith, these are analogues of an infallible definition. [20]

Let us add one additional reason to justify this analogy: we have shown above, based upon St. Thomas and his commentators, that if canonization is in consequence a model and a law, it is also formally and foremost a mediate profession of faith. One could already rightly assimilate it to a definition.

Canonization could be reduced to the exercise of the infallible and personal solemn magisterium of the sovereign pontiff as its secondary object. Among other authors, Fr. Salaverri cites several examples in which one sees that the terms employed by Popes Pius XI and Pius XII express without the least doubt their explicit intention to exercise a solemn, infallible act. [21]


Archbishop Lefebvre would often say that Pope St. Pius V had “canonized the rite of Mass“: he meant thereby to signify the infallibility of liturgical laws by analogy with that of canonizations; and he thus supposed the latter as very probably equivalent to a personal act of the pope’s solemn magisterium.


2.2 The doctrinal value of this infallibility

Benedict XIV shows that the theologians are not unanimous when it comes to pronouncing on the doctrinal value of the infallibility of canonizations.

Some think this infallibility is not a defined dogma of faith: among these are the Dominicans John of St. Thomas and Dominic Bannez, the Jesuit Francis Suarez and the Carmelites of Salamanca.

Others think this conclusion is equivalent to a dogma of faith. Let us remark that the question is twofold: two aspects of the doctrinal value of the infallibility of canonization can be discerned.

There is the value of the faithful’s assent called for by the theoretical fact on which the judgment of canonization bears: is it of defined faith that a canonized saint is indubitably in the glory of heaven?

There is also the value of the infallibility of the act of canonization: is it of defined faith that the pope cannot be mistaken when he proceeds to an act of canonization? The authors (Benedict XIV, John of St. Thomas, and Bannez) are interested in both aspects, but give priority to the first.

Is it of defined faith that a canonized saint is indubitably in the glory of heaven? The most common thesis in theology is that in which one demonstrates that the glorification of a canonized saint can be infallibly defined not as of faith, that is to say as formally revealed, but as virtually revealed.

Denial of this truth does not entail the note of heresy because it is not a formally revealed truth and because its negation would only indirectly be detrimental to faith. If this virtually revealed truth is the object of an infallible definition in the context of an act of canonization, it will be defined, not as of divine and catholic faith, but as certain or of catholic faith; its denial would thus be erroneous or false; and according to John of St. Thomas, it would also be scandalous for the whole Church, for one would induce the faithful to sin by giving them a damned person for a model; impious, for it would go against the worship due to God; insulting, for it would go against the honor due to the canonized saint.

Is it of defined faith that the pope cannot be mistaken when he canonizes a saint? Benedict XIV affirms that the infallibility of the act of canonization is not yet defined as of faith but that it could be. In favor of this eventuality, one might consider that the Council of Trent teaches in its decrees that cultus must be rendered to the canonized, [22] and that their relics are to be venerated. [23]

In the Bulls of canonization the sovereign pontiffs pronounce an anathema against those who would call in doubt their declaration.

John of St. Thomas thinks that denying the infallibility of an act of canonization merits the censure “sapiens haeresim et proximum errori in fide,” for it would amount to calling in question the ecclesiastical power and good government of the society of the Church, and to denying the infallibility of the universal laws which have as their end the safeguard of faith and morals.

Benedict XIV affirms that denial of this infallibility would warrant, if not the note of heresy, at least that of temerity; this negation would imply an insult to the saints and scandal for the Church. It would merit the gravest sanctions.

Part III: The difficulties raising from the Council>


4 Billot, L’Eglise, No. 600, n. 152, p. 206.

5 “John Paul II carried out more canonizations than did all the popes of the 20th century. But so doing, the dignity of canonization has been diminished. If canonizations are numerous, they cannot be, we do not say invalid, but highly esteemed, nor can they be the object of veneration of the universal Church. If canonizations abound, their value diminishes” (Romano Amerio, Stat Veritas [Italian], Glose 39 on §37 of the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millenio Adveniente, p. 117).

6 Quoted by Benedict XIV, On the Beatification and Canonization of Saints, Bk. I, Ch. 43, No. 2.

7 Billot, L’Eglise, No. 601, pp. 208-9; Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, “Appendix: Laws and Infallibility,” La nouvelle messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser? (DPF, 1975), p. 164.

8 Salaverri in his De Ecclesia, Thesis 17, §726, affirms that it is a theologically certain truth, if not implicitly defined.

9 Cajetan, “Treatise 15 on Indulgences,” Chapter VIII in Opuscula Omnia (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1995), p. 96.

10 For example, the Benedictine De Vooght cites the famous case of St. John Nepomucene [about whom some historical controversy exists] to conclude: “I believe that we can draw from the story of John of Pomuk the conclusion that the pope is not infallible in the canonization of saints” (“The Real Dimensions of Papal Infallibility,” Infallibility: Its Philosophical and Theological Aspects, Acts of the Colloquium of the International Center for Humanist Studies and of the Institute for Philosophical Studies, Rome, February 5-12, 1970, pp. 145-49).

11 Daniel Ols, O.P., “Fondamenti teologici del culto dei Santi,” AA. Vv. Dello Studium Congregationis de causis sanctorum, pars theologica (Rome, 2002), pp. 1-54. Hypothesizing an error on the part of the Church in the canonization of a non-existent or even a damned person, Fr. Ols affirms that this would not present any drawbacks for the faith. Since infallibility is necessary only if the error would be harmful to faith, canonizations do not require it. In effect, there is a disadvantage for the faith if the Church’s error in a canonization were to induce the faithful to a practical profession of either heresy or immorality; but this condition does not occur since the practice of the faithful influenced by a canonization prescinds from the existence and the glorification of the canonized saint: in case of error, the personal conviction of the faithful would be a sufficient basis for their devotion.



12 Msgr. Prof. Brunero Gherardini, Canonizzazione ed infallibilita, Divinitas, Second Semester, 2003, pp. 196-221.

13 These positions, more or less recent, are presented in ibid., §6, pp. 211-14.

14 Quodlibet 9, Article 16.

15 Cited by Benedict XIV, On the Beatification and Canonization of Saints, Bk. I, Ch. 43, No. 5. Billot, L’Eglise, No. 601, n. 157, pp. 208-9.

16 Let us cite in particular: Dominic Bannez (On II-II, Q. 1, Art. 10, dubium 7, 2nd conclusion); John of St. Thomas (On II-II, Q. 1, disputatio 9, art. 2), Melchior Cano (De Locis Theologicis, Bk. V, Ch. V, Q. 5, Art. 3, 3rd conclusion, §44).

17 Benedict XIV, On the Beatification and Canonization of Saints, Bk. 1, Ch. 43, No. 12; Billot, L’Eglise, No. 600, p. 207.

18 John of St. Thomas, ibid., No. 11: “quasi reductive pertinet ad fidem.” Cardinal Billot, L’Eglise, No. 601, pp. 208-9:

Some have thought that St. Thomas was not certain of the infallibility of the Church in the canonization of saints, given that he says in the quodlibetal question No. 9, Q. 5, Art. 16: ‘One must believe piously that the judgment of the Church is infallible in these matters.’ Firstly, we answer that, even if St. Thomas had remained undecided on this point, our conclusion would lose nothing of its certitude. In effect, it would not be something unheard of in the Church, and it has even often been seen that a doctrine at first considered as probable or more probable subsequently became absolutely certain once the question had been clarified, and even before the Church solemnly defined it. Secondly, we answer that the Angelic Doctor never hesitated on this point, for he says not ‘one may piously believe‘ but ‘one must believe piously,’ and unequivocally refutes all the arguments invoked in support of the negative. As for the argument invoked in favor of the affirmative, if he does not refute it, it is that he considers it as conclusive, as does usage.”

19 Ibid., Ch. 44, No. 4.

20 In the study cited above, Fr. Ols examines the classic formula used in the solemn proclamation of canonization: “Decernimus” or “Definimus.” By having recourse to expressions of this kind, he says, and contrary to what happens in the framework of dogmatic definitions, the popes never say that they are proposing a truth to be believed or that they are propounding it while requiring assent of some sort. The author concludes from this that the solemn formula of canonization expresses nothing infallible. Certainly, the formula of canonization expresses something other than a dogmatic definition, and that is why this expression is only analogous to the dogmatic definitions that express formally revealed truths. But this does not prove that only the latter express an infallible judgment or that only the latter are defining.

21 De Ecclesia, Thesis 17, §725-726:

‘Infallibilem Nos, uti catholicae Ecclesiae supremus Magister sententiam in haec verba protulimus’; ‘Nos ex Cathedra divini Petri uti supremus universalis Christi Ecclesiae Magister infallibilem hisce verbis sententiam solemniter pronuntiavimus’ (Pius XI); ‘Nos universalis catholicae Ecclesiae Magister ex Cathedra una super Petrum Domini voce fundata falli nesciam hanc sententiam solemniter hisce pronuntiavimus verbis’; ‘Nos in Cathedra sedentes, inerranti Petri magisterio fungentes solemniter pronuntiavimus’.” (Pius XII)

In consideration of which, Salaverri thinks the infallibility of canonizations is implicitly defined by Pius XII and Pius XII. See also Billot, L’Eglise, II, No. 601, 209.

Denzinger 1821:

Those who deny that one ought to invoke the saints who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven; or those who assert that these do not pray for men or that to call upon them to pray for each of us is an idolatry, or that this is in opposition to the Word of God and contrary to the honor of Jesus Christ, sole mediator between God and men; or that it is stupid to supplicate vocally or mentally those who reign in heaven: all those think impiously.” [Our translation]

Benedict XIV states that this text equals an infallible definition.

23 Ibid., DS 1822:

Also, those who assert that neither honor nor veneration should be given to the relics of saints, or that it is futile for the faithful to honor them, as well as other sacred mementos, and that it is futile to visit the places of their martyrdom in order to gain their support, must be wholly condemned, as the Church has previously condemned them and condemns them still today.” [Our translation]


My closing comments

A priest who teaches theology shared with me his belief that Mother Teresa’s canonisation is “political”.

I concur with one of the writers whose write-up in this file says that one is not obligated to believe as an article of faith that someone is a saint. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are now canonized saints.

That being said, some readers may want to know the opinion that I expressed to a group of Catholics at Goa years ago regarding the beatifications and proposed canonizations of Mother Teresa and John Paul II. At that time, I just knew the one quote of Mother Teresa about making a Hindu a good or better Hindu etc., and I had read Catholic conservative as well as Traditionalist criticism of Pope John Paul II’s Assisi misadventures.

As a conservative who holds to orthodoxy, I reminded my audience that St. Paul addresses all Catholics as “saints”. We are saints-in-the-making. Those who die in the state of grace are saints. Those who pass through purgatory into heaven or the few who get direct entry are saints. We might even know or think that we know a few or at least one such person. I knew one. My wife’s mother. If she didn’t make it to heaven, I cannot imagine how anyone else would. But, even convinced that she is in heaven (in the Communion of Saints), do I pray to her, seek her intercession? No. She is, I believe, a saint. But not a Saint!

A canonised Saint who is elevated to the altars is one who we might want to pray to or venerate (dulia).




A canonised Saint is our role model, an icon, someone whom deserves to be on a pedestal, whose virtues are to be emulated and intercession sought. He or she was a good Catholic, a holy person, but much more as some of the writers in this compilation point out. The potential candidate for sainthood must pass the exacting test of doctrinal orthodoxy with full marks.

Refer again to the important criterion that one writer brought out, namely that the spiritual works of mercy are exclusively Catholic whereas the corporal works of mercy are common to all religions (the Assemblies of God in Kolkata alone reportedly feed 18,000 people a day, and dozens of Hindu religious organizations serve the needy across our nation).

It is not enough for me that the person is with God in heaven and I do not for a moment dispute that both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa are in paradise enjoying eternal life. To me, they are saints, not Saints.

They are certainly not the icons or role models that I want for my children and grandchildren in their pursuit of holiness and their journey to heaven; there are so many other great Saints for them to emulate.

Departure from doctrinal orthodoxy and tradition can lead one into errors like syncretism, Universalism, relativism and religious indifferentism because of which one might lose their eternal soul.

Of course, one cannot presume to take the place of God and judge any person’s eternal fate based on what one knows about their lives.


To be fair, I must share this incident with the reader.

A couple of weeks ago, we were informed that a Catholic woman was healed of advanced cancer.

My wife’s elder sister had requested my wife’s younger sister and her husband to pray to Mother Teresa for the healing of the woman with cancer who lives in another city. They did so and came to know a few days later that the doctors had declared that the cancer had vanished.

So, was the cure the result of the intercession of Mother Teresa, God’s vindication of her canonisation… or just God’s generous response to the expression of Christian love and great concern that my wife’s sister’s family had for the individual suffering from cancer and their Faith in His Power?

We can have no answer to that.

‘As for me and my house’, we have a large number of acclaimed Saints recognized for their orthodoxy. Amen.








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EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

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