New saints to cost less?

Pope Francis approves revised regulation for administration of beatification and canonization process

Not everyone will approve of the process in the Roman Catholic Church whereby individuals progress towards their designation as Saints[1], yet most would agree that the alleged costs associated with the process are excessive. At the 4th March Audience granted to Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State[2], Pope Francis approved the new “Regulations on the administration of the assets of the Cause of beatification and canonization”[3]. The Guardian reported this as: “Pope Francis has overhauled the Vatican’s multimillion-euro saint-making business, months after two exposés[4] revealed that the cost of beatification – a major step towards becoming a saint – has reached about €500,000 (£400,000)”.  Other estimates of the cost, though lower, are nevertheless significant as the process includes: witnesses’ travel expenses, the disinterment of the candidate, the publication of the “Positio[5], costs linked to theological, historical and medical consultations and ceremonies.

Comment

It is important to note: i] these new norms relate only to the financial administration of the saint-making process, not the process itself; ii] the Church was aware of the situation and work on the revised norm was almost complete before the more recent revelations of Fittipaldi and Nuzzi were made public[4]; and iii] work on the revised norm is only one aspect of Pope Francis’ on-going reforms of Vatican finances.

An early overview of the problems in this area was provided by Dr Ed Peters when in 2006 when he wrote on Canonization and the emerging Benedict XVI. This highlighted the letter from Benedict XVI’s to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints which communicated his concerns about the beatification and canonization process. Peters states:

“John Paul II, both legally [through the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister] and by force of his personality, improved the Church’s ability to recognize contemporary examples of holiness. But, by canonizing over 450 saints (more than all the popes since [the Council of] Trent combined) and by beatifying more than 1,300 men and women besides, John Paul’s vital message that the “universal call to holiness” (Lumen gentium V) could be lived in modern times was (in the opinion of many) being steadily diluted by an avalanche of names that, with few exceptions, would never be recognized beyond small circles of compatriots.”

Vatican Insider points out “[w]hat in John Paul II’s day was nicknamed ‘the saint factory’ had been in need of review for a long time. In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano in January 2014, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, announced the introduction of a ‘reference tariff’ which postulators and actors of causes have to abide by. The aim, he explained, was to avoid causes for beatification and canonization ‘being treated differently’”.

The new norms abrogate those currently in force which were promulgated by John Paul II on 20 August 1982, and entered into force ad experimentum for a period of three years from the date of approval. Vatican Radio acknowledges that the whole process “can prove extremely costly and time-consuming, and notes that the new norm particular attention is given to the so-called “Roman phase” of the process; this follows initial evidence collection at the diocesan level and the preparation of a position paper – often thousands of pages long and containing painstakingly assembled intimate details of the proposed saint’s earthly life and career – to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. Its report states:

“[t]he new norms seek to increase transparency in the process and assist in cost containment by requiring regular and detailed accounting, creating disciplinary procedures in case of misuse, and providing for the liquidation of funds established for causes, once the process reaches its conclusion. In addition, [they] provide for the creation of a “solidarity fund” that is supplied by freely given donations from the promoters of causes or any other source. In the case of real and genuinely documented need, appeals for assistance from the Solidarity Fund are to be made by the promoters of causes, through the local bishop. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints will evaluate case by case”.

On 12 March, Dr Ed Peters commented on his Facebook page: “This is a step in the right direction. But, until we come to grips with the fact that something verging on 99% of all saints are clergy or religious, and something verging on 99% of the remaining (lay) saints are martyrs or royalty, the system remains fundamentally broken”.

Postscript

The “Vatileaks II” trial of Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi and three others resumed on 14 March, following a recess of three months  series of defence motions calling for the collection of further evidence and expert testimony; Fittipaldi and Nuzzi are charged with “soliciting and exercising pressure” on Vatican employees to obtain confidential documents; three other defendants—Msgr. Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, and Nicola Maio—are charged with forming a criminal association to obtain the documents and provide them to the journalists.


[1] The web pages of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints provide a number of relevant links.

[2] Papal Audience, 4 March; Card. Parolin’s letter, 7 March; Bollettino announcement, 10 March. The Regulations come into force ad experimentum for a period of three years following the date of their approval.

[3] Bollettino, 10 March 2016: “Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi: Norme sull’amministrazione dei beni delle Cause di beatificazione e canonizzazione“, [Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Norms on the administration of [assets] goods in the Causes of beatification and canonization].

[4] The Guardian article explains “Although it was not known at the time of the commission’s investigation, two books published late last yearAvarice by Emanuele Fittipaldi and Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi – subsequently revealed that efforts by the commission to audit tens of millions of euros spent by the sainthood body came up short after officials said they had no documentation to support their activities”. Fittipaldi and Nuzzi and three others are being prosecuted by the Vatican in relation to the leaked material on which the books are based.

[5] A positio (Positio super Virtutibus) is a document or collection of documents used in the process by which a person is declared Venerable, the second of the four steps on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed,  Saint.

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