The diocesan phase of John Paul II’s Cause is concluded

Today the diocesan phase of the cause for beatification of Servant of God John Paul II was closed. 

The documents were sealed up in boxes. Cardinal Ruini (who runs the diocese of Rome for the Pope while the Pope is being Pope) with the stoke of a pen closed the juridical procedure.  The whole shooting match was sent across the river to the Vatican.

Causes or processes are conducted in the place where the person died or where the claimed miracle occurred or where a person was martyred. Because John Paul II died in the Vatican, the Diocese of Rome was given the right to handle the first phase, the diocesan phase.  Even when a person was a religious, the local diocese where the person died handles the process.  The bishop sets up a special body like a "court" to gather the proofs and make sure everything is handled justly.

When a person thinks someone else lived and died in holiness so that he now enjoys the Beatific vision in heaven, he can start a canonical process, which is very much like a juridical trial.  Usually you have to wait at least five years after the death of the person in question. 

The person who starts the ball rolling is then the "actor" of the cause.  The local bishop or his substitute formally opens the cause and appoints the official cast of characters who will be involved.  There will be people to help the "actor" of the cause, such as the postulator who makes sure the process is conducted properly.   There are people who guarantee that the exacting rules are followed to assure that justice is done.  Remember, this is like a trial to determine if the actor’s claim is true.  He must have justice.  

Thus, just as in a trial, proofs are gathered.  Proofs consist of testimonies from people who knew the "servant of God", if this is more recent history, and written documents involving every facet of that person’s life, his own writings, documents written about him (including birth and death certificates to prove he lived and died!) and anything else concerning the fame of his holiness.  Every document every proof every scrap is examined and authenticated, affixed with a special seal with signatures of notaries, indexed meticulously.  When everything is gathered and nothing else considered to be necessary can be dug up about the person, they whole thing is formally sealed up in containers and sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  There it is officially opened and examined to see if the proper canonical procedures where followed.  If so, it is accepted, and the Roman phase of the process begins.  If it is not acceptable, the Congregation rejects it and send it all back.  Since the juridical process had been closed, the whole thing must be done over again, properly, with a new process.  So, it is necessary to do it right the first time!  This is why the Congregation actually holds courses to train people to be involved in these causes.

As you can imagine, this normally takes years, even decades or lifetimes!  Every place the person lived must be investigated, anywhere in the world, all his correspondence found and read.  All people who knew him or want to testify must be formally deposed.  Every dusty archive and attic explored.  Every document must be transcribed or translated into one of the languages the Congregation for Causes of Saints accepts.  Latin is always accepted! 

As you can see, the longer a person lived, the more who knew him, the more he wrote and said publicly or privately, the deeper the work must be.  You have to determine even to the best of your ability if someone is hiding something because, when the whole thing goes to the Congregation, very sharp-eyed people with suspicious minds will be doing their own digging and examining.  And they are really good at it.

Thus, every single document must be properly handled or the whole this is a bust.  That is the real key to the diocesan phase, that and throughness.

The Roman phase involves examining the history of the person’s context and the biographical data, whether or not all possible relevant proofs were gathered, studying the person’s life and death in light of either his "heroic virtues" or his martyrdom, or, in the case of miracles all the scientific and medical facts together the theological examination of whether of not the servant or God of blessed who really the one invoked, etc.   All the relevant materials are sifted and then published in book form called "Positiones", which include history, biography, writings, theological examinations of the evidence, the judgments of experts on history and theology and archives, etc. etc. etc

These Positiones can be huge, staggering.  They are distributed to experts to comb and nitpick.  I have seen the many volumes of the Positio for Servant of God Pius XII.  On the other hand, the Positio for Servant of God Fr. Michael McGiveny, founder of the Knights of Columbus is very sleek, because he had left almost no written materials behind. 

The Congregation meets (the members are Cardinals, bishops and experts) to make judgments on the process at various points of time until a decision is made.

If there is sufficient evidence to support the claim that a person lived a heroic life of virtue or died a martyr’s death, or a miracle, then the Pope is informed and there is a decree made as to that claim.  At that point a person is called venerable.  If there is a miracle that can be attributed to the Venerable’s intercession, then when the Pope wills he can be beatified.  Another miracle is required for canonization.   The Pope can set aside time tables and the requirement of miracles.

So, today the diocesan phase came to a close.  I can’t imagine how well organized this must have been to have been handled so quickly, given the titanic life of John Paul and all the people, still living, who knew him.

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  1. gravitas says:

    Father, i don’t and won’t go into whether or not i think he should be a saint — it’s not based on anything
    but my gut and is just doing to anger some so i’ll leave that for another post.

    But, can you say with any honesty that the end result of this process has any option other than enacting his
    sainthood? This is so overtly political that it really saddens me.

    Do you really think there is any chance in the world that they would decide not to beatify him?

    Fr. Z awards this the SOUR GRAPES AWARD:

    The Sour Grapes Award is nothing to boast about.

  2. swmichigancatholic says:

    OK, I’ll bite, gravitas.

    I think this should wait for a while. All the public furor over events is too recent. Nothing will be lost by waiting, since a saint remains a saint forever, while some credibility could be lost by rushing too quickly.

    The combination of demands for speed in the last few years plus the absence of a “devil’s advocate” in the process, is very dangerous. The number of canonizations in the last 20 years or so has been unprecedented as a result. Many of them are not celebrated because there are simply too many and their causes have not been made concrete enough for many people to know them.

    Remember, being canonized is not a popularity contest, but rather a very close and careful examination of deep holiness in every regard.

    I personally believe, and this is personal remember, that the “kissing the koran” incident and the “pagans in the basilica in Assisi” incident need to be thoroughly checked out before much else happens. I have often heard it said that PJP2 was indifferent to liturgy, as well, and I find this incredible in a saint-to-be who held the responsibility of the Liturgy in his hands for 25+ years.

    There is a common belief among Catholics that every pope has to be declared a saint, and I think it’s misplaced. There was only one pope-saint in the 20th century. That’s about the size of it historically. They are not all saints, no matter how much we may have liked them.

  3. ThomasMore1535 says:

    I’m sorry, but the above comment about the late Pope’s possible beatification/canonization be “political” is not only highly disrespectful, but I would argue almost borders on blasphemy. Why? Not because it has anything to do with John Paul II himself, but for the simple fact that it has always been recognized in Catholic Tradition that canonizations are INFALLIBLE. Leo XIII was very clear on this point, as were many other points.

    It does not matter what the process is, or how it is handled. If the Vicar of Christ canonizes someone, that is it, end of story. To then suggest that it was political (after-the-fact) is, in my humble opinion, blasphemy, pure and simple, because it makes a mockery of someone who has been raised to the altars. The Catechism is also very clear on this that blasphemy extends to saints.

    Now, perhaps there can be a canonization process that is political, and not based on someone’s particular holiness. In taht case, however, such a cause must undoubtedly fail, because the Holy Spirit will not allow such a cause to succeed. If, however, a cause does succeed, and a person is canonized, to call it political is simply blasphemy, because it insults the newly-canonized saint, as well as the infallible power of the Holy Father to do this.

  4. swmichigancatholic says:

    I also think that the seeds of the return to fidelity were laid in the last 20 years or so, but I think that’s more of a mystery of God’s grace than any one person’s work. A lot of people have had a hand in it, small or large, and God has used people who would’ve been astonished if they’d only known at the time whose good they’d be serving. Everyone has played their parts, some to their chagrin and some to their joy.

    Pope John Paul II was, and is, much loved and that is entirely appropriate and deserved. Is he a saint? I don’t know.

  5. gravitas says:


    Luckily you don’t decide what is or is not blasphemy.

    If canonizations are infallible, then why is there a mandatory five-year wait time? And, if that five-year
    wait time is mandatory so that public hysteria doesn’t force a canonization, then why has that wait time been
    circumvented once again? You can’t have it both ways.

    If you are telling me that there’s any chance that this process won’t end in his canonization, that’s fine. I just think you’re being a little naive.

  6. “This is so overtly political that it really saddens me”. Hmmm. But of course the process can end in canonisation or not: the imperfections of the human beings involved and their motives–pure, less pure, impure–cannot defeat the purposes of God; surely this is a matter of faith, of the Faith. There is a reason why Charlemagne is venerated as a beatus at Aachen and not as a sanctus in Oregon.

  7. ThomasMore1535 says:


    There has not always been a five-year waiting period. look to the early years of the Church. The canonization process was completely different from how it is now. There are different disciplinary rules for different time periods. The Holy Father has full disciplinary authority in the Church, in case you didn’t know.

    The CCC specifically states that blasphemy includes comments directed towards the saints. See no. 2148. Are you still going to question John Paul II’s sanctity if and when he is canonized? If you are, is this or is this not blasphemy? If you question the sanctification process after the canonization, is this or is this not blasphemy?

    Your cynical view of the possibility of Holy Mother Church canonizing someone who is not a saint is blasphemy, pure and simple.

    And you’re right, I don’t determine what blasphemy is and what it isn’t. I’ll leave that to others:

    St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection, 1759, p. 23:“To suppose that the Church can err in canonizing, is a sin, or is heresy, according to St. Bonaventure, Bellarmine, and others; or at least next door to heresy, according to Suarez, Azorius, Gotti, etc.; because the Sovereign Pontiff, according to St. Thomas, is guided by the infallible influence of the Holy Ghost in an especial way when canonizing saints.”

  8. swmichigancatholic says:

    Your comment is interesting, ThomasMore1535. If the things you say are so, then nothing indeed can be lost by waiting until all doubt dies down, can it? In fact, canonizing a great saint on the sheer merits of his holiness after many years would be a great affirmation of his holiness, yes?

  9. ThomasMore1535 says:

    I only quote the Angelic Doctor in this matter:

    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.”

    This is something that has been reaffirmed again and again by numerous orthodox theologians, etc., etc., etc. It does not matter what the process is. The formula use by the Holy Father in canonizing someone is identical to the formula he uses in making an infallible declaraction of dogma.

    It is certainly up for debate whether this process is going too slow or too fast. That is a matter for legitimate disagreement. But if after a canonization one continues to question this saint’s sanctity, that is blasphemy, pure and simple. The schismatic attitude is supposed lovers of tradition is particularly evident in this point.

    When St. Josemaria was canonized, SSPX went crazy, because they knew that this great saint accepted Vatican II. So, many of them questioned the validity of the canonization. They also argued that the process was too short, which is interesting, considering that they had no problem with St. Padre Pio’s canonization, and he died a mere 7 years before St. Josemaria. This type of picking and choosing is not permitted in the Catholic faith.

    Whether or not to wait until all doubt dies down is a matter of prudential judgment. The Spirit blows where He wills. The Gates of Hell will not prevail, and this applies to canonization as well.

  10. swmichigancatholic says:

    I also think it’s entirely possible for the Holy Spirit to speak and for some (temporarily, mind you) to fail to hear or to misunderstand. Time is needed and should always be respected. This is really my point here.

    I refer you to the travesty that was the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. We rushed far too hastily into all kinds of things, some of them too awful to contemplate now. And also to history–see the council of Constance, council of Basle, St. Christopher, the burning of St. Jean of Arc, to cite a few. For pete’s sake, look to your history books once in a while.

    The Church works infallibly, ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTION there. But it doesn’t happen the way other things happen. AND it takes time and lots and lots of listening prayer and patience/obedience on our part. It’s the way the Holy Spirit acts.

  11. Cerimoniere says:

    It would certainly be a grave error, and objectively blasphemous, to question the actual sanctity of a canonized saint, or to suggest that a current Cause might turn out the wrong way. However many saints John Paul II canonized, they must all be in Heaven.

    It is not a sin to suggest that those involved in a Cause might have bad motives. For example, if one’s main goal in life is to promote the Second Vatican Council as the only important event in church history, and the Novus Ordo as the beginning of all good liturgy, then the cause of Paul VI is probably quite important, irrespective of his actual holiness. One might do all sorts of wicked things to manipulate the process. And if one had knowledge of such people’s activities, one might say so without blasphemy.

    However, one may not suggest that either Paul VI or John Paul II will actually be beatified or canonized in error; that is, if they are not in Heaven. If it happens, then that will be proof. In the mean time, the Church’s processes will continue under the supervision of the present Sovereign Pontiff.

  12. techno_aesthete says:

    What’s the hurry? I don’t understand the rush to canonize JPII. If he is a saint, then it will happen. There must be literally tons of documents to examine from his writings alone, let alone all of the documents generated during his pontificate. I find it hard to believe that all of that documentation has been thoroughly examined already. What is fifty years or more in “Church time”? It has been close to fifty years that Pope Pius XII’s cause has been investigated and he still hasn’t been beatified.

    I am certain that JPII was a holy man. I am not questioning that. I just think that some time needs to pass and let the lens of history help one to see things more objectively. To whom God has given much, He expects much in return. A Pope is given much by God. The threshold for a Pope to be canonized is much higher than for a layman to be canonized.

  13. ThomasMore1535 says:

    And I fully agree that lots of mistakes were made after Vatican II. But my point is that if this is going too fast, the Holy Spirit will not permit the canonization, and it will take much more time. However, if this canonization does occur relatively soon, then we are bound in conscience to accept it. That’s my point. We have to have the humility to admit that we don’t always know how the spirit will act.

    Keep in mind this has nothing to do with IMPLEMENTING a specific teaching, but DEFINING SOMETHING TO BE HELD. The IMPLEMENTATION of a teaching can be very difficult (as we’ve seen over the last 40 years), but the actual definition of something is an entire different matter.

    Nevertheless, I can certainly see the point in the argument that this process is going along too quickly. I personally disagree, but I respect the other view. It’s a matter for legitimate difference. If and when the canonization process happens, though, then “all bets are off,” so-to-say.

  14. swmichigancatholic says:

    Then, Cerimoniere, there is no harm in giving extraneous things that might be present, that might be misplaced motivations or not, time to show themselves.

    It would be the least we could do if there were overwhelming evidence of great saintly virtue in a given case.

    As I said before, time does not fade true holiness. What are people afraid of?

  15. Andrew says:

    Canonizations certainly can be political. It is most certainly no blasphemy to say such, provided we understand what is meant by that.

    God does not desire the canonization of every man and woman whose soul is now enjoys the Beatific Vision or sits in Purgatory (and therefore will enjoy the Beatific Vision).

    Canonization is an extraordinary process, by which the Church declares some person (by intercessory power) is not only among the Saints in Heaven, but led a life and by that life provides us a model for imitation.

    A man who hated the Church all his life, but converted by God’s Grace a few moments before death is probably in Purgatory or Heaven. It would seem improper for the Church to canonize such a man, because his life does not provide a example which we should imitate, save the conversion.

    That does not mean that Saints are without stain or sin. Look at Sts. Ignatius, Augustine, Francis, and multitudes of others, whose life show a massive worldliness, and then God humbling each. Their lives are good examples because of their very public falls and conversions.

    The jury is certainly out on the late Pope. At least some of us see serious questions and problems with some of John Paul’s actions and statements. With all he suffered he may have had a great interior conversion, but for some of us there are serious problems that remain, and hence, not a question of his personal sanctity, but of the propriety of placing his life on a pedestal for veneration and imitation.

  16. swmichigancatholic says:

    Well said, Andrew.

  17. ThomasMore1535 says:

    To suggest that an infallible action of the Holy Father, moved by the Holy Spirit, is certainly blasphemous.

    Andrew, on the one hand you say that a canonization is a declaration that a person’s life is worthy of imitation, yet just a few lines above you suggest that it can still be political.

    Please, pray, tell me how your calling a process by which a person is declaraed worthy of veneration, that he led a saintly life worthy to be imitated (your definition, not mine) “political” is not blasphemous? You are saying that it is possible for a faction to monopolize one particular person and use that person as a front from which to promote an agenda, as opposed to promoting a person’s sanctity. In other words, the person’s sanctity isn’t really the focus of the matter. If this is not blasphemy, I don’t know what is.

  18. ThomasMore1535 says:

    Sorry–I meant “To suggest that an infallible action of the Holy Father, moved by the Holy Spirit, is political, is certainly blasphemous.”

  19. swmichigancatholic says:

    The presentation of the cause could be political. And the timing could be made political.

    I still do not understand why the rush. If the cause is based on true holiness, rushing won’t add anything to it and could cause a problem for many people. Let it happen in peace and carefully. Before PJP2 can be held up as an exemplar there are many things to understand.

  20. ThomasMore1535 says:


    I certainly agree with you that the introduction of a cause could be political, and that those promoting it could be moved by political causes. I can also respect your view that that is what is happening with John Paul II (though I personally disagree). That isn’t my point. My point is that if someone claims that the ACTUAL ACT OF CANONIZATION BY THE HOLY FATHER was political, this is blasphemous, because canonizations are infallible.

    You could very well be right that there’s too much of a rush. I don’t think there’s a problem with the speed, because I think that John Paul II was a holy man, a true saint for our times. But you are certainly entitled to think otherwise. In fairness, I will also say that I think it might be good to canonize Pius XII first, before JPII. Pius XII was certainly a saint, no question about it, and his reputation has suffered so unjustly, it needs correction. But I leave all such matters in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

  21. swmichigancatholic says:

    I leave such matters in the hands of God also. And if after a big inexplicable rush, PJP2 is declared a saint without coherent explanations of about 101 weird things, it won’t be the cause of any defection of mine. I’ll still be Catholic. Honestly, as a Catholic after V2, I’ve withstood far worse. But I will tiptoe around the issue to avoid that, honestly. And I won’t be the only one.

  22. swmichigancatholic says:

    And will that mean that I can kiss a koran to get myself out of a jam? What does that mean for those Christians who have died at the sword for refusing to do such things?

    I attended a canonization mass in St. Peter’s square in 2002 for a bishop who died for refusing to convert at the point of a sword. Someone explain this to me.

  23. Some of you have slid down into the usual muck that comes from not reading or paying attention. Coupled with sourness, this is a very bad combination.

    The diocesan phase was about GATHERING THE PROOFS.



    They will be examined in another phase, the Roman phase that happens in the Congregation.

    Nothing is determined. Nothing is scheduled. Nothing is decided. Absolutely NOTHING.

    In justice, if an “actor” starts the process, that process must be accepted on its merits and then seen to the end.

    I am turning the comments off at this point for reasons that should be obvious.

Comments are closed.