Is the bar being lowered for Catholic sainthood?

In putting Pope John XXIII on the fast track to canonization, Pope Francis dispensed with the centuries-old two-miracle requirement for sainthood. Is he lowering the bar here? From the Washington Post:

…for better or worse, Francis’s tendency to bypass the normal channels for certifying miracles is generating friction inside the ancient Vatican walls even as it reignites an age-old debate over the nature of Catholic saints.

Some hope that the reforming new pope is moving to modernize the image of saints. The time has come, they say, to shift the emphasis from the mystical nature of saints toward their status as role models. Still others are pressing for a new definition of miracles in the Internet age, embracing not just vanished tumors and healed aneurysms but also drug addicts who quit and divorced couples reunited after praying to prospective saints.

“I know the Holy Father well enough to know that he believes in miracles, as we all do, but the question is simply and purely, should we require the confirmation of miracles for saints?” asked the Rev. Peter Gumpel, a senior Vatican figure and church historian.

Maureen Dowd created a stir earlier in the week with her column, “A Saint He Ain’t” in which she decried the canonization of John Paul II. She wrote, “John Paul may be a revolutionary figure in the history of the church, but a man who looked away in a moral crisis cannot be described as a saint. When the church elevates him, it is winking at the hell it caused for so many children and young people in its care.”

I’m not Catholic anymore, but I like the now abandoned tradition of waiting a good long time before deciding whether someone is actually saint material. Historical perspective is useful. What do you think?

In other saint-related news, this sad story: A 21-year-old pilgrim in Italy was crushed this week when a giant crucifix dedicated to John Paul II collapsed. See story here.

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  1. Paul Woodrum

    50 years doesn’t seem too long to wait before conferring sainthood. By then all the dirt should have been dug and all the glory revealed.

    The Episcopal Church, so long reserved on additions to its liturgical calendar, now rushes in with names to satisfy every special interest group in the church. The calendar, once cleaned up, is again cluttered with names, many of folks who could probably use quite a bit more vetting before being added and honored with a day, a color, a collect and readings.

    And should we not continue the ancient practice of commemorating deaths rather than birthdays? We need to remember how and why people died, an anamnesis of a life Jesus has unlocked from death and by which we are empowered through grace.

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