Pope Benedict seeks a more selective and rigorous process for determining sainthood
By Tony Staley
Because modern men and women need true models of holiness, the church needs a more selective and rigorous process that involves local churches in choosing candidates for sainthood Pope Benedict XVI told the Congregation for Saints' Causes.
First, the pope's message said, he wants local bishops to have more guidelines for their investigations into a candidate's martyrdom or their Christian virtues and miracles.
Second, he wants broad public recognition that the person in question was a good Christian, such as was afforded Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Concerning miracles, Pope Benedict held to the traditional position of a physical cure. Some theologians have wanted to recognize "moral miracles" - such as when a notorious sinner has a dramatic conversion after reading something by a candidate for sainthood.
The 30-year debate over the definition of martyrdom continues. Traditionally, a martyr is someone who was killed out of hatred for the faith. But, as Pope Benedict noted, modern persecutors hide their hatred of Christianity by claiming they are defending political or social ideologies.
The definition of martyrdom figures highly in the canonization process for the outspoken Abp. Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot as he celebrated Mass. Opponents say he was killed for his political stance; supporters say his statements stemmed from faith-based convictions.
Pope Benedict said there must be "irrefutable proof" of the victim's willingness to die for the faith and "moral certainty" that the persecutor acted directly or indirectly from a hatred of the faith.
The pope's remarks did not touch on an area of concern for the majority of Catholics: the need for more lay saints, particularly married couples. Members of religious communities no doubt receive a spiritual boost from the example of sainted members of their order. We laity want and need the same sort of example from people who face and sanctify the same struggles we do.