Tuesday, June 27, 2006


This week, the Vatican announced it was moving forward with 162 beatifications, the largest number yet approved under Pope Benedict XVI, under whom the activity of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has been decidedly slow. The decrees included the certification of 150 martyrdom causes, an exceeding high figure that recalls the mass beatifications under John Paul II. Strikingly, the decrees include certifications of heroic virtue of interest to the Romero case. CWNews.com reported:

Perhaps the most interesting case … is that of Father Antonio Rosmini, whose controversial theories prompted the placement of his works on the Index of forbidden books in 1849. In 1887, the Holy Office specifically condemned 40 propositions attributed to the Italian priest. But in June 2001 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith-- the successor to the Holy Office-- wrote that the works of Father Rosmini should be recognized as "idealistic and not ontological," and when his writings are seen in that perspective he was faithful to the teachings of the Church.

The case is striking for multiple reasons. First, it suggests that being implicated in disapproved theological snares is not a complete non-starter in canonizing a saint. In fact, Father Rosmini will be beatified as a confessor, not as a martyr. Canonization is considerably harder for non-martyr candidates, whose "heroic virtue" must be approved after a comprehensive review of their doctrinal orthodoxy. Secondly, it suggests that even if your views are condemned and your writings banned (compare Archbishop Romero who was never a subject of official reproach and, in contrast, whose writings and sermons were declared orthodox by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), your path to sainthood can be later cured. Thirdly, the distinction between “idealistic” and “ontological” views allows the burdened candidate a final onramp back onto the beatification path. All of this augurs very well for the Romero cause, which, of course, has several advantages over the Rosmini case, as it involves a martyrdom, and a body of preaching that has been largely vindicated by the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. (Even Cardinal Ratzinger has conceded that the concept of “Liberation Theology,” with which Romero is sometimes identified, includes “the efforts which are being made within the framework of a correct and ecclesial theology … which stresses the responsibility which Christians necessarily hear for the poor and oppressed, such as we see in the documents of the Latin American Bishops' Conference from Medellin to Puebla.”)

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