Canonisation and infallibilty

One question which arose in the discussion about St Philomena is that of whether a papal decree of canonisation is infallible. St Thomas Aquinas said that because of divine providence, the Church was not liable to error in the matter of canonisations.* St Robert Bellarmine and St Alphonsus (among many others) also taught that the Pope was infallible when he canonised a saint. The majority opinion is that it is "theologically certain" that a canonized saint is in heaven.

In 1837, Pope Gregory XVI confirmed a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites approving the public cultus of St Philomena including a Mass and a fourth lesson in the Office. This is often asserted to be a "canonization" but it is not the same thing. I believe that St Philomena existed and that many miracles have been worked through her intercession but I don't think that we can use the "infallible canonisation" argument in her case.

More generally with regard to canonisations, it is important to note the formula that the Pope uses. Here is the text for the canonisation of St Edith Stein:
For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the fostering of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayers for the divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of our Brother Bishops, we declare and define that Bl. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, is a saint and we enrol her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated in the whole Church as one of the saints. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The formula is very similar to that used for the definition of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. Fr Holloway often used to highlight the thrilling quality of the words
auctoritate Domini nostri Iesu Christi, sanctis apostolis Petri et Pauli ac nostra
The Pope humbly speaks of his own authority in the same breath as the authority of Saints Peter and Paul. This is what we must expect in consequence of our belief that the Pope is the successor of Saint Peter with the same living teaching authority in the Church.

So can we "pick and choose" between saints? We certainly have the "liberty of the sons of God" in choosing particular devotions and favourite heavenly patrons. But I do not think that we have the liberty to disparage saints canonised by the Holy Father. If you want to look around, you can find websites saying that Pope John Paul was not the true pope because he canonised one particular person or another. (One I saw described Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as "one of the greatest apostates in history" - riiiight...)

If on the other hand, you accept that Pope John Paul was really the successors of St Peter, then it seems to me that you have to accept that the saints he canonised are actually in heaven. I know that there is controversy over the process of canonisation - and perhaps Pope Benedict will further tighten this. But St Thomas says nothing about the process. He deals with the objection that in using human testimony, the Church could err because human testimony is fallible. He replies:
divina providentia praeservat ecclesiam ne in talibus per fallibile testimonium hominum fallatur
(divine providence preserves the Church lest in such matters it should err through the fallible testimony of men)
So let's all pray for the intercession of Saint Antonio Galvao, canonised by Pope Benedict on Friday!

* If you look up the Catholic Encyclopaedia article Beatification and Canonization, the author quotes St Thomas in the Quodlibets giving the reference IX.16. But in the Corpus Thomisticum the quote he gives is in Question IX.8.)

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