The dying Emperor Augustus cried out, "I'm becoming a God!"
It strikes me dying Popes might cry out, "I am becoming a Beatus!"
Apparently Paul VI might be declared "Blessed" next year, John XXIII is already beatified as is John Paul II, there is strong lobby for Pius XII and of course John Paul I, I have always had a sneaking admiration for Pius XI but no-one else is that interested.
My Orthodox friends are horrified by the haste of some of our beatifications and canonisation, and so I am I. I am not sure what we mean any longer when we beatify someone or canonise them, in the past three criteria where necessary:
- They were in heaven: proved by miracles
- They had an enduring and wellfounded cultus
- Their holiness was outstanding and an example to the faithful
Obviously those who have been beatified and canonised fulfil all of these requirements, however there does seem to be a danger of writing history with an airbrush in our present day haste to raise certain individuals to the altar. Although in all cases there is holiness, in many there seem to be many other issues too. Too often beatification/canonisation can be seen as a political act, placing the Blesseds or Saints actions and words beyond question.
There is always the danger when the following generation beatify their benefactors, their teachers, friends, patrons and masters that it is ideas that are being raised to the altar rather than individuals, it is a piece of nepotism, even more worrying than that of the Borgias
In the case of St Jose-Maria Escriva who was certainly outstanding but with the extreme haste of his canonisation one wonders quite what influence Opus Dei and its money, and the political situation in Spain at the time of his death, had on the speed of his canonisation. Would a great deal really have been lost by letting the euphoria following his death have settled down for a few decades and for his cultus to have bedded down more firmly in the Church outside of Opus Dei and Spain before his canonisation?
In the case of Pius XII there are obvious questions being asked both inside and outside the Church, not just about his wartime record but also about his private life, which seems to be a little eccentric: that nun, the monkey glands, for example.
Paul VI, "Hamlet" as his predecessor called him, is possibly even more ambiguous, he certainly suffered, he lived with self-doubt all his life, he was too ill even to attend seminary, even in his lifetime there were rumours about blackmail, which were spread by his enemies, but which have never been answered. I wonder is it right for someone with so many enemies to be raised to the altar, shouldn't a reconciliation be necessary first?
I am not arguing for or against the raising to the altar of anyone, just simply expressing mistrust of "Santo subito". Had Marcel Maciel's crimes been a little better hidden, it would not be difficult to imagine him carried to the altar by the money and enthusiasm of his followers. Again I ask would waiting a century do any harm? In the age of the global village would expecting "many" miracles, increasing the number be a problem? Would demanding a strong widespread and deep seated cultus be too much to ask?