No track to sainthood – The Washington Post


I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Catholic Church. That’s why I feel less comfortable criticizing Catholicism than Orthodox Judaism, the religion in which I was raised. Occasionally, though, I just can’t help myself. In my defense, some of my best friends are Catholics (actually just one—a guy named Tony). But many of my best friends are ex-Catholics, including my wife.

Which brings me to sainthood. Because I prefer behavior to belief and life to death, I recently criticized Catholic doctrines that make martyrdom an easier path to sainthood than good works. But part of me wishes Congress were as willing to craft political compromises as Pope Francis, who approved making Popes John Paul II and John XXIII simultaneous saints. The first is a conservative and the second a liberal. (I’m grading on a curve here because “liberal pope” seems like an oxymoron.)

Pope Francis has been so anxious to elevate both that he put John Paul II on the fast track to sainthood and waved a second miracle for John XXIII. As I understand sainthood, you must first be dead and in heaven. You must then perform miracles, usually by answering a live person’s prayer for assistance in a desperate situation. “Proof” of such miracles is frequently a medical cure that the Vatican has found to be instantaneous and without scientific explanation. Prayers to win the lottery don’t count, despite overcoming greater odds, one would think, than inexplicable medical cures. If there were a god, she would probably have a good chuckle over the chutzpah of one man (the pope) declaring someone to be in heaven.

It would make more sense to me if sainthood were simply a lifetime achievement award for good works, reserved for those whose character others are invited to emulate. But good works are downgraded when miracles play a key role.

The Catholic Church is known to move slowly. For example, it wasn’t until he had been dead for 350 years that the Vatican admitted Galileo had been right after all about the earth orbiting the sun. Even if I believed in sainthood, I would prefer that the church take its time to declare saints. A long waiting period allows for a legacy to endure or for scandals to emerge. How many of the thousands of official saints would stand up to careful scrutiny today?

Written By: Herb Silverman
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  1. Yes very pseudoliberal and interesting. You are still on that conservative curve. I am older enoughto remember Giovanni XXlll, and I lived in Rome. However this is still all religious bullshit about miracles. Watch Sister Sarah film and Clint Eastwood will explain what a miracle really is.

  2. It’s all such a transparent fraud, I wonder how they can propose someone for sainthood with a straight face.

  3. A religion founded on serial lies and fraud? What’s not to like?

    I recommend Christopher Hitchens’ account of when he acted as Devil’s Advocate (it’s a real, Vatican job!) to argue against Mother Theresa. It’s in God Is Not Great and would be absolutely hilarious, if you could only ignore the fact that about a billion people seem to think it’s serious. Even the patient’s own doctor says the “cure” was because her cyst (not “cancer” as the Vatican called it) responded to a course of antibiotics. The Vatican declined to obtain any evidence from the doctor, or listen to him when it was volunteered.

    There’s a short account by Hitch here:

  4. From a purely political point of view, you can score points with the locals by promoting one of them to sainthood.

    Sainthood is getting cheap. All you had to do recently for a great batch of saints was get killed by Turks for being Christian.

    Miracles will sell with the uneducated, but silly claims will gradually turn away the educated. The more saints Francis creates the more points for ridicule he is creating at the same time.

    It will be very embarrassing for the church when the saint popes turn out to have an unsavory role in the child abuse scandals.

    Saints should mellow for a few centuries to make sure any scandals are revealed.

  5. In reply to #5 by aroundtown:

    No spooks, no saints, no miracles, imaginary friends and demons are not real, and for all of this we can truly be thankful.

    Like the topic. In the UK they give you an OBE for good works, if you’re safe, ordinary middle class; a knighthood if you’re filthy rich, a High Tory MP or a millionaire celeb; working class do gooders get a British Empire Medal. It would be interesting to know the class makeup of the RC Corps of Saints.

  6. @OP – Even if I believed in sainthood, I would prefer that the church take its time to declare saints. A long waiting period allows for a legacy to endure or for scandals to emerge.

    …Or for the scandals forgotten, the witnesses dead and the evidence lost.

    How many of the thousands of official saints would stand up to careful scrutiny today?

    They would probably rate with the “heroic kings”. – More realistically evidenced as scheming, murdering, treacherous, robber barons, who would kill anyone saying or writing anything against them!

  7. John XXIII is one pope I have a genuine regard for. I was brought up as a Catholic and had a Catholic education; I was in year 7 or 8 of school when John XXIII was elected. His cheerful goodwill and desire to “open some windows”,rather than being an expression of some form of philosophical or political liberalism, was an expression of his positive sense of humanity. The church I remember before his election was indeed rather fusty and cramped and seriously in need of “aggiornamento”, though the Vatican hierarchs of the time thought very much the opposite. In his private life and faith John XXIII was a very devout and conservative Catholic, but he was not a theologian. As a priest, he was first and foremost a man of goodwill to everyone, and he was very much aware of how simply very old-fashioned and alien the church was becoming in a rapidly changing world. I do not like the thought of John XXIII being canonized a saint – that will seem to put him up in some otherworldly and decidedly nonhuman realm in which I have long since ceased to believe. I much prefer to remember him as one of the benevolent, humanizing influences of my youth, which he was on account of his own great humanity.

  8. In reply to #4 by Roedy:

    Saints should mellow for a few centuries to make sure any scandals are revealed.

    Absolutely. And if Frankie The First had any political savvy, he would take a breather on the canonization thing… but they’re desperate. They’re losing customers by the thousands. They seem to be incapable of realizing that the only way to save their organization is to improve their image in the eyes of people who aren’t complete dummies. That would require moves like blowing the whistle on members of their organization who have abused children. And generally speaking, to “clean up their ranks”.

    But that won’t happen of course. They are way too conceited and arrogant. If they keep up this kind of nonsense, pretty soon the only faithful remaining in the RCC will be the severely ignorant or the chronically dishonest, which will make this sinking ship sink even deeper (and hopefully a little faster).

  9. Could I propose Saint Harry of Pottery. There is photographic evidence of far more of his miracles than those of any popes!

  10. Are you serious. The earth isn’t the center of the university? All this time I thought Galileo was full of krap. I guess the church owes him the last dozen years of his life back. They should have went ahead and burned him at the stake, then he could have been in the saint’s club with Joan Van Ark.

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