Instruction Sanctorum Mater Request Greater Rigor in Diocesan Inquiry of Causes of Saints

Source: FSSPX News


In the Instruction Sanctorum Mater released on February 18, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints explained in details how to conduct diocesan enquiries in the causes of saints, and invited the bishops to be more rigorous. The document was signed by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on May 17, 2007.

The cardinal explained that the aim of the document was “to contribute to ensuring that current norms for the diocesan inquiry of a cause of beatification and canonisation are applied with ever greater care.” Next, he mentioned that the Instruction was divided into six sections. “The first draws attention to the need for a true reputation of holiness before beginning a process, and explains the duties and roles of the petitioner, the postulator and the competent bishop. The second part describes the preliminary phase of the cause which extends as far as the ’Nihil Obstat’ of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The third section concerns the instruction of the cause. The fourth part concentrates on the gathering of documentary proof and the fifth on the gathering of proof from witnesses. Finally, the sixth section of the document outlines the procedures for the closing of the inquiry.”

Referring to the reasons for this publication, the cardinal explained that the 25 years which have elapsed since the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister by John Paul II, and of the Normæ Servandæ by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, have proved that “in some dioceses, certain provisions of the law have not always been understood and, consequently, not been put into practice with the necessary meticulousness”; and that this “has sometimes made it necessary for the congregation to supply clarifications or to ask diocesan curias to correct errors.”

Henceforth, before he proceeds with the inquiry, “the bishop will have to undertake some serious verifications which will be significant in the decision to be made,” especially regarding the fame of sanctity or of martyrdom which must be “spontaneous and not artificially made up.”

Next, the bishop will cause the “inquiry properly so called” to begin, and will order that documentary evidence be collected for the cause. “The success of the cause largely depends upon the quality of its instruction,” the document points out. Hence, the bishop “must not entrust any charge to persons belonging to the same institute, society, or association as the servant of God.” The document mentions the possibility of transferring the case to “another diocese” for “special reasons.”

The document recalls that objectivity is a duty, and invites the postulator “not to hide” from the bishop “the possible discovery of elements contrary to the fame of sanctity or martyrdom.” Thus the postulator is asked to “seek the truth conscientiously and honestly.”

“If there are no insuperable difficulties, witnesses will be heard,” the Instruction continues. During the interrogation, the questions asked must be “brief,” and “must not be insidious nor deceitful.” “A priest’s testimony concerning what he came to know through the sacrament of confession must not be admitted,” the document also stressed. For the “physicians who cared for the person healed” and who “refuse to be questioned, they may prepare (…) a written report on the illness and its progress”; however, “in case they would also refuse to prepare a written report,” the bishop can appoint a person “to collect the testimonies of the said physicians.”

Regarding the inquiries on presumed miracles, the Instruction also points out some elements of the procedure which, in the course of the last 20 years, proved to be rather problematic in their concrete application.

The Instruction of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints also invites bishops to be watchful that the servant of God is not “the object of a public ecclesiastical worship without prior authorization of the Holy See.” It draws attention to the fact that “it is of the utmost importance to always abstain from any act which may lead the faithful to erroneously think that beginning an inquiry necessarily implies the beatification or canonization of the servant of God.”

Lastly, the document evokes regulations concerning “relics,” whose “authenticity” and “safekeeping” belong to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. (Sources: VIS/Apic/Imedia)