As Rome Reports website explains:
Up until now, there were three ways by which a person could be declared blessed or saint: martyrdom for those murdered by an act of hatred of the faith; a faithful practice of the heroic virtues; and, finally, "equivalent canonization,” meaning proof that a devout devotion already exists toward the candidate, as well as a solid fame for his/her miraculous intercession.
In addition to these three ways, Francis has now added a fourth called “offering of life.” National Catholic Reporter (NCR) describes the new criteria as follows:
- Free and willing offer of one's life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
- Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues — at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way — before having offered one's life to others and until one's death.
- Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
- A miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession is needed for beatification.
Francis goes on to say that “those Christians are worthy of special consideration and honor who, following in the footsteps and teaching of Jesus, have offered their life voluntarily and freely for others and have persevered in this to death.”
The pope writes, “It is certain that this heroic offering of life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ and, therefore, is worthy of that admiration which the community of the faithful have usually reserved for those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised the Christian virtues to a heroic degree.”
America also reported how a L’Osservatore Romano article took a shot at canonizations of the past:
The rationale behind today’s decree is explained by an article in L’Osservatore Romano, which also summarizes the discussion that began in 2014 in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, “with the pope’s encouragement,” and preceded the promulgation of today’s decree.
The article emphasizes that the congregation recognized that the three existing paths to sainthood “did not do justice” to “true, and in many aspects, touching expressions of sanctity.”…
Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, then gave the routine assurances that this unprecedented novelty was changing nothing. NCR reports:
Bartolucci wrote that the new provisions do nothing to alter church doctrine concerning Christian holiness leading to sainthood and the traditional procedure for beatification.
Rather, the addition offers an enrichment, he wrote, with "new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel."
Most unaware Catholics will read the above news and see no cause for alarm. That is because they assume any person canonized on this new path will, of course, be a Catholic. However, unless the letter specified this, which is highly doubtful, there is no such guarantee. Notice one of the traditional paths to canonization already included martyrdom in the truly Catholic sense of the term: “those murdered by an act of hatred of the faith.” Now notice the new “path” from Pope Francis removes any mention of dying as a result of persecution for the Catholic Faith and instead substitutes the offering one’s life voluntarily and freely for others.
Why is this important? As I previously explained in a March 28, 2014 article, “From the Devil’s Advocate: Will Saint John Paul Open the Door to Non-Catholic “Saints”? Pope Francis is very keen to the idea of canonizing non-Catholic Saints:
Consider the following statement of Pope Francis, given during his interview with Andrea Tornielli on December 10, 2013:
…I knew a parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism. After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: “I will continue to deal with the cause, but both of their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s.” This is what ecumenism of blood is. It still exists today; you just need to read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don’t ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptized in. We need to take these facts into consideration.
Later, in a November 1, 2014 I wrote an article entitled, “Would Pope Francis Canonize a Non-Catholic?” In that piece I noted the following:
On October 10th, Pope Francis had a meeting with the International House of Bishops of the The Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Church. The meeting had been previously set up by the late Tony Palmer. Palmer was a Protestant friend of the Pope’s who received a Catholic requiem Mass and was buried as a bishop by order of Pope Francis. This despite the fact that Palmer was a Protestant and did not have valid orders. During the meeting Pope Francis stated the following:
“We are sinning against Christ’s will, because we continue to focus on our differences; our shared baptism is more important than our differences. We all believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We all have the Holy Spirit within us, which prays within us!
…It’s crazy to have this treasure and yet prefer imitations of that treasure – the imitations are our differences. What we should care about is the treasure: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the vocation to holiness, the call to preach the Gospel in every corner of the earth, with the certainty that He is with us – he’s not with me because I’m Catholic, he’s not with me because I’m Lutheran, He’s not with me because I’m Orthodox. A theological mess!"...
…Right now in Middle East, and Africa, and so many other countries, how many Christians are being killed! They’re not asked if they are Pentecostals, or Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox. They’re Christians; and they’re being killed because they believe in Jesus Christ. This is ecumenism of the blood!
I remember one time in Hamburg, in 1986-87, and I met a parish priest. And that parish priest was bringing the cause for the beatification of a Catholic priest who was guillotined by the Nazis for teaching the Catechism to children. During his research he saw the list of those sentenced to death that day and right behind him was a Lutheran pastor who was condemned for the same reason. So that the blood of the priest mixed with the blood of the pastor. The priest went to the bishop and said, “either I bring both the Cause for both together, or neither. That’s ecumenism of blood.”
Lest anyone think Francis came up with the shocking idea of non-Catholic Saints on his own, we must give credit to recently canonized conciliar Saint John Paul II. In a May 7 2000 homily, Pope John Paul II stated the following:
…In our century 'the witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants' ('Tertio Millennio Adveniente,' 37)…And there are so many of them! They must not be forgotten, rather they must be remembered and their lives documented…The presence of representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities gives today's celebration particular significance and eloquence in this Jubilee Year 2000. It shows that the example of the heroic witnesses to the faith is truly precious for all Christians. In the 20th century, almost all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities have known persecution, uniting Christians in their places of suffering and making their shared sacrifice a sign of hope for times still to come….These brothers and sisters of ours in faith, to whom we turn today in gratitude and veneration, stand as a vast panorama of Christian humanity in the 20th century, a panorama of the Gospel of the Beatitudes, lived even to the shedding of blood…'Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life' (John 12:25)…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the precious heritage which these courageous witnesses have passed down to us is a patrimony shared by all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities. It is a heritage which speaks more powerfully than all the causes of division. The ecumenism of the martyrs and the witnesses to the faith is the most convincing of all; to the Christians of the 21st century it shows the path to unity. It is the heritage of the Cross lived in the light of Easter: a heritage which enriches and sustains Christians as they go forward into the new millennium.
Notice Pope John Paul II uses the term “heroic witness to the faith,” and “brothers and sisters of ours in faith” in describing non-Catholics. Thus, we are allowed to ask which Faith? For it is apparent that to John Paul II it matters little whether that “faith” is the true Catholic Faith. To crystallize this point, a 1998 letter of the Ecumenical Commission of the Central Committee of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 to the corresponding national commissions under Pope John Paul II stated the following:
The witness of faith given by Christians, even to the shedding of their blood, deserves particular attention in view of the Jubilee. This testimony has become the common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants. The Christian community cannot allow the memory of these witnesses to Christ to perish, for they demonstrate the presence and efficacy of the Holy Spirit in the different Churches and ecclesial Communities. This voice from the 'communio sanctorum' is louder and more convincing than the elements of division. The memory of their testimony and faith is a pledge of hope for the future. To this end, it could be useful to compile a 'common calendar' or an 'ecumenical martyrology,' a compendium of Christians — Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant — who have rendered testimony to Christ our Savior, sometimes even by shedding their blood.
And later under the notable subheading “Communion of Saints” it states:
In many places Christians have acknowledged in their midst martyrs and exemplary confessors of faith, hope and charity — both men and women. Some of these, such as Francis of Assisi, Roublev, Johann Sebastian Bach, Monsignor Romero, Elizabeth Seton, the martyr Anuarite of Zaire, and Martin Luther King, have been for various reasons recognized beyond confessional boundaries. Ecumenical groups could look at the example of some of these witnesses with a view to identifying how the work of the Holy Spirit can be distinguished in them and what their role might be in the promotion of full communion.
Lest anyone get excited that Francis’ canonizing a non-Catholic a Saint would move the Neo-Catholics to finally see the light, they have long been on board with the idea. When a Catholic Answers apologetics “expert” was asked the question, “Could a non-Catholic be canonized by the Catholic Church?” in 2011, the expert responded as follows:
It is theoretically possible that the Church could canonize a non-Catholic, because canonization is simply an official acknowledgment that a particular person is in heaven. But to date the Church has done so only with its own members. This is because one of the purposes of canonization is to set forth for Catholics a model of Catholic Christian holiness.
Further, at least one priest in good standing has already said there is no problem with praying to non-Catholics and at least one non-Christian.. Fr. Kenneth Doyle, a prominent columnist for Southwestern Indiana’s Diocesan newspaper stated on March 11, 2014 that not only would he “have no problem” praying for the intercession of such heroes as the Baptist Martin Luther King and the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his private prayer, he also sees no problem praying for the intercession of Gandhi, just as he does with deceased members of his own family.
Though the Church does not discount the theoretical possibility that non-Catholics in invincible ignorance might be saved, She hardly holds “good hope” for this, as the only sure and certain means She allows for salvation were given to Her by Jesus Christ. Thus, for a Catholic, the idea of a Pope canonizing a non-Catholic would be utterly impossible. By doing so, the Pope would go beyond saying that there is a possibility of the salvation of non-Catholics to saying that the salvation of some non-Catholics is infallibly certain.
Further, the entire premise of canonized Sainthood itself has always been based on the concept of martyrdom for the one true Catholic Faith and heroic virtue and sanctity within the one true Catholic Faith. John Paul II spoke of the “ecumenism of the martyrs” and Francis speaks of the “ecumenism of blood,” as if the Church teaches that non-Catholics who are killed for virtuous reasons are certainly and immediately saved. This is not the case. As the Council of Florence teaches:
No one, no matter how much he has given in alms and even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church (Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino, Session 11, Feb. 4, 1442).
Similarly, many great Saints have spoken out against the idea of ecumenical Christian martyrs:
True martyrs are found only in the Catholic Church; for, since there is but one true faith, there is but one true martyrdom. - St. Irenaeus of Lyons
Heretics or schismatics, being placed outside the Church and cut off from unity and charity, even though one should be slain for the name of Christ, he could not be crowned in death. - St. Cyprian
Thus, at the very least, Pope Francis cannot assume that a non-Catholic who is killed in the name of Christ is automatically saved, much less non-Catholics who are killed for living virtuous lives.
Therefore, it is certain that no truly Catholic concept of canonized Sainthood can include non-Catholics. Catholic Saints are supposed to be heroic examples of what we the faithful should strive to be in order to save our souls. The Saints were not only Catholic to the core, but built on this solid foundation to achieve spiritual heights. The idea of holding up a non-Catholic as an example to save one’s soul would not only have been considered unthinkable but blasphemous at any point in Church history before our own.
Luckily for us, at least according to Bishop Fellay, not even Francis believes his canonizations are infallible. (See below audio at 11 minutes 24 seconds)