Terms 


 

Cause, Diocesan Phase - The opening of a Cause for Beatification begins at the diocesan level based on the fame of holiness of the candidate over a lengthy period. It begins after the bishop takes the counsel of the regional bishops and only after obtaining the Nihil Obstat of the Holy See. It takes the form of a judicial process with a Tribunal established to gather evidence, take testimony from witnesses, whether for or against the Servant of God, and generally determine the merits of the Cause, with an emphasis on gathering exact historical information. Based on the results the Bishop decides whether to send the Cause to Rome.

 

Cause, Roman Phase -  Upon completion of the Diocesan Phase and acceptance of the Cause at Rome, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints appoints a Relator from among its College of Relators. His task is to supervise the writing of the Positio, a complete biography containing the evidence for or against the candidate. The Congregation also appoints a Postulator to represent the Cause. When completed the Positio is judged by the Congregation's consultors, and then by a panel of theologians, whose vote determines whether the Positio is presented to the Cardinals of the Congregation for their vote. If the Cardinals approve, the Cause goes to the Pope, whose positive judgment on the Heroic Virtues of the Servant of God permits the person to be called Venerable. This Decree on the Heroic Virtues, together with a Decree approving a Miracle, permits the person's Beatification.

 

Censor - A theologian deputed by a bishop,  religious superior, or Roman Congregation, to judge whether an individual's writing or writings contain anything contrary to faith and morals. The Censor indicates that a work has nothing contrary to faith and morals by giving it his nihil obstat. It does not constitute endorsement of the work or its ideas, which may even contain theological speculation, but which is at least not harmful to the faith or morality. 

 

Congregation for the Causes of the Saints - The dicastery, or department, of the Roman Curia responsible to the Holy Father for the investigations which lead to the beatification and canonization of holy men and women. Dicasteries are headed by a Prefect, who if not a cardinal at the time of appointment is soon made one. As departments they include bishops, clergy and lay officials who conduct the ordinary business of the Congregation. The name Congregation even more specifically refers to the Cardinals and bishops who meet together periodically to make the major decisions of the dicastery, such as approving a Cause to go to the Pope. Thus, a Congregation is ultimately the Prefect, several Cardinals and bishops of the Roman Curia, and several Cardinals from dioceses around the world, whom the Pope has appointed to advise him in a particular area of his responsibilities.

 

Imprimatur - Literally, "let it be printed". The judgment by a bishop that a written work may be published. It is typically preceded by the work and judgment of a Censor, who gives the work his "nihil obstat". 

 

Nihil Obstat - Literally, "nothing stands in the way", or, "nothing obstructs". The judgment by a curial official, or officials, that there is no obstacle to a work or process going forward. In Causes this means that the Roman Congregations, especially the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, possess no information or grounds that would prevent the Cause from proceeding. It leaves the definitive judgment of the issue to higher authority, whether the bishop or the Pope.

 

Postulation (or Tribunal of the Postulation of the Cause of Beatification, or Canonization) - The ecclesiastical entity established by a bishop to effect the investigation of an individual whose fame of holiness merits proposing for Beatification or Canonization. The Postulation is subject to the authority of  the bishop who established it and operates according to the norms of the Holy See. From the Latin "to petition or request."

 

Promoter of the Faith - Formerly called the Devil's Advocate, when the Process took on a more adversarial character, the Promoter of the Faith protects the faith against falsification. Under the norms established by Pope John Paul II, however, the Promoter of the Faith has been eliminated in the Roman phase, where his work of collaboration with an Advocate for the Cause to produce an accurate, pro and con, Positio on the life of the Servant of God now falls to the Relator and his consultors.

 

Note 1 - This is always prudent with private revelation, since only the Holy See has the charism to judge whether a particular private revelation has a supernatural origin. Even when that judgment is made, it remains for the Church to explain its objective meaning. This is because God uses the subjective content of the mystic's knowledge, outlook, background and experience, as explained by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross, to communicate divine truth. This subjective content must then be distinguished from what God wishes to communicate. In the case of Luisa Piccarreta this task has not yet been accomplished.

 

Note 2 - In 1966 the Index, which prohibited Catholics from reading certain books without the permission of ecclesiastical authority, was suppressed by Pope Paul VI. However, as Cardinal Ratzinger has pointed out, the moral value of its judgments for guiding the consciences of Catholics remains. However, in the case of Luisa's writings, the Nihil Obstat of the Holy See permitting the Cause effectively removes this negative judgment, as it is a statement that nothing known to Rome prevents the Cause. It would not, however, remove the prudence that needs to be exercised with respect to all private revelations and the requirement of submission to the definitive judgment of the Church regarding them.