EWTN Catholic Q&A
Canonizations infallible?
Question from Anonymous on 09-25-2007:

Are canonizations of the Saints infallible? When looking this up, some websites said yes, while others said no. Thanks for your time, and God bless.

Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 10-22-2007:

I will answer this question purely from a canonical point of view. Perhaps the matter is debated more thorougly in theological circles.

The following is from the deree of canonization of Josemaria Escriva: "Therefore, today, in a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Square, before an immense multitude of the faithful, we have pronounced the following formula: In honor of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity, for the uplifting of Catholic faith and the increase of Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and our own, after careful deliberation, having called frequently upon God's help, and with the advice of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed Josemaría Escrivá to be a Saint, and we inscribe his name in the catalogue of the Saints, ordaining that, throughout the universal Church, he be devoutly honored among the Saints. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And what we have declared, we desire to be in force both now and in the future, anything to the contrary notwithstanding."

Canon 749 is the canon pertaining to infallible teaching. It states: "§1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held. "§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively. "§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident."

The key word in an infallible statement is "definitive." The decree of canonization does not use the term "definitive," although it certainly uses language close to it.

The alternative to "definitive" infallible teachings is not just errorneous teachings. There are other authoritative teachings. Perhaps canonizations fall into one of these categories.

People may respond to this posting with statements refuting what I have written. I will only be completely convinced if something says that canonizations are "definitive."



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