FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the Saints Go Marching In

by

The Roman Catholic Church, long the Western world’s sole dispenser of “sainthood,” deserves congratulations for having come up with the brilliant, self-cleansing concept of the “Devil’s Advocate.”

Established all the way back in 1587, by Pope Sixtus V, the Devil’s Advocate (Advovatus Diaboli, in Latin) is the device—or more accurately, the methodology—by which candidates being considered for canonization (sainthood) are rigorously investigated to determine whether or not they qualify for the honor.

It was the Devil’s Advocate’s job to assume the role of “professional doubter” or “professional skeptic” in these proceedings, by presenting the most persuasive argument possible against bestowing sainthood upon an individual.

Not only did the Devil’s Advocate diligently search for examples of low morals and character flaws, he challenged the evidentiary veracity of the so-called “miracles” that were necessary for canonization. Without this level of scrutiny, the Vatican rightly feared that something as auspicious as the bestowal of sainthood would be tarnished. Being the Devil’s Advocate was a dirty job, a thankless job, but someone had to do it.

Then, in 1983, in a surprise move, Pope John Paul II decided that no one had to do it anymore. Apparently, the job had become so dirty and thankless (and unnecessary), John Paul II thought it should be done away with, and so it was.

With a single stroke of his papal pen, he abolished the office of Devil’s Advocate. Pope Sixtus V established the requirement in 1587, and John Paul II removed it almost 400 years later, which was his legal right. Gaining sainthood in the post-1983 world was now an infinitely easier gig, sort of like when colleges and universities eliminated the foreign language requirement for masters and doctorate degrees.

So what has been the upshot? What has occurred since the Devil’s Advocate was removed from the equation? To no one’s surprise, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of people getting canonized. Either the moral quotient of the world has risen to the point where the earth is now crawling with saintly people, or the process of bestowing sainthood has been diluted beyond recognition.

Let’s do the math. The number of canonizations awarded by all of Pope John Paul II’s predecessors during the 20th century was 98. That was the grand total: 98 people became saints. That seems a perfectly reasonable number. After all, like baseball’s Triple Crown, you don’t want to cheapen it to the point where it’s too easy to attain.

But John Paul II may have opened the floodgates. Since 1983, there have been nearly 500 people canonized, and a whopping 1,300 additional people beatified. Holy inflation, Batman! That’s a shitload of goodwill. Accordingly, because that figure represents more than a 500% increase over a relative brief timespan, it’s going to raise all manner of questions.

Such as: Has the Church been needlessly stingy in its previous bestowals? Was Rome too strict in its definition of what constitutes a “miracle,” and is this simply an adjustment that was long overdue? Or was it a public relations ploy, not unlike Wal-Mart calling its workers “associates” instead of “employees,” even though the change in nomenclature resulted in no increase in wages?

In any event, unless we had access to the innermost offices of the Vatican, we’re never going to know how or why the decision was made. It’s now papal law, and will remain so. Besides, in the larger scheme of things, what does it matter? We’re all going to Hell anyway.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail