Causes of Saints
The Catholic Church, Mother of the Saints, has always preserved their memory by proposing to the faithful examples of holiness in the sequela Christi. In centuries past the Roman Pontiffs promulgated norms to aid in reaching the truth in so important a matter for the Church. In our own times, John Paul II promulgated the Apostolic Constitution, Divinus perfectionis Magister, on 25 January 1983. In it he established, among other things, the procedure for diocesan or eparchial inquiries to be conducted by the Bishops with a view toward the beatification and canonization of Servants of God. In the same Apostolic Constitution, the Supreme Pontiff granted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints the faculty to publish special norms for conducting such inquiries about the life, virtues and the reputation of holiness and of intercessory power, or about the life, martyrdom and the reputation of martyrdom and of intercessory power of Servants of God, and about alleged miracles attributed to the intercession of the Blessed and of Servants of God and, in some cases, about the ancient cult of a Servant of God.
Our task is first of all, to help as canonical professionals with the instruction of diocesan or eparchial inquiries that regard the heroic virtues or martyrdom of Servants of God. It is necessary that before deciding to initiate the cause, the Bishop will have to verify some facts that will determine his decision. We help the Ordinaries in doing so. After having decided to initiate the cause, we assist with the real and actual inquiry by helping the gathering of the documents of the cause.
The causes of beatification and canonization have, as their scope, the gathering of the proofs in order to attain moral certitude on the heroic virtues or the martyrdom of the Servant of God whose beatification and canonization are asked.
This particular kind of cause regards a Catholic who in life, in death and after death has enjoyed a reputation of holiness by living all the Christian virtues in an heroic manner; or enjoys a reputation of martyrdom because, having followed Christ more closely, he has sacrificed his life in the act of martyrdom. The Catholic whose cause of beatification and canonization has been initiated is called a Servant of God.
In our work, we help the diocesan Bishop, the Institutes of Consecrated Life, Associations or private persons, to verify if, among a significant portion of the people of God, the Servant of God enjoys an authentic and widespread reputation of holiness or of martyrdom as well as an authentic and widespread reputation of intercessory power.
First of all, the so called "Postulator", one of our professionals, must collect documentation of the reputation of holiness or of martyrdom and on the reputation of intercessory power and, in the name of the petitioner, present it to the competent Bishop.
The petitioner promotes the cause that is to be instructed on the heroic virtues or on the martyrdom of the Servant of God, and assumes its moral and financial obligations.
The petitioner of the cause may be the diocesan Bishop ex officio, juridical persons, such as dioceses or eparchies, equivalent structures that have jurisdiction, parishes, Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life, or clerical and/or lay associations of the faithful recognized by ecclesiastical authority. The petitioner of the cause may also be a physical person, that is, any member of the People of God, provided that he is able to guarantee the advancement of the cause in its diocesan or Roman phases.
Postulator of the Cause
By means of a mandate written according to the norm of law, the petitioner can nominate one of our professionals a procurator, or more commonly called: "Postulator", for the diocesan phase of the cause. In the name of the same petitioner the postulator follows the course of the Inquiry with diocesan authorities.
Our Postulator is an expert in theology, canon law and history, as well as in the praxis of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints having received the proper Certificates and Diplomas.
During the instruction of the inquiry, our Postulator is in close contact with the diocese in which the inquiry is being instructed. In the Roman phase of the cause, our Postulator, duly nominated by the petitioner with a new mandate written according to the norm of law, must be approved by the Congregation and resides, stably, in Rome to be able to follow closely the directions from the proper Curial officials.
Recent Causes and Ancient Causes
The procedure to be followed in the instruction of the diocesan Inquiry is determined by the type of proofs. A cause may be recent or ancient.
A cause is recent when the virtues or martyrdom of the Servant of God can be proven through the oral depositions of eyewitnesses. In a recent cause, the Inquiry will concentrate mainly upon the hearing of witnesses, while always keeping in mind the necessity to search for and gather all the documentary proofs of the cause. Our Postulator can assist in this generally long procedure that supposes experience and knowledge in this matters.
A cause is ancient when the proofs regarding the virtues in specie or the martyrdom of the Servant of God can be brought to light only from written sources, as there are no eyewitnesses of the heroic virtues or of the martyrdom of the Servant of God. In an ancient cause, the inquiry will prevalently regard the research of the experts in historical matters and in matters that pertain to archives, while keeping in mind the necessity to hear some witnesses about the existence of the reputation of holiness or of martyrdom and of intercessory power. Our Postulator has sufficient experience in dealing with historical research, in particular in Roman archives, bibliographic sources in America and Europe, being also familiar with old languages, especially Latin.
Cause on Heroic Virtues or on Martyrdom
If one intends to prove the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, the inquiry must be instructed "on the life, the heroic virtues and the reputation of holiness and of intercessory power". These are the most common causes and also those required of more work in order to have at least one critical biography. Our Postulator is ready not only to help in organize the first levels of documents, but also to propose an unified work beginning immediately to write the Positio, that is, the dissertation to be presented to historians, theologians, and Cardinals in Rome.
If one intends to prove the martyrdom of the Servant of God, the Inquiry must be instructed "on the life, the martyrdom and the reputation of martyrdom and of intercessory power". Our Postulator has the professional skills to assist in this very particular and difficult kind of causes. Though Mexico and Canada have some martyrdom causes, the United States, until recently, has not.
Cause on an alleged miraculous healing or other extraordinary event
Since the inquiry into alleged miracles is instructed separately from that on the virtues or the martyrdom of the Servant of God, the petition that requests the beginning of the inquiry must be presented separately from that for the virtues of the Servant of God. This request must indicate, at least in a summary fashion, on what facts and proofs the petitioner bases himself in order to demonstrate what he is affirming. The petitioner and the Postulator must sign it, and present it to the competent Bishop, that generally is that of the place where the facts happened. Because this kind of processes can be linked to any Cause of any Blessed or Servant of God from any part of the world, Our Postulator is ready to offer assistance on this matters when the event is to be studied in the United States, Canada or Mexico.
Witnesses and their depositions
The witnesses who must be called to testify in the Inquiry are: those witnesses indicated by the postulator; ex officio witnesses, especially if they are contrary to the cause; and other witnesses mentioned during the testimonies; the experts in historical matters. In the Inquiry on an allegedly miraculous healing, also that doctors who treated the person healed and the medical experts ab inspectione. The Bishop or his Delegate may limit an excessive number of witnesses. In order to prove the heroic virtues or the martyrdom of the Servant of God in recent causes, there must be eyewitnesses (de visu), that is, those who must have had direct and immediate knowledge of the Servant of God. First of all, blood relatives and other relations must be called to testify.
If necessary, others who have received information about the Servant of God from those who have had direct and immediate knowledge (de auditu a videntibus) may be added to these eyewitnesses. Taking the testimony of witnesses, who have received information about the Servant of God from others who have, in turn, only heard others speak of the Servant of God (de auditu ab audientibus), is not foreseen.
Canonical recognition of the mortal remains of a Servant of God
According to ancient tradition of the Church, relics of the Saints and the Blessed are an object of veneration, and their tombs places of pilgrimage. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has competence to decide everything concerning the authentication and the preservation of relics and that is why this is also a field where one of our canon law professionals may help.
It is necessary to certify that the mortal remains of a Servant of God whose cause is in progress are authentic. The Bishop of the diocese where the remains are buried has competence to perform the canonical recognition of the mortal remains of the Servant of God, that is, the recognition of their authenticity. This procedure requires a professional knowledge that we can provide for Dioceses and petitioners.
In order to guarantee the best preservation of the relics of a Saint or of a Blessed, it may be necessary to conduct specialized treatment on the relics. In order to perform any treatment on the relics, the competent Bishop is to ask the permission of the Congregation. Because it is the competence of the postulator of the cause to prepare such relics and draw up certificates of their authenticity, this is also a field of our professional work.