The Catholic world is gearing up for the dual canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII later this month. The recognition of these two giant figures as saints is a joyous occasion, to be sure. Yet lurking below its surface is an unsettling message — indeed, one that amounts to a kind of church-sponsored blasphemy.
The canonization process depends on the crediting of miracles to those being named as saints. In Catholic thinking, saints are thought to be intimately in God’s presence in heaven; to establish that a candidate for sainthood fits that criterion, a first kind of “proof” is required. Someone, usually with a grave medical problem, expressly asks for an intervention in the name of the candidate. If the medical problem is resolved without any “natural” explanation, a Vatican board of investigators, having sifted through the “evidence,” asserts that the cure is a “miracle.” The presumptive saint is understood to have succeeded in getting God to bend the normal laws of nature for the sake of the one prayed for.