Is the upcoming October canonization of Msgr. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer to be considered infallible or not?
The huge number of the present pontiff’s canonizations [of Pope John Paul II] have certainly been a great concern to us, for the traditional rules contained in Canon Law, to prevent any possibility of error or of canonization of a person whose faith and life were not perfectly exemplary, have been done away with, and replaced with much less demanding rules. However, hitherto they have been all pre-Vatican II saints, and very holy Catholics. But the projected canonization of the founder of the Opus Dei is different. For he it was who anticipated and developed 30 years before Vatican II a revolutionary, new, secular theology of the laity, and accepted the principle of pluralism, accepting into the Opus Dei men of every faith and religion.1 This indifferentism cannot be considered, according to any traditional guidelines, as an example of sanctity.
It is indeed accepted by the theologians as theologically certain that the Church is infallible in the solemn canonization of the saints, as distinct from the beatification of the blessed.2 The reason for this is that a canonization is not just a permission for the honor of a saint, as is a beatification. It is a definition, and a command, made by the Sovereign Pontiff with the use of his full authority, and consequently binding on Catholics. Consequently it is similar to a profession of faith, having as its object the glory of the saint in heaven.
However, not all canonized saints are solemnly declared by the Church as such. In the first ten centuries of the Church’s history, the popes simply gave their approval to the veneration of saints and martyrs by the faithful. These are known today as saints. However, since there was no solemn canonization process, the full authority and infallibility of the Church are not engaged for such saints. Consequently, it is not the fact that a person is called a "saint" that makes it infallible, but the solemn declaration and definition by the Sovereign Pontiff, as binding on all Catholics. It is upon this that the answer to the question concerning the infallibility of the canonization of Escriva depends. If the decree defines formally and obliges the acceptation of his sanctity, then it will be infallible, regardless of the defects in the processes for the canonization of saints that exist since Vatican II. However, if the decree of canonization were not to be solemn, and not to contain such expressions as "we define" and "we command" the veneration of this saint, then it would not be infallible, just as the approval of canonized saints in the early centuries of the Church. The same applied to Vatican II, for by not wanting to define doctrines clearly, it refused to use the infallible authority of the Extraordinary Magisterium that it could have used to condemn heresy.
The question then arises as to whether, if the canonization is duly performed with solemnity, we are bound to venerate this particular saint as a model and patron. St. Thomas states that the veneration that we display towards the saints is "that by which we believe that they share the glory of the saints."3 The object of the canonization is then the saints’ vision of God in heaven, and only indirectly the sanctity of their life and its value as a model for us. These are consequently not the object of the infallible definition, and although they would not normally be questioned in a canonized saint, in such a particular case it would seem possible to seriously doubt these, whilst still accepting that the canonized St. is in heaven. We could consequently accept that Msgr. Escriva is a saint in heaven, (hardly surprising for a priest, given his conservative mindset, genuine piety, frequent reception of the sacraments) without accepting in any way the pluralism and secularism that he taught.
1 Cf. "Opus Dei: A Strange Pastoral Phenomenon", The Angelus, Sept. 1995.
2 Cf. Zubizarreta, Theologia Dogmatico-Scholastica, Vol. I, §§487-489.
3 Quodlib. 9, a. 16 in Zubizarreta, op. cit.
[Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott] Cf. BELOW FOR A CLARIFICATION TO THIS ANSWER:
MORE FROM FR. PETER SCOTT ON THIS TOPIC
THE "SAINTHOOD" OF JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA
...Numerous other issues presently demonstrate the rapid progression of the "auto-destruction" foreseen even by the liberal Pope Paul VI thirty years ago. The worst is that it is becoming increasingly more obvious that this destruction is coming from the top down, from the pope himself. A typical example of this was the shameful and highly questionable canonization of Msgr. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer last October 6. For due process was not followed. Not only was there no devil’s advocate, but the former members of Opus Dei who personally knew Msgr. Escriva and who attempt to register their objections, were not allowed to express their opinion. As a last resort, last September they were forced to write an open letter to the pope, stating their position before the Truth Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ:
...It is because we believe that the truth has been in large part hidden that we now give our testimony in order to avoid a danger for the Faith brought about by the unjustifiable reverence for the man that you have the intention of canonizing soon..." They went on to explain that they include "people who have intimately known Msgr. Escriva and who can testify to his arrogance, to his evil character, to his improper seeking of a title (Marquise of Peralta), to his dishonesty, to his indifference towards the poor, to his love of luxury and ostentation, to his lack of compassion and to his idolatrous devotion towards Opus Dei. (DICI, No. 61)
After having pointed out that the process was uncanonical and dishonest, they had this to say: "It (the canonization) will offend God. It will stain the Church forever. It will take away from the saints their special holiness. It will call into question the credibility of all the canonizations made during your papacy. It will undermine the future authority of the papacy". They were not traditionalists, and they were former members of his organization, but their supplication was not heard, and the ceremony took place as arranged on October 6. Their letter will certainly turn out to be prophetic, for in time they will be proven to be right in their assessment concerning Escriva as well as concerning Opus Dei that they so aptly compare to the liberal Sillon movement, rightly condemned by St. Pius X in 1910. This kind of last minute objection is unheard of in the history of the Church. How could Catholics possibly regard such a man as heroic in virtue, as an extraordinary model of Catholic spirituality, as a saint must be? For all the reasons that they give, we cannot possibly consider this "canonization" as a valid, infallible papal pronouncement. We trust that he is in heaven, but we cannot possibly regard as a saint this herald of Vatican II, who preached naturalism and indifferentism as early as 1928... . [Obtained from the Southern Sentinel, the newsletter of Holy Cross Seminary in Goulburn, Australia, where Fr. Peter Scott is currently the rector]