A further question on the meaning of "heroic virtue" of Saints?

You will be aware that the declaration of “heroic virtue” of Pope Pius XII has not been without controversy. What does “heroic virtue” mean, if – with all the external contraints of the time – the proposed saint in question did not live up to what we by our standards today would judge “heroic”?

Well, here is another example, the world’s first beatified lay journalist – Spaniard Manuel Lozano Garrido (1920-171). John Hooper, writing in The Guardian, raises the following point:

But journalism is also about resisting efforts to hide or distort the truth, and it is worth noting that the personally admirable Lozano Garrido spent his working life under a dictatorship – that of the late General Francisco Franco – in which journalists were expected to do both.

How comfortable the soon-to-be blessed Manuel Lozano Garrido was with that situation is hard to make out in the laudatory accounts of his life written by supporters of his cause. …Many an intellectual who backed Franco in his early days, though, became disillusioned subsequently. …Perhaps a reader can enlighten as to where exactly Lozano Garrido fitted in because, by approving his beatification, Pope Benedict is sending a message to the world about the sort of journalism that he regards as worthwhile.

None of his readers drew the logical comparison with Pius XII that immediatey occured to me, but here are some relevant comments, including Hooper’s reply:

No, the Pope is not sending a message about the type of journalism he approves. He does that — if at all — through L’Osservatore Romano.

I knew nothing of Lozano Garrido until reading this column, but his beatification has nothing to do with whether or not he supported Franco. What people fail to understand is that there is a difference between moral virtue and human virtue. For instance, some people fault Pope John Paul for the Assisi multi-religion summit he held or for kissing a copy of the Koran. The fact that he was a mystic and communed deeply with God on a daily basis did not make him perfect. The Assisi summit may have been a stupid move and kissing the Koran probably wasn’t the smartest thing he ever did, but they, in and of themselves, do not point to an unsaintly life. They simply show that, like the rest of us, he was a flawed human who could make bad temporal judgments. Yet, the fact that he was a mystic who communed deeply with God on a daily basis is the basis for the cause of his beatification and canonization.

Sanctity does not mean absolute perfection. It means that one is close to God, but not God Himself, which is why Catholics venerate, but do not worship, the saints.

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

And:

No he is not. The cause was presumably initiated not because of the mans journalistic oeuvre but because of his heroic virtues. Unless one can point to anything he wrote as antithetical to the faith then its not particularly relevant.

To which Hooper replies:

I’m interested to see that a couple of readers have picked me up on my contention that “Benedict is sending a message to the world about the sort of journalism that he regards as worthwhile”.
I take the point that this is a judgement on Lozano Garrido’s virtue, not his writing. But I stand by the argument that the Vatican uses beatification and canonisation as a means of communication. It is saying, in effect, “This is the sort of man or woman we regard as a model for others”, particularly when that person is the first of his or her kind to be so honoured.
If, as in this case, the proposed object of veneration is a journalist who worked within the constraints of an unpleasant, authoritarian regime that showered privileges on the Roman Catholic church, then I think his attitude to those constraints becomes a pretty important part of the message.

All in all, it raises the question of what exactly “heroic virtue” means in terms of the judgement of saintliness. It might be worth someone doing a bit of work into this subject. A doctoral project, perhaps?

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16 Responses to A further question on the meaning of "heroic virtue" of Saints?

  1. PM says:

    Perhaps distance can lend some perspective. The modern papacy does not promote much of Pio Nono’s agenda – it is not, for example trying to retake the Papal States and has backed away from much of the Syllabus of Errors.

    So in naming him a blessed the Holy See is clearly not endorsing all his day-to-day prudential judgments – which, even for a pope, are not infalible. The criteria of sanctity lie elsewhere. Nor was the canonisation of Catherine of Siena, whom I love dearly, a commendation of holy anorexia.

    As a sidelight on Pio Nono, the moral authority of the papacy has indeed grown since it lost the incubus of the papal states, which peoplewho know Italy well tell me are still the most anti-clerical parts of it.

  2. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    The “church” (as always, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church) certainly has backed away from much of the Syllabus of Errors; it now proclaims many of them as “Catholicism”.

  3. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Prophylaxis: don’t take my word for it or look to a combox comment to lay it out, read the Syllabus and read the miserable here-Protestant there-phenomenology never-Catholic documents of Vatican II.

    • Schütz says:

      Question: Is it possible that the whole idea of the Syllabus was misguided and that the Catholic Church, in time, recognised it as such? That in fact the Syllabus itself was “never Catholic”? Me thinks it is. You assume, PE, that because the Syllabus came before the Council, the Syllabus is authentically Catholic, while the Council is not. In fact, the Syllabus never had the status of infallibility, whereas the documents of the Second Vatican Council most certainly do. For your assertion to stick, what you need to prove is that you have correctly chosen your yardstick for what is or is not “Catholic”.

      • “Is it possible that the whole idea of the Syllabus was misguided and that the Catholic Church, in time, recognised it as such?”

        No, it isn’t. If by “the whole idea of the Syllabus” you mean the content, then you have a problem, because if I’m not mistaken the major dogmatic theology errors condemned in it were also condemned (and irreformably) at Vatican I, and the moral theology errors condemned in it are all contrary to truths knowable by unaided reason, by Revelation and by experience during the age of Christendom. If by “the whole idea of the Syllabus” you mean the mode of expression–a straightforward condemnation of a list of erroneous propositions, rather than an ambiguous, verbose essay like the ones issued at Vatican II–then you also have a problem, because that’s what the Church did at all but one of her Ecumenical Councils (and we know which one was the odd one out) and in many other Papal documents.

        ” That in fact the Syllabus itself was “never Catholic”? Me thinks it is.”

        Appalling. So the whole thing is non-Catholic, then? If not, which parts?

        ” You assume, PE, that because the Syllabus came before the Council, the Syllabus is authentically Catholic, while the Council is not.”

        Well, PE can speak for himself, but for my part, I assume that the Syllabus is Catholic for the reasons indicated above, plus the fact that it is a more detailed treatment of the same errors condemned ex Cathedra in Quanta cura, to which the Syllabus was, of course, annexed, and because of Leo XIII’s subsequent in-depth explanations in those magnificent documents Libertas and Immortale Dei, among others (and re-iterated as recently as under Pius XII). The Council’s documents, on the other hand, are a collection of 1960s pastoral essays of dubious doctrinal value. Their teachings need to be, if I must use euphemisms, ‘clarified’, in the manner of Pius XII’s ‘clarification’ (correction) of the teaching of the Council of, if I recall correctly, Florence on the matter and form of Ordination, or if a ‘clarification’ would be too big a loss of face for Rome, then we should just put them behind us and move on. We’ll see with the outcome of the S.S.P.X.-Vatican doctrinal discussions and the S.S.P.X.’s soon-to-be-finished Rosary Crusade for the Consecration of Russia, I suppose.

        “In fact, the Syllabus never had the status of infallibility, whereas the documents of the Second Vatican Council most certainly do.”

        They most certainly do not; none of the documents contain anything irreformable by the very fact of being a Conciliar document (neither was the Syllabus, you’ll say, but Quanta cura was).

        “For your assertion to stick, what you need to prove is that you have correctly chosen your yardstick for what is or is not “Catholic”.”

        The yardstick for any non-irreformable teaching is Tradition. The ‘tradition’ to which the Vatican II documents belong is that of Revolution and Enlightenment.

        [P.S. Mr. Schütz, if this comment goes through to comment moderation rather than straight to publication it’s probably because I’m using a new computer/new internet connection (see the most recent post at my blog).]

        • Schütz says:

          I actually meant the methodology of a “Syllabus” rather than the content, your Eminence. I think that the approach adopted by the Syllabus was arguably “never Catholic”.

          The Church teaches that authority of an Ecumenical Council rates above that of a non-ex-Cathedra statement of a Pope. Hence “Vatican II” is miles above either Quanta Cura or the Syllabus.

          “They most certainly do not; none of the documents contain anything irreformable by the very fact of being a Conciliar document (neither was the Syllabus, you’ll say, but Quanta cura was).”

          What? Quanta Cura wasn’t a Conciliar document. And I should have thought that the four Constitutions of the Council were of the highest authority.

          The yardstick for any non-irreformable teaching is Tradition

          The Yardstick is the authority with which the teaching was first stated. The Authority of the Vatican II documents is the authority of the entire magisterium of the Pope and the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

          • “[You] think that the approach adopted by the Syllabus was arguably “never Catholic”.”

            So what was that approach and why was it arguably never Catholic?

            “The Church teaches that authority of an Ecumenical Council rates above that of a non-ex-Cathedra statement of a Pope.”

            Where does she teach that? A Council is not above a Pope, so the apophthegm goes.

            “Hence “Vatican II” is miles above either Quanta Cura or the Syllabus.”

            No, Quanta cura was ex Cathedra; I thought we’d agreed on that.

            “What? Quanta Cura wasn’t a Conciliar document.”

            The “was”, where I said that “neither was the Syllabus, you’ll say, but Quanta cura was” referred to irreformability, so that it could have been written as “neither was the Syllabus irreformable, you’ll say, but Quanta cura was”. And obviously none of the Vatican II documents is irreformable of itself.

            “And [you] should have thought that the four Constitutions of the Council were of the highest authority.”

            You’re changing the topic here slightly; I was objecting to your mention of an (undefined) “status of infallibility”. Unless we mean different things by ‘level of authority’ and ‘status of infallibility’, they are two different things; so for instance, a Pope could issue an irreformable definition in the lowliest of documents–or even during a sermon (e.g. the dogma of the Immaculate Conception). A Council’s Dogmatic Constitution is, of itself, superior to, say, a Papal sermon, but the content of a Papal sermon might nevertheless be more weighty than the content of a Conciliar Dogmatic Constitution.

            “The Yardstick is the authority with which the teaching was first stated.”

            Only true for Acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium. For Acts of the Ordinary Magisterium, there needs to be continuity with previous such Acts, hence for non-ex-Cathedra teachings, Tradition is indeed the yardstick.

        • Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

          Rock on Reg.

  4. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    I’m not assuming jack. Non-Catholic thought from Newman on has sought to discredit the Syllabus, most notably recently Ratzinger who identified that kitty litter in print Gaudium et Spes as a counter-Syllabus. Here in America we pretty much ignore whatever a pope says that we don’t like so it wasn’t such a big deal.

    Given that the Syllabus Errorum is not an original document, but a list of errors with citations of earlier papal documents in support, then all of that was not REALLY Catholic precisely at the pope was trying to lay out what is and isn’t.

    Ah Roman Catholicism, that religion about nothing but itself, where black is black but only there and then but it’s actually white here and now and of course nothing has really changed.

    In a way, it hasn’t. Its only god is The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, and as long as one bows before that god all else if OK and one may go on endlessly about what REALLY is in the Rorschach blot that is RC theology.

    • Mary Hoerr says:

      Off to read the kitty litter.

      • Stick to the Syllabus and Quanta cura–they’re the cat’s pyjamas.

        • mdhoerr says:

          Reading through “SOME PROBLEMS OF SPECIAL URGENCY”.
          Chapter 1: FOSTERING THE NOBILITY OF MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY
          This chapter looks beautiful to me. Anybody want to tell me what previous teachings of the RCC it abrogated?

        • Mary Hoerr says:

          Okay, have read through the Syllabus (much faster than Gaudium et Spes).

          The vast majority of it seems obviously true.

          I assume the major problems are with sections III and X. I’ll look at those more closely, comparing with G & S.

          I’ve also noticed you have some reading on this issue on your site, Cardinal Pole.

      • Mary Hoerr says:

        Haven’t gotten thru all of Gaudium et Spes yet but I can see some sources of controversy in what I’ve read so far.
        Paragraph 29 is interesting:
        “29 … True, all men are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent. For in truth it must still be regretted that fundamental personal rights are still not being universally honored. Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right to choose a husband freely, to embrace a state of life or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognized for men.”
        If nothing else, the words are open to hugely different interpretations. It also sort of explains why Vatican II documents were more of a problem in the developed than the developing world. To a woman in Africa, lack of discrimination might mean being allowed access to health care so she doesn’t bleed to death during a difficult pregnancy. To an American woman, it can mean access to abortion.
        I see why people talk about the “spirit of Vatican II”. In this paragraph, the words can have so many different interpretations, that they appear to mean whatever the reader wants them to mean.

      • Mary Hoerr says:

        Okay, finished with Gaudiem et Spes (the Vatican version, not the “inclusive” version). That is some kitty litter.

        While I can see clearly how it could be (especially willfully) misinterpreted, I think on the main it is absolutely beautiful. But it also is becoming clearer to me why the Church is doing so much better in the developing world. While westerners seemed to be interpreting doing away with “discrimination” as “anything goes”, groups in the developing world were dealing with satee (sp), forced marriages, and ethnic “cleansing”.

        Now off to read the Syllabus.

  5. Mary Hoerr says:

    OK, I read the Hooper’s article in the Guardian. May I recap?

    Although Garrido *might* have hidden and distorted the truth (because that’s what journalists in Franco’s Spain were expected to do) and *might* have backed Franco initially (because he wrote for a magazine that *might* have been named for a bloody Franco campaign), he *might* have become disillusioned (because he ended up writing for Ya, which was the closest thing to an opposition daily toward the end of Franco’s regime).

    Ending with “Perhaps a reader can enlighten as to where exactly Lozano Garrido fitted in” to underscore the fact that Hooper doesn’t actually *know* any of this.

    All of those *might haves* are pretty strong insinuations to make, especially when his final conclusion (which is not qualified at all — no *maybe* here) is that “Pope Benedict is sending a message to the world about the sort of journalism that he regards as worthwhile.”

    From Hooper’s article, I don’t know much about the Pope, but I do get an idea of what kind of journalism Hooper appears to regard as worthwhile: insinuations based on no evidence. Well, at least he’s not distorting the truth.

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