BETWEEN SAINTS AND BLESSEDS: WHO IS REALLY THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE?
We have all heard or even had to play this infamous role in some of our discussions or conversations. Take the parts of the ” bad guy ” sometimes becomes even necessary though difficult, when this part allows us to consider new and different points of view sometimes conflicting with the original that is better accepted and therefore easier to defend, but which allow us to have a much more complete and real perspective of the subject matter.
But where does this notorious “lawyer” come from, with this arduous task of defending the indefensible for the sake of objectivity?
Few can imagine that behind the symbolic conception of the devil’s advocate lies just that: the devil’s advocate.
Well yes, you got it right, it is not a mere metaphor but a concrete and historical reality. The devil’s advocate really existed.
And where, you ask? Obviously in the place where a fervent imagination combined with an exceptional sense of vainglory and an undisputed decision-making and social power, can really do anything: the religion.
It is precisely in the Catholic religion in particular where it all begins.
THE ORIGIN OF THE MOST FAMOUS LAWYER IN THE WORLD
In Christianity it is known of the existence and the veneration of great figures that were marked for their devotion to God so as to become his divine instrument in life as in death, the so-called saints. You will have heard of it.
And as history reminds us, nothing of what the Church has established has ever been trivial or superficial, if not the exact opposite.
The origin of the notoriety saying so popular in the world lies precisely in the procedure whereby a person becomes officially saint, called the canonization process.
This in fact provides the presence of figures that testify and defend the spiritual validity of the deceased so that they can be accepted for their proclamation of sanctitude. And since this is a topic of extreme relevance and criticality especially for the Catholic religious community, it is certainly not taken lightly and nothing is left to “chance”, so to speak. In fact, in the process there is an equal and opposite part to the “favorable” one, a figure who, with the ultimate goal of achieving an impartiality of the facts that cannot be questioned, takes on the task of seeking evidence, refuting and questioning the real holiness of the candidate person, becoming in fact the so-called ” Devil’s Advocate “, appellation affiliated by the people for its association and indirect correlation to the cause of evil and its inevitable opposition to that of good.
Thus a priest conveniently also a lawyer fulfills his role as Public Prosecutor as in a real juridical court, denying the legitimacy of the canonization process.
If sometimes you thought that they should make you saint for all those maddening things that you let go every day without getting angry and now that you know more it seems even more tempting, I bet you will think again, once you have seen the procedure of how this “sanctification” process takes place.
THE ORIGIN OF SAINTS AND CANONIZATION (PART 1)
By canonization it mean the procedure by which, in the Catholic religion, it is declared that a deceased in Paradise is considered worthy of sanctity in all its requirements and authorizes its veneration and worship even outside its own local church, therefore for the Universal Church, unlike beatification.
But the concept of saint has not always been present, in fact we can go back to its meaning and function up to the martyrs at the time when being a Christian was a cause of persecution, and in Christian communities the one who denied to repudiate God for their own survival and died because of it was considered worthy of veneration. The martyrs were therefore the first saints in history, and in fact there is documentation of the faithful to commemorate them just as for the saints of today, with the so-called martyrologists.
It was after the edict that allowed the free profession of worship that the figure changed and began to acquire the conception we have now of saints with confessors, Christians who belonged to that group that had survived the massacre without diverging from the spiritual path although overcoming excruciating pain equal to that of the martyrs who preceded them.
The election and acceptance of these holy confessors was a spontaneous social process and free from any regulation or procedure, at least this was until the structuring of the organ of the Church and the bishops who headed it saw in it a precious opportunity to convey to themselves the adoration that these figures aroused on such a large scale on the population and the social hold that derived from it.
The figure of the saint thus becomes a full-blown spiritual emblem and with it the measures for the proclamation of the new saints stiffened, such as first of all the main requirement of a miracle, the drafting of the deceased ‘s Life and of course the authorization of the council clergyman who held the deliberative power. However, one could still become saint through martyrdom.
Later the procedure was further tightened, with the addition of new requirements such as evidence of witnesses, those in favor of attest to the veracity of the facts (if that of “facts” we are really talking) and especially the decision of the Pope to centralize in himself the ultimate power of decision-making and therefore the monopoly of sanctification which so influenced the popular belief, in order to determine who was worthy of being sanctified and who was not, officially defining the process of canonization.
SAINTS AND BLESSEDS: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
It is good to make a small clarification on the difference between saint and blessed, since the process of canonization in fact requires beatification as one of its stages for completion, and it is precisely for this reason that whoever is actually granted the title of Saint, it is also attributed the title of Beato as its ” subordinate ” in the spiritual hierarchy. This concept will be clearer in the explanation of the various concrete phases of the canonical process that I do later, it is enough to know that the beatification corresponds to one miracle and the veneration of the blessed is authorized only in the local dioceses, but a canonization of the blessed is necessary, that is transformed in a saint, in order to do worship anywhere.
THE ORIGIN OF SAINTS AND CANONIZATION (PART 2)
In the formal defined canonization, the methodology of the whole process is outlined, in which it is reiterated that the final verdict is dictated by the Pope who can possibly, if necessary, give the power in his place to other bishops, all to stifle the “power leaks” through the unofficial saints, those not approved by them, thanks with this simple but targeted strategic centralization, befitting a figure and an institution whose place has wielded for so many centuries, certainly not with the simple prayers of Sunday.
To this requirement is added the condition of a further second miraculous event that took place post mortem to be reported to the new Congregation of Rites established precisely to direct the whole operation of the process always accompanied by the ecclesiastical council or Consistory.
From here as you can well imagine from the historical progress I reported, the whole process was consequently refined and complicated in every facet and direction, becoming a real legal and ecclesiastical organ complete with appropriate investigative steps and methodical and juridical evaluation to be envied by the judicial system of the time which was still obsolete and lacking of the tactical and calculating inventiveness that the bishops of the Church have always shown, who held the decision-making position above all if not to the bishop of the Universal Church, which was its absolute and undisputed authority: the Pope.
THE PHASES OF THE SANCTIFICATION PROCESS
The various stages of the canonical process take place following, as already mentioned, a very precise process that can last many years:
It must be said that there is a difference in substance, which derives from the origins of the canonization that I explained to you earlier, where in making the request for sanctification it is defined that the death of the faithful departed was not for natural reasons but rather proves to be that it was death due to hatred towards the Christian faith to which the person has never detached even in their last moments of life by defining the martyrdom and then as such, the process is facilitated and simplified as it was at the time of persecution if you remember, searching exclusively the veracity of such occurrence and then conclude with the sanctification if the result was positive.
Easy, right? Make you almost wanting to cash all of these days living in agony with your ex. Because that martyrdom can be finally useful to potentially convert yourself to a saint “without no pass Go” and without having to turn water into wine, or multiplying the bread to reach the two miracles required.
If instead you want to go the long way, then you become a saint confessor, which term refers to the fact that the person has confessed / professed their faith in life, and therefore defines the real category of saints as we know it.
The initial phase is that of the request for sanctification by a representative called the postulator, for a person who has passed away for at least 5 years to avoid hasty choices influenced by the too recent event, and we know how much objectivity is an important factor for Catholic Church enough to establish the legal figure of the Devil’s Advocate just to reiterate this point.
Acceptance today depends no longer on the Congregation of Rites as it was at the time, which broke in two creating its direct successor of the Congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments, and leaving the matter of canonization to a Congregation called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which has the task of managing requests and carrying out the subsequent process management.
All these congregations are an integral part of the Roman Curia that governs the State of the Church together with the Pope in all functions as real ministries, with ministers called prefects, to direct the various compartments that have now been reduced to a small and limited number, but which in its time crossed every aspect and sector that they deemed important of society, coming to have control through this sort of “ministries” of things such as wealth, water, borders and many other political and social issues relevant for the protection of the interests of the Church and thus have the predominance over gains and benefits directly from the source.
An interesting note about acceptance requirements (yes, there are requirements for this too) on which it is made a special diocesan inquiry is the fama sanctitas and fama signorum, respectively, the necessary condition that the deceased possess a “fame” between the people around the sanctity gift which is required legitimacy and a reputation that it has been the divine presence in the lives of the faithful. In short, a sort of spiritual influencer.
This initial recognition would grant the deceased the title of Servant of God.
In the second phase there is the beginning of the notorious legal-administrative process, in which a Rapporteur of the Cause is defined, the one who will collect and enunciate all the information and testimonies given to him by the postulator and the previous investigation on the diocese, in specific theses in favor of the sanctity of the deceased, but in particular of the heroic virtues demonstrated in life.
And it is here that intervenes our lawyer of the devil in favor of the opposite, disproving the facts and evidence, and instead supporting the view of the failure to holiness of the person such as disobedience or behaviors unsuitable for the role of saint.
FUN FACT: HEROIC VIRTUES
For those who do not know, the Christian virtues are 7 in total and are divided into theological virtues such as faith, hope and charity and cardinal virtues such as prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. To these can be added other more specific of the lifestyle of the faithful person. It is important to underline the importance that is reported on the heroic exercise that must be done on the virtues in order for the process to be valid. Here again one wobbles at the limit of subjectivity and speculation, but it must be remembered that we are talking about religion, so everything is justified that way, even if we would then come to a humorous contradiction of why this need of an excessive complexity for an event considered of faith. I leave your considerations to you.
If the Devil’s Advocate can not deny or refute the thesis of the postulator and the heroic virtues are validated by the process, it can be reached the positive verdict by a special congress of the Nine Theologians, of the Congregation of causes of the saints and finally of the Pope himself, who finally confer on the person the title of Venerable.
Venerable? Yes. Not Saint, you got it right.
Did you think it ended there? Well no, the same process is pedantically repeated in all its parts but this time for the legitimization of the first miracle of the deceased after death, also called the beatification phase, since only one post mortem miracle is needed to be Blessed as proof of divine intervention.
So here too they gather evidence for and against the validity of the alleged miracle, which can be of various kinds but the most common is that of the uncorrupted body, that is, it does not undergo decomposition after death, and is often related to another miracle that is the so-called ” odor of sanctity “, or the alleged smell of flowers resulted from the body instead of the usual and plain smell of death that we will all have once we kick the bucket.
Here too, if the miracle is recognized, this time the title of Beato is conferred on the deceased.
And as could be expected, after the first miracle comes the second, and with it all the procedural ceremonial identical to the previous one, and one wonders why nobody thought of joining the two investigations on miracles in a single phase, but I guess that too should be considered as another of the mysteries of faith.
At the end of this last evaluation and control, for real this time, if the verdict is positive (and got to this point after so many procedures i would roll over in my grave if not prove so, and would raise just to do the second miracle in its version of the resurrection) declares the person with the title of Saint, with the authorization of worship for the Universal Church.
For those who got lost between one beatification and another, I make a small summary of the passages, for those wishing to attempt employment (remember to write me in the comments how it went if you try):
For the saint martyrs
– Canonization request for martyrs
– First and last phase of inquiry into the truthfulness of martyrdom (which already defines the 7 heroic virtues)
Title: Saint Martyr
For the saint confessors
– Canonization request for confessors
– First phase of investigation into the fama sanctitas and fama signorum
Title: Servant of God
– Second phase of investigation for the validity of the heroic virtues with the Rapporteur and Advocate of the Devil in opposition
– Third phase of investigation for the legitimacy of the first post mortem miracle (same procedure as the previous one)
– Fourth and final phase of investigation for the legitimacy of the second post mortem miracle (same procedure as the previous one)
CURIOSITIES ON THE WORLD OF SANCTIFIED
It is interesting to comment on some curious considerations now that we have a general overview of the modus operandi of the canonical process.
The first is that, as we already know, the Pope has the final and absolute decision-making power above all, and that’s why this whole process of canonization can be effectively trivially solved if requested by the Pope himself, which gives way to the person an “express” beatification or / and canonization where no further investigations are required except the public reputation of sainthood of the faithful, and is called equivalent canonization.
There will also be of great interest to know that the canonical process not only has a great similarity with the legal system as a structure, but also as for the legal salaries. Indeed, the priest-lawyers to whom the Devil’s Advocate would still belong in the present day if it had not been suppressed as a figure in 1983 by Pope John Paul II (guess why? to simplify the procedure that was taking too long) are in fact provided with a full-fledged honorary fee, in addition to having a fund for the costs of managing the process, consisting of donations.
The second is based more on an observation that perhaps some of you had already connected on the question of sainthood.
If by reading this article you have seen that the path of the saint is not for you, it will console you to know that when you die and eventually reach Heaven, you automatically become saint “ad honorem” together with the angels, simply because you are before God and therefore for the communion of saints.
Have you got it now? That’s right, on the day of All Saints on November 1st All Saints are celebrated, even those not canonized.
Coming back to the most remarkable figure of the process, namely to the Devil’s Advocate, although I personally feel a bit disappointed by the fact that had been eliminated when there are well other tiresome and exaggerated elements to eradicate in my opinion, remains one of the most fascinating elements and because of this an unusual saying was derived, then known worldwide.
If you want, feel free to write your lovely comments and opinions about this interesting topic in the section below, I would like to know!
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