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In Mexico, the mix of native and Catholic religions has produced an interesting figure called Santa Muerte or literally, "Saint Death." In many ways, the icons, statues, and venerations ascribed to her fit what many non-Catholics naively assume about veneration.

Furthermore, traditions like Our Lady of Lourdes and The Lady of Guadalupe suggest that new shrines and/or places of veneration can be incorporated into the church, and eventually become, if not canonical, at least typical.

To date, the Catholic church has taken no position on Santa Muerte. The question is - what would it take for them to do so? If a priest were to acknowledge her, would that be sufficient? And how would the church change as a result?

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...just wait until you hear about the "mix of native and Catholic religions" that has produced an interesting modern figure called Santa Claus. In many ways, the icons, statues, and venerations ascribed to him fit what many non-Catholics naively assume about veneration. –  Alypius Apr 25 '13 at 6:50
    
I think St Francis could answer this, if only he were around today. Praised be Sister Death! That's the way we venerate her and it's a holy and righteous thing to do. –  Peter Turner Apr 27 '13 at 17:40

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I don't know where you got the idea that the Catholic church has taken no position on Santa Muerte. The current official position of the Catholic Church is that honoring Saint Death is heresy.ref Mexico's Catholic Bishop Conference has accused Santa Muerte devotees of mixing Christianity with devil-worship.ref According to a statement by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City on November 3, 2008, popular devotion to the so-called "Saint Death" is not compatible with the Catholic faith.ref. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not issued an official position on this because this is a relatively new phenomenon in the country.

what would it take for them to do so? If a priest were to acknowledge her, would that be sufficient?

I don't think a single priest's action will force the universal catholic church to take a stand. If a priest, who holds a position which is responsible for souls, acknowledges her as a saint, then the local bishop will have the duty to correct him. If the local bishop fails to do so, then the pope with the roman curia will interfere and instruct the Bishop.

how would the church change as a result?

With regard to dogma, faith and related matters, like the past 2000 years, Catholic Church is not going to change. Not for Santa Muerte or anything else for that matter. But I have no idea about the cultural consequences, the Church might be persecuted but it is not going to change its teaching: honoring Saint Death is heresy.

Note: Traditions like Our Lady of Lourdes and The Lady of Guadalupe are about a real person, Bl. Virgin Mary, the mother of God. But santa muerte is not a real person, nor do her followers claim as such. So your comparison is not correct.

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The Mexican Council of Bishops has taken a position, but the Vatican has not. –  Affable Geek Apr 24 '13 at 15:54
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To @AffableGeek: If you read my answer, i was trying to say that Vatican WILL NOT. Because as it currently stands, this does not apply to the universal church. It applies only to the local churches is some countries. –  Jayarathina Madharasan Apr 24 '13 at 16:04
    
Sometimes the penalty for heresy is automatic excommunication. –  Alypius Apr 25 '13 at 6:54

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