To be specific, I am talking about numerous views recently circulated in different articles saying the Sainthood of Pope St. John Paul II is questionable in light of the findings stated in the McCarrick Vatican Report: Report on the Holy See’s Institutional on the Decision-Making Relating to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 - 2017).

There are views that St. John Paul II had committed an "error in judgment", was deceived by McCarrick and had committed imprudent action in judging the case.

Upon reviewing and analyzing the McCarrick Report, I saw that John Paul II had acted with prudence and prayerfully discerned and had judged correctly the allegations and anonymous accusations on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick when he was still a Bishop in the 80's.

  1. Pope John Paul II had read the letter of Cardinal O'Connor summarizing the allegations and anonymous accusations.
  2. Pope John Paul II even though the summarized letter had not presented a credible evidence, wisely instructed the US Nuncio and the Nuncio instructed four US Bishops to make an honest report on all the knowledge they know about the allegations on Cardinal McCarrick.
  3. Pope John Paul II waited for the US Nuncio report to confirm if the allegations have foundation.
  4. Pope John Paul II reflected on his own experienced in Poland where Priest and Bishops were victims of false accusations from communist group to destroy their reputation and weaken the Church.
  5. Pope John Paul II in spirit of fairness also considered the letter of Cardinal McCarrick in defending his dignity.
  6. Pope John Paul II after the failed assassination attempt boldly proclaimed his life was saved by Our Lady, and his new life from now on is totally consecrated to Our Lady, Totus Tuus. It follows that John Paul II discernment and judgment had seek the guidance of Our Lady to know the Truth behind McCarrick allegations. Will Our Lady allow Pope St. JOhn Paul II to be deceived? I don't think so.
  7. Pope John Paul II as "anointed" Vicar of Christ enjoys the charisma of the Holy Spirit to guide him in all his judgment that may affect or even more scandalize the Church.

Reviewing and analyzing carefully the McCarrick Vatican Report had shown that Pope John Paul II had prayerfully discerned and acted with prudence in judging the case, and John Paul II judgment had found that the allegations had no foundation and McCarrick was just a victim of character assassination.

However, the McCarrick Vatican Report also stated that the four US Bishops had made an incomplete report and may have lied to John Paul II and concluded that it might have caused the wrong judgment on the part of Pope John Paul II.

In light of this development, can the Church who had beatified and canonized not just a Saint but a Great Saint accept a petition to review his sainthood?

The Tradition of the Church stated that the Church united to Peter is guided by the Holy Spirit it cannot err, how can it accept the circulating views coming from laity, clergy and prelates that Pope St. John Paul II might have committed an "error in judgment" and his path to Sainthood was done hastily.

Thus my question:

Can a lay person or a group of lay faithful petition the present pope (Vatican) to de-canonize a Saint in light of new findings?

  • 1
    This question seems like a valid one now and no longer seems to be a duplicate after it’s editing. Thus I am reopening it.
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 22, 2020 at 17:03
  • 1
    It's somewhat irrelevant to the question, but it's unclear why the OP thinks that the content of the McCarrick report amounts to new information that would suggest doubt about whether JPII is in heaven.
    – eques
    Nov 23, 2020 at 14:32
  • 1
    A great saint is not a doctrinal category. It's a subjective label at best. Nor does being totally consecrated to the BVM ("A Totus") make one impeccable in judgement.
    – eques
    Nov 23, 2020 at 17:07
  • 1
    The relevant question is whether saints can be "decanonized."
    – zippy2006
    May 15, 2021 at 23:15
  • 1
    Actually, Totus Tuus means "all yours", often abbreviated as "t.t." (a variation was ex asse tuus). Totus Tuus does not “means all his thoughts, words, judgment and actions are all guided by Our Lady.”
    – Ken Graham
    May 17, 2021 at 2:40

1 Answer 1


Can a lay person or a group of lay faithful petition the Pope (Vatican) to de-canonize a Saint in light of new findings?

The short answer is yes.

But I doubt it will go very far. The canonization of a saint seems to imply the papal privilege of infallibility. But if one believes that they have a genuine case to the contrary, then one always free to petition the Holy See to reverse it’s decision!

If you wish you are always free to petition the Holy See with your suggestions and concerns. Any letter, should be tempered with genuine charity, respect and love for saving souls.

You can always write the Holy Father directly. The best way is to write your concerns in a letter and send it to the apostolic nuncio of your country.

The letter should be sent inside a larger envelope and with a outer letter requesting that it be given to the Supreme Pontiff via the next attaché pouch going to Rome.

Fair warning: Such letters should be in an unsealed envelope, as the apostolic nuncio’s secretariat must read all correspondence destined to be handed over to the Pope in person. This I know through personal experience.

Not many Catholics have personal ties and friendships with cardinals or Vatican officials to circumvent this step.

Go ahead and suggest your ideas in a letter to the Pope. Warning once more: Remain courtesy, polite, logical, and politically, scientifically, morally and theologically sound.

The People of God may manifest their concerns about the actions of the Holy See to their pastor, bishops and even the pope as the Supreme Pastor. This is backed up by Canon Law:

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

As I stated before, I truly believe there will be no de-canonization that will result in such a petition or dubia. The reason being is that many Catholics believe that the authority to canonize someone a saint is intimately tied to the privilege of papal infallibility.

First, let me say that the word define (definimus) is used in the original Latin, and the Pope is thus exercising his authority.

Second, the object of canonization is that the person declared as a saint is now in heaven and can be invoked as an intercessor by all the faithful. The infallibility of this action is accepted by the majority of Catholic theologians but has not itself been the subject of a definition.

Thus, with the act of canonization the Pope, so to speak, imposes a precept upon the faithful by saying that the universal Church must henceforth keep the memory of the canonized with pious devotion.

The 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the theological foundation for the infallibility of canonization: "The dogma that saints are to be venerated and invoked as set forth in the profession of faith of Trent (cf. Denz. 1867) has as its correlative the power to canonize. ... St. Thomas Aquinas says, 'Honor we show the saints is a certain profession of faith by which we believe in their glory, and it is to be piously believed that even in this the judgment of the Church is not able to err' (Quodl. 9:8:16).

"The pope cannot by solemn definition induce errors concerning faith and morals into the teaching of the universal Church. Should the Church hold up for universal veneration a man's life and habits that in reality led to [his] damnation, it would lead the faithful into error. It is now theologically certain that the solemn canonization of a saint is an infallible and irrevocable decision of the supreme pontiff. God speaks infallibly through his Church as it demonstrates and exemplifies its universal teaching in a particular person or judges that person's acts to be in accord with its teaching."

At the same time, it is important to note that while the decree of heroic virtues and the miracle form a necessary part of the process of canonization, they are not the specific object of the declaration of infallibility.

Although the saint is proposed as a model of virtues and Christian living, it is not the specific object of canonization. For example, it is quite possible that a martyr show heroic virtue in the face of death without necessarily having lived all the virtues to an exemplary degree. Nor does canonization make the saints immune from the judgment of history insofar as hindsight might show that some of their external actions proved to be unwise or had negative consequences.

This argument therefore would place the infallibility of canonization within the area of faith insofar as the venerability of saints is a dogma grounded in Revelation, and the determination as to which persons can be thus venerated is a necessary exercise of infallible authority.

This is sometimes called the secondary object of infallibility. It is not revealed dogma per se but truths regarding faith and morals which are not formally revealed but are so bound up with divine Revelation that to deny them would lead us to many difficulties and even lead to a denial of some aspect of Revelation itself.

According to Ludwig Ott's classical manual of dogmatic theology there are four kinds of teaching involved in this exercise of infallibility: Theological conclusions derived from formally revealed truths by aid of the natural truth of reason; historical facts on the determination of which the certainty of a truth of Revelation depends (so-called "dogmatic facts," for example, "Is Pope N. truly the duly elected and rightful successor to the throne of Peter?"); natural truths of reason which are intimately connected with Revelation (e.g., the morality of certain medical procedures); the canonization of saints (see Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 299).

A further argument can be offered. With a canonization, the Pope mandates (rather than permits, as is the case of beatification) that a saint be venerated in the Church's liturgy and especially with the Eucharistic celebration in his honor. Considering that the Mass is the highest and most perfect form of worship, it is logical that the Holy Spirit would guard the Pope and the Church from any error regarding a canonized person's definitive state. At the same time, it must be recognized that this is an argument based on congruence and is not apodictic. The institution of a liturgical celebration does not in itself imply an exercise of infallibility. - Canonizations and Infallibility

In any case, a lay person or a group of lay individuals may petition or even present a dubium to the pope through the proper ecclesiastical channels.

A dubium is simply a request asking for clarity on this issue or some ecclesiastical matter.

The Church is not in the habit of de-canonizing her validly canonized saints. After all, we are not followers of Henry the VIII, who de-canonized St. Thomas à Becket in 1538!

  • Canon212 only stated "sacred pastors" not explicitly mentioning the Supreme Pastor. Does it means, a lay or group must first submit their dubium in hieirarchical fashion, like Parish Priest first, then if valid to Bishop of Diocese and if credible, then forwarded to Nuncio before it can be transmitted to the Pope? Nov 23, 2020 at 0:07
  • @jongricafort What applies to sacred pastors equally applies to the Supreme Pastor of the Church! Is not the pope a sacred pastor. One can skip the local pastor, but the Apostolic Nuncio’s recommendation to me was to write the local bishop first! I actually talked to him in person!
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 23, 2020 at 0:27

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