As a generalization to the question posed in Is the Catholic declaration of an extra biblical saint infallible?, and in hope of obtaining, perhaps, more definitive answers from a Catholic perspective, I ask:

Are Catholic canonizations infallible?

1 Answer 1


Are Catholic Canonizations Infallible?

The short answer is yes.

Some argue that only a certain amount of infallibility is involved here because faith and morals or not directly involved.

But there are several things unexplained in your piece. The Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals. The canonization, much less the miracle that supports it, cannot be a matter of faith because that refers to Revelation, and the period of Revelation is over: There is nothing more to be revealed before Jesus returns. So it must be under morals that his infallibility lies. I have for some time felt that this exercise occurs when he declares a man or woman to have lived a life of heroic virtue. It would, it seems to me, be scandalous to encourage people to imitate and pray to someone who did not fit that description. The further stages, I would say, are based on God's verification that the person's cult is influential. You do not mention in your piece whether your statements are official Church teaching or, like my explanation above, your understanding of the process, which is bound to be more knowledgeable than mine. Obviously, if the Pope uses the word 'define,' that suggests his exercise of this authority, but you did say it was an approximate translation."

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."

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

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