I realize that all souls in heaven are saints and that not only Catholics can obtain salvation. With this in mind, is it possible for non-Catholics to be declared saints by the Catholic Church?
Theoretically speaking, it might well be possible for the Church to examine a non-Catholic’s life and eventually canonize that person; practically speaking, though, it is not likely to happen for two reasons:
[list]One of the primary purposes of canonization is to provide for the Catholic faithful authoritatively-recognized saints after whose examples a Catholic can safely model his own Christian journey. However praiseworthy was the life of a particular non-Catholic, and however much we may admire the good example set by that person, that person cannot provide to Catholic faithful a model of Catholic holiness, which includes service for and obedience to the Church founded by Christ for the salvation of all mankind.[/list]
[list]The Church is unlikely to wish to annoy non-Catholic churches, ecclesial communities, and non-Christian believers by presuming to examine their spiritual heroes’ lives without their permission. It is also unlikely that non-Catholics and non-Christians would consider a Church examination and recognition to be authoritative, thereby rendering the exercise pointless.[/list]
In short, while we can admire the natural and/or supernatural virtues of non-Christians and non-Catholics, Catholics should look to those Catholics who have preceded us in the faith for examples of Christian holiness.