Infallibility of canonizations

where in Church teaching do we find that canonizations are infallible? please provide the documentation …thanks

The short answer is no and yes. I’m confused. In 1933 Pope Pius XI explicitly referred to a decree of canonisation as infallible.

Below is from EWTN website. Slightly different take.

"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.

Suarez: “Although it is not de fide, I judge that it is sufficiently certain [that canonizations are infallible] and that the contrary is impious and temerarious.” (De Fide d.5 s.8 n.8)

Even if the Church has made no infallible statement about the infallibility of canonizations, it seems safe to say that they are infallible, just as it was safe to say that Mary was immaculately conceived, prior to the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception.

Pope Benedict XIV: “We say that he is the upholder of an erroneous proposition who dares to assert that the Pontiff in this or that Canonisation has erred, that this or that Saint canonised by him should not be honoured with the cult of dulia.” (De Canonisatione Sanctorum L.1 c.43 n.3)

The ‘act’ is infallible but the ‘subject him/herself’ is not?

What does that mean??? God Bless, Memaw

I have no idea.:confused: I am just trying to make sense of and understand the EWTN post that I put up earlier.


I believe what the above quote is getting at is that although leading exemplary lives and having miracles attributed to them are signs that someone is in Heaven, the infallibility part of the canonization only means that they are in Heaven and that we can liturgically call on their intercession.

Hope that helps!

What the quote from EWTN is saying is that because the Pope is using his authority as pope to make the proclamation, it is generally considered to be infallible even though the Church has never made an official declaration that canonizations are infallible.

The teaching authority of the Church is always Infallible. Trust the Church, we spend to much time trying to pick apart everything the Church says and does. No need, Just TRUST. God Bless, Memaw

Yes that helps a lot. Thank you. :slight_smile:

Canonizations were not always infallible. A few years ago the church removed a number of traditional saints from the calendar. Hence there was a time when canonizations were not infallible.

For an example of the type of saint removed from the calendar, see Barlaam and Josaphat.


Removing a Saint from the liturgical calendar is not the same as saying the person is not a Saint. Only a fraction of Saints are on the calendar (there are thousands of Saints, and only 365 days in a year). The Church has never “de-canonized” anybody.

But I think the OP refers to Saints canonized since our modern system of recognition has been in place (adopted in 933 AD - Catholics have a funny way of defining “modern”). Prior to this, Saints were recognized by local Bishops and usually venerated only within that Diocese. Just as Jesus taught in parables, the Church sometimes taught in parables using Saints who may not have been actual people, or regarding events that did not actually take place. These Saints have been “grandfathered in.”

This question has been asked here several times over the years (including once by me). The consensus is thus:
*]It is within the purview of the Church to infallibly canonize.
*]The modern process appears to meet the criteria for ex Cathedra defined by Vatican-1.
*]Catholic theologians are unanimous in believing that modern canonizations are an exercise of infallible teaching authority (if there is credible dissent, nobody has mentioned it).
*]But we cannot know for sure if any teaching is infallible unless the Church specifically tells us so CCC 749§3].
*]The Church has never explictely taught, “Canonizations are infallible.”
*]Therefore, we can believe with a high degree of certantity that canonizations are infallible, but we may not presume to say this is the definitive teaching of the Church.

Removing them from the calendar doesn’t de-canonize them necessarily. Some were thought to be Saints by popular vote and were found to be almost unknown except in name. When we speak of Infallibility we mean when the Pope canonizes someone. God Bless, Memaw

I do not think that the Catholic Church now recognises the Buddha as a saint. Did you read the article I linked to about Barlaam and Josaphat?

Barlaam and Josaphat found their way into the Roman Martyrology (27 November), and into the Greek calendar (26 August).

The story is a Christianized version of one of the legends of Buddha, as even the name Josaphat would seem to show. This is said to be a corruption of the original Joasaph, which is again corrupted from the middle Persian Budasif (Budsaif=Bodhisattva).

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia: Barlaam and Josaphat


This document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith includes the canonizations of saints as examples of dogmatic facts infallibly taught by the Church (my bolding and underlining):

[quote=CDF]6. The second proposition of the Professio fidei states: “I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” The object taught by this formula includes all those teachings belonging to the dogmatic or moral area,13 which are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as formally revealed.

**Such doctrines *can be defined solemnly by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks ‘ex cathedra’ or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or they can be taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church as a “sententia definitive tenenda”.*14 Every believer, therefore, is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church’s Magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters.15 Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine16 and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.

  1. The truths belonging to this second paragraph can be of various natures, thus giving different qualities to their relationship with revelation. There are truths which are necessarily connected with revelation by virtue of an historical relationship; while other truths evince a logical connection that expresses a stage in the maturation of understanding of revelation which the Church is called to undertake. The fact that these doctrines may not be proposed as formally revealed, insofar as they add to the data of faith elements that are not revealed or which are not yet expressly recognized as such, in no way diminishes their definitive character, which is required at least by their intrinsic connection with revealed truth.

With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations

Also, the canonization rite includes these texts:

Also from the Congregation for Saints:

[quote=CCS]Canonization is the supreme glorification by the Church of a Servant of God raised to the honours of the altar with a decree declared definitive and preceptive for the whole Church, involving the solemn Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff.

This is expressed unequivocally in the formula: “*Ad honorem Sanctae et Individuae Trnitatis… auctoritate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac Nostra… Beatum N. N. Sanctum esse decernimus ac definimus, ac Sanctorum Catalogo adscribimus, statuentes eum in universa Ecclesia inter Sanctos pia devotione recoli debere”. *

A canonization is a definitive act from the supreme authority of the Church. This can take the form of a definitive and universally binding judgment of the Pope, of an ecumenical Council, or the universal and definitive judgment of the whole Church (see my post on the previous page of this thread for more on this). Local, customary cults are not considered immune from error (a beatification, for example, is the permission granted for such a local veneration, since it is only promised that the whole Church will not fall into error).

Not everyone called a “Saint” has been canonized in this way. Often, the term was used for who we would today use the title “Blessed.” The Roman Martyrology contained both local/non-canonized and canonized “saints” until 1752 when Pope Benedict XIV limited any new additions to formally canonized Saints only. Josephat and Barlaam were included prior to this. In fact, they were never formally canonized by the definitive act of a Pope or Council and never received the kind of definitive and universal veneration of other Saints lacking formal canonization (like the Apostles, or many of the Fathers). Less than a century after they were included in the offical martyrology, a note was added stating, “we do not know the date of their death, or if even the story is only an allegory.”

I feel it is my duty to trust the Church but people are questioning the infallibility of canonizations because they wonder why so many recent popes are becoming Saints. Paul VI is also up for canonization.

Thank you and God Bless, Memaw

Popular devotion is usually what kickstarts a canonization. The fact is, in modern times, the faithful see and know more about the Pope than anyone else. The local bishop is just a name–if they can even name him–to most Catholics (many rarely if ever see their bishop or read anything about him or from him) while the Pope is all over the media. Sadly, given the way communities are now formed and the shrinking number of religious, the faithful also have little interaction with male or female religious. Even parish priests are seen by the faithful little more than on Sundays.

Contrast that with centuries ago when the opposite was true. The Pope was to most of the faithful a man in a distant land who they never saw or heard from at all. Instead, the local bishop and clergy and the monasteries were all integral parts of a local community and people had much more interaction with them (especially if the bishop was a good and holy one who was among his flock, rather pursuing worldly goals). It was much easier for a holy religious to have his or her reputation for holiness spread among the people than it was for the Pope. Nowadays, it is easier for the Pope’s reputation to spread.

Thank you that explains a lot. What if new information on a saint was revealed after their canonization , and this information showed they were not good and holy. Would they still be considered a saint or would the church change it?

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