Another declared Saint who is probably in purgatory (if not in hell)

Pope Francis is taking a big chance by “fast-tracking” people to sainthood with a much diluted quality control system. Some of his declared saints may actually be in the Other Place. On his visit to the US he has taken the entirely political decision to name the “18th-Century missionary Junipero Serra a saint, in a move cheered by Hispanic Catholics but criticised by some Native Americans. …. The Pope had “fast-tracked” his canonisation, meaning that there was no need to show proof of two miracles”.

Normally the quality control process for declaring a saint is quite involved (even if there is no way of measuring the success rate of the canonisation process)

  • First stage: individual is declared a ‘servant of God’
  • Second stage: individual is called ‘venerable’
  • Third stage (requires a miracle attributed to candidate’s intercession): beatification, when individual is declared blessed
  • Fourth stage (requires a further authenticated miracle): candidate is canonised as a saint for veneration by Church

Beatification in the Catholic church is just another politically inspired honours system.

The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make anyone a saint. Rather, it recognizes a saint. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven. By this definition there are many people believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints. All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfected in holiness. Unofficial devotions to uncanonized individuals take place in certain regions. Sometimes the word “saint” is used to refer to Christians still sojourning here on earth.

There are over 10,000 named saints and beatified people from history, the Roman Martyrology and Orthodox sources, but no definitive head count. The assumption that they are all in Heaven is just an assumption, a judgement made by the fallible living.

But for entirely political purposes, Pope Francis has waived the need for any “authenticated” miracles for Sera. The usual assumption is that somebody declared a saint is already well established in Heaven. Once a saint he can be prayed to and requested to intercede with God. But in the case of this new saint, that may not quite hold. St, Junipero Serra may well qualify as having been heavily involved in the genocide of the indigenous population.

The church’s quality control system is fundamentally flawed since the actual quality achieved is never measured. Some declared saints are likely not actually in Heaven but in the Other Place. A few might even be stuck in limbo – in Purgatory. Junipero Serra could be one of them. (The fallback safety of course is that the Pope is infallible).

Native NewsSerra was the first Padre presidente and architect of the California mission system from 1769 until his death in 1784. His policies unequivocally led to atrocities against our ancestors; he does not deserve the honor of sainthood.     .

On Sera’s watch more natives died than were born:

One way to answer the question of whether Junipero Serra was really good for the Native Americans he purported to serve was how natives were treated on the missions themselves. The backlash against Serra began when historians began to look at birth and death records on the missions and discovered that more natives were dying under Serra’s watch than being born — not a great indicator that Serra was saving native lives. The contemporary picture of the missions is less a “bucolic arcadia” than a feudal labor camp, with natives beaten if they violated Catholic teachings or didn’t work hard enough. Serra’s defenders point out that no native was forced to convert to Catholicism and live on the mission if he or she didn’t choose to; his critics point out that once someone chose to convert and live on the mission, soldiers would be sent after him if he tried to escape.

So what happens when a Catholic prays to a declared saint, supposed to be in Heaven, but who is actually in the Other Place? Perhaps the intercession is granted by Lucifer rather than the Other Guy?


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