“Forgive me, Father, for I have never sinned.” Such was the determination required of one Brother Bonaventure of Verona upon the occasion of the canonization of St. Dominic in the sequential year of 1234. The good news is, without divulging the specifics and thus breaking the Seal of the Confessional, Bonaventure was able to report in good faith that Dominic had never committed a mortal sin and was thus deserving of the immortal honor. Just to be on the ecclesial safe side, the Holy See called Brother William of Monferrat to the stand… ahem, asked that he attend…to testify, ahem, affirm, Dominic’s divine nature, given he had spent considerable time in Dominic’s company and all. Luckily, William said he had never witnessed Dominic deviate from the Rule. Dominic would thenceforth be counted among all of the Angels and Saints.
Skeptically, one must nevertheless ask, was it coincidence that the Inquisition and the putting sainthood on trial arose in the same era? As per Unam Sanctam Catholicam, a website dedicated to upholding the sacred traditions of the Catholic Church, “If canonization was law applied to saint-making, the inquisitorial courts were law applied to dealing with heresy. Because of this emphasis on legal procedure, it made sense that both the Inquisition and the process of canonization would be seen in terms of a trial. The alleged-saint is the defendant, and his sanctity must be defended against possible accusations.”
Being an ambitious lot throughout the Dark Ages, church leadership saw fit to institutionalize the role of prosecutor. It did seem, however, an unseemly word to associate with Saints. Why not instead advocatus diaboli? The history is a bit imprecise (they didn’t call them the Ages “Dark” without reason), but the office of the Devil’s Advocate was not formally recognized until the reign of Pope Sixtus V in 1587, by which time the practice was well-established in spirit if not in name. By 1708, the newly named Promotor Fidei had become the most powerful office in the Roman Congregation of Rites, with full veto power over any potential candidate. The bringing forth of any candidate was to set forth on a long and arduous road with a full complement of naysayers to thwart one’s journey.
Danielle DiMartino Booth is CEO and Director of Intelligence at Quill Intelligence
For a full archive of my writing, please visit my website — www.DiMartinoBooth.com
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