A less than saintly story

pio2 In popular Catholic piety, Padre Pio Pietrelcina is still a revered figure, if not to the extent that he was for decades after World War II. The Italian Capuchin monk bore the stigmata on his hands, chest, and feet. He cured people. He made prophesies. So how will the intellectual Pope Benedict XVI treat the saint and his emotional followers? Jeff Israely of Time, whose surname I misspelled previously, poses this question in his mini-profile of the popular monk. His answer is ... it depends. Pope Benedict XVI may feel differently about Padre Pio than his predecessor:

Everyone knows what John Paul II felt about Padre Pio. But how can Benedict, the intellectually rigorous theologian, dubbed "the Pope of Reason," sanction such widespread belief in faith-healing and emotional attachments to icons and relics?

The rest of the story is a balanced assessment of Benedict's views about Padre Pio. But I thought it odd that Israely pulled a Descartes in the story: posing a dualism between the mind (Benedict's intellect) and the body (the emotional attachment of ordinary Catholics). So did reader Tom Stanton:

the articles references to faith-healing and special powers are just ridiculous and demonstrate a clear inability or unwillingness to even discuss the theology behind the Communion of the Saints. I think it places a false dichotomy ... trying to pit the relics of Augustine against the relics of Pio.

In other words, the mind-body dualism in the story says more about Time than it does Benedict. Israely's story would have benefited from a one-sentence explanation of why his mental category was relevant.

I also think that the story should have explained briefly the process by which the church canonizes a believer. As is, the story leaves the impression that the process is subjective; it all depends on the pope. Now it's well documented that secular factors (e.g. the institution or popular support behind the candidate) influence who becomes a saint. But the story fails to mention that in order to become a saint, the local diocese and Congregation for the Causes of Saints must determine that the person achieved heroic virtue and that two miracles were achieved through their intercession, although the pope does have discretion.

I know, a sentence or two about theology and church processes can be staid. But in this case, their absence marred an otherwise well-reported and interesting story.

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