Daily Archives: March 1, 2010

A further question on the meaning of “heroic virtue” of Saints?

You will be aware that the declaration of “heroic virtue” of Pope Pius XII has not been without controversy. What does “heroic virtue” mean, if – with all the external contraints of the time – the proposed saint in question did not live up to what we by our standards today would judge “heroic”?

Well, here is another example, the world’s first beatified lay journalist – Spaniard Manuel Lozano Garrido (1920-171). John Hooper, writing in The Guardian, raises the following point:

But journalism is also about resisting efforts to hide or distort the truth, and it is worth noting that the personally admirable Lozano Garrido spent his working life under a dictatorship – that of the late General Francisco Franco – in which journalists were expected to do both.

How comfortable the soon-to-be blessed Manuel Lozano Garrido was with that situation is hard to make out in the laudatory accounts of his life written by supporters of his cause. …Many an intellectual who backed Franco in his early days, though, became disillusioned subsequently. …Perhaps a reader can enlighten as to where exactly Lozano Garrido fitted in because, by approving his beatification, Pope Benedict is sending a message to the world about the sort of journalism that he regards as worthwhile.

None of his readers drew the logical comparison with Pius XII that immediatey occured to me, but here are some relevant comments, including Hooper’s reply:

No, the Pope is not sending a message about the type of journalism he approves. He does that — if at all — through L’Osservatore Romano.

I knew nothing of Lozano Garrido until reading this column, but his beatification has nothing to do with whether or not he supported Franco. What people fail to understand is that there is a difference between moral virtue and human virtue. For instance, some people fault Pope John Paul for the Assisi multi-religion summit he held or for kissing a copy of the Koran. The fact that he was a mystic and communed deeply with God on a daily basis did not make him perfect. The Assisi summit may have been a stupid move and kissing the Koran probably wasn’t the smartest thing he ever did, but they, in and of themselves, do not point to an unsaintly life. They simply show that, like the rest of us, he was a flawed human who could make bad temporal judgments. Yet, the fact that he was a mystic who communed deeply with God on a daily basis is the basis for the cause of his beatification and canonization.

Sanctity does not mean absolute perfection. It means that one is close to God, but not God Himself, which is why Catholics venerate, but do not worship, the saints.

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

And:

No he is not. The cause was presumably initiated not because of the mans journalistic oeuvre but because of his heroic virtues. Unless one can point to anything he wrote as antithetical to the faith then its not particularly relevant.

To which Hooper replies:

I’m interested to see that a couple of readers have picked me up on my contention that “Benedict is sending a message to the world about the sort of journalism that he regards as worthwhile”.
I take the point that this is a judgement on Lozano Garrido’s virtue, not his writing. But I stand by the argument that the Vatican uses beatification and canonisation as a means of communication. It is saying, in effect, “This is the sort of man or woman we regard as a model for others”, particularly when that person is the first of his or her kind to be so honoured.
If, as in this case, the proposed object of veneration is a journalist who worked within the constraints of an unpleasant, authoritarian regime that showered privileges on the Roman Catholic church, then I think his attitude to those constraints becomes a pretty important part of the message.

All in all, it raises the question of what exactly “heroic virtue” means in terms of the judgement of saintliness. It might be worth someone doing a bit of work into this subject. A doctoral project, perhaps?

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