Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Question from Gervase - Sainthood for Catherine of Aragon

I have been wondering, and have inquired, if Catherine of Aragon was ever considered for Sainthood by the Catholic Church? I cannot seem to find any documentation regarding the same, however, I would think she certainly suffered enough thru all kinds of humiliation and still maintained her faith.


Anonymous said...

It is extremely rare for married women to be considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church, then or now. Sainthood, or canonization, is reserved only for those very few who lived lives of exceptional sanctity, or holiness. True sanctity, by Roman Catholic standards, requires a certain degree of separation from the world, whether visible (withdrawal to a monastery or convent) or hidden (inner withdrawal to a life of spiritual contemplation). Part of that withdrawal involves following the Pauline New Testament admonition to chastity and the maintenance of sexual purity.

For a woman, this means having lived her life as a "bride of Christ" only and remaining a virgin in the physical world. Very few non-virgin females are ever considered for sainthood (though conspicuously many men who became celibate later in life have been canonized, not least of whom is St Augustine, one of the Fathers of Christianity and a leading Roman Catholic theologian-saint).

Since Katherine of Aragon was twice married and clearly sexually active for almost 2 decades, she did not die a virgin. That circumstance alone is enough to remove her from serious consideration for the lengthy process leading to sainthood, however "unfair" that may seem.

Anonymous said...

THats a bummer because she would get my vote!(too bad I'm not Catholic...)
What about her mother though? I've heard that Queen Isabella was "nominated" for sainthood and she was not a virgin.

Elizabeth M. said...

What about beatification? My understanding is that this is a recognition of a soul's going to Heaven, and people can then pray to that certain soul. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1896.

Foose said...

There were a fair number of married medieval queens/rulers who were canonized: St. Elizabeth of Portugal, St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. St. Frances of Rome, a married woman, was specifically canonized as a woman called to matrimony and its responsibilities, to serve as an example for other married women.

The process got tougher during the Counter-Reformation, when the Church was pressured to be more stringent in qualifying candidates. There were still some married women - St. Jeanne de Chantal, for example -- who were eligible, but usually they had been widowed and retired from the world to found an order or work with a spiritual director for acceptable Catholic charities.

Catherine's closest counterpart is St. Jeanne of France, Louis XII's repudiated wife; I understand she has never been formally canonized but she is commonly referred to as St. Jeanne. Unlike Catherine, Jeanne submitted to her divorce (also unlike Catherine, the Pope basically told her to back down) and dutifully retired from the world.

Despite the differences in Jeanne's and Catherine's situations, I think Catherine's case for canonization would be most helped by a strong national impetus behind it. Clearly the English have not pushed her merits to the Vatican since it's no longer a Catholic country, while the memory of "Bloody Mary" would have made such a move politically controversial for the Vatican. The case of Isabella of Spain is periodically revived by Spanish nationalists, but modern reevaluations of her campaigns against the Moors and Jews have put her canonization indefinitely on hold. Queen Jadwiga of Poland was on a fast track under Pope John Paul II, with vigorous Polish backing, but I think her canonization may now be delayed as well because of the change in popes.

Anonymous said...

As Foose very correctly notes, there ARE female saints who had been married. But again, they comprise only a handful of the over 10,000 individual saints currently recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. (For a comprehensive list of the individually named female saints [as opposed to groups of anonymous female saint-martyrs] of the Roman Catholic Church and their brief biographies, see http://www.catholic.org/saints/female.php).

The vast majority of the (married) female saints of the Roman Catholic Church were declared saints in the era before papal control over canonizations, which began in about 1000 AD. Prior to 1000 AD, many "saints" became so by popular and usually very localized acclaim, without official approval from the Vatican. Between 1000 and the Council of Trent under Pope Sixtus V in the late 16th century, the Church developed a specific process for nominating, confirming, and canonizing saints. In 1983, Pope John Paul II altered the way saints are nominated, confirmed, and canonized, making the process somewhat faster and more efficient than it had previously been.

After the Council of Trent, the most common way a married woman became a saint was by martyrdom for the faith, often dying with her husband. Margaret de la Pole's followers were able to press her cause on the grounds of martyrdom, since she was executed by Henry VIII for refusing to deny Papal Supremacy. Martyrdom allows a candidate to circumvent the requirement of verified miracles prior to beatification. Since Katherine of Aragon was not martyred, it is more difficult for her followers to press her cause. Nonetheless, far more married females are beatified than are canonized.

But even with the modern changes in the process leading to canonization, it must still be initiated in the locale where the candidate lived. For Katherine of Aragon, that locale is England, a non-Catholic country. And while saints are often canonized from non-Catholic countries, they most commonly originate in countries that are simultaneously not majority Christian (i.e., China, Japan, Vietnam, India). The US, a majority Christian but not majority Catholic country, has had 2 persons canonized as saints, notably both females and one of whom was a widow who had entered holy orders (St Elizabeth Bayley Seton). Two more Americans, one of them female, have been beatified. In contrast, Japan, a non-majority-Christian and non-Catholic country, has had over a dozen people canonzied and over 100 beatified.

The process leading to canonization requires a significantly sized group of deeply committed followers willing to devote decades to the process of literally lobbying the College for the Causes of Saints on behalf of the candidate, thoroughly investigating and confirming every detail of the individual's life, and investigating and confirming any miracles attributed to the individual. Beatification is the second step in the process, after Veneration, and thus it too requires a great deal of effort by the individual's followers. Apparently no sufficiently large and devoted following has sprung up behind Katherine of Aragon to press her cause with the College, so she has not yet been declared Venerable, Blessed, or a Saint. I am not able to discover that the Vatican has even accepted her as a potential candidate for investigation.

As for Katherine's mother, Isabella of Spain, Pope Paul VI in 1974 allowed her to be put forward as a candidate for eventual canonization, though she has not yet reached the first step of being declared Venerable. Her cause may well be a futile one, since politics can sometimes play a significant role in canonization, and there are many who oppose her candidacy because of her role in founding and promoting the Spanish Inquisition. In light of the Church's recent apologies for past injustices, including the Inquisition, it seems unlikely to me that a promoter of one of those injustices would ever be venerated, much less canonized.

Foose said...

The Vatican may also not be too enthusiastic about Catherine of Aragon because of its efforts at rapproachment with the Anglican communion -- the Church of England got its start with Catherine's divorce. Also, from a certain point of view, Catherine was responsible for the schism -- if she'd just gone into a convent like St. Jeanne of Valois, England might still be a Catholic country. Perhaps the Vatican feels an institutional grudge.

Many of the earlier saint-queens seemed to have been canonized partly as a Church effort to encourage the development of national cults strongly linked to the authority and prestige of the Church in those countries. When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and its veneration of saints, he exterminated that aspect of English religious culture -- you don't read about even ardent Catholics under Mary going on pilgrimages to Catherine's tomb. The whole English mindset seems to have shifted. There is no report of miracles at Peterborough, or miracle cures achieved by invoking Catherine's aid (which would be valuable in drumming up support in England and in the Vatican for her canonization/beatification) -- the fairly routine posthumous "legend of so-and-so" that usually grows up around the death of a famous person who has suffered for their faith. So Catherine never had that strong nationalist backing.

Garrett Mattingley's biography strongly presents a case for Catherine to be considered as a saint. More recent historians have suggested that she was more manipulative and calculatingly political than a passive Patient Griselda type -- that's why I'd like to see a new reassessment of her life.

Anonymous said...

re: new treatments on C of A

Though I have other issues with her work, Joanna Denny does do a sustained (though at times overwrought) look at the very political maneuvers that C and her daughter Mary undertook during the divorce. Though (oddly) Denny doesnt "approve" of Catherines actions, at least her treatment presents a different picture than just a suffering but stubborn first wife just sitting around.

Still, a longer examination is overdue (a la Ives on Ann B).


Anonymous said...

May I just repeat, for the umpteenth time, that Joanna Denny is a novelist, not a historian? Even her supposed "non-fiction histories" are injected with so many patently imaginary elements that they must be treated as nothing more than historical fiction. As a result, any "sustained look" by Denny at Katherine's political maneuvers is severely compromised by the overall poor quality of the historical writing and should be taken with not just a grain of salt but an entire salt mine. Relying on Joanna Denny for cogent historical analysis is akin to treating Showtime's "The Tudors" as a documentary.

Foose said...

I liked Denny's book, although I realize it's not scholarly -- I thought she had some interesting things to say. Ummm ... does anybody recall reading in her book about Anne's dog Purkoy dying, apparently by falling out a window, and then Chapuys referring to Henry and Anne (possibly Cromwell) looking like "dogs falling out a window" when the Emperor's victory in Tunis was announced? I think Denny was carrying it a bit too far in suggesting Chapuys had the little beast whacked, but I commend her noticing the parallel.

When I referred to recent historians being critical of Catherine, I was thinking mostly about David Loades in his studies of Mary Tudor and his book "The Politics of Marriage," and also Jasper Ridley, whose "Henry VIII" is absolutely devoid of any sentimental partisanship for anybody. (It's on the dry side, too; you never realize how much sentimental partisanship enlivens a historical narrative until you read a book without it. Still, it's good to see people's motivations stripped of emotional window-dressing.)

Foose said...

Just a little coda to this query - in the September 10 2008 issue of The Spectator magazine, Paul Johnson puts the case for Margaret Beaufort's sainthood in an article titled, "Should a widowed mother aged thirteen be a saint?"


Johnson enumerates the many instances of Margaret's benefactions, including her intellectual patronage and vast charities. Still, somehow, I think Catherine of Aragon seems to be a more sympathetic candidate for sainthood than Margaret -- there's something prudent and discreet and reasonable and yes, crafty, about Margaret's conduct that repels. Possibly others may have a different view. The article is very well-written, so enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I also have been interested as to why Catherine of Aragon has not been considered for canonization. She was clearly a Confessor for the Catholic Faith if not actually a martyr like St Thomas More or John Fisher.
I don't think it has to do so much with ecumenical niceties with the Anglicans. The English martyrs were canonized in 1970 after Vat II had been over for 5 years.

Anonymous said...

I agree, I think she should be considered for canonization as a saint. Not only was she a faithful wife but she was a devout catholic never losing faith in God even when all odds were against her. She prayed and attended mass daily through all her sufferings of losing children and being married to not only an adulterer but someone who changed religions as often as his sexual partners. I really think she deserves the title of St. Catherine of Aragon.

Aldrin Sagabaen said...

I agree that she should be canonized along with her mother and daughter, beacause they were all faithful to the end

I don't know why this topic is not widespread unlike her mother's?

When she is canonized along with Isabella and Mary they should have the title:

The Three Royal Saints of Spain and England

Sts. Isabella of Castile, Catherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor

How would anyone like that?

Tahnks for letting me speak!

Unknown said...

I think that Mary would be just about out of the question, due to her violence, and to a lesser extent, Isabella. Also, besides her relatively mundane faithful practice, Catherine's biggest advocate is her suffereing, and her being a "confessor" (as in st. edward the confessor). She actually died because she was sent to whatever drafty old place and got some kind of lung cancer or the like. The only thing against her in my oppinion is really the "institutional grudge" aspect.

Fr Bernard said...

There are groups in England and individuals in the USA promoting Catherine's canonization. See, for example, http://katharineofaragon.com/wordpress/

Fr Bernard said...

Here's a somewhat dated report on the cause:

Anonymous said...

I have long thought Catherine should be considered for Sainthood. I understand that evidence of two miracles is looked for by the Church; Chapuys provides us with evidence for one: the spontaneous ignition of the candles at Catherine's funeral in Peterborough Cathedral.

Anonymous said...

Catherine needs to do a miracle before the process of sainthood is taken up by the diocese in which she died.

Anonymous said...

Someone might want to explain this to the descendants of Saint Elizabeth Anne Seton’s five children.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness what!!! We're all called to be saint's and yes even motherhood is a vocation. And she is considered Servant of God (first step on the way to sainthood), she was also a Franciscan tertiary. She's probably not made a saint cause of the uproar it would start among the Anglicans and Catholics.

Anonymous said...

Technically speaking within in the historical and traditional Catholic understanding of it, there is only one vocation, Holy Orders, the pentacle of which is the Holy Priesthood..not downplaying Vatican II, in that The Church took an objective look at the modern world to see how the Church should best evangelize, somethingThe Church always did, but was getting a bit to comfortable within the moder world..not looking objectively at the modern world..it was thought that there needed to be major updates, indeed, a complete overhaul..well, as we can objectively see, if we're being honest, it was a mitigating disaster. In that frame of thought,, within the mind of Vatican II and how the Church should engage with modern world, it is indeed obvious, again if we're being honest with our selves, what Holy Mother Church needs today is a more traditional, a more medieval theological outlook, liturgical practices etc..and, no, not at all to downplay other stations in life, everyone has there own station and office in life, but there is only one vocation..sorry for the tangent..God Bless with the whole Celestial Court!