1. How are saints made? A primer on miracles, martyrs, virtues
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, May 11, 2017, 6:47 AM


A postulator – essentially the cheerleader spearheading the project – gathers testimony and documentation and presents the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the congregation’s experts agree the candidate lived a virtuous life, the case is forwarded to the pope, who signs a decree attesting to the candidate’s “heroic virtues.”

If the postulator finds someone was miraculously healed by praying for the candidate’s intercession, and if the cure can’t be medically explained, the case is presented to the congregation as the possible miracle needed for beatification. Panels of doctors, theologians, bishops and cardinals must certify that the cure was instantaneous, complete and lasting – and was due to the intercession of the saintly candidate. If convinced, the congregation sends the case to the pope, who signs a decree saying the candidate can be beatified.

A second miracle is needed to declare the candidate a saint.

Martyrs – people killed for their faith – can be beatified without a miracle. A miracle is needed, however, for martyrs to be canonized.


Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who will be canonized Saturday, will become the Catholic Church’s youngest-ever non-martyred saints. They are the youngsters who, along with their cousin, reported the visions of the Madonna 100 years ago.

Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martians pushed their case through the first phase of beatification when he was in charge of the Vatican’s saint-making office. He says it was the first of its kind.

“Before we couldn’t even talk about the beatification of children in the history of the church because the principle prevailed that they didn’t yet have the skills to exercise the heroic level of Christian virtues,” Saraiva Martins said in an interview.

But the Marto siblings earned the designation by refusing – despite threats they would be fried in olive oil – to recant their visions. Aged 9 and 7 at the time, they held firm in their faith, and ultimately Portuguese church officials declared the apparitions authentic.


Francis has issued two major reforms to the multi-million dollar saint-making process after the Vatican uncovered gross abuses that were revealed in two books. The books estimated the average cost for each beatification at around 500,000 euros ($550,000), with much of the proceeds going to a few lucky people with contracts to do the time-consuming investigations into the candidates’ lives. The books found that well-financed causes sprinted ahead while poorer ones languished.

Francis last year issued new rules requiring external vigilance over individual Vatican bank accounts created for beatification and canonization causes, as well as regular budgeting and accounting to make sure the donations from the faithful are being used as intended.

The second reform concerned the miracle certification process: One new rule stipulates a potential miracle can no longer be presented for consideration if it fails to pass before the board of medical experts three times. Secrecy must be respected at all times. Medical experts can’t have any contact with the postulator. Another rule says experts can be paid only via bank transfer, no longer in cash.


2. Despite High-Profile Executions, Death Penalty on Decline

By Stephen Beale, National Catholic Register, May 11, 2017

Despite four high-profile executions in Arkansas in April, the death penalty is on the decline in the United States — and that is thanks in large measure to a major shift in public opinion that has been driven in part by Catholics.

Annual executions peaked at 98 in 1999 and have been on the decline ever since. In 2016 there were 20 executions, the lowest in a quarter of a century.

The drop in annual death sentences has been even more precipitous: from 295 in 1998 to 30 last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit which tracks data on capital punishment in the United States.

“We’re undergoing a national climate change on the death penalty,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the center.

Recent developments on the state level reinforce the downward trend. Over the last year in Florida, a series of court rulings and new legislation have made it harder to pass death sentences by barring judges from overriding juries and requiring jury recommendations to be unanimous. In 2016, the absence of such protections in the Delaware’s death-penalty statute led the state Supreme Court to strike it down.

A key factor in the decline of the death penalty is public opinion. “We have seen changes in public attitudes toward the death penalty across all demographics. That includes religious groups,” Dunham said.

Polls show that the number of Americans who still support capital punishment is falling. In the mid-1990s an estimated 80% of the public approved. By 2016, that had diminished to 60%, according to Gallup. Another poll, from the Pew Research Center, puts it even lower, with 49% still in favor and 42% against.

Catholics are divided but slightly in favor of abolition: 46% to 43%, according to Pew.


3. Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end to death penalty

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service, May 11, 2017

Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building May 9.

Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment.

“All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom,” Pope Francis has said. This quotation kicks off the pledge.


4. Saying goodbye to grandma: With Democrats viewing abortion is an economic decision, the elderly should beware

By Daniel Oliver, The Washington Times, May 11, 2017, Pg. B4

If he is able in September to defund Planned Parenthood, that will make it a home run. Mr. Trump will go down as a great anti-abortion president.

The country needs that, given that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has announced that being pro-abortion is now “not negotiable” for Democrats. If abortion weren’t such a serious matter, the Democrats’ position would be almost comical.

Bryce Covert, the economic policy editor at ThinkProgress and a contributor to The Nation, wrote 900 words on the topic for The New York Times. He picked on Bernie Sanders for supporting a candidate for mayor of Omaha who is not pro-abortion.

Mr. Covert describes how abortions can be economically beneficial to women, especially working women. He writes: “The glaring mistake [Democrats] all make, however, is thinking that there is any way to disentangle reproductive rights from economic issues.”

For serious people, the debate over abortion is not about economic issues. It’s over whether what actually happens during an abortion is good or bad.

Suppose we substitute killing a grandmother for abortion in Mr. Covert’s article. Some of his sentences would read as follows:

Economics reverberates throughout women’s lives when they can’t terminate their grandmothers. In a study of women who sought to terminate their grandmothers, those who were unsuccessful were three times as likely to fall into poverty over the following two years as those women who were able to terminate, despite beginning in comparable financial situations. They were also more likely to wind up unemployed.

The real issue, of course, is this: Is what the procedure terminates a person? Every day, modern science takes us to a fuller understanding that the small living thing, from Day One, is in fact a person. But also, every day, modern liberal progressive politics takes us in the opposite direction: that there’s nothing wrong, really, with terminating those who undoubtedly are persons but who are, you know, helpless and useless, like, well, you know, grandmothers, and grandfathers, too.

With the election of Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood (which runs the nation’s pre-eminent abortion mills) is on the run — reason enough to have voted for Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton. And a Supreme Court refurbished by President Trump, now a real possibility, could, literally, save lives.

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of Citizens for the Republic.


5. Catholics, Coptic Orthodox must work toward unity, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Crux, May 11, 2017

In a letter to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, Pope Francis said he hoped that both their churches can continue along the path of true unity and communion.

The bond between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church is a reminder “to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope wrote in a letter to the patriarch May 10.

“Along this path, we are sustained by the powerful intercession and example of the martyrs. May we continue to advance together on our journey toward the same eucharistic table, and grow in love and reconciliation,” he said.

The letter commemorated the “Day of friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,” which marks the 44th anniversary of the first meeting between Blessed Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III.


6. The perfect gift of adoption

By Grazie Pozo Christie, Angelus News, May 11, 2017, Pg. A3

Our children have come to us by both humdrum biology and by the miraculous grace of adoption, and the world around us often fails to properly appreciate, or value, the surpassing loveliness of the latter.

[T]hose of us who have had the privilege of adopting feel it as a divine benediction. Sometimes we are praised for our generosity, but we know that the gift is all for the parents. Although adoption requires a trusting leap into the unknown and a conscious acceptance of any number of difficulties, the return in joy is dizzying. Often, though my daughter has been with me for nine years, I look at her and I am freshly struck with the utter unlikelihood of her person being mine to guard.

How can it be that I, alone among the women of the world, should have that honor? The improbability of this is shrouded in the awe with which we experience the tender care of God in our lives, showing us that, despite our great faults, he gives us perfect gifts. 

But beyond (and above) the delight brought by the child herself is something else: recapitulating and, therefore, better understanding the mysterious way God makes us his own sons and daughters. Our relationship to our father God — the relationship that he chose to share with us — is that of adoption, not natural descent.

If I may quote St. Paul and his letter to the Ephesians: “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace.” Grace is the gift that God makes to us of his own life, healing our sin and sanctifying us, and the vehicle of this gift is adoption.

It is clear to me that when we participate in God’s plan of creation by welcoming new life through natural descent, we are fulfilling God’s lovely will. But it is equally clear that mothering (and fathering) through adoption is no second-best. If God chose this way to make us his very own, then there must be special joys and blessings attached to adoption. 

I, for one, have found it so.