The Apostolic Process on Reputation in General

JUDICIAL order requires that, in the regular course of events, no specific enquiry would be instituted until all generic examinations have first taken place; and therefore it would be expected that the Apostolic Process on the Reputation in General would be the first Process established after the Introduction of the Cause. But in the procedure of canonization things do not always happen with this perfect chronological order and regularity. There is often grave reason for changing the usual sequence of events. For from its very nature the "Process, lest the proofs should perish" (Processus ne pereant probationes), should be established as soon as possible after the Commission of Introduction is signed. And if it were deferred until the Process on the Reputation was complete there would sometimes be great danger that valuable evidence would be lost to the cause, especially the testimony of eyewitnesses, which is always of supreme importance in Apostolic Processes. There is no reason in Canon Law why the Process on the Reputation should not be constructed at the same time as the "Process lest the proofs should perish," and Remissorial Letters are sometimes sought for the simultaneous construction of both Processes. The matter is left altogether to the discretion and prudence of the Postulator. But when a number of Processes are running concurrently it is often difficult to devote to each of them the careful attention and diligence which are necessary. Hence, it is generally considered advisable that the construction of this Process be deferred till the Process "lest the proofs should perish," is complete. The enquiry into noncultus must be finished and judgment given at Rome before the Process on the Reputation is established, unless on the petition of the Postulator a dispensation is granted.

The work of this Process is strictly confined to an examination of the reputation for virtue and miracles of the servant of God. Unlike the Informative Process it never enquires into individual virtues or individual miracles, and if a miracle has been wrought which would be useful for the purpose of beatification it is examined in the Process "lest the proofs should perish." Although the reputation for sanctity and miracles has been already established by the Informative Process, this proof must be always confirmed by the Apostolic Process. And the question to be discussed in this Process is: "Whether there is satisfactory proof of the validity and relevance of the Process constructed in the diocese, N., on the reputation for sanctity, virtues, and miracles in general of the servant of God in the cause and for the purpose of this enquiry."

In addition to this review the Apostolic Process makes a distinct and independent enquiry into the reputation of the servant of God. A more rigid proof is required in the Apostolic than in the Informative Process. And since a considerable time must have elapsed since the examination by the Informative Process, the Apostolic Process enquires further whether the reputation for sanctity still survives, and whether it has lost force or continues to gather strength day by day.

The reputation for sanctity of which there is question in this enquiry is different according as the servant of God under discussion is a reputed confessor or martyr. The reputation for sanctity of a reputed confessor is nothing else than a widespread opinion or report regarding the integrity of his life and the excellence of his virtues and also regarding the miracles wrought through his intercession. In the case of a reputed martyr, the reputation for sanctity, or the reputation for martyrdom, as it is called, is a common opinion regarding his death for the faith of Christ, or for some virtue taught by revelation, suffered with patience, and illustrated by signs or miracles. The reputation for sanctity always refers to causes of confessors, unless the contrary is made clear. The full details of the examination and the manner in which the reputation is established are given at length in the chapter on the Informative Process, and it is unnecessary to repeat these particulars here.

The Postulator of the cause is not restricted as to the number of witnesses to be called, but at least eight or ten should be produced, of which two must be official witnesses cited by the Judge or by the Promoter of the Faith. If in the course of examination any witness should mention any person or persons who are acquainted with any important fact or circumstance connected with the reputation, whether favorable or unfavorable to the cause, such person or persons must be examined, and their evidence recorded in the minutes of the Process. The witnesses already examined in the Informative Process, and in the Process "lest the proofs should perish," if it has been constructed, may all be reexamined in this Process. Besides these additional witnesses may also be called to give a more rigid proof of the reputation, and some new witnesses should be called to show whether it has continued since the date of the Informative Process. The whole difficulty is the question of proof and the degree of proof required. And the object of the Postulator should be to produce witnesses who can give general testimony regarding the youth and condition of life of the servant of God, so that the opinion about his sanctity and holiness which prevailed during his life and up to the time of the enquiry may be set forth in the clearest light.

As the Apostolic Process on the reputation is, in the ordinary course of events, the first Process held after the Introduction of the Cause, it will be useful to explain the mode of procedure followed in its construction and in carrying out its work. The Congregation of Rites institutes the Process only on Petition, and nothing is done until the Postulator begs the Congregation of Rites to take action. First of all, he obtains from the Holy Father a decree in virtue of which a Remissorial Letter is granted. This decree is shown to the Promoter of the Faith, and then given to the Chancellor of the Congregation of Rites, who prepares the Remissorial Letter. In every Court of Law there are two sides to the question to be tried, and the same is true of every Process in the canonization of saints. The Postulator of the Cause represents the one side and the Promoter of the Faith, popularly known as the "Advocatus Diaboli" is representative of the other. In addition to the Remissorial Letter, another letter is sent by the Promoter of the Faith. These two letters are of the highest importance. The validity of the Process depends chiefly on the strict observance of the conditions and forms prescribed in them, and therefore all those who have charge of the Process should read them most carefully, and become thoroughly familiar with their contents.

Then the Postulator or the Promoter of the Cause should write the articles, which may be prepared from the evidence already given in the Informative Process. In the Apostolic Process regarding reputation for sanctity in general, but few articles are required: one for each virtue will be sufficient. These articles are by longestablished custom given to the Promoter of the Faith, who prepares the Interrogatories upon which the Judges examine the witnesses, for in Apostolic Processes the Judges can never take action, except with the sanction of the Promoter of the Faith or the Subpromoters whom he designates.

The Promoter of the Cause next hands both the Articles and the Interrogatories to the Chancellor of the Congregation, who carefully incloses them and seals them with the seal of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Rites. They are then taken away by the Postulator to be given to the Judges of the Process. And if the Process is held outside Rome the letters are directed to the Bishop of the Diocese and his VicarGeneral and to the four Dignitaries or Canons who have been deputed to cooperate as judges. At the same time the Promoter of the Faith in the city writes to the Fiscal Promoter of the Diocese, and in virtue of the authority granted in the Remissorial Letter constitutes him his Subpromoter of the Faith.

When these preliminaries are arranged a number of letters are written, the forms of which are prescribed by the Holy See, and may be seen in the textbooks written for the guidance of Postulators. The Postulator first writes to the Bishop who is to be Judge, showing his own Mandate of Procuration, and begging him to establish the Court in accordance with the faculties given in the Remissorial Letter which he presents. If the due formalities are observed and everything is in order the Bishop replies granting the petition and fixing the time and place for the enquiry. Then the Promoter Fiscal is summoned by the authority of the Bishop to be present at the first session, to inspect the Remissorial Letter, and see that all the prescribed formalities are duly carried out.


The Postulator or Vicepostulator appears in person, and showing his authority in the Mandate of Procuration, begs that by virtue of the faculties given in the Remissorial Letter the Process be constructed. The letter is then read through, but as no witnesses are examined at this session and the reading of the Interrogatories is omitted, the Bishop and other delegated Judges take the oath prescribed according to the form given in the Remissorial Letter. At this stage the Letter of the Promoter of the Faith sent from Rome is read to the assembly; and the Subpromoter of the Faith, the Notary and the Messenger bind themselves by oath with all the forms and solemnities required. Finally, all the necessary documents are inserted in the records of the Process.


The Second Session is held on the day and in the place fixed by the Judges, and at this session the Postulator of the Cause takes the oath of calumny, and hands to the Court a list of the witnesses to be examined. If in this Process there is question of a servant of God who lives in the cloister, the Postulator should take care that amongst the witnesses to be examined four, three, or at least two, should be external witnesses that is to say, they should be witnesses who do not belong to the Order in which the servant of God was professed. This is in accordance with the direction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and follows from the teaching of Benedict XIV.

In the third session the witnesses are sworn in the manner prescribed in the Remissorial Letter, the Judges and one of the Subpromoters of the Faith being present. In this session the time for holding the fourth session is indicated, in which one or more of the witnesses will be subjected to examination.

The fourth and succeeding sessions are devoted to the examination of witnesses according to the Interrogatories sent from the Holy See, to which reference has already been made. And should any of the witnesses point to any one who denies the alleged reputation it is the solemn duty both of the Judges and the Promoter of the Faith to produce and examine such a hostile witness. This witness will, however, be called upon to answer that he does not take up this position of hostility from enmity, illwill, or any private reason, but simply for the love of truth and justice.

The examination of the witnesses having concluded, additional sessions are held to bring the Process to a close, and the same rules are observed which are required for terminating the Informative Process.

Tracing the fortunes of the enquiry in the Eternal City it may be said that when the Pope grants permission to open the acts and minutes of the Process a Summary and Information are prepared. The Summary consists of two parts, one containing the documents which should be incorporated in the records of the Process, and the other containing the depositions of witnesses. In like manner the Information is divided into two parts, of which one has regard to the validity of the Processnamely, whether it was carried through in accordance with the requirements of Canon Law and the Remissorial Letter, and the other regards its relevancy, whether from the evidence of witnesses and from documents the reputation was fully proved.

The Promoter of the Faith next raises objections, to which the Procurator responds, and a Statement on the Reputation in General is prepared and printed.

Then the question is put whether there is satisfactory proof of the validity and relevance of the Process. This question should ordinarily be proposed in a general meeting of the Congregation, but, according to ancient custom, the Holy Father when petitioned grants leave to discuss it in an ordinary meeting of the Congregation without the intervention or vote of the Consulters.

The Sacred Congregation replies to the proposed question either affirmatively, or negatively, or postponed, which last reply implies that difficulties have arisen which require more mature consideration. It is the duty of the Postulator and the Patron of the cause to try with all possible care to meet these difficulties. Sometimes the answer to the proposed question is "postponed according to intention," and the Congregation makes known its intention. In this case also the Postulator will endeavor to remove all obstacles and satisfy the Congregation. The decree of the Congregation is the supreme and final judgment, from which there is no appeal, and which settles the question of the reputation for all time.

It may be observed in conclusion that when there is a long interval between the opening of the Process and the date on which the question is proposed, the Promoter of the Faith may object that the reputation for sanctity has died out in this period. In these circumstances a new Process is not required, and the continuance of the reputation is proved by a letter to the Ordinary, and by the evidence of witnesses examined according to the mandate of the Congregation.

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