ASK FATHER: Pope Francis said Fr. Hamel is a martyr. Is he now “Blessed Jacques Hamel”? [Canonically, no.]
[Hat-tip to LifeSiteNews]
Posted on 14 September 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
From a reader…
I saw today that Pope Francis confirmed that Fr. Hamel is a “martyr.” Does this mean we can now refer to him as St. or Blessed or Venerable Fr. Hamel?
I strongly suspect that Fr. Jacques Hamel, recently killed in his church at Mass by an Islamic murderer in N. France, is a martyr. The murderer was pledged to ISIS.
However, just as the Church has procedures when promulgating laws and teaching definitively, so too the Church has procedures when determining if a slain Catholic was martyred. “Martyr” is also a technical term for someone who was killed precisely for hatred of Christ, the Faith, or some aspect of the Faith that is integral to it.
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The Roman Pontiff has the highest authority in the Church after Christ Himself. He is Christ’s Vicar. He is the chief teacher and the lawgiver. However, the Pope must exercise his office in a prudent, responsible way lest confusion be sown. If he is sloppy about law and doctrine, people can become confused. “Did he teach X or not?” “Did he change the law about Y or not?” Confusion and doubts harm the whole fabric of the Church. Therefore, even Popes, for the sake of the good ordering of the life of the Church, have to follow the procedures which they (in the persons of their predecessors) have lain down.
Popes have established the Congregation for Saints to study the cases of those who have been killed, possibly as martyrs. They study all the evidence, carefully gathered and verified, in what is very like a court case. Once they make a determination that the person was martyred, they submit their decision to the Holy Father who can confirm it or not. If he confirms it, then he can either announce the decision in a public ceremony for the martyr or allow a delegate to make the announcement in the local church where the person was.
The point is that Pope Francis and his predecessors have an official procedure for these matters. If the Pope wants to change that procedure he’ll make it clear that that is what he is doing. Until then, Francis can call Fr. Hamel a martyr every day until the parenthesis of his pontificate closes, but he will not be officially recognized as a martyr until he makes that clear in the right way.
Meanwhile, it really does seem that Fr. Hamel is a martyr, doesn’t it. It wouldn’t surprise me at all were Francis to accelerate the process.