Religious investigation services
The Lord's outsourced work
The Vatican introduces price controls on the saint-verifying business
IF YOU came across an essay titled The Cost of Sainthood you might assume it was a homily on the self-sacrificing life of some heroic person.
But it turns out that sainthood has a cost in a more literal sense—and it has been rising.
When Cardinal John O'Connor ofNew Yorkstarted a campaign for the canonisation of Dorothy Day, an activist who toiled among the city's poor, some said this was a bad use of church funds.
He retorted that the expense was not excessive: an initiative to canonise a Haitian-born New Yorker called Pierre Toussaint, already well advanced, had cost less than $4,000
But that was in the late 1990s. These days a successful canonisation campaign launched inAmericatypically costs around $250,000, and can go far higher, says the Catholic News Service, an agency editorially independent of the church.
The procedures for having somebody recognised as a saint are elaborate and bureaucratic.
They require an exchange of documents and expertise over many years between the person's home region and theVatican.
All sorts of experts may be called in, including doctors, who are asked to comment on the two miraculous cures which are a prerequisite for full sainthood.
And a key role is played by an expert, often a Rome-based canon lawyer, known as a postulator, who mediates between the candidate's fan base and theVatican, and helps prepare a case for sainthood.
To the dismay of Dan Brown fans, the role of devil's advocate, who argued against a prospective sainthood, was abolished in 1983.
The whole business will come under scrutiny this year, with two recentish popes—John XXIII and John Paul II—due to be proclaimed saints in April.
This helps explain why, in a speech to postulators this month, Cardinal Angelo Amato, who oversees the Vatican's sainthood department, disclosed that it had introduced a reference tariff—in effect, price regulation—for the costs incurred in promoting a possible saint.
The department will also continue to ensure that candidates from poor countries, whose backers are less able to pay for elaborate verification services, get a fair hearing.
Even that policy has its detractors.
Bill Briggs, author of a book on canonisation, has argued that the investigation system introduced by John Paul II, since it is less adversarial than before, was a marketing coup: it facilitated a wave of new saints in emerging markets, helping to recruit new souls to Catholicism.
But sainthood is never just a matter of money.
Some see the canonisation of two popes—a Polish conservative and an Italian reformer—as a way to reconcile traditionalists and radicals.
And Meaghan O'Keefe of the University of California,Davissees the promotion of Dorothy Day as a move by male bishops to neutralise the country's left-leaning nuns.
Politics comes into the picture, as well as Mammon.