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  • Das Verfahren zur Erhebung eines Heiligen zum Kirchenlehrer by Paul Bernhard Wodrazka
  • James Legrys
Das Verfahren zur Erhebung eines Heiligen zum Kirchenlehrer, by Paul Bernhard Wodrazka. Kanonistische Reihe 26. Sankt Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 2015. Pp. 5–75.

At the beginning of his Foreword to the book, Cardinal Christoph Schön-born, Archbishop of Vienna, points out that there are many books about the lives and works of the thirty-five Doctors of the Church, but no publication on the process by which a saint becomes a Doctor of the Church (p. 5). Wodrazka’s book addresses that neglected topic.

This task is made more complicated by the fact that there is no single document in which the process for the elevation of a saint to Doctor of the Church is treated in its entirety. Moreover, of the relevant documents only one is public, the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus. The others are internal curial documents. Having gained access to all the relevant documents, Wodrazka is able to explain step-by-step the various stages in the process and the roles of the numerous actors involved.

At the outset, the head of a religious order or a diocesan bishop appoints a postulator, who will present the cause to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The postulator begins by writing to the episcopal conference in which the saint died asking it to support the cause with a petition to the pope. If the episcopal conference in plenary session votes in favor, then it sends a petition to the pope. At this point, other episcopal conferences, religious orders, etc. usually send their own litterae postulatoriae in support of the cause. If the pope approves, the case is turned over to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Because of Pastor Bonus no. 73, however, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints cannot reach a decision without first having asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for its judgment as to whether or not the work of the saint truly represents eminens doctrina that is of [End Page 293] importance to the whole Church. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith commissions theologians to offer their opinions, which are taken into consideration when it discusses and votes on the matter.

The judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must be presented first to the pope and then to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the pope has approved, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints appoints a relator for the cause, who will guide the postulator in the preparation of a Positio super Ecclesiae Doctoratu to be presented to the congregation. Once complete, the positio undergoes the scrutiny of the congregation’s theological consultors, who meet to discuss it and to take a vote. If this vote is affirmative, the cause is brought before the congregation itself for a decision. The result of this vote is sent on to the pope, who makes the final decision. If the pope decides to name the saint a Doctor of the Church, there is an announcement, a celebration at a papal Mass, and finally an apostolic letter published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

The process is complicated, with a number of actors and many different steps. A summary of the steps involved would have been helpful. In any event, Wodrazka has provided a useful service in piecing together the entire process from the various documents, most of which are not public, offering insight into an ecclesial procedure that has been rather mysterious to many people.

James Legrys
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs
Washington, DC


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pp. 293-294
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