Vatican tightens rules on miracles and money in sainthood cases

Vatican tightens rules on miracles and money in sainthood cases

New rules approved by Pope Francis and released by the Vatican on Friday are designed to make the process for approving a miracle in a sainthood cause more stringent, and also to ensure there's a clear paper trail behind who's picking up the tab and how much is being spent.

New rules presented by the Vatican are designed to tighten the process for approving miracles as part of sainthood causes, and to also make sure there’s a clear paper trail behind who’s picking up the tab and how much they’re spending.

The text was approved by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, in the name of Pope Francis in August and released on Friday.

Italian Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, the number two official at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presented the highlights of the new measures in a note released by the Vatican’s Press Office.

The new rules include:

  • To approve a miracle, at least 5 out of the 7 members of the body of medical experts within the congregation must approve, or 4 out of 6, depending on the size of the group, as opposed to a simple majority.
  • In case a miracle report is rejected on the first go-around, it may only be reexamined a total of three times.
  • In order to reexamine a miracle claim, new members must be named to the consulting body.
  • The president of the consulting body may only be confirmed to one additional five-year term after the original mandate expires.
  • While in the past payments to experts could be made in person by cash or check, now the experts must be paid exclusively through a bank transfer.

In general, the going rate in sainthood causes is roughly $560 for each of the two medical personnel asked to perform a preliminary review, and about $4200 in total for the seven members of the medical consulting committee.

The new rules are not retroactive, and hence they do not invalidate any beatifications or canonizations performed under earlier procedures.

Bartolucci said work on the new rules began one year ago, around the same time that leaks of confidential Vatican financial documents raised questions about financial practices in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In his book “Merchants in the Temple,” Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi charged the congregation was among the most reluctant Vatican offices to cooperate with new transparency measures imposed as part of Francis’s project of Vatican reform, and asserted that the average cost of a sainthood cause was about $550,000.

U.S. Catholic officials traditionally have used $250,000 as a benchmark for the cost of a cause from the initial investigation on a diocesan level, to a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, though that cost can increase depending in part of how many people take part in the canonization ceremony and the logistics of organizing the event.

In March, Pope Francis had already approved a new set of financial procedures for the congregation, outlining procedures for handling contributions and specifying which authorities are charged with overseeing the flow of money.

Under those measures, while the postulator, or promoter, of a sainthood cause can continue to administer the funds for each cause, the bishop of the diocese or the superior general of the religious order that initiates the cause or another church authority must review financial statements and approve the budgets for each cause.

The rules approved in March also confirm a “Solidarity Fund” created by St. Pope John Paul II in 1983 to help cover the costs of causes where resources are lacking, giving the congregation discretion to transfer unused money from one case into the fund to cover the expenses of another.

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

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