THE DIOCESAN INQUIRY:
The Diocesan Inquiry is always opened in the diocese where the Servant of God died. Father Isaac Hecker was born, received into the Church, founded the Paulists, opened the parish of Saint Paul’s, began most of his initiatives in ministry and died in New York City. The Archdiocese of New York was his home for most of his life and is an appropriate place for his Cause to open. The Diocesan Inquiry is an extended process that involves the collection of documentation and testimony leading to a decision by the local bishop to recommend the case to Rome.
Before the formal trial starts with the bishop presiding, two theological auditors and a formal commission of historians need to examine all of the documentation to certify that it is all present, orthodox in its time and ready to be examined by the Inquiry. During the trial issues may arise that require more documentation. Since Father Hecker’s Cause was begun more than 30 years after his death, it is primarily argued through collected documentation. This does not mean that there are not witnesses. There are eight witnesses whose testimony will support the idea that Father Hecker’s life and teaching are still relevant and meaningful to many people today.
When the trial ends Cardinal Dolan, the present Archbishop of New York will decide whether to recommend the Cause to Rome. We hope that he will endorse the belief that Father Isaac Hecker led a life of heroic virtue. Along the questions that will be asked is did Father Hecker live out the virtues of faith, hope and love as well as wisdom understanding, fortitude, piety, counsel, knowledge and fear of the Lord? Did he do it in a heroic way, to a greater degree than an ordinary Catholic? The transcript of the trial together with all the documentation and testimony collected will then be sent to Rome to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
THE ROMAN INQUIRY:
The Roman Inquiry opens at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints when the sealed documentation arrives and there is a formal ceremony of registering the Cause in Rome. There may also be a change in Postulator, as only Roman trained postulators are allowed to represent Causes in Rome. One of the first tasks of the Roman Inquiry is the writing of the “Positio” under the supervision of the Congregation. This is a spiritual biography that emphasizes the heroic virtue of the Servant of God. After the “Positio” is written, it serves as the basic text from which the Roman Inquiry is conducted, together with the evidence provided from the Diocesan Inquiry.
A positive judgment on the heroic virtue of the candidate then goes to the Committee of Cardinal and Bishop Consultors to the Congregation. Following their vote, the recommendation is then taken by the Cardinal Prefect to the Pope. If the Pope approves of the heroic virtue of the candidate they are then given the title “Venerable Servant of God. All that stands in the way of beatification is a miracle. There are presently fifteen American Venerable Servants of God. They await a Miracle in order to be beatified and called “Blessed.”
Diocesan and Roman Inquiries are also held for the verification of a miracle attributed to the Servant of God that demonstrates heavenly intercession. John Paul reduced the number of miracles required from three to two, one for beatification and one for canonization. The second miracle must occur after the beatification and not before. This demonstrates that the potential saint is in heaven with God and since to be in God’s presence is the very definition of prayer. Because the saints are in prayer their intercession can be invoked.
The Diocesan Inquiry occurs in the diocese where the miracle is reported to have taken place. Based on the documentation and testimony collected, the local bishop decides whether in his judgments a miracle occurred and if he rules positively, he sends his recommendation together with the documentation to Rome. In Rome a special panel of medical experts reviews the findings and makes a judgment either for or against the reported miracle. A positive judgment goes to the Cardinal consultors and then the Pope. If the Pope approves, a date is set for the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God. After Beatification a second miracle successfully judged by both inquiries leads to Canonization and Sainthood.
- Fr. Paul Robichaud, Postulator for the Cause of Canonization of Father Hecker