St. Hildegard of Bingen Named a Saint … Again

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In some quarters, there’s this idea that Hildegard of Bingen is not really a saint, and that this is somehow PROOF! of the horrible awful sexism of the Church. Except that Hildegard IS a saint, and even has a feast day (September 17). The problem is that her cause was one of the earlier ones to fall under the official process of canonization, which was still being developed. It dragged on for centuries before the Church just went ahead and added her name to the Roman Martyrology (the official book of saints) in the late 15oos, which means that she was a de facto saint even without an official declaration.

In 1173, Pope Alexander III ruled that the process of “making saints” had to become more formal, and was a function reserved to the Holy See. He was pushed to do this not as some kind of naked power grab, but because the process was more open to corruption when left to the bishops. People who were anything but saintly were being proclaimed saints, either because of local pressure on the bishop or plain old corruption. Hildegard died only 6 years after Alexander’s ruling, leaving her case in limbo between the old process and the new.

Just to clear matters up, today Benedict formally proclaimed what the Church has held for over 400 years (longer than it has held that Joan of Arc is a saint): Hildegard of Bingen is indeed a saint. This was just a formal precursor to what is likely to come next: a declaration that St. Hildegard is a Doctor of the Church, meaning she has made a significant contribution to the faith through her through “eminent learning” and sanctity.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.