The cause for GK Chesterton’s canonisation will not be opened, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton has announced. Bishop Doyle cited the lack of a local cult, the lack of a “pattern of personal spirituality” in Chesterton’s life, and “the issue of anti-Semitism”.
The investigator for Chesterton’s Cause, Fr John Udris, said: “I don’t envy Bishop Peter having to make a decision with such huge implications.” Fr Udris said it was a “disappointment” but that the task had been a privilege.
What the bishop said
In a letter that was read out at the opening session of the American GK Chesterton Society conference, the bishop wrote that he “recognise[d] Chesterton’s goodness and his ability to evangelise”, but said he could not support the Cause any further.
“I am very conscious of the devotion to GK Chesterton in many parts of the world, and of his inspiring influence on so many people, and this makes it difficult to communicate the conclusion to which I have come,” the bishop said.
According to the Spanish magazine Alfa y Omega, Bishop Doyle said that the story was not necessarily over: his decision, he said, should not be “an obstacle” to others. The American Chesterton Society said it would continue to work towards Chesterton’s eventual canonisation.
What commentators said
At the Amish Catholic, Rick Yoder said that the bishop had “decided wisely”. The most important reason for canonising anyone is “To hallow and liturgically organise a pre-existing popular cult of a holy person.” There appears to be no local cult of Chesterton, Yoder wrote. “I was once part of it, as a member, officer, and president of [the University of Virginia’s] GK Chesterton Society. I was thus shocked to discover when I moved to England that nobody – not even most Catholics I knew – read or particularly cared about Chesterton.”
Fr John Hogan, the writer and EWTN presenter, said he hoped Chesterton devotees would take the setback as a prompt to make the author’s holiness better-known: “He was a man of extraordinary charity and self-effacing humility.”
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