On the 21st of November, the archbishopric held the canonical opening of a diocesan process on a presumed healing attributed to Blessed John Joseph Lataste. What is it about?
To obtain the beatification of a Christian, the task is very long because, after having verified that nothing in his writings deviates from the faith of the Church, it is necessary to demonstrate his heroic virtues and the existence of a reputation for holiness leading to the steps for private prayer. Once this is validated and the candidate has thus become venerable, firstly it begins with a miracle whose recognition leads to beatification. Thus, for father Lataste, the process opened in 1937 led to the recognition of his heroic virtues in 2008 and to the recognition in 2011 of a miracle allowing him to be beatified on June 3, 2012, in Besançon.
For canonization, things are simpler: it only takes a miracle...! Indeed, it is necessary to present to the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints an event that could be recognized as a miracle, and that took place after the beatification, as a form of ratification of this first stage. When such an event seems worthy of interest to the postulator in charge of the cause, then to the Roman Congregation, after consulting a Roman expert doctor, the postulator is authorized to request the local bishop where it took place the opening of a process which seeks to gather under oath the responses of the witnesses to a certain number of questions. However, the term opening of the process does not refer to an inquiry at the end of which the ecclesiastical tribunal would make a decision: it is an informative process, which is limited to gathering in the most serious way possible all the elements that could contribute to the establishment of the truth. Under the authority of the local bishop, it consists of a judge delegated by the bishop, a promoter of justice, who ensures in particular that no pressure is put on witnesses, a medical expert in the case of healing, and an ecclesiastical notary who establishes and authenticates the minutes of the hearings.
Once the opening of the diocesan process is over, the inquiry is far from over. After validation, by the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints, of the way in which the diocesan inquiry was conducted, the postulator with the help of an external collaborator writes a positio super miro, a synthesis report that presents in an understandable way all the documents and testimonies collected and that highlights the inexplicable nature of healing and its spiritual dimension. As was the case in the procedure for beatification, this position is examined by a committee of seven doctors, at least five of whom must pronounce themselves favorably, and then by a committee of five theologians. Additional information may be requested at this stage. If all goes well, the Pope finally decides whether or not to recognize the miracle, thereby triggering the canonization. But the process can also stop at each stage, from the first consultations of the Congregation for the cause of the saints to the two commissions.
In the case of the opening of an inquiry for the canonization of Blessed John Joseph Lataste, since the beatification, I have received several healing stories that I thought could not be presented in Rome. However, the unexpected healing of a patient following prayers addressed to Fr. Lataste in the diocese of Besançon in 2014, was more likely to succeed. After gathering the first accounts of the witnesses, I presented the file to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in November 2017; having been authorized to proceed, medical opinion was requested from an expert doctor from this Congregation, who gave his report, which was favorable, in May 2018. Thus, the Congregation authorized us to submit to Bishop Bouilleret a file asking him to kindly open the diocesan inquiry.
To preserve the freedom of the witnesses and the tranquility of the person who has been healed, no further details will be published in this story. All participants take an oath to respect this confidentiality. That is why the postulation makes you suffer by telling you stories of procedure, but no details about the healing itself!
Msgr Bouilleret appointed father Georges Mesnier as the delegated judge for this process, brother Philippe Toxé, o.p., a judge at the Lyon Officiality as the promoter of justice, Mrs. Nicole Pillot, as notary and Dr. Hervé Ducret as the medical expert. The causes of Dominican canonization are under the responsibility of a Postulator General of the Order, fr. Gianni Festa; he entrusts the direct follow-up of each case to a vice-postulator who is usually on site. This is how I have been assuming this responsibility for father Lataste since 1992.
All the members of the ecclesiastical tribunal met on November 21 in the Archbishopric under the chairmanship of Msgr Bouilleret, in the presence of the chancellor of the diocese and the prioress general of the Dominican sisters of Bethany. This first hearing, which was purely formal, was devoted to taking the oath and reading the opening decree of the inquiry.
A new stage in the long and fraternal collaboration between the diocese and the Dominican Order around the cause of Fr. Lataste is beginning, supported by the prayer of all so that this beautiful figure of holiness may be recognized by the universal Church!
Brother Jean-Marie Gueullette, o.p.
Vice-postulator for the cause of Bl Jean-Joseph Lataste