Philomena, alleged virgin martyr. Never heard of before 1802 but invented based upon a fragmentary inscription which was declared, upon somebody's dream, to prove her existence. Even the Catholic Encyclopaedia doubts her veracity!
Joan of Arc, 1412-1431, so-called martyr (for what?), French sorceress and transvestite whose conspiratorial meddling and manifold heresies cost we the English our ancestral lands in France. She has a better chance at sainthood than Philomena, of course, as all empirical evidence demonstrates that she at least existed. But in the words put to him by George Bernard Shaw, said the Archbishop:
"You stand alone; absolutely alone, trusting to your own conceit, your own ignorance, your own headstrong presumption, your own impiety in hiding all these sins under the cloak of a trust in God. When you pass through these doors into the sunlight, the crowd will cheer you. They will bring you their little children and their invalids to heal; they will kiss your hands and feet, and do what they can, poor simple souls, to turn your head, and madden you with the self-confidence that is leading you to your destruction. But you will be nonetheless alone; they cannot save you. We and we only can stand between you and the stake at which our enemies have burnt that wretched woman in Paris."
Ninety years ago Sybil Thorndike was immortalized in that scene...
Later, Joan was captured by the English and put on trial for heresy and burnt. I mean, she was clearly insane. If I said to a priest that leprechauns were telling me to go out and make military conquests I'm sure I'd be hospitalized. Fortunately for me (and you), they aren't. Joan was no saint. More likely she was possessed by devils. Are English papists allowed a dispensation not to venerate her? Her canonization was obviously a political move.
Pius V, 1504-1572, pope, hero of Traddieland, he of the much-misunderstood bull Quo Primum, which the traditionalists claim is binding always and everywhere for all time - conveniently forgetting that it was superseded less than forty years later with the publication, in 1604, of the revised missal of Clement VIII. I don't personally understand what saintly criteria Pius V is supposed to have met; maybe it was seen that he was staunch in his opposition to the various Protestant heresies, that he championed the Tridentine reforms, although as much can be said of lesser known, more worthy, figures of that period such as Francisco Suárez. Does patronage of arts and sacred music make one a candidate for sainthood? The great composer Palestrina owed much to Pius V. If so, then pope Alexander VI, an early patron of Michelangelo (the greatest of all artists), is also a saint in heaven, his lecherous life notwithstanding. No, it does not. Saints preach and live the Gospel; Pius V did not. Pius V's legacy is not solely limited to the missal erroneously attributed to him. Pius V was a schemer and politically ambitious. Pius V rendered unwavering support to the despotic Spaniard Philip II, even in the murder of his son Carlos. Pius V scandalously compromised the loyalties and consciences of thousands of Englishmen piously attached to the Old Faith in the publication of the risible bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared not only that Queen Elizabeth was an heretic but that Englishmen obedient to the law of the land and loyal to their Queen would incur excommunication likewise. Well did Spenser, he of The Faerie Queene, declare:
The gentle minde by gentle deeds is knowne.
For a man by nothing is so well bewrayd,
As by his manners.
As Brian Sewell said, the style is "late wedding cake, early water closet," although I think he said that about the facade of a different church.
Which General Council forbade the cult of the Sacred Heart, you ask? Well, Constantinople II (553) mandated that right worship of Christ entailed an inseparable worship of the Two Hypostases without division, separation or mingling:
Canon IX: If someone says that Christ is worshipped in two natures, thereby introducing two forms of worship, one of God the Word separately and the other of the man separately, or if someone with a view to abolishing the flesh or merging the Godhead and the manhood proposes the fantastic theory of one nature or essence of the elements that came together and worships Christ accordingly, but does not worship with a single worship God the Word incarnate together with his own flesh, as the church of God received from the beginning, let him be anathema. (Richard Price, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553, volume II, p.123).
This canon reflects St Cyril of Alexandria's accusation in the Twelve Chapters that the Antiochenes treated the manhood of Christ as a distinct object of worship alongside God the Word. So we might reckon the pernicious cult of the Sacred Heart, which seeks to cleave the Hypostases in twain to the abolition of orthodoxy.
I don't doubt, even for a moment, the sincerity of pious Roman Catholics who have found solace in this devotion over the years. But it was the responsibility of the Church, guardian of the Tradition, to have rooted out heresy and superstition and conspicuously failed in this respect. I sometimes wonder whether seminarians even look at the acts of the old Councils and not the decrees of that most recent latrocinium.
Part II will look at other devotions and impieties.