Why aren't all popes saints?

Maybe wikipedia is wrong, but as far as I can tell, the definition of a saint is merely a recognition of the fact that this person is definitely, beyond a doubt, in heaven. Wikipedia is quite clear that the church doesn’t make you a saint; it simply recognizes that you are (and were, even before the recognition) a saint.
Also according to wikipedia, the catholic church usually won’t officially recognize a person as a saint unless the person either A) died a martyr, or B) accomplished a miracle; but my understanding is those things aren’t strictly required to be a saint, they’re simply air-tight proof that you are a saint. The real requirement is just that you must beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt be in heaven.
Have I got that correct?

If so, then how come most popes aren’t saints? A few are – see this list. But most aren’t.
But if the catholic church doesn’t believe that every single pope is beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt definitely in heaven, then WTF? If there’s any kind of doubt on that point, then why would the church be willing to accept the pope as the supreme arbitor of all religious matters while he’s still alive?

What makes you think that the Church does believe they’re all in Heaven? A pope is not required to be a good man, he just needs to be chosen by the consensus of the college of cardinals. The only claim the Church makes concerning the Popes is that a Pope will never make an incorrect pronouncement concerning faith or morals, and it’s taken on faith that God’s in charge of making that so. And in fact, in practice, even the popes who were absolute bastards (in some cases literally: There was a time when hereditary papacy was the norm), while they ran amok themselves, they never officially said that what they were doing was right.

The Vatican acknowledges that there were some bad popes; not all were saintly (see here: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/432/was-there-once-a-female-pope). For that matter, you can be widely understood to have gone to Heaven, but that doesn’t mean you are automatically designated a saint back here on Earth.

Like these guys, for instance? 10 Worst Popes of all Time.

See for example the Saeculum obscurum, a period described as the nadir of the papacy in the 10th century (nicknamed the “Poronocracy” by some scholars).

Please correct, but my impression is that even then the Pope can make a, well, a non-definitive statement on this or any other subject, and that papal infallibility involves only 1) statements that reiterate something the Church has always taught, or 2) extremely special and rare pronouncements that define a new dogma (such as the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in the 50’s).

My understanding (based on many years of Catholic schooling) is that a Saint isn’t just a person who went to Heaven, but a person who has demonstrably caused a miracle (actually, *two *miracles) several years AFTER having died. Clearly, this is a person of extraordinary ability, not just your run-of-the-mill Heavenly Citizen…TRM

A Borgia a Saint? Maybe in the other place.

Uh, no. Causing miracles after death is proof that one is in heaven, because one cannot intercede before god unless one is in his presence. Saints are those who have won salvation, in Catholicism as in (most of) the rest of Christendom, but the Catholic church is particularly hung up on air-tight proof. Hence their attitude toward sacraments, etc.

In Catholicism, one or more miracles are required before someone can be considered a saint.

Obligatory link to the QI clip on the miracle of the herrings.

A Saint is also a person who is being set up as an example to others. There are a number of Popes who are great examples… of what not to do as either a priest, a ruler or merely a human being.

Not quite. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility states that when the Pope is speaking ex cathedra on fundamental doctrines of faith and morals, and when he asserts that the doctrine of Infallibility applies, then he is infallible in the sense that God will not allow him to err.

He can make non-definitive and non-infallible statements all he likes. There is nothing in this doctrine about either of the conditions you list as (1) and (2).

To answer the OP, the Church has several rules about either beatification or sainthood. One reason why not all Popes are Saints is that to be declared a Saint you have to have at least two ‘documented’ miracles in your name, and not all of them have.

Actually… Francis Borgia was never pope…he was one of Alexander VI’s great grandsons, the grandson of Alexander VI’s son Juan. He was a Duke who, after his wife died, abdicated in favor of his son and became a Jesuit, eventually becoming head of the order. By all accounts he was abstentious, humble, and chaste…very untypically Borgia.

Actually, in your first paragraph you reworded exactly what I meant by (1) and (2). Thank you – I knew I didn’t have the exact language but I was pretty sure about what I meant.

After reading the posts here I became curious about how the Church determines what is and what is not a miracle. So off to Google I go and the first result is a Dope thread from 2003. Reading it now. I’ll report back with anything miraculous.

This is probably well worth reiterating. AFAIK, the Catholic Church makes no individual claims as to who is or is not a saint, just the definition one that anyone who died in a state of grace is ipso facto a saint. However, it grants formal recognition, termed canonization, to those who can be proven to (a) have died for the faith (martyrs) or (b) have provided evidence that three miracles (reduced to two under circumstances I am not clear about) were granted in response to their intercession as requested in prayers to them. (Obviously, this is a statement of their policy and beliefs, not an assertion of objective fact.) Some people distinguish between canonized Saints and all the faithful saints in heaven by the use of capitalization, as exemplified in the main clause of this statement.

Isn’t every canonization an individual claim that that person is a saint? You’re correct, though, that the Church does not teach that any (dead) individual is not a saint: It’s considered within the realm of possibility that Judas, Nero, and Hitler are all in Heaven.

I think it was Alexander I was referring to. Cesere’s father. He was Pope, and an evil one at that.

True – change my “is or is not” to just “is not”, or add an “other than” in somewhere to address the canonization process. :o

Alexander was a pretty bad pope, and a pretty bad guy. He was a pretty big patron of the arts, though.