So John 23 is on a fast track to sainthood, and to speed things up, Frank is waiving the second miracle requirement. The what? I don’t know, I don’t make the rules; apparently that’s the requirement – not one miracle but two. Only now they’re saying maybe it isn’t, or maybe it shouldn’t be. Deep stuff.
With that rare, if not unprecedented, move, Francis has rekindled a years-old debate in Catholic circles, with some asking whether miracles are really needed for sainthood anymore.
“I think it is time to drop the miracle requirement,” says the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who is a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter.
“It is sufficient to look at a person’s life and ask, did this person live the life of a Christian in a special or extraordinary way that can be held up for admiration and imitation by other Christians?”
So what are we talking about here? What, exactly, is a “saint”? Does it mean an especially good person, or an especially holy person? The two are hardly identical, after all, and in fact they can easily be antithetical. Look at “Mother” Teresa for example, refusing to provide pain medications to the unfortunate people in her hospices, and rejoicing in their suffering because it made them more like Jesus. That’s very “holy” and very bad.
According to the church, miracles are performed by God, not the saints. The saints’ role is to bend God’s ear, to intercede on behalf of those who pray to them and make sure that God heeds their requests.
The rationale for the miracle requirement is that it proves “that the person is in heaven and listened to by God,” Reese said.
Do you listen to yourselves? Do you realize how infantile that sounds?
Professor Daniele Menozzi, a church historian at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, said the importance of miracles grew during the 19th century as the church was engaged in its struggle against the modern world.
“Miracles — events that science wasn’t able to explain — were the church’s answer to the scientific mindset,” he said.
Events that science wasn’t able to explain and that didn’t happen. They’re not events, they’re stories. The Vatican’s mumbo-jumbo doesn’t turn them into events; they’re still just stories.
At the Vatican, potential miracles are vetted by a team of specialist doctors, who are called to determine whether a miraculous healing can be explained by modern medicine.
“But medicine becomes more complex and advanced by the day, so it’s possible to make mistakes,” cautions the Rev. Peter Gumpel, a Jesuit expert who has worked on saints’ causes for more than 60 years.
Today, unexplained healings make up about 95 percent of church-certified miracles. But it has happened in the past that what was considered a miracle has been later explained by science.
For Gumpel, by looking only at physical miracles “the church ventures in a field that is not its own.”
He says that the church could look for God’s intervention “in the many spheres of human experience” beyond medicine.
“When a couple gets reconciled, or economic help arrives against all human expectations — if there are hundreds of such cases, all after praying to the same person, then God wants to tell us something,” Gumpel argues.
No. Those are not “miracles.” They defy no laws of nature. Even Jesuits don’t get to make up the rules.