Sham miracles an affront to scientific temper



Hey, why do you bother when a church establishment which you do not believe in, makes one of its dead members Saint with pomp and publicity ? Since it does not involve you,  why make a fuss out of it ?

This is a question many atheists faced in connection with the canonization of Mother Teresa.

There are several reasons why it bothers me and other atheists. The Vatican is not just issuing a sainthood certificate. To make a guy or gal Saint, the Pope should be convinced  that they have done two miracles on this earth after their death.  It is thus openly questioning science and scientific methods by proclaiming the alleged miracles to be true. Thus the Catholic Church is wilfully indulging in spreading superstitions. It is misleading people and make them turn away from science and scientific methods.

Miracles, according the Church, are supposed to be happenings that do not have any credible scientific explanations. Let us for a moment concede that the alleged miracles has really no scientific explanation at present. Does that mean the Saints did it from heaven? Or does it mean Science has yet to find a good reason for it ? Science has found credible explanations for many things that were considered miracles thousand years ago. So will the Church take away the Sainthood when the “miracle” get a scientific explanation ?

Image credit - Oxford oratory website

Image credit – Oxford oratory website

Now let us consider the alleged miracles supposed to be performed by Mother Teresa from heaven. Let us see whether it is possible to find a credible explanation other than divine intervention.

Miracle No  1

The first “miracle” is the disappearance of a “tumour” from the abdomen of a woman from Bengal. Monika Besra was diagnosed to be having tuberculosis, probably of the brain or its coverings and was taking medical treatment for it. She developed a swelling of the abdomen which was described in  ultrasonographic study as a cystic fluid filled lesion. She was told she may require surgery if it was not subsidising. As per the patient the swelling disappeared dramatically after she and Sisters from Missionaries of Charity (MoC) prayed to Mother Teresa to heal her. Now let us look at the timeline of what happened to Monika Besra’ health.

1997 – diagnosed to have TB – ? TB Meningitis – took irregular treatment due to poverty  ( TB of Central nervous system may need 12-18 months of therapy)

1998

Early May – started staying in MoC facility run by sisters and visiting government hospital and started  taking continuous treatment

May 30 – admitted to TB hospital and continued treatment. Discharged after a week

June 11 – Was very sick and again admitted to same hospital and was offered reference to bigger hospital at Calcutta

June 15- discharged with instructions to continue treatment. She continued it regularly.

August 6 – visited a Gynaecologist for abdominal lump. Advised Ultrasound scan  August 8 – Scan showed a cystic fluid filled mass in the lower abdomen, probably arising from ovary. Was advised a surgery may be needed on a later date if persisting. Continued TB treatment.

September 5 – Prayer by patient and sisters of MoC as that day was death anniversary of Mother Teresa

September 6 – Patient and some others claim lump not felt in the abdomen. Continued TB treatment.

Early October – visited Gynaecologist again. She was told no need for surgery now ( no scan taken ) Continued TB treatment.

May 1999  – Ultrasound scan taken. No cystic mass. Doctor concluded that the mass might have been due to abdominal or ovarian TB which responded to one year of continuous TB treatment.

Is there any credible scientific explanation for disappearance of abdominal lump ?

Yes. The doctors who followed up the patient opined that it disappeared because of taking anti TB drug continuously for one year.

Then how come the Pope proclaim that it was a miracle healing done by the Mother from heaven ?

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Miracle No 2

The claim is a Brazilian man’s “tumours” in the brain miraculously disappeared after his wife prayed to Mother.  Let us look at his timeline.

1979   – Six year old  Marcilio Haddad Andrino probably developed a chronic form of  glomerulo nephritis (a dreadful kidney disease) and was put on steroids and immuno-suppressants for several years

1991 – It did not work and he progressed to chronic kidney failure.

1992 –  He receives a kidney transplant – continued on immuno-suppression to prevent rejection of transplanted kidney. Had a relatively  normal life on medicines

2008

March – Developed double vision , imbalance and ringing of ears (signs of cerebellum disease ) . Also had mild fits. Underwent lot of tests and probably empirical treatment as he talks about painful shots.

October 17  – had severe fits (seizure) and became unconscious. Admitted in hospital. Diagnosed as multiple brain abscess (cavities filled with pus like fluid- in a patient on long term immuno suppressant therapy fungal brain abscess is most likely). Continued treatment in the hospital for one and a half months.

December 9 – had very severe headache and was shifted to ICU. Some time later (?next day ) he is supposed to be induced in to coma.

Treating doctor said his brain is swelling up because of blockage of draining pathways. Contemplated surgical relieving of high pressure in the brain. Anaesthetist said giving anaesthesia might be a risk to his life. So surgery deferred and continued on medical treatment.

Prayer to Mother Teresa by wife

Woke up with no head ache – exact date not mentioned. It seems the scanning showed 70 percent reduction in swelling of brain. Shifted to room from ICU.

No more dates available. Got discharged from the hospital after several more weeks of medical treatment.

September 2016 – has persistent mild double vision and imbalance but otherwise healthy.

Is there any credible scientific explanation for disappearance of headache and reduction of symptoms ?

Yes, the anti infective and anti brain swelling medications helped him to survive a severe  life threatening infection, but with minor sequelae.

Only a person who wants to believe in miracles and is capable of switching of his faculty for critical thinking can term this as a miraculous healing by Mother Teresa from heaven.

One another important reason for me being bothered about this canonization farce is the participation of Indian politicians and officials spending huge sums of public money. By taking part in this superstitious ritual, the government and major political parties are endorsing the miracle claim. Now they cannot have any moral ground to complain or take action against faith healers or quacks who are so much prevalent in India.

It is a shame that people who use rationale and logic in most of the aspects of life can suspend it infinitely when it comes to religion.

Comments welcome