MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part V
Authenticating a miracle. by Calorius
In an earlier post, Robbo asked the question What constitutes a miracle? I think it is necessary to consider an important and related question i.e. when is a certain occurrence miraculous? This is something that Roman Catholic Church often grapples with, and our friend Robbo being a former member of that institution can identify with what I am about to say. There are fundamental questions to be answered without which we cannot determine if miracles are indeed rare nowadays.
The way I understand it and I may be wrong, in the Catholic Church only the Pope can declare someone a saint. Before the Church can do that, however, the person must have lived at a certain level of purity, died in a certain way, and thirdly, have some miracles attributed to them.
It is like a points system so, for example, someone who is beatified by having lived a very "saintly" life and then dies as a martyr because of the faith, needs only one miracle in order to be declared a saint. Another person, who died as a righteous person but who was not martyred “because of” the faith may need two or three miracles, etc. I might add here that if we follow this system, Robbo has little chance of becoming a “saint” because he starts off with too many negative points and it is a good thing he claims he is no longer a Catholic.
When they go to make the final determination of a miracle in the case for the sainthood of someone, they have witnesses who argue that some event was a miracle and on the other side is an appointed person, the devil's advocate, advocatus diaboli in Latin, who argues that the event was not. I am informed that these sessions are very interesting.
When I lived in Baltimore, I came across the story of one Nun, who was actually one of the founders of the "Daughters of Charity" which owned my hospital. It would seem that she was generally thought of as a good person; she had provided for the poor, washed the feet of the saints, served the community greatly and all that kind of thing. She didn't quite die a martyr's death, but died in a quiet righteous way. The big issue was whether she had performed any miracles.
Years later in the early sixties a little kid developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), at that time a fatal, untreatable disease. The kid's family went to the grotto and asked the (now dead for many decades) Nun to, you know, say a word to Jesus on their behalf. Well, this story has a happy ending. The kid gets well, grows up to be an adult, and has a family of her own, who are still around. Is this a miracle? Those in favor argued that the disease ALL was incurable and the fact that the little kid was cured was not in doubt, because she was alive.
One of hematology-oncology giants from Johns Hopkins who had personally made the diagnosis, was summoned to Rome, and gave testimony about the veracity of the diagnosis and the recovery of the patient. Then the advocatus diaboli stood up to speak and outlined his counter arguments. It turns out the kid had been given some folic acid by one of the doctors. Could it be that she really didn't have ALL but instead megaloblastic anemia? The two conditions have a similar histologic appearance. In addition, folic acid has some structural similarities with methotrexate, the chemotherapy agent. Could it have been that what they thought was folic acid was really a dose of methotrexate?
I think the case was settled in favor of it being a miracle. Sorry about the long story, but I just wanted to point out one approach to the problem regarding those miracles for which there is some element of subjectivity in interpretation. Because it's so important in Catholicism whether someone is a saint or not (their personal items can become "relics", their hometown and family can profit from pilgrimages; people can sell their image, etc) the Catholic Church has designed a formal test for miracles in this context. This helped to weed out the multiple fraudulent cases in the dark ages. As someone had said, "We have too many saints and not enough sanctity in the church"
If Benny Hinn or any other person wants me to recognize him as a miracle worker, I need to see some doctors' testimonies, before-and-after photographs, etc., and I want him to answer some "devil's advocate" type questions. I will be happy to give expert medical testimony in oncology cases. Otherwise the healings remain similar to the ones we hear about at the Tigari shrine in Larteh; curious events of doubtful veracity and questionable impact.
Yet, I myself believe in those miracles that I have encountered; although again that is based largely on my faith. In this, I am inconsistent and subjective, not scientific. Very long rambling, but all I’m trying to say is that it is not just the performance of a miracle that is based on faith; it is also the receipt of a miracle. The interpretation and attribution of a miracle is based on faith. Even if God were to part the Red Sea again today, there would be different ways of receiving it, and it would only benefit certain people, mostly people who already have faith in God. - Calorius
Miracles and faith
The Perception of a Miracle
What is a miracle?
Where have all the miracles gone?