I like this article out of the Guardian that I found. Martin Robbins gets a bit tetchy over BBC’s coverage of a Deacon’s back problems and the subsequent claim that a miracle prayer to some old dead bugger cured him.
From the BBC:
To be beatified – or made blessed, the penultimate step on the path to full sainthood – an individual’s worthiness must be proven by the attribution of a miracle following a petition by someone in need.
What was Deacon Jack Sullivan’s need? In 2000 he had serious pain in his back and was told he’d have to quit his Deacon course in order to go under the knife and recuperate. This bummed him out to a point where only television would be a relief and what a relief it was to flip to a documentary about John Newman, a Cardinal in the 19th century. The show ended by asking anyone who’d experienced a “divine favour” through praying to the guy to get in touch. Well, Sullivan hadn’t done the prayer part of that yet, so he ran off a quick “Help me, Cardinal!” and the next morning his back felt well enough to allow him to finish classes that year.
Critics say miracles – unexpected events attributed to divine intervention – have no place in the world of modern medicine, and are more likely the result of a placebo effect, or wishful thinking, than divine intervention.
But after eight years of investigation by a Vatican panel of medical experts, Jack Sullivan’s 2001 healing was last year confirmed by the Pope as miraculous.
The healing in this case was a surgery that Sullivan did get done eventually, a laminectomy. This is where Martin Robbins got irate. Sullivan makes out that the pain after the procedure was terrible but miraculously he was capable of mobility only a few days after the surgery and can still walk to this day! Wow! Amazing! Never mind that a consultant neurosurgeon is quoted as saying the procedure only takes “about 40 minutes, and most patients… walk out happy at two days” anyway. It was a miracle, goddammit! And it only took 8 years for the Pope and his cronies to agree! Wow!
Scraping the bottom of the miracle barrel, indeed. From Robbins:
Even if this were a miracle, it would only reinforce a disturbing long-term trend. God used to be able to part seas and flood planets. By the end of the Old Testament he was turning people into pillars of salt and Aaron’s rod into a snake. At the time of Jesus, God our omnipotent deity was basically down to party tricks, and now, what, easing an old man’s backache for a few months? It’s hardly the swaggering, all-conquering God of the glory days.
So what’s happened? Are we not devout enough? Is God getting old? Has he lost interest? Are his powers subject to some form of spiritual entropy, leaving him hot and spent in heaven? Perhaps this worrying decline in God’s powers is what the Vatican’s crack team of miracle investigators should really be researching.
This desire to treat every day, common occurrences as miraculous events is bothersome. I still remember scoffing at a woman I overheard at work one day who’d lost a lot of weight and called it a miracle from God. I felt like asking her if all the weight dropped off overnight. That would be a real miracle. Alas, I’m sure all she did was eat less and exercise more for months until she was at the weight she wanted. If she wants to credit belief in god as to why she was able to persevere, fine. But miracle? Hardly.
Jack Sullivan insists his recovery was a miracle and nothing is going to dissuade him of that. He is going to continue to be deluded and encourage others to believe in his delusion, too.
This really shouldn’t be the way people get ahead in the world. Don’t you agree?