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On Making A Catholic Saint PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Carlos Orsi   

The announcement  that the Vatican accepted, as miracle of the late pope John Paul II, the alleged “cure” of a nun who may have had Parkinson’s Disease received a lot of media attention. Such attention, as is usually the case, was uncritical and did not address the many logical mistakes and blunders that are an inseparable part of the Catholic saint-making process.

It would be instructive, then, to look a little deeper into the affair. Starting with the alleged cure of Sister Marie Simon-Perre. The Los Angeles Times informs that, even in 2010, authorities from the Vatican itself were dubious about the nun’s diagnosis. But even supposing that she really had the dreaded disease, and not something less complex, or even psychosomatic. Would it be possible, then, to argue, without begging the question that such a cure is the result of a miracle –i.e., an unambiguous violation of natural law –, and that said miracle was obtained by the intercession of John Paul II?

No and no.

First, to claim that a phenomenon has no known explanation (even conceding that no other doctor or groups of doctors on the face of the Earth would be able to explain it better than the Church committee) is merely an admission of ignorance.

To claim “I don’t know what caused Sister Marie to be cured, hence she was cured by an act of God intermediated by the soul of John Paul II” is equivalent to a claim like “I don’t know what caused that light in the sky, hence it came from manned spaceship from Andromeda galaxy”.

In the second place, there’s the question of attribution: the nun prayed to John Paul II, and afterwards she was cured. Does it make sense to see a relationship of cause and effect?

In principle, it may just be a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc, the logic error that resides in supposing that, Just because event B came after event A, there is grounds to affirm that A is the cause of B. It’s like supposing that I’m writing this because I ate an apple half an hour ago. Causes come before effects, but it is not everything that precedes an effect that may be counted among its causes.

The coincidence hypothesis, in opposition to the causality one, becomes stronger when we take into account the fact that candidates to sainthood as popular as the late pope usually become the foci of organized campaigns – simply put, the candidate fans start suggesting to anyone who is in some kind of trouble that it would not hurt to pray for him, asking for intercession.  With thousands, or millions, of supplicants, the materialization of one or two occurrences that will be beyond the explanatory power of the investigatory committees is a mathematical certainty.

It is even conceivable that there may be a break-even number of prayers that makes the beatification and subsequent canonization a foregone conclusion.

Summing up, the Vatican system for the creation of saints is composed by an event-generation machine: the campaign. This machine produces supplications in an industrial scale (and for centuries if need be) until the law of probabilities creates a small number of facts about which a few experts will be content in manifesting their ignorance. This manifestation is then followed by two elementary logic mistakes: the appeal to ignorance and the post hoc. And this is how saints are made.

 

Carlos Orsi is a Brazillian science journalist and blogger. One of his papers has been published in the 2010 Winter Edition of the Baker Street Journal . He also writes a regular blog at http://carlosorsi.blogspot.com).  When he is not writing about science, MR. Orsi is also an escience fiction writer with two novels published in Brazil: Nômade (Nomad) and Guerra Justa (Just War).

 

Visit the JREF forums to see what people are saying about this:

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=4517585#post4517585

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=4517585

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written by deavman, February 14, 2011
Soon enough we'll be able to purchase sainthood, at the right price of course just like indulgences in the middle ages. Damn Dear god.... sainthood ain't what it used to be !
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written by Caller X, February 14, 2011
This article is well written, but the editrix of this site has done the author a disservice by not correcting and bringing to his attention several minor errors. As someone who has written a paper in a foreign language I know how helpful that is.

If this essay was edited, time to bring in a new editor.
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written by Marcus, February 15, 2011
Despite the fact that this is a well written, well argued piece, it is a sign of how frequently the expression gets abused that I got the biggest warm fuzzies from seeing "begging the question" being used correctly!
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written by lytrigian, February 15, 2011
It was clear to start with that JPII was on a fast track to sainthood. It started at his funeral, with people holding up signs, "Santo Subito!", "Saint Now!"

Without having looked much myself into the Catholic saint-making process, I wonder if even their usual approach has been rather short-circuited in the rush to bestow a halo.
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written by Wave, February 15, 2011
The standards for beatification and canonization have become very nebulous in the last few decades. J2P2 beatified 1,430 people and canonized approximately 480 new saints. Both of these supposedly require miracles, but I doubt that anyone in the Vatican thought that there were enough reported miracles to support all of these proclamations. The last pontiff seemed to think that saints were inspirational, so he tried to make sure that everyone in the world had one that he/she could relate to.

Many of the most famous saints were never canonized. They were on lists of "martyrs" accumulated by various dioceses over the first few centuries of Church history. Canonization has been reserved to the pope only since the twelfth century.
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written by Steel Rat, February 15, 2011
Well, he should be a saint if for no other reason that his ability to mobilize so many paedophiles!
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written by William, February 15, 2011
But that's the way the process of sainthood works. It's all about faith. No scientific process is involved, nor is it required.
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written by I Ratant, February 15, 2011
I would think a true miracle would be the one that cured -all- Parkinson's, not just some reclusive member of the religious community.
I'll not hold my breath for anything like this to ever occur.
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a sight edit
written by nonbeliever, February 15, 2011
"If this essay was edited, time to bring in a new editor."

At best, this is informal subjunctive; "were edited" is more correct.
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written by george152, February 15, 2011
The Catholic church lie and/or hide inconvenient evidence ?
Shock, horror...
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@nonbeliever
written by Wave, February 15, 2011
I think you are wrong about the subjunctive. I found the following on the forum.wordreference.com website:

"In FORMAL writing, use WERE rather than WAS to express a state of affairs that is contrary to the facts: I wish it WERE finished (but it is not); Suppose it WERE true (but it is false); He behaves as though he WERE a millionaire (but he is not). Similarly for hypotetical conditions after if: If John WERE here, he would know; If it WERE to rain we should get wet; He spoke as if I WERE deaf.

In all of the above, WAS is common in less formal styles. But even when you're not attempting formality, WERE is the only choice in inverted sentences: WERE this true, it would be very alarming."

Source:Longman Guide to English Language (Sidney Greenbaum, Jane Whitcut)

Since the writer did not know whether there was (were?) an editor or not, "was" seems an appropriate choice.

I never thought that I would see an argument about the subjunctive on this website.

Incidentally, Pope Benedict has now canonized (by my count) thirty-four people. It seems obvious that he is not rushing his predecessor through. In fact, if I had to guess, I would assert that he has no intention of canonizing him. It would not surprise me to learn that he had released the publicity for this particular "miracle" in order to relieve some of the pressure.
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written by lytrigian, February 15, 2011
Incidentally, Pope Benedict has now canonized (by my count) thirty-four people. It seems obvious that he is not rushing his predecessor through.

I don't know about that. How many of them were "in process" when he took over?
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written by lytrigian, February 15, 2011
Sorry for the double-post, but I think this would be a good concrete example of the typical process.

Father Damien of Molokai was the priest famous for his selfless ministry to the lepers quarantined on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. He eventually contracted the disease himself and died of it. This is the very definition of what the Catholic Church calls "heroic virtue", so you'd think a more obvious candidate for sainthood would be very hard to come by.

He died in 1889, was declared "venerable" in 1977 by Paul VI, beatified in 1995 by JPII, and only canonized in 2009. So while this is one of Benedict's 34, it's been in process since at 1895 when the first miracle they attribute to him occurred. (The second was in 1997, so this is also a very good example of what Sig. Orsi was talking about.) Even if you only count starting in 1977, that's 32 years to make a saint, in a case that ought to have been as open-and-shut as they come. (Absent finding enough miracles, of course.)

Reading about this, I discovered that JPII sped up canonizations in general by abolishing the "Devil's Advocate". This was a person specially charged with arguing *against* canonization. It used to be recognized that advocates for canonization would be reasonably expected to present their candidate in the best possible light and that this might not convey the whole truth. A skeptic (relatively speaking) was therefore needed to accumulate a more complete account of a candidate's life. JPII thought this just got in the way, though, so they now no longer have a reasonable check on the process even by their own standards.
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written by gopiballava, February 15, 2011
Christopher Hitchens was asked by the Vatican to testify against Mother Theresa. Sadly, this was after the abolition of the official Devil's Advocate position - it would be rather humorous to have Hitchens literally have the official position of devil's advocate.
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written by jimgerrish, February 15, 2011
As a born again devout non-theist I declare James Randi a living saint so that he may enjoy the notoriety during his remaining days. This is a binding canonization which he cannot refuse no matter how much he curses me for bestowing sainthood upon him. I will now close the canonization ceremony with my benediction: gesundheit, James!
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Sainthood for Randi
written by FledgelingSkeptic, February 15, 2011
Personally Jim I would have closed with a good, old fashioned "RAmen". You DO know that the next time you see him, he's going to glower at you for this, right smilies/wink.gif
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written by MadSimon, February 15, 2011
"at the right price of course just like indulgences in the middle ages"

Indulgences are still being done and recognized by the catholic church, under different name. Right after my grandma passed away, my father began searching under mattresses and stuff to find the hidden money, needed to pay for "gregorian messes". Something like "you, pay, you get 4 thousand messes in your (and other people at the same time) name. That will shorten your time in purgatory and get you to heaven quicker" No risk about wasting money for a particularly saint loved one who's already in heaven. The benefit of your money will be divided and distributed to other souls who nobody paid for.
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Getting into heaven
written by Wave, February 16, 2011
I think that the modern speed record for canonization is held by Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, who was canonized twenty-seven years after his death. There is a process, of course, but the pope could change it at any time or ignore it all together. He is the only one with the big keys that unlock the Pearly Gates.

It would definitely be big news if J2P2 -- or any other pope -- was (were?) canonized. Only three popes who served in the last 925 years have been canonized. J2P2 floated the idea of Pius IX being canonized, but that went over like a lead balloon in Italy, where Berlusconi -- or even Mussolini -- would get more support.

Indulgences were never abolished. There are plenty of them that you can still acquire by saying prayers or making pilgrimages. The problem with them is twofold. 1. They do not apply to mortal sins. 2. You must already have confessed the sins and received absolution. So, the only people that they help are newly contrite sinners who happen to die before they get through the prescribed penance of five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys. Of course, the people who sold them back in the good old days did not emphasize these two small drawbacks.

If you are nervous about spending a few millennia in purgatory, I recommend wearing a brown scapular. According to a bull attributed to Pope John XXII, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel drops down into purgatory every Saturday and escorts up to heaven everyone who died wearing a brown scapular. You can get one on e-bay for less than $5, but you might have to pay the shipping.
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written by lytrigian, February 16, 2011
Indulgences are still being done and recognized by the catholic church, under different name.

They still have that name; only you no longer usually buy them. You "earn" indulgences by certain devotional acts, as Wave described.

It's still possible to pay for a "plenary indulgence" directly from the Pope. I saw one once, that was given to a couple as a gift for some significant occasion. In that case, you're not paying for the indulgence per se, but for some very fancy printing, paper, and calligraphy. (Plus shipping, I assume.)
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WOW!!, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by Starthinker, February 17, 2011
@Wow! by danieljref, the point of the story wasn't whether or not the Vatican was ignorant about the cause, it was that instead of looking for a cause they just decided that since they were ignorant of the cause then god must have done it. In other words, I can say my vacuum is sitting in my living room, and since I'm ignorant as to how it got there I can claim god did it rather than ask around to see if someone moved it. The leap from "we can't be bothered to investigate or question the event" to "god did it" (or in this case, Pope John Paul II did it) is such a huge leap that it's pointless to have to have the proof you seem to require. What I'm reading in your post is that you are asking for proof that it wasn't god, when the rest of us are asking for proof that it was god. I don't see you offering any of that.
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written by nonbeliever, February 18, 2011
@Wave - I respectfully disagree. The subjunctive "were" is proper for *all* such hypotheticals, whether true or false; this includes possibilities and opinions, and is preferable to the informal (or indicative) "was" for all past and future subjunctives. Not that I don't use the informal mode; I just noticed the informal mode in a previous comment pointing out grammatical errors, sans supporting examples. I decided to produce a meta-example. My comment was possibly too passive aggressive, but it was nonetheless enjoyable. (Notice the indicative sense of "was" in the previous two sentences.) Thank you for your counterargument— I will discuss this subject with other grammarians. Now back to our previously scheduled canonization.
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@Starthinker
written by danieljref, February 18, 2011
it was that instead of looking for a cause they just decided that since they were ignorant of the cause then god must have done it.

That is exactly my point!! This is just an assumption! (and apparently yours too) Even on the authors own terms. He did not show any evidence that the Vatican didn't look into it. He didn't provide any proof of what was actually done by the Vatican. He did not prove that the Vatican reach its conclusion out of ignorance. The only thing the author did was to point out the final conclusion and assume it was reached out of ignorance.

For example, he states something like: cause & effect could be "propter hoc". He never shows if that was really the case. He does not show any evidence or proof that the Vatican did (or did not) look into this possibility. Summing it up: His article is completely void.

He fabricates something in his own mind. He attributes his hallucinations to the Vatican (or vatican researchers or the pope). He does not give anything regarding what was actually done by the Vatican. He didn't even investigate if the nun had a disease or (in the case that she did) if she ended up cured (regardless of the reason).

Seroiusly, even the wildest religious fundamentalist is more honest than this. At least the fundamentalist will come to a point of saying that he doesn't know how God does things. While this guy will cross his heart and say that all this "nothingness" actually proves that the Vatican is wrong, crazy, woo woo or whatever.
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@danieljref
written by lytrigian, February 18, 2011
You're probably a troll, but I'm bored.

It would help if you'd look into this yourself. What the Vatican wants from a miracle is NOT conclusive proof that God did it -- or any kind of proof at all, really.

From a news article on the beatification:

One of the required steps was the October 2010 ruling by a panel of physicians that a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease after praying to Pope John Paul — who suffered from the same disease — was "scientifically inexplicable."


All they want is a recovery followed by a "we don't know", after someone prayed to the person under consideration. That is both argumentum ad ignorantiam and post hoc ergo propter hoc.

And yes, there was some question about the diagnosis to start with: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl...insons-ill

Really, you can sit there and bleat into your keyboard, or you can gather some facts yourself. It's not hard. There's this thing called Google.
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danieljref's analysis is correct
written by Alienskin, February 21, 2011
Skepticism is a great tool for understanding when it is used properly. Carlos Orsi is offering an alternative theory for the miracle attributed to JPII in the process to elevate him to Catholic Sainthood.

In Orsi's article, he is suggesting alternative explanations for the miracle, and offering a critique of of the processes he assumes the Catholic church followed to arrive at their conclusions.

Orsi does not offer proof that his alternative speculations are the facts. Worse, Orsi makes an unequivocal claim at the end about the process followed by the Catholic church to arrive at Sainthood for a given individual.

1) "This machine produces supplications in (on) an industrial scale (and for centuries if need be) until the law of probabilities creates a small number of facts about which a few experts will be content in manifesting their ignorance."

If the above is true, it requires proof to be regarded as anything other than Orsi's opinion. In his own logic, he cannot conclude B (that Sainthood is produced by a campaign leading to the mathematical certainty of its premise) just because he has a theory about A (those who wish to see the individual in question become a saint get millions to pray to the individual which produces a few examples without easy explanations).

That doesn't mean his theory is uninteresting or without merit - it just means he should not offer a conclusion without proving it.

2)"This manifestation is then followed by two elementary logic mistakes: the appeal to ignorance and the post hoc. And this is how saints are made."

Not even Corsi's supporters should support this statement. If it is true, then it should be attributable to facts, not theories. The most he can say at this point in his article is that his theories may suggest this conclusion, which they may.

The subscribers to this site should remember that casting an argument with which you disagree in the most favorable light is a basic tenent of honest argument. Too often, because we are skeptical, we tend to offer the arguments of our ideological opponents in lesser terms than these.

When we do that, we betray that which we hold most dear.
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@Alienskin
written by lytrigian, February 21, 2011
I already provided an example of the "machine" Sig. Orsi was talking about, in the case of Fr. Damien of Molokai. He was canonized about 120 years after his death, in part on the strength of two presumed miracles more than 100 years apart. It's true that we don't have quantitative data about how many people were praying to him in the intervening decades, but we don't have to be naive about it either. This was a very well-known figure, and there was a very long time during which hundreds of millions of Catholics all over the world might have been asking him for his intercessions. You don't have to assume a very large proportion of them had prayed to him at least once in order to conclude there have been millions of prayers to him.

The case of JPII is even more stark, as there are now over a billion Catholics in the world, and he was presumed a saint by many of them before his body was even cold. Prayers to him are extremely common. Since inexplicable recoveries from illness happen from time to time with or without praying for them, it would be odd if there have NOT been any such cases after a prayer to him. And the diagnosis for the ONE miracle he has to his credit so far was questionable to start with. I've already provided a link.

Your cry for other "proof" is absurd. The Vatican's own criterion for a miraculous cure is merely that the case be examined by a panel of medical experts, but it's a rare medical expert who thinks he has a clear explanation for everything he's seen in his career (hence, argumentum ad ignorantiam.) There's a lot we don't understand yet about how the body works, and very often there is no certain explanation for what's going on even in cases as seemingly straightforward as a knee injury. (Mine, for instance. I've had one plaguing me for 20 years now, and no doctor has ever been able to find the problem.) This is probably why most reported miracles are now medical: it's the greatest area of human ignorance that directly affects the most people, making it the biggest "gap" for God to operate in.

There are no objective criteria at all for establishing a connection between a prayer and a miracle. Lacking any such, all they *can* do is observe that the cure follows the prayer and presume the prayer was the cause (hence, post hoc ergo propter hoc.)

See http://newsaints.faithweb.com/divinus.htm

What it boils down to is that the burden of proof as to a miracle is all on the side of the church, and they do not meet that burden in any way credible to an outside observer.
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In response to lytrigian
written by Alienskin, February 21, 2011
Is it "absurd" to ask for proof for a theory, much less the conclusion reached by Orsi? Is it the right thing for you to suggest that my position on this issue contains elements of the absurd?

I will assume you have had a bad day, and did not mean to be unfriendly or impolite.

Another fact which may augment the position you and Orsi take is the that Audrey Toguchi is from Hawaii, and as the leper colony which Father Damien (St. Damien) ministered to was in Hawaii, a cynical observer might conclude that the woman was predisposed to wanting to see Fr. Damien Canonized.

Your mere suggestion that the "machine" follows a certain logic is not enough for any reasonable person to accept it as a fact. I, as I am sure most of us, would agree that the argument is compelling based on some of the circumstantial evidence and conjecture provided by you and Corsi. I might further argue that one does not need "hundreds of millions" of random Catholics in St. Damien's case - just a few determined Hawaiians might be sufficient if the Catholic Church was not being terribly discerning in its examination of the qualifying miracles.

But there's the rub - I do not know, and neither do you or Corsi, what procedures and processes, rigorous or otherwise, were followed in determining the facts about the miracles attributed to St. Damien. Does the Catholic Church, and Pope JPII want more saints so that every corner of the world can have their own, thus perhaps solidifying the Catholic Church's presence and popularity across the far reaches of the globe? If that is true, (and if I were a cynical observer I might want to believe such goals of the Catholic Church) I would need to see the proof of such a conclusion before I accepted it as a fact.

You mention that there is much we do not know about the body, which leaves room for those who want to believe in miracles to believe it when other medical explanations are not at hand. You mention your knee. If it is your position that Catholics lack the level of proof that we would accept to call a cure following prayer a miracle, then I think no reasonable person would disagree with that.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander - I do not accept Orsi's position that "...this is how saints are made" just because an argument and circumstantial anecdotes are provided. I do agree that the argument is interesting, and Orsi would have done well to stop short of reaching a conclusion.

As for your concluding statement, "the burden of proof as to a miracle is all on the side of the church, and they do not meet that burden in any way credible to an outside observer", I am inclined to agree with you, even without the proof. I think even the Catholic Church would agree with you. They might point out that, for those without faith, no miracles are possible. They might further argue that the level of scientific proof you seek would never be provided by the God they believe in, since it would dispel the need for faith (one does not need faith anymore if the facts of a miracle were as evident as 2+2=4).

That level of certainty, the Church might argue, is counter to the goals of a loving God. One might view that level of proof as "in your face", and as the Catholic Church believes that God loves all, then those who do not wish to believe are allowed a freedom they would be denied in the face of absolute proof.

Your conclusion is quite different than Orsi's (he presented an argument for how saints are made in the Catholic Church), but yours is a conclusion that, in my opinion, the Catholic Church would not be interested in accepting as their burden.

Yours in friendly discourse;

Craig (aka Aleinskin)
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written by lytrigian, February 21, 2011
I'm sorry, but you're taking your profession of ignorance to an unrealistic extreme. We know what the Vatican does to certify miraculous cures. They're up-front about it. I provided a link to a translation of the governing document. You can go ask a priest if you think Sig. Orsi's summary is inadequate. I really don't know why you people keep saying "We don't know! We don't know!" when we rather do, in general. And in the case of JPII's miracle, we rather more definitely do, unless you're going to try to tell me that every public source is wrong about it.

Honestly, all this is well-known to any educated Catholic. I can't speak for Sig. Orsi, but I suspect that's why he felt no need to document this rigorously.

Perhaps you're mistaking what is being questioned. No one is saying that the nun in question had no medical condition: she did. No one is saying that she didn't pray to JPII: she did. No one is saying that she didn't get better afterward: she did. No one is saying that anyone understands what happened: no one does. All this does NOT add up to a definite causal chain, either that the cure was miraculous, or that it came about because of that prayer.

Yes, you can make arguments about how this has to be an act of faith and all that crap. That's not what the Catholic Church is trying to do, but you can say that. If faith is all they wanted, why bother with compiling evidence at all? Why investigate? They're trying to be as certain as they can. I don't see how anyone can read Divinus Perfectionis Magister which I linked before and come away with any other impression than that they want to create a factual basis for believing in a candidate's sanctity.

If it disturbs you that they're not doing a very good job of it, then perhaps that's as it should be.

Does the Catholic Church, and Pope JPII want more saints so that every corner of the world can have their own, thus perhaps solidifying the Catholic Church's presence and popularity across the far reaches of the globe?


In part, yes. To phrase it more piously from a believer's point of view (emphasis mine):
The Pope wanted to remind the people of the Church that sanctity is, in fact, all around us. The more the people of the Church believed that — the more the people of the Church could see specific, local examples of lives lived in heroic virtue — the more likely we all were to live the lives of sanctity to which we were called in baptism. John Paul II’s beatifications and canonization were very much part of his “new evangelization.”

http://www.catholiceducation.o...e0803.html
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written by Alienskin, February 21, 2011
We can agree then that in general, you understand the process the CC follows, but not the specifics of St. Damien or JPII, right? I've already said the argument is compelling, flows from reasonable assumptions and general data about the process, but there is insufficient information to draw the conclusion that either of you draw, particularly Orsi.

If either of you had presented your case short of a conclusion, who could have a problem with it?

Are you claiming now that CC is seeking empirical, factual proof of JPII's miracles? If you are claiming that (you have said so above), can you please provide the passage in the Divinus Perfectionis Magister supporting your claim? I cannot seem to find the passage that supports your interpretation.

Thank you!

Regards;

Craig
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written by latsot, February 22, 2011
The part that bothers me most is that the CC goes through elaborate processes of deciding some putative miracles aren't true (e.g. the occasional weeping statue) and yet that lots of others are (e.g. all the other weeping statues). They don't seem to apply a proper standard of evidence in either case, so it's difficult to know on what grounds they decide which are true and which aren't. It's also strange that some miracle claims take decades or even centuries to 'investigate', whereas some are certified in no time flat. You'd have thought the CC would jump at the chance of proving a miracle, but they do seem to sit on lots of them for a long, long time in some cases. Don't they care about the glory of god? It's not as though they don't have the staff.

It's almost as though the politically expedient miracles always turn out to be true; most are put on the back burner for decades in case a reason turns up to suddenly say they're true (such as a pope coming from that place or a scandal to cover up); and some are sacrificed to make it look like some critical faculties are being applied throughout the whole sorry process.
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written by lytrigian, February 22, 2011
We can agree then that in general, you understand the process the CC follows, but not the specifics of St. Damien or JPII, right?

No. The specifics in the case of JPII have been very well publicized. That's why I can't fathom this continues insistence that we're ignorant about them.

For Fr. Damien, you've managed to drag that example very far from my original purpose in bringing him up, which is that Benedict's canonizations are not all fast-tracked as JPII's evidently is: this is one case that had been in the works for quite a while before he took the final step.
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written by Alienskin, February 24, 2011
latsot - that's a pretty cynical view, but I think your skepticism about the CC's motives around miracle investigation is driven at least in part by the secrecy surrounding the process. One never sees a report, an interview, the internal discussion, a list of criteria, the gathered evidence and documents, and so on. Without going in to the issue of motives, I too would like to see more into the process, how the evidence is examined, etc.

lytrigian - No, the specfics of the case have not been well publicized. The generalities of the case have been well publicized, but to the point above, the specifics (evidence, documents, testimony, internal debate, criteria, etc) have not been shared with the world at large. If you know of such a cache of this information, please point us to it. I would love to see it.

I am not trying to "drag" the St. Damien example anywhere, but it is certainly true that the length of time for Fr. Damien's path to Sainthood was longer than JPII's. I do not agree that this mere fact is proof of anything.

Lastly, it appears you are not interested in supplying the relevant passage from the Divinus Perfectionis Magister I asked about previously - is that correct or did it just miss your attention?

Sorry for the late replies, I've been traveling all week.

Warm regards;

Craig
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written by latsot, February 25, 2011
Alienskin:

I don't think I'm being cynical at all. If the Vatican is serious about its investigations into miracles, then why doesn't it tell us about the process it uses and make the evidence open to everyone? What does it have to hide? If they've genuinely found even ONE miracle verified definitively by the evidence generated by their exhaustive processes, then surely they would LOVE to rub it in the face of science by providing us all with this enormous evidence they've accrued.

The Vatican doesn't do any of these things. It doesn't have anything like the scientific process because it doesn't let anyone else examine its evidence. It sets itself up as sole arbiter of what is and isn't miraculous.

And you say *I'M* the cynic?
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written by William, February 25, 2011
You all know that the investigations for miracles do not result in any substantial evidence. The RCC knows that--they completely rely on the strength of faith and conviction on the part of the claimant. It would never hold up to the M$C, but that is not what it's about.
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written by Alienskin, February 25, 2011
Latsot;

I say the viewpoint that claims the CC is deliberately and disingenuously making claims about miracles is a cynical point of view. Why? Because that suggests that everyone from the Pope to the Holy See knows and believes there are no miracles, yet perpetrates a deliberate lie to the world, and more specifically, Catholics, with the main purpose being (apparently) to continue to fill their coffers and spread the power, wealth and influence of the Church.

I did not mean to try to set myself up as the defender of the CC on this website - I am not here to defend what the CC does or how it operates. I do believe that people who have devoted their entire lives to the Church are probably not taking part in a deliberate mass conspiracy to defraud the world's Catholics - I guess I just like to take the position that people are honest and have good motives until I have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt telling me otherwise.

That does not mean that your viewpoint is without merit, and undeserving of a considered evaluation. Far from it - I just don't tend to think that my fellow man is as transparently self-serving and corrupt as you apparently believe the leaders of the CC to be. Can I be persuaded? Sure. I'd like to see some evidence of it.

As for why the CC keeps its processes for evaluating miracles private - if I am a believer, and I start from a position of faith, I think I would tend to see the need for a scientific verification of a miracle differently then one who starts from a position of skepticism would. If the CC tells the world "This miracle has been examined by independent 3rd parties and verified to be authentic", then not showing the evidence would immediately undermine the position.

If, on the other hand, the CC says "We have a set of criteria for determining the validity of a miracle. We do not publish those because we do not want to encourage those who would attempt to defraud the process or curtail the facts to better fit our criteria", then I would like to hear them say that too.

I imagine that may be why they do what they do, but I do not know. There are certainly legitimate reasons why the CC may not want to disclose their evidentiary procedures, and they are not necessarily cynical ones.

Am I asking to much to see evidence of a position before I draw a conclusion? I think it is fine to speculate about a position without all the facts, as long as stopping short of a conclusion is clear.

Am I the only one?

Regards;

Craig
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written by latsot, February 25, 2011
Alienskin:
Why? Because that suggests that everyone from the Pope to the Holy See knows and believes there are no miracles, yet perpetrates a deliberate lie to the world


Of course it doesn't. I'm not going to engage with such childish false dichotomies as that. Things are either true or they aren't. The Catholic church either adopts the only means we have for determining what's true or it doesn't.

If it doesn't, then it doesn't get to claim that random fairy stories are true. If it does, then it has to abide by those rules, the same as everyone else has to.





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written by Alienskin, February 25, 2011
Right, Latsot, I don't know think the CC would agree that there is only one means. If a miracle is to meet a scientific level of rigor, it would need to be repeatable and independently verifiable, and it is doubtful any miracle could ever meet that level of criteria. Even if the level of proof is simply that there are no other plausible explanations, the CC might argue that science will always prefer a conclusion of "inderterminate" to "caused by God".

As for what I perceived to be your cynicism regarding the motives of the CC - if I read your position on that issue incorrectly, please forgive me, I meant no offense, and I certainly do not believe you were attempting anything childish. I think it is fine to question the motives of any organization, short of drawing conclusions based on supposition, so I hope you did not take my reaction to mean I didn't think your observations were without merit.

Regards;

Craig
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written by latsot, February 26, 2011
Alienskin:

It doesn't matter in the least whether the CC agrees whether there's only one means of reliably testing what's true and what isn't. It's not up for debate. We can TEST whether any method is better than another very easily indeed. We've been doing it for a few hundred years now. Closing your eyes and stabbing a finger into a book has been determined to be a pretty poor way of determining what is true, whereas testing things openly and rigourously in a marketplace of other ideas with people ruthlessly trying to prove you wrong has put planes in the air, people on the moon and webs on the internet. The only defence here is to claim that there are other kinds of truth. Many people have suggested such a thing, but I've never seen anyone actually define what such a truth would be. You know, the kind of truth that isn't true.

If a miracle is to meet a scientific level of rigor, it would need to be repeatable and independently verifiable, and it is doubtful any miracle could ever meet that level of criteria.


Well then so much for miracles. This isn't a failure of the scientific method to examine miracles, it's a failure of miracles to live up to basic scrutiny. Actually - as a technical point - the miracle wouldn't need to be repeatable. The experiment that verrified it would need to be repeatable.

Even if the level of proof is simply that there are no other plausible explanations, the CC might argue that science will always prefer a conclusion of "inderterminate" to "caused by God".


And rightly so. Since there is no evidence for gods, there isn't the slightest rational reason to even suggest god as a putative explanation for anything at all.

I wasn't offended in the least.
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written by latsot, February 26, 2011
Alienskin:
I say the viewpoint that claims the CC is deliberately and disingenuously making claims about miracles is a cynical point of view. Why? Because that suggests that everyone from the Pope to the Holy See knows and believes there are no miracles, yet perpetrates a deliberate lie to the world, and more specifically, Catholics, with the main purpose being (apparently) to continue to fill their coffers and spread the power, wealth and influence of the Church.


Let me clarify my position. I claim that the CC is deliberately and disingenuously making claims about miracles, but I don't suggest that everyone from the Pope to the Holy See knows and believes there are no miracles. My claim comes from the fact that the church doesn't publish or justify its methods or conclusions, so I'm perfectly happy to conclude that they have something to hide. I say again: if they had proper evidence of even a single miracle, do you think they'd hesitate for an INSTANT to publish it all over the place?

The CC knows what constitutes proper evidence. And it knows it doesn't have proper evidence for miracles. But we're talking about people who believe all kinds of improbable things. I don't really doubt that lots of people in the CC are lying about miracles, but I expect as many or more are just lying to themselves and suspending the standards of evidence they would usually require for things they want to be true.

I was probably wrong to label this a false dichotomy earlier, it's just a plain old strawman.

r
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written by latsot, February 26, 2011
Alienskin:
There are certainly legitimate reasons why the CC may not want to disclose their evidentiary procedures, and they are not necessarily cynical ones.


Letimate? I'm not sure what that means. Do you mean that the CC has an argument about it? Or do you mean that it's an argument nobody else in their right mind would accept?

But go right ahead and list those legitimate reasons.
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written by Alienskin, February 27, 2011
latsot said "I claim that the CC is deliberately and disingenuously making claims about miracles..."

May we see the proof of this, or is this just your opinion? If it is your opinion, may I suggest that any Catholics reading it could be offended by your blanket and unsupported bombastic statements, and that polite discourse is difficult enough already without these kinds of tactics? It is one thing to suspect something like this, and quite another to state it publicly, especially without proof.

It would be like me saying, "Latsot, I believe you are a racist because a good percentage of Catholics are non-whites living in Central and South America, and that's why you believe the CC's claims are deliberately being dishonest about their clams regarding miracles."

I offer no proof, just an opinion. How difficult a conversation between us would be if we do these kinds of things!

By the way, I offer the above only for illustrative purposes, I do not believe you are a racist, and I do not question your motives for holding the viewpoints you have claimed.

As for your conclusions about the CC's position on miracles - for you, and for others that will only accept a scientific level of proof for a miracle - I believe you are correct. That was my point in an earlier post, but I think you have more clearly stated the position.

As for the legitimate reasons the CC may not want to disclose its criteria for deciding what is and what is not a miracle: I say there could be legitimate reasons not to do it, and I provided one possibility. If the CC wanted to avoid those claiming a miracle from trying to defraud or in anyway affect the process by the knowledge of what the criteria is, then that could be a legitimate reason not to disclose the criteria.

I cannot provide you with a list, only a possibility. As I have mentioned before, I am not here to defend the CC or their policies. I am here to defend the basic rules of argument, and when an unsupported claim is made upon which a conclusion is drawn, I will call it out.

Regards;

Craig

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written by latsot, March 01, 2011
Alienskin,

I really don't care in the slightest if Catholics are offended by my suggestion that the Catholic church is less than honest about the way it goes about verifying miracles. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that I can't think of a single thing I could possibly, even in principle, care less about.

What I do care about is that an institution with enormous influence on millions of people is at the very best misrepresenting how investigations of extraordinary claims ought to be done. By hiding their methods and evidence, they are deliberately preventing everyone else from examining their claims. We have to accept them on faith and if we don't, people like you come along and tell us we're being disrespectful.

Well, they're taking the piss and their claims don't deserve the slightest attention. If they ever start paying respect to the rest of us by giving us proper evidence, then their claims might be worth starting to examine. Until then, yawn.
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written by Alienskin, March 01, 2011
Ok, latsot :-) I respect your decision, even though I disagree.

I do not understand what you mean by "misrepresenting how investigations of extraordinary claims ought to be done", but if you mean that scientific verifiability is how the investigation of "extraordinary claims ought to be done", then I would agree with you with the one exception being proof of miracles or a proof of God. I am not opposed to scientific methods being applied, I just do not agree that these methods, and only these methods, ought to be used.

I believe (and this is just speculation) the CC would argue just the opposite about their methods - that their methods are the only way to respect the process and all of the world's peoples. I have floated the idea before that an "in your face" proof of a miracle might be counter to the intentions of a God who wanted to allow those who choose not to believe to continue to do so. I don't know if that's what the CC believes officially, but I've heard priests at the University I attended (Santa Clara University) say as much.

If I held in my hand absolute proof of God, would it be right for me to reveal it to the world? I am not so sure that it would be. It is not clear to me that it is necessarily the right thing to do, but I understand those who say it is. For them, all pursuit of truth should be conducted with no reservations about the outcome. I am not unsympathetic to that position, I am just not completely sure that in this one case, this one instance (proof of God) it is a good idea.

If it were revealed, the impact on humanity would be unimaginable. I have heard priests and philosophers make arguments about what they think a being of pure love would do and wouldn't do. Those arguments are indeed very interesting to listen to.

As for your lack of concern about who you offend - it does matter to me, so with all due respect, I will withdraw from this particular discussion with you. I would like to thank you for sharing your point of view with me. I have found you to be a most intelligent and interesting person, and I have enjoyed our discussion very much.

I will understand if you want to leave a parting comment, and I will read it (but I won’t respond).

Warm regards;

Craig
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written by latsot, March 01, 2011
Alienskin:

So what you're saying is "la la la la la la la I'm not listening".

Shame.

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