Friday, April 22, 2011

The Catholic Church control over the definition of "miracle"

What happens when a miracle occurs? You know, someone prays, and then something miraculous happens which nobody can explain. When this happens within the context of the Catholic Church the Church Authorities step in and assert what I think is a fiction, namely that miracles require an intercessor to channel Gods Magnificence to help us poor pitiful humans. The fiction is that humans are unable to have any divinity, unable to access God directly, and must instead depend on Church Authority for access to God.

I wrote some time ago about this (see: Establishing control over a society) and a story on todays Morning Edition (NPR's daily news show) seems to exemplify this to a T.

The story is that a young boy developed a dreadful disease of the sort Doctors say is normally fatal. It was a particularly ravenous fast moving form of the disease. The boys family made some contacts and pretty quickly crowdsourced a legion of people around the world praying for the boy's health. The doctors told the parents the boy would probably die, and a Priest came in and read him his last rights.

The intercession of Kateri Tekakwitha?

The story then becomes connected with Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk who converted to Catholicism and who was beatified in 1980. Kateri happened to have similar health conditions to the boy's, making for three analogous conditions between this boy and Kateri: "Number one, we're talking about two young people," Sauer says. "Number two, we're talking about two people who come from Native American ancestry. And number three, we're talking about a person who herself suffered from a disease that disfigured her face."

A representative of the Society of Blessed Kateri visited the boy and gave his mother a relic of Kateri. On that day his illness changed course. That day was described as "breathtaking" and the surgeon is quoted saying: "All of a sudden, to have this infection stop is almost like a geyser coming out of the earth with this great roar — and all of a sudden it just stops. And there's silence. And everybody's just a little bit stunned by it being over."

It does seem rather miraculous, especially when the medical doctor guy is stunned and cannot explain it.

The Catholic Church process of approving a Miracle

The story goes on to explain that seemingly miraculous events are not enough for the Catholic Church. And that's a good thing because honestly spiritual practitioners have a way of simply believing things without taking a rational look at things. Taking a rational look, however, does not necessitate always denying the action of spiritual forces unlike many skeptics would have us believe. My experience of the skeptic crowd is they have their own rigid dogma to defending, that spiritual action is always a bogus lie.

As I see it the truth is neither that miracles or other spiritual effects require an intercessor, nor that spiritual effects are bogus lies.

Instead that we all have innate access to spiritual gifts, and that we all can (and do) participate in the creation of spiritual effects.

The book these Christian people profess to believe even says so. The teacher, Jesus, is quoted saying that we would have all the gifts he demonstrated, and more.

Standing in heaven before the throne of God

Turning back to the NPR report - they describe the reasoning behind the Catholic Church designating some people with Beatification or Sainthood: "That means we have received assurances that this person now stands in heaven before the throne of God," he says. And historically, "one of the evidences of that has been miracles of healing."

The report describes a litany of people scrutinizing the recovery of this little boy. They want to determine whether it was an actual miracle, or simply luck of modern medical practice, or what. And while I like the idea of scrutinizing and studying spiritual effects, the whole story reeks of Authority stepping in and Asserting Control and Asserting their Dogma.

Is this situation an example of an intercessor who "now stands in heaven before the throne of God"? Or does this situation demonstrate the power of prayer? Especially the power of a legion of people praying together? Perhaps the miracle did not occur via the intercessionary power of Kateri Tekakwitha, but because hundreds of people joined together in prayer.

And while the NPR story discussed two points of view, it did not discuss this third point of view. The NPR piece described the Catholic Church viewpoint (miracles require intercessors), and for balance brought in a professional skeptic who writes for the Skeptical Inquirer to tell us that all spiritual practices are bogus lies and that this boy received great medical care. They did not bring in someone to discuss whether or why intercessors are required for spiritual effects to occur.

Hence, NPR is in this case acting to preserve two of the existing dogmatic -isms controlling our society without giving even the slightest lip service to a third point of view.

I wonder what others think of their story in light of what I've just written. The boxes below offer a convenient way to leave comments.

See: A Boy, An Injury, A Recovery, A Miracle?

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