NEWS:  August 24, 2009

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

A PAIN IN THE BACK  - I laughed reading the news of the miracle attributed to Card. John Henry Newman: A man in his 60s had a pain in his back and was cured. The Vatican took it as a clear supernatural confirmation that Newman is enjoying the beatific vision and deserves to be named blessed. Some go as far as to say that Pope Benedict is considering making him a Doctor of the Church as well at the beatification ceremony.

Here is how the case is reported by an English source favorable to Newman: “The cure of Deacon [Jack] Sullivan took place in 2000 when he was training for the diaconate. He began to experience severe back pain and doctors told him that without surgery he would be paralyzed. After watching a television program about Card. Newman he prayed: ‘Please, Card. Newman, intercede with God to help me go back to classes and be ordained.’ The next morning the pain had gone, but eight months later it returned worse than before. Again he prayed for Newman’s intercession and was cured” (The Tablet, June 20, 2009, p. 37).

Deacon Sullivan

Deacon Sullivan's back pain ceased: a "miracle"
We all know that an extraordinary cure, to be considered a miracle, has to exclude any other natural intervention that could heal the sick person. Having this in mind, I looked for details of this cure on serious Internet sources and found almost nothing except what is summarized above. The only interesting extra datum worthy of mention is that Sullivan is/was 70. The source does not specify if he is 70 today or was this age when the “miracle” occurred. Giving him some benefit of the doubt, I am considering that he was 61 in 2000.

Everyone who is in his 60s knows that to have a pain in the back is a very common thing. This is why pharmacies and health catalogs are teeming with medicines offering to help old people alleviate their pains. I am not speaking as a physician who studies and speculates on the topic. I am speaking as one who knows from experience.

I am 63, a little older than Mr. Sullivan supposedly was when that mentioned pain occurred. I am a writer who spends about eight hours a day seated in my study on a couch. I often experience pains in my back. They are due to sitting in the same place and position for long periods of time. When a pain occurs, I place a cushion behind my back or sit on the other side of the couch. The pains normally go away. Recently, I had an acute crisis of pain that made me wonder if I was going to be paralyzed. I could hardly stand up and walk; to enter the car to go to Mass was a small torture. None of my previous “remedies” worked. I didn’t know what to do. Then, I realized that my mattress had become too soft. I bought a firmer mattress and the pains went away.

I am relating this to say that perhaps Mr. Sullivan – like so many others – was experiencing something similar, and his cure could well have occurred by a natural cause. At this age, such pains come and go, almost at random.

Someone might object: But he went to doctors and they told him that his pain could not be resolved without surgery. Yes, I remember well his mention of that. However, with due respect to the good doctors - I am glad to note that they still exist - who in the world can really believe that when a doctor tells him that he needs a surgery the physician is not cheating? Unfortunately, most of on us know doctors who schedule people for all kinds of unnecessary tests - and even for surgeries - just to keep the insurance companies paying their very high bills.

So, without a rigorous body of doctors examining the case of Mr. Sullivan, the guarantee that he really needed a surgery may easily be disputed. Regrettably, the panel of suspicious and demanding doctors, which used to always be at the service of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints until Pius XII, was replaced by a group of sycophants that agrees with whatever the Pope desires. I found no reports available to check what those doctors opined.

Instead, we are informed that Benedict XVI himself decided that the “miracle” was authentic. “The final obstacle to the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman has been overcome with attention now focusing on the location and timing of the ceremony. It was announced last week that Pope Benedict XVI has approved a miracle attributable to Newman’s intercession … The miracle approved last week was reported by Deacon Jack Sullivan of Massachusetts, who said he had been cured of a debilitating spine condition after praying to Newman” (The Tablet, July 11, 2009, p. 35).

Fr. Chavasse as postulator for Newman

Postulator for the cause Fr. Chavasse was surprised by the speedy decision
By the cautious language of this news report, one realizes that even this progressivist magazine did not want to commit to the account presented. I believe The Tablet was wise to take this prudent approach, because there is neither mention of a serious board of doctors who re-examined the case nor x-rays proving that Sullivan actually had an improvement in his spine that was inexplicable by any natural reason. No paper that I know describes the steps of the process. They only mention the two ends of the rope - Sullivan and Benedict – and nothing in-between. The former said: “It was a miracle.’ The latter confirmed it: ‘Indeed, it was.’ Nothing else.

The postulator of the cause himself was caught by surprise: “Fr. Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Newman Cause, said he had been told by the Vatican on Friday last week [July 10] that the Pope had recognized the miraculous healing. ‘I was surprised, in the end it all happened more quickly than I’d expected,’ said Fr. Chavasse” (The Tablet, July 11, 2009, p. 35).

So, even the postulator of the cause was taken aback by Benedict’s eagerness to make Newman a Blessed.

Undoubtedly we have returned to the last phase of John Paul II’s pontificate when he was preparing to abolish the miracles as a requirement for beatifications and canonizations. Just his word would be sufficient…

Competiton among the funniest 'miracles'

The “miraculous” cure of Mr. Sullivan’s pain in the back enters into hard competition with two of the funniest “miracles” I have heard of.

First, the Vatican presented the incorruptible body of John XXIII as a proof of his presence in Heaven. The tears of sentimental Catholics were already flowing when Prof. Gennaro Goglia went public explaining that immediately after John XXIII died, he was called to preserve his body artificially. As a matter of fact, he described the elaborate procedure he used to inject a large quantity of a preservative in the body of the dead Pope. That is, the Vatican presentation of that particular “miracle” was a complete fraud.

The second humorous “miracle” was the healing of a Brazilian nun’s varicose veins, which was also presented as “miracle” to allow Emperor Karl of Austria to be named blessed in 2004. Today varicose veins are cured by a variety of natural procedures, and such a healing would never qualify as a supernatural cure if seriousness were still in the Vatican.

In this atmosphere of “he’s a saint if I say so,” we cannot avoid opening a new classification in the recent processes of beatifications and canonizations: the funniest frauds.


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