Friday, September 11, 2015

How the Vatican investigates miracles | New York Post

In “The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age” (Viking), John Thavis, former Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service, describes this 1982 secret exorcism.

The new book shares how the Vatican deals with supernatural — or supposedly supernatural — events, from holy relics to instances of possession.

Thavis makes it clear that events of this sort put the Vatican in a difficult spot. On one hand, they cannot reject such supernatural phenomena outright, as to do so would reject many elements of the religion’s history.

At the same time, every claim of a supernatural or otherworldly presence must be handled with extreme skepticism, to prevent the Church from being taken in by charlatans, any one of whom could deal a blow to the Church’s credibility.


The Church has dealt with fake relics since the Middle Ages, when the “brain of Saint Peter,” which had been “venerated for centuries in the cathedral of Geneva was investigated and found to be a pumice stone,” and the “arm of Saint Anthony,” long “kissed by the faithful on festive occasions, turned out to be part of a stag.”

These days, rather than spend time and money exposing forgeries, the Church sometimes turns a blind eye to relics whose authenticity is in question. In 2011, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster angered many Catholics when he stated, “If that connection is made through an object which maybe forensically won’t stand up to the test, that’s of secondary importance to the spiritual and emotive power that the object can contain.”

How the Vatican investigates miracles | New York Post

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