If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
WAS ARCHDEACON CAVANAGH BEHIND THE KNOCK
In a village of about a dozen homes and a Parish Church called Knock in Co Mayo, Ireland, a seemingly extraordinary occurrence was reported.
On the night of the 21st of August 1879 the Virgin Mary flanked by St Joseph and a bishop thought to be St John the Evangelist and an altar with a lamb and cross on it allegedly appeared on the gable wall of the Parish Church for a few hours. Fifteen people witnessed the vision including a child of five (page 60, The Evidence for Visions of the Virgin Mary) and stood watching it for two hours allegedly in torrential rain.
The apparition is often thought to have been a hoax and that the parish priest Archdeacon Cavanagh was behind it.
Father Herbert Thurston might have disagreed but he was clear that he had found evidence that "the Archdeacon, as he was commonly called, was not the type of man whose judgment and stability could be relied on." [From 6th October 1883, KNOCK: A RESURRECTED SHRINE, HERBERT THURSTON, S.J.]. The Archdeacon could have deluded himself in the face of clear signs of fraud. He was up to his neck even if he did not command or set up the fraud.
Some wonder why it was Knock Church if it was a hoax and why not the other Church in the parish, Aghamore. But why not? We must remember that the Archdeacon's best friends were mostly to be found in Knock and these included the Beirne family who comprised most of the witnesses. Besides, Aghamore was less suitable for a "miracle" display outside than what the Knock Church was. The gable was ideal.
Cavanagh was at Maynooth College when Nicholas Joseph Callan (1799–1864) was conducting experiments there with light and electricity. What did Cavanagh learn from him? Or did he at least learn where to find somebody to produce an apparition hoax?
He was 58 and healthy at the time of the alleged apparition and could have carried out the hoax by himself.
He had no alibi when the apparition would have appeared or when it finished. His housekeeper saw him briefly in his house when the vision was in progress.
For all we know, cutouts may have been put on the gable and a light source shone on them. No wonder the priest Cavanagh was so keen on letting people pull pieces off the Church wall the next day. It helped get rid of the evidence for tampering.
Those who wish to argue for a miracle focus on minor details that were not important to the witnesses. For example, Trench is supposed to have felt the ground under the vision of Mary and found it to be dry. The excessive importance given to minor details is fatal to the reliability of the evidence for a real miracle at Knock. The scope for error increases in such detail. The grass could have protected the area she touched from the rain. Or if her hands were wet she might have assumed the ground was dry though it was not. She might have reasoned that the wetness she felt was down to her hands being wet and not the ground being dry. She may have lied for there is only her word for it that the ground was dry. But we know her original testimony never mentioned this dryness so if she was not the liar then somebody else was. Cavanagh promoted and revered the deposition that was concocted in her name. Luckily the real one can still be seen in the museum at Knock.
Cavanagh was bottling water that allegedly came from rainwater hitting the gable. Was it really just an excuse for the gable having got a good wash after some trickery was implemented? Like paint or something?
Cavanagh snuggled up to the media and the publishers. He prepared a lot of material for them including his diary of cures. He even had his diary published in The Nation. He received letters from people who said they were cured. He wrote published on a number of them. How much money did he make?
Motive for possible fraud:
The Archdeacon was fanatically pro-landlordism and had got into considerable trouble for it. He lost lots of friends in his parish, the collection money was going down and also he lost the loyalty of many of the poor. The apparition was a good thing to help regain what was lost.
Some people might have been willing to create a pious fraud to halt the parish hostility to Archdeacon Cavanagh. The Archdeacon seems to have known about the plot and got involved or perhaps it was all his idea.
During Mass in August 1879, he made such a vicious attack on the Land League though it was campaigning for the rights of the people and the poor farmers that the parish and people beyond protested outside his Church. The Connaught Telegraph reported that the crowd was estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000 people.
Some time before the apparition, there had been a meeting in the parish to protest against him. Another motive could have been to create another Lourdes and to bring fame and employment and other improvements to a region in the grip of horrendous poverty.
The Archdeacon loved being seen as holy and keeping people talking about his "saintliness". He would not have been the first person to have been willing to forgo scruples in order to become a saint.
Pious fraud means a hoax engineered to make people better followers of a religion. The Catholic conscience excuses such conduct. It is thought that though its a sin to fraud it is not a sin when you have no choice but to do something to stop people going to suffer everlasting damnation through not being believing and faithful Catholics. Its still wrong but you are not culpable for you have no choice.
The evidence for pious fraud
The evidence for pious fraud is the contention of apparition witness, Mary Beirne, that the apparition came to show that Archdeacon Cavanagh was a very holy man (page 165, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland). The apparition depicted Mary to whom Cavanagh was extremely devoted and St Joseph and a bishop and a Eucharistic altar and a lamb - all symbols that indicate approval for the priesthood and indicating that priests must be respected.
It is mad to think the vision can be read as anti-clerical or supportive of the priest's critics.
The notion that Cavanagh would not have thought of getting somebody to make a vision of St John is inconclusive for the bishop sounds more like St Patrick. The vision is just what somebody trying to make a successful shrine would create for the Irish had great devotion to the Eucharist, St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin and St Patrick. The witnesses choosing to think it was John was not something the Archdeacon could control.
And why did the witnesses think the bishop was John? Because Mary Beirne noticed how the image resembled the statue of St John she saw in Lecanvey near Westport. She was the one who decided it was John. The third figure appeared to be that of St, John the Evangelist ; I do not know, only thought so, except the fact that at one time I saw a statue at the chapel of Lekanvey, near Westport, County Mayo, very much resembling the figure which stood now before me in group. Cavanagh would have been familiar with the statue for he ministered for years in Westport. And Mary Beirne was a friend of his...
Dominick Beirne declared, "The reason I had for calling the third figure St. John is because some saw his statue or his likeness at Lekanvey parish chapel."
Did the Archdeacon have the vision rigged so that Mary Beirne would recognise the bishop as John?
Margaret Beirne was certain of the statue. In her deposition, the following is squeezed in around her signature as if the priest didn't want to put it in. It was obviously important to her that he put it in. "The reason I knew it was St John was because I saw a statue of him at Lecanvey chapel."
Margaret and Mary Beirne had to have been certain otherwise witnesses would have identified it as St Patrick even if they said it was John. They would only agree with them if they gave a solidly good reason. There is no evidence at all that the assertion of some that there was no such statue at Lecanvey is to be even considered. Nobody claimed that at the time. For later supporters of Knock, if a connection was made between the vision and the statue, there might have been a need to downplay the report of the statue in Lecanvey. It was feared the hoaxer copied the image of the statue and had got his information about the statue from the Archdeacon who had ministered before it. It was feared it could show up the Archdeacon's involvement or possible involvement.
Page 26 of Margaret Anna Cusack, states that the Archdeacon had been threatened and an inhabitant of the village had been appointed to cut his ears off but this plan was thwarted by the apparition. The same page tells us the apparition enhanced the reverence of the people towards him. In shrine supporter William Coyne's book, Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh (Roscommon, 1953) we learn "It was resolved ... to have his ears cut off. However before the date fixed for the sacrilegious act the extraordinary events of the 21 August 1879 (the apparition) had occurred at Knock. There was a complete change ... even the hardest of hearts...regarded it as a direct sign through Our Lady that a crime of the kind contemplated was a desecration" (page 82-84).
Tom Jennings, Ballyhowley, Knock wrote a book called The Story of Knock which also said that the night chosen to give the priest a lesson by hacking off his ears was the night of 21 August 1879! The night of the apparition.
In the latest version of Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh we read that Cavanagh was to be subjected to a number of threats before having the ears cut off. A member of those terrorists who lived near Knock if not in Knock was strenuously opposed to the impending maltreatment of the priest and was overruled and warned that he would die if he warned the priest. But the decision was leaked nevertheless and the parish denounced the evil plan. A support group was set up who vowed to protect their priest no matter what and were resolved to attack anybody who would attempt violence against him. This version also states that the night of the apparition was to be the night chosen for the attack on the priest (page 74). Cavanagh then knew of what was planned for him.
We see from this that there are more problems.
Why was the priest alone in the cottage that night? His housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin even went out visiting with not a care in the world.
Where were the men who were supposed to be guarding the priest?
Did the protecting the priest no matter what stretch as far as orchestrating a fake apparition or helping the priest to do it?
There is no evidence that Cavanagh was in his cottage when the apparition was first seen.
The witnesses were at the Campbell cottage when they supposedly left the apparition on its own at the gable. They went back and it was gone. There is no evidence that Cavanagh was in his cottage at that point. He could have left to set up the vision. He could have went back when the coast was clear to take his tricks away. The magic lantern being turned off would have been enough to make the people think the apparition had vanished.
After the apparition, the priests who investigated it went on the platform at Aghamore near Knock on October 26 1879. This was during a meeting to condemn clergymen hostile to the Land League. Cavanagh was completely opposed to the Land League. The priests of course went to uphold such opposition. The priests themselves then had a reason to want the evidence for the apparition which enhanced the authority and safety of Cavanagh to be convincing - they had the power to manipulate the witnesses and leave out anything disturbing from the record of the testimonies. They had the power to make the witnesses agree. This can be done by asking questions in such a way that the witnesses are led to think they had witnessed things they never seen at all. This would be leading the witnesses. Therapists are not allowed to use leading questions for they put things into the heads of the patients. The site was never examined for evidence of fraud so they didn't do their job as well as one would expect. And they probably didn't want to either . . .
Did the Archdeacon orchestrate a Pious Fraud?
Fraud is possible.
Did this have Mc Loughlin his housekeeper visit the Beirne's who lived near the Church to keep them out of the way until the hoax was set up? She seems to have lied that she saw the vision on the way to their house. She never mentioned it during the time she was there indicating that there was nothing that obviously supernatural about it if she did see something.
The Archdeacon has no alibi for the time of the appearance of the vision or its vanishing.
Mary McLoughlin retired for the night early probably at his request. He needed her out of the way so he could venture out and end the vision.
Mrs Campbell was found at her front door after having ventured out of her deathbed to see the vision. The witnesses ran to her aid. When they went back to the gable it was in darkness and the vision was gone. There is no mention of the Archdeacon being called to spiritually assist her though he was a close neighbour. Where was he? His being in bed was no excuse.
Had this distraction not happened the lantern or projector would have went off anyway. The vision going away when there was nobody around only added to the mystery.
That night the Archdeacon's enemies planned to attack him and cut off his ears. This was averted by the apparition story. What perfect timing! The Archdeacon knew the attack was about to happen. Yet he was on his own in his cottage that evening. Why was he so confident he would not be attacked? Maybe there is nothing to fear when a faked apparition for diversion is on the cards.
A witness, his housekeeper, went to tell him about the vision at the gable and he told her he didn't believe it and would not go to the gable. The trouble is he had a clear view of the gable. The light should have shone in his back windows. He was pretending not to know anything about it.
Mary Beirne said in the 1930's that he dismissed the story saying it was a reflection from a stained glass window at the gable.
The next day he had to be informed about the apparition on the way to say Mass and said he had forgotten that he had heard about it from the housekeeper (page 9, The Apparition at Knock). Mary McLoughlin his housekeeper testified that this was so (page 23, The Apparition at Knock). Again he was pretending.
He said to a reporter after that he did not go to the gable in case people would say he had something to do with faking the alleged apparition. That is like the person who steals your car saying they never went near your area that night in case people would say they were out to steal something. It indicates guilt.
He at least pretended to believe all the miracle reports of healings. He kept a diary of them. He would have known from Lourdes that not all healings are authentic or supernatural. He didn't care - all that mattered was making the apparition popular.
The housekeeper presumably got permission from him to go and visit Beirne's house. It was while she was out that she saw the vision. Why didn't she ask to go back? Why didn't he encourage her to go back to the vision? She stayed in.
Cavanagh pretended that he didn't believe Mary McLoughlin when she came to him about the vision at the gable and asked him to go and see it. Witness Mary Beirne testified in 1936, "Mary McLoughlin, housekeeper to Archdeacon Cavanagh, went to the parochial house to acquaint the parish priest, of the occurrence. He, however, did not visit the scene, believing, as he told his housekeeper, that it was a reflection from a stained-glass window erected some time before." She gave the same testimony during the 1880 interview with the Weekly News.
Cavanagh told McLoughlin that he thought it was a reflection from a stained glassed window knowing fine well he had no window that could do that or that resembled the apparition and it was dark. He wouldn't go to the apparition site as he feigned scepticism and disinterest.
Mary McLoughlin testified soon after the apparitions that when she told the Archdeacon of the vision "he appeared to make nothing of what I said." And the next day he heard "all about the apparition from the others who had beheld it; and then it came to his recollection that I had told him the previous evening about it, and asked him to see it." It is impossible to believe that the Archdeacon was that uninterested. He was acting.
Here is Cavanagh's 1880 account of what he was doing when he heard about the apparition. It was published with his approval by McPhilpin.
"As to the visions, the Archdeacon said, in effect: " On the night of the first Apparition my housekeeper asked leave to visit a friend, and remained out unusually late. While wondering what had become of her, she made her appearance in a very excited state, exclaiming : 'Oh! your reverence, the wonderful and beautiful sight ! The Blessed Virgin has appeared up at the chapel, with St. Joseph and St. John, and we have stood looking at them this long time. Oh the wonderful sight !' Inferring that the vision had disappeared, and omitting to question my housekeeper on that point, I did not go up, and I have regretted ever since that I omitted to do so. On another occasion a messenger was sent down to fetch me : I was in bed after a fatiguing day, and, having a prospect of hard work on the morrow, did not rise." — This manifestly appears as a triumph of the flesh over the spirit. — " I shall ever feel sorry that a sight of the Apparitions has been denied me, but God may will that the testimony to his Blessed Mother's presence should come from the simple faithful and not through the priests. Though I have not witnessed the divine manifestation I have seen the light, and once, when standing at some distance from the chapel, in company with others, a most brilliant star flashed along the gable, leaving a train of radiance."
It is impossible to believe him. His housekeeper Mary told him that she was not the only one who saw the sight. Thus he would have taken what she said seriously for that reason alone. He lies that he thought she said the vision had gone and that was why he never went to see the vision. Mary asked him to go to the gable according to her own account. He went to bed and another person came to ask him to go to the gable. Why did he not go then? And he was in bed and would have been in the dark and if there had been a light at the gable it would have been visible from his bedroom window in the dark. And he must have looked out the window at the gable at some point at least out of curiosity. The Archdeacon talked like a man who was playing the innocent. Also, nobody knows where he was when the vision appeared. And he claimed to be in his bed at the time when it vanished. How significant might that be?
There is no mention in his own account of his scepticism. He might have feared that if he pretended to think there was no vision and that was why he didn't go to the gable that it might be construed as evidence by sceptics that there was indeed no vision.
Another account of his is interesting. He was interviewed by a correspondent of the Weekly News of 14 February 1880. He said, "When my housekeeper returned home that night, she said that she had seen the Blessed Virgin at the chapel. At first, I gave no attention to her words but afterwards when I began to think that a wonder may really have been witnessed, I concluded that the people did not leave the church until the Apparition was visible no longer. Ever since, this has been to me a cause of the deepest mortification. But I console myself with the reflection that it was the will of God that the Apparition should be shown to the people, not the priest. If I had seen it, and if I had been the first to speak of it, many things would have been said that cannot now be advanced with any fair shadow of reason or probability on their side". Then the correspondent observed, "The strong emotion of the good pastor was so evident that both kept silent for some time."
It is impossible to believe that he didn't at least consider what she said to be true. He knew her well. If there had been a light at the gable with the figures inside it, why didn't she go to the window looking that way and point out? Why didn't she tell him to at least look out the window?
He said he thought those who were at the gable stayed until the apparition vanished. Again if he was so interested why didn't he stand at his back door and look at the gable?
He said that the gossips would have had a field day had he seen the apparition. He was evidently worried that people would suspect that he had had something to do with the apparition and was part of a hoax. He said this in 1880 after the testimonies of the witnesses had been recorded so evidently he considered them to be inadequate as proof that he only saw the apparition and nothing untoward was taking place.
He said that the credibility of the apparition would have been ruined if he had been the first to say that it had happened. What an odd thing to say? Why would he have to be the first to state that it happened? If people report a vision and you say you can't go to see it for you don't want to be the first to speak of it then clearly you are trying too hard to make an excuse. You would only try that hard if you knew what was really going on ie a hoax. And the Archdeacon DID make himself the apparitions first proper promoter! He started that as early as the next day and even took part in the Church investigation of the witnesses.
But that aside, why would people automatically blame him? Why would he assume they would? He is evidently concealing the fact that he knew more than he let on. And again if the evidence is good enough, it wouldn't matter who saw the apparition or who told about it.
The Archdeacon was always embroiled in enough controversy to know that its best to let people say what they like. He was in the habit of doing so anyway. He had nothing to fear if he was not involved in a hoax. He talked like a man that had something to hide. He thought, "I am doing wrong by orchestrating this fake miracle and I will get found out if I am not careful." If you are overcautious in case you get accused of a hoax, then you are very probably guilty. If you assume people will think you did x if you do such and such, then you must have x on your conscience.
If the Archdeacon refused to go to the gable that night lest the credibility of the vision be diminished, that raises some questions. His reasons actually look like excuses.
The Archdeacon was silent and annoyed after he said the people would think he was behind the apparition hoax. That's important. And even more so when nobody accused him at all of being a hoaxer. That accusation has only been considered in recent decades. Poor guilty Cavanagh!
The light - if as bright as the witnesses said - would have shone in the windows at the back of his house. He must have noticed it. Even after been told about the apparition he pretended not to notice. The picture below shows the Archdeacon standing some distance in front of his house. The apparition gable can be seen just above his head. There was a clear unobstructed view of the apparition gable from his house.
Just above his hat, you can see the wooden planks used to support the gable as the people were stealing the cement thought to have magic powers.
If the Archdeacon had genuinely thought the apparition was an illusion or trick of the light he would have looked out. If you see a strange light you look out. His backdoor gave him a full clear view of the apparition gable as well. The Archdeacon knew more about the apparition than he was letting on. He was either conspiring with the witnesses to pretend that a vision had occurred or he had been involved in deceiving them.
He allegedly went to bed early that night and when the light was out he would have seen the apparition light shining in his bedroom window from which the gable could be seen.
The next day he set about promoting the vision and was even collecting rainwater that hit the gable into bottles to give to pilgrims. What a suspiciously fast conversion!
A priest who encouraged people to believe the mortar from the gable had occult powers could hardly be described as open-minded. He was biased in favour of the miraculous - that is, credulous. If the vision was a hoax, he was still able to make himself believe that it was real even if he was involved. People died from consuming the mortar (Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland, page 245). Also the mortar being taken damaged the gable sacrilegiously. If some trickery had been afoot, say if something had been fastened to the wall to deceive the people, then it was to the hoaxer's advantage to have the wall vandalised and the evidence of tampering eliminated and lost. For example, evidence of nails having being used to attach the images to the wall would have disappeared. The man who encourages credulity is a man without real integrity. When one encourages the risk of being deceived one would deceive.
The Story of My Life by the Nun of Kenmare was published in 1891. "While I was in the church one day I saw a bright light above the altar, and all the people were exclaiming, "There it is! there it is! Now we have seen it for ourselves." I was somewhat impressed myself, and hoped that at last I had seen a supernatural sight, even if it was only a bright light. I was kneeling when I first saw the light, but when I rose up from my knees the light disappeared. I at once knelt down again, and lo, the light shone once more as bright as ever. I tried this experiment several times, and was then convinced that it was some reflection. I had made up my mind to investigate everything thoroughly when I came to know, though my prejudices were in favour of believing everything. I now went near the altar, and at once found out the cause of what seemed supernatural. It was simply a very large glass stone, which had caught the reflection of the setting sun. I dare don't touch anything about the shrine, so I went at once to Father Cavanagh, whose house was quite near, and asked him to come and remove the vision, for I thought it was dreadful to have the people deceived, But to my amazement - and I must admit to my indignation - he would not remove it. This made me very skeptical as far as he was concerned" (page 268 to 291).
Cavanagh knew that the apparition made it look like Mary agreed with his antics and his unfair opposition to the Fenians and the Land League. He encouraged that thinking. A man who wanted the evils of the Landlordism to be maintained and who claims the Virgin Mary to be as bad is simply not to be trusted. Would Mary appear if people were going to take that interpretation of her action?
The nun stated in her other works how she was so anxious to have a vision. Yet she was far from easy led in the above story. Thus we must consider her story to be true and reliable.
This story tells us a number of things.
The people were easily led - were the original visionaries as bad?
Cavanagh had a stone that was able to make the fading light of the sun become very bright. A stone like that could have been used to make the light of the original magic lantern used on the gable wall far brighter than usual.
Cavanagh was open to letting the people be deceived. He could have let the stone stay and tell them the light was an illusion but he did not. The nun was right to feel her "indignation".
When Cavanagh was priest of Westport in Mayo, he said that a stranger had given him the exact amount of money needed to build a facility for young girls. The priest met the donor at Lecanvey near Croagh Patrick (page 32, Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh). It seems he did nothing to discourage the notion that the man was none other than St Joseph himself! The pious believed it was (page 32, ibid). It is obvious he wanted people to believe in visions.
In Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh page 113 we learn that two men on the run went to the priest's house for the sacraments. A stranger opened the door and he seemed to know what they were there for. He told them the Archdeacon was tired and asked them to come back in the morning for Holy Communion and Confession. They told the priest the next day and he said that they must say nothing about the man until after he is dead. Pious belief was that the man was an angel. From what we know today, he could have been a gay lover! We know that the Archdeacon when dying wanted young Father Reidy, a Curate in Claremorris, around all the time! The Archdeacon was trying to create a supernatural mystery!
The Archdeacon knew that if an apparition is reported, people can come privately and pray but official pilgrimages are wrong. The Church has to approve the apparition before they can be allowed. This is Church law even today for the Church bans official and public pilgrimages to Medjugorje for it is not an approved apparition. Devious Cavanagh welcomed the first organised pilgrimage to Knock in March 1880. Fifty members from the Holy Name Confraternity came from Limerick. He gave an address to them that was printed in the Munster News (24 March 1880) which asserted that Mary appeared with Joseph and John at Knock. A formal presentation of the pilgrimage banner took place - the Archdeacon put it beside the altar. Later in 1880, the Cork pilgrimage arrived with a grand new altar for the parish Church! (page 79, Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh). The Church looked very good in 1880 - a remarkable transformation from a plain church with few seats and a clay floor and flagstones in the sanctuary area and rough altar from the previous year!
Cavanagh was one of the three or four or five priests involved in the investigation of the apparition which took place 8 October 1879. Even pious writers devoted to the apparition and the shrine admit that this investigation was careless and unprofessional (page 174, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland). Yet it must be assumed that the commission never made a final decision as to the apparition being authentically supernatural or otherwise (page 177, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland). There is no evidence or record that it decided one way or the other.
The Archdeacon told the Weekly News of 14 February 1880 regarding his strange absence from the apparition at the gable, "If I had seen it, many things would have been said that cannot now be advanced with any fair show of reason or probability on their side." In other words, I would have been accused of fraud had I gone to see it. This is a bizarre thing to say. The Archdeacon had no concern for reason or probability for he accepted all the ridiculous miracle reports. Its staying away from the scene of the vision that should open the door to suspicion. More importantly, the Archdeacon was admitting that he was the target of rumour and insinuation. Cleary, there was a feeling among some that he was responsible for the fake miracle.
Cavanagh kept a diary of cures at Knock. He focused on the healings and never even considered the spiritual effects. True healings from God should be accompanied by greater holiness and peace of heart. The Archdeacon was only interested in the signs and wonders aspect. He wanted a God who magically shows off at Knock.
The Book THE APPARITIONS AND MIRACLES AT KNOCK ALSO, The Official Depositions of the Eye-Witnesses, PREPARED AND EDITED BY JOHN McPHILPIN NEPHEW OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF TUAM says,
"Archdeacon Cavanagh is reputed along all the country-side
as a man of simple piety, gentle manners, and a
modest and retiring disposition. This character
is justified by his appearance; he at once makes
a favorable impression, and is about the last man
in the world whom a stranger would look upon
and suspect of anything but straightforward,
WHY GO OUT OF THE WAY TO STAY HE WAS BEYOND SUSPICION OF DISHONESTY? THERE WAS NO NEED FOR THAT ASSERTION IN THE CONTEXT. IT LOOKS LIKE IT WAS DIRECTED AT PEOPLE WHO WERE SAYING THE ARCHDEACON WAS SOMEHOW INVOLVED IN THE DECEPTION OF THE APPARITION. AND TO ARGUE THAT THE ARCHDEACON LOOKED HONEST AND THAT PROVED HE WAS HONEST IS A BIZARRE AND DESPERATE PIECE OF REASONING.
WE MEET THE SAME PROBLEM WITH CUSACK,THE NUN OF KENMARE. SHE WENT OUT OF HER WAY TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK THE ARCHDEACON WAS TOO DEVOTED TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN TO ENGINEER A HOAX.
"We have never heard one word of blame or
disapproval uttered against this priest, except that
he is supposed to be too devout to the Blessed
Mother of God, and that he is supposed "to live
very much in contemplation, and not to be so
practical in matters of worldly business as
he might be. Well, if this is a fault, it is one
he shares with a great many of the Saints, and
with some of the faithful."
SHE STATES THAT SHE SPEAKS OF THE PRIEST'S TREMENDOUS DEVOTION FOR PURGATORY FOR THE CASE FOR THE APPARITIONS NECESSITATES IT. BELIEVERS SAY THAT THE APPARITION TOOK PLACE WHEN HE FINISHED A NOVENA FOR THE PRISONERS OF PURGATORY. SHE DOES NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THAT UNTIL THE NEXT PAGE. SHE SEEMS TO BE SAYING HERE THAT HE IS TOO DEVOUT TO HAVE BEEN UP TO ANY FUNNY BUSINESS IN RELATION TO THE CASE OF THE APPARITION - THE CASE OF THE APPARITION AS IN CASE TO BE SOLVED. SHE WROTE THAT NOBODY HAD A BAD WORD TO SAY ABOUT THE PRIEST ONLY THAT HE WAS TOO DEVOTED TO OUR LADY. THAT WAS A BARE-FACED LIE. HALF THE PARISH HATED HIM. SHE IS TRYING TOO HARD TO DEFLECT SUSPICION FROM HIM THAT HE WAS BEHIND THE VISION. DEEP DOWN SHE SUSPECTED IT HERSELF.
THEN SHE SAYS THE PRIESTS SECRETS ARE HIS OWN AND NOBODY ELSE'S BUSINESS. SHE DOES NOT CLARIFY WHAT SHE MEANS. SHE MUST MEAN THAT IF THE PRIEST IS NOT DEVOUT THEN THE APPARITION IS SUSPECT. SHE THEN SAYS ABOUT HIS SECRETS BEING SACRED AS IF TO DISCOURAGE ANYBODY FROM WONDERING IF HE HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE APPEARANCE. SHE INDICATES THAT HE WAS UNDER SUSPICION.
"Pray for the souls in Purgatory.
To do this, we have said, is one of this priest's
great devotions. If he were not living, we could
say more. It is only from the necessity of the
case that I feel I can be pardoned by him for
saying so much. Nor would it be said at all, were
it not that the matter has such an important
bearing on the subject of the apparitions at Knock.
The secrets of this priest are his own; with his
interior life the world has no business, and would
have little sympathy. Does not all the history of
the Church teach how even some of the children
of the Church turn with contempt or incredulity
from that which they should honour?"
SHE PRESERVES THE ARCHDEACON'S TESTIMONY THAT HE HAD PEOPLE IN HIS HOUSE LOOKING AT THE MIRACLE LIGHTS INSIDE IT. DID HE KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE LIGHTS HIMSELF?
I see heavenly
lights in my room very often, both at night and
in the morning. I saw these lights distinctly for
the first time on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier,
A..D. 1880, and on the Feast of St. John the Evangeliat,
on the Epiphany, and daring the octave.
I very frequently saw these lights this year, and
last year oftener than I would relate. I called
my niece and my servants on two or three occasions
to witness these lights, and they saw them
for nearly an hour each time, as they can testify.
A great many other manifestations took place,
which I would not wish to speak of.
" P.P., and Archdeacon."
Cavanagh and the Commission
Cavanagh was one of the priests who investigated the apparition in 1879 and 1880.
The commission was dishonest. One of the priests forged Judith Campbell's signature (page 185, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland) on a witness report.
There is no reason to rule out the chance that Cavanagh lied about what the witnesses testified to (page 186, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland). So little is known about how the commission worked that it is possible that Cavanagh wrote their testimonies to please himself and read back to them the bits they gave him because they couldn't read. He could have left out the conflicts. Then he got them to sign their mark or name.
Mary O Loughlin's testimony has her explaining that she saw a cross behind the lamb on the altar and how it was a bit behind the lamb. Yet when this testimony was published in a newspaper she decided that a mistake by the newspaper was made for she never saw any cross (page 191, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland). Cavanagh could have altered her testimony to suit his wishful thinking (page 191, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland).
The commission of 1879 SUMMARISED (page 182, Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland) what the visionaries told them. This makes the testimony useless for anything that reflected poorly on the vision could have been left out.
Archdeacon Cavanagh manipulated Fr Bourke who was involved in the commission as well. They controlled how the press reported the story of the apparition and even what witnesses the press talked to. For example, Judith Campbell was never encouraged to talk to a reporter but Mary Beirne was. That was odd for Campbell allegedly saw the vision close up.
The Archdeacon received many letters from people supposedly cured at Knock. He chose some to be published as part of his drive to promote Knock as a holy shrine. It has been found that when these letters referred to other places where Mary was allegedly appearing he put a line through those references. And also through anything that mentioned the allegedly cured person getting sick again.
To quote John White, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, a investigator at Knock who found many original documents regarding the alleged apparition and miracles "a Fanny Murphy wrote to Cavanagh in February 1881, describing how she spent two years on crutches, but left them at Knock. She then describes how she feels much better since coming home; Cavanagh crossed out the part about feeling better, leaving the reader with the impression that Fanny came to Knock a hopeless invalid and threw her crutches away and was perfectly cured. R. McCarthy of Peckham Rye, London, was given cement from Knock by his parish priest. He describes how the cement cured his haemorrhages, but the part of the letter describing how he has had ‘a slight return of the illness’ is crossed out by Cavanagh prior to publication. While reports in The Nation and elsewhere might lead us to conclude that Archdeacon Cavanagh was an overly credulous man who would do anything to further the cause of Knock, these letters and his handling of them prior to publication show just how far he was willing to go to channel devotion to his church."
Cavanagh was happy to make a partial cure or an emotional cure into a miracle cure of a cripple just by omitting certain lines and phrases. Such an approach showed he had no true respect for the people who wrote to him. It was all about making sure the Knock apparition would be seen as a miracle in the public perception.
The Archdeacon was capable of religious fraud and knew more about the alleged apparition than he let on.
Margaret Anna Cusack, The Nun of Kenmare, by Catherine Ferguson CSJP, Gaelbooks, Co Down, 2008
Knock The Virgin's Apparition in Nineteenth Century Ireland, Eugene Hynes, Cork University Press, Cork, 2008
Knock: Some New Evidence. The British and Irish Skeptic, Berman, David. Vol 1, no. 6, November/December 1987
Knock 1879-1979, Rynne, Catherine. Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1979
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Our Lady of Knock, John MacPhilpin, Tom Neary, London: Catholic Truth Society, 1976
Our Lady of Knock. William D Coyne, New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1948
The Gospel According to Woman, Karen Armstrong, Pan Books, London, 1987
"Papal Visit Resurrects Ireland's Knock Legend." The Freethinker (October 1979). Reprinted in The British and Irish Skeptic 1, no. 1 January/February 1987
The Apparition at Knock, The Ecumenical Dimension, Eoin de Bháldriathe, Data Print, Athy, 2013
The Apparition at Knock, A Survey of Facts and Evidence, Fr Michael Walsh, St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, Co Galway, 1959
The Apparitions and Miracles at Knock, also Official Depositions of the Eye-Witnesses. Tuam, Ireland, 1880. 2d ed. Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1894.
Mother of Nations, Joan Ashton, Veritas, Dublin, 1988
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Cult of the Virgin Mary, Michael P Carroll, Princeton University Press, 1986
The Evidence for Visions of the Virgin Mary, Kevin McClure Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1985
The Thunder of Justice, Ted and Maureen Flynn, MAXCOL, Vancouver, 1993
The Wonder of Guadalupe, Francis Johnson, Augustine, Devon, 1981
Why Statues Weep, Editors Wendy M Grossman and Christopher C French, The Philosophy Press, London, 2010
The Gospel According to Woman, Karen Armstrong, Pan Books, London, 1987
Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh, Liam Úa Cadhain, Knock Shrine Society, Roscommon Herald, Boyle, Roscommon, Ireland, 2004