THE “MIRACLE” OF INCORRUPTIBILITY
The Roman Church says that the corpses of some of its saints are incorruptible - flawlessly preserved even for centuries. That is a deliberate lie because the incorruptibles are simply bodies that decay very very slowly
Blessed Jacinta Marto - visionary of Fatima photographed 1951
St Margaret of Cortona - a mummified body
St Rita of Cascia - another mummified body
Saint Zita - is
really a mummified body rather than an incorruptible
Saint Zita - is really a mummified body rather than an incorruptible
Father Ilie Lacatusu died 1983, Romanian Orthodox, his grave was opened 15 years after his death and he was found to be preserved and have the smell of chrism
Saint Maria Maddelina de Pazzi
Saint Virginia Centurione
St Teresa Margaret
Hand of St. Alexander of Svir the Righteous who died in 1533 is not recognised as a saint by the Roman Church but only by some of the Orthodox. The hand is in better condition than any hand of a Catholic saint! Nevertheless its not as fresh as the day he died so its no miracle!
A miracle is a supernatural event. It like God doing magic. Religionists who are on the quest to experience miracles open themselves wide to deception. St John of the Cross had plenty to say about that. Also, they evidently think their religion is so ridiculous that they need to see miracle or a sign from God before they can manage to believe.
The Catholic Church reports the miracle of incorruptibility. This is when a picture or religious item and most often the body of a holy person should have decayed away and didn’t. This seems to be a testable and permanent miracle. Or is it?
The Church says that the miracle is intended by God to show his approval for the example and teaching of the incorrupt person. A person can do this in an amazing way and not be a saint. The miracle then is thought to show approval not so much for the person but for their orthodoxy. God is really saying, "I preserve your body as a sign that your teaching about me was correct."
The desperation of some Catholics to see miracles where there is only mummifications is disconcerting. Even a devout Catholic psychologist would have to admit they suffer from a form of religious delusion and need help.
Hambo Lama Itigelov was a Buddhist monk who died in 1927. He was
exhumed in 2002 and found to be mummified. The preservation of the
body was found to have been down to bromide salts and salt.
Nevertheless he is considered to be supernaturally incorrupt.
Certain Catholic saints and blessed are alleged to have been miraculously preserved after death for years.
The best book, in a sense for its not very scientific, on the subject is Joan Carroll Cruz’s book, The Incorruptibles. The book is credulous for it treats cases that can no longer be examined as authentic and makes errors. However, she does tell us that some places and circumstances that should not mummify corpses and preserve them actually do it despite all the odds (page 33). Nature has strange ways at times. Yet she – a layperson not an expert - says the saints’ preservation is miraculous for they don’t get hard and dry and stiff like natural mummies. Many of the corpses have a nice smell indicating that some kind of embalming fluid was used. St Philip Neri and St Charles Borromeo were found to have been embalmed (page 87, Looking for a Miracle). Autopsies have never been done to determine whether the likes of St Bernadette were embalmed. Many of the bodies get black and hard and some parts of them rot.
The alleged miracle of incorruptibility is an affront to God for it attributes half-miracles to him. Sometimes God has to be even helped - really? Thought he was almighty!
The incorrupt body of St Angela Merici had to be treated for preservation in 1930.
Cruz forgets that the bodies of saints were often treated with preservatives as soon as the saint died so that the body would be able to be kept for longer for public viewing before burial. Another reason why devotees wanted saint’s bodies to last longer was so that relics such as the heart and so on could be taken.
The body of St Zita (probably born 1212 - 27th April 1272) is
preserved. She was born in Italy. When she was about 12, she got
employment as a servant in the Fatinelli household. Her employers and
the other servants hated her for her hard work and kindness. They
constantly abused and maltreated her and gave her too much work to do.
She refused to stand up for herself and assert her rights. In time,
she was loved by the family. The pope canonised her in 1696.
No doubt her refusal to respect herself and to let others trample over her
made her appealing to the Church which wanted to make an example of her.
No doubt her refusal to respect herself and to let others trample over her made her appealing to the Church which wanted to make an example of her.
XXIII got treated with formalin and was in an airtight coffin that was made
of lead, zinc or both which help delay decomposition. That was why he was well preserved when he
was taken out of his tomb in March 2001 despite being dead for 37 years. The
The Miraculous Medal visionary, St Catherine Laboure, has been considered to be among the incorruptibles and her body is still on display today. Some Catholic sources say that St Catherine Laboure was embalmed. I once saw a book called Madonnas of Europe that made this claim. Embalming could have been done and forgotten about in a lot of cases. In Catherine’s case, the hands completely rotted away and had to be replaced by wax hands indicating that her preservation is no miracle and she probably was embalmed. If you look at the photos, which have not been retouched, of the corpse of Catherine Laboure in the book, St Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal you will see she had a shrunken face and was very old looking. Yet the picture of her corpse has fresh full features with eyes open and excellent skin and she looks like a woman of 35. Either the body is a wax figure put there by the crafty Catholic Church or her body has disintegrated a bit and has had to be repaired with wax.
In 1961 in
In 1782, the body of Catherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII, was found in an amazing state of preservation at Sudeley Castle for someone that had been 250 years dead. The skin on her arm was found to be as fresh and white as she was in life. Her coffin had been found by a man called John Locust who gave this testimony. He took some locks of her hair. One of her arms was white and moist. The body was "entire and uncorrupted" (page 338, Bernadette of Lourdes by Therese Taylor). He buried her again. In 1817 nothing but a skeleton remained. Source wikipedia.
Evil Mary Tudor was found intact and uncorrupted during Victorian times (page 339, Bernadette of Lourdes by Therese Taylor).
Phenomena of Mysticism by Father Herbert Thurston page 254 relates an account
of an incorrupt body being found in a grave that was opened in a churchyard
that hadn’t been used in living memory.
The story was about a girl found incorrupt in
Joe Nickell in The Jesus Relics states that some of the bodies believed to be miraculously incorrupt were investigated and it was found that they had been embalmed (page 50). He states how the body of St Charles Borromeo who died in 1584 was embalmed and was never put in the ground. Instead, the Church carefully made sure it was protected from humidity and air to preserve it.
The body of St Philip Neri was also embalmed though the Church let people think it was miraculous. The miraculous perfume emanating from this body could be perfumed preservatives (page 51).
A body can be put into a damp grave and it can either decompose or start to mummify in a leatherly fashion (page 52).
Because the Catholic Church knows that the evil Cardinal Shuster who was once Archbishop of Milan and was a support of Mussolini and his brand of fascism and who died in 1954 was found incorrupt in the grave after 31 years, and Buddhist Monks and yogis have also escaped decay for no known reason it is reluctant to see incorruptibility as a sign from God. It is lay Catholic fanatics and some priests who make a fuss about incorruptibility being a sign from God. The X Factor Issue 26 page 718 (Marshall Cavendish, 1997) contains photos of people who were preserved for a long time after death. It displays the photograph of a child called Rosalina Lombardo which was taken seventy years after her burial in 1920 and she is perfectly preserved. The child never had any prospects of being a saint. The eyes and the eyelids are perfectly preserved which is unusual though there is no doubt that the child was embalmed. Embalming shouldn’t normally enable the whole body to stay preserved. But the method was a mystery until recently and the doctor who did the embalming didn’t leave any explanation behind him. The magazine also reminds us that there is any number of ordinary people who were not religious like saints whose bodies were untouched by decay (page 717).
This is how Rosalia looked in 1995. Zinc salts have been determined to have been the chief cause of her remarkable preservation. However the result was that the body became so rigid that it could stand up by itself. If the fact that Doctor Salafia embalmed her had been kept secret she might have ended up being paraded by Catholics as a miracle. Her preservation was unexplained until recently and Catholics like to see miracles where something is not explained. And the preservation was only explained when the doctor's notes surfaced which outlined how he performed the preservation. Her rigidity reminds us of the petrified corpse of Bernadette of Lourdes.
Evil Catholic saint, Joseph Calasanctius, who covered up clerical child abuse in the Piarist order, was rewarded with canonisation by Pope Clement XIII in 1767. He was declared in 1948 by Pope Pius XII to be "Universal Patron of all Christian schools in the world." His heart and tongue are kept in Rome by the Piarist order and are incorrupt. Canonisations are believed to be infallible so the Catholic God clearly approves then of a man who was worse than any modern covering up bishop in his callousness towards the victims of abuse. He protected Fr Cherubini despite documenting the priest's activities with children. And he did this to safeguard the reputation of the Piarists who masqueraded as altruists in the education of young boys.
About 165, years after his beheading, the exhumed head of King Charles I was examined by Sir Henry Halford, the Royal Surgeon who made the following record, "
The complexion of the skin was dark and discolored. The forehead and temples had lost little or nothing of their muscular substance; the cartilage of the nose was gone; but the left eye, in the first moment of exposure, was open and full, though it vanished almost immediately: and the pointed beard, so characteristic of this period of the reign of King Charles, was perfect. [The head] was quite wet, and gave a greenish-red tinge to paper and to linen which touched it. The back part of the scalp . . . had a remarkably fresh appearance. The hair was thick . . . and in appearance nearly black".
In China, mummies with European features up to 4000 years old were found in the Tarim Basin desert thirty years ago. They are so well preserved and preserved much better than many incorrupt Catholic saints who are mere centuries old that they look as if they are recently dead. Their clothes were remarkably preserved as well. One mummy had an intact goose feather in her hat.
The best ever preserved corpse is that of Xin Zhui which was found in China in 1971. Her death is dated to 178–145 BC. She seems to have been about 50. An autopsy found that she seemed to be only a short time dead. They found her organs were intact. Her blood was still red in her veins. Nobody knows for sure what was responsible for such a remarkable preservation. Her airtight coffin is thought to have contributed to it. A liquid in the coffin in a shade of red may explain the mystery but nobody knows what it is. The bodies of her neighbours Sui Xiaoyuan and Ling Huiping are similarly well preserved. Xin's body is kept in the Hunan Provincial Museum. She proves that bodies can be inexplicably preserved without accounting for it with the supernatural.
known case of a saint’s body remaining without decay long after her or his
death is that of St Bernadette of
supposedly saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at
Bernadette when she was Sister Marie-Bernard wrote gossipy and cheeky letters to her family (pages 318 and 319, Bernadette of Lourdes by Therese Taylor). Some saint! Even her confessor said there was nothing extraordinary about her holiness.
Bernadette died Wednesday 16 April 1879 not long after 3 pm in the Convent of St Gildard, Nevers, France.
More than two hours after her death the body was found to be strangely supple and the sisters dressed her in the habit of a nun.
Her funeral took place on April 19 and it is said the body was still not decomposing. On 22 May 1879, she was buried in a special crypt in the chapel.
Thirty years later, her coffin was taken out of the vault in which she had been entombed. The coffin was taken to a room and the body was removed. Here’s what happened according to the doctors speaking under oath.
"The coffin was opened in the presence of the Bishop of Nevers, the mayor of the town, his principal deputy, several canons and ourselves. We noticed no smell. The body was clothed in the habit of Bernadette's order. The habit was damp. Only the face, hands and forearms were uncovered."
"The head was tilted to the left. The face was dull white. The skin clung to the muscles and the muscles adhered to the bones. The eye sockets were covered by the eyelids. The brows were flat on the skin and stuck to the arches above the eyes. The lashes of the right eyelid were stuck to the skin. The nose was dilated and shrunken. The mouth was open slightly and it could be seen that the teeth were still in place. The hands, which were crossed on her breast, were perfectly preserved, as were the nails. The hands still held a rusting rosary. The veins on the forearms stood out."
"Like the hands, the feet were wizened and the toenails were still intact (one of them was torn off when the corpse was washed). When the habits had been removed and the veil lifted from the head, the whole of the shrivelled body could be seen, rigid and taut in every limb with skin like parchment. It was found that the hair, which had been cut short, was stuck to the head and still attached to the skull, that the ears were in a state of perfect preservation, that the left side of the body was slightly higher than the right from the hip up. The stomach had caved in and was taut like the rest of the body. It sounded like cardboard when struck. The left knee was not as large as the right. The ribs protruded as did the muscles in the limbs."
"So rigid was the body that it could be easily rolled over and back for washing. The lower parts of the body had turned slightly black. This seems to have been the result of the carbon of which quite large quantities were found in the coffin."
“In witness of which we have duly drawn up this present statement in which all is truthfully recorded.”
Nevers, September 22, 1909, Drs. Ch. David, A. Jourdan.
Its odd that Bernadette's head rested to the left hand side. Corpses do not move and she should have went rigid soon after death. Did the Church switch her body with a fresher one that had been treated and preserved?
Extraordinary as this is, the shrinking of the nose, hands, feet, stomach, the sticking of the eyelashes, and above all the rigidity of the body show that there had to be some natural cause. If it was supernatural it wasn’t the work of God. Curiously, the nuns who witnessed this noticed that her arms in the coffin had moved from when she was buried and how the forearms came to be bare when before they were covered in the sleeves of a habit has never been explained. Some suspicious people would think tampering took place and the body had been secretly treated to preserve it. What all the carbon was doing there – or was it really carbon? – is another question.
Joe Nickell observes that the emaciated state of Bernadette's corpse indicates that she was probably in the early stages of mummification (page 52, The Jesus Relics). No tests for embalming fluid have been been performed.
A witness who had been there on that day 22 September 1909 wrote that Bernadette was completely intact. "There was no odour and it looked almost mummified. It was covered with damp patches and a significant amount of salts which seemed to be calcific salts. The corpse is complete. The skin has vanished in some areas. But most of the corpse has skin and some veins can be seen," (Le Corps de Sainte Bernadette, Nevers, 1991) and see also page 337, Bernadette of Lourdes by Therese Taylor).
The body had gained a lot of blackness in the hours in which it was exposed to the air. This suggests that the airtightness of the tomb had a role to play in protecting the body.
The Church finds
it strange that the decay of the body didn’t take place when the decay of the
rosary held by the corpse did especially when the habit it was buried in was
damp. But as we have seen, bodies in damp graves can mummify.
But as we have seen, bodies in damp graves can mummify.
The 1919 report which followed another exhumation is more interesting.
"When the coffin was opened the body appeared to be absolutely intact and odourless."
Doctor Talon reported,: "There was no smell of putrefaction and none of those present experienced any discomfort. The body is practically mummified, covered with patches of mildew and quite a notable layer of salts, which appear to be calcium salts. The skeleton is complete, and it was possible to carry the body to a table without any trouble. The skin has disappeared in some places, but it is still present on most parts of the body. Some of the veins are still visible."
In the ten years since the last exhumation, Bernadette’s body had obviously deteriorated. And we must remember that mummification is not a sign of miraculous activity. It is a sign of slowed down decay. A mummified body is a body that has decayed well just like one might say that the well preserved Joan Collins has aged well!
Doctor Comte's report :
"At the request of the Bishop of Nevers I detached and removed the rear section of the fifth and sixth right ribs as relics; I noted that there was a resistant, hard mass in the thorax, which was the liver covered by the diaphragm. I also took a piece of the diaphragm and the liver beneath it as relics, and can affirm that this organ was in a remarkable state of preservation. I also removed the two patella bones to which the skin clung and which were covered with more clinging calcium matter. Finally, I removed the muscle fragments right and left from the outsides of the thighs. These muscles were also in a very good state of preservation and did not seem to have putrefied at all."
"From this examination I conclude that the body of the Venerable Bernadette is intact, the skeleton is complete, the muscles have atrophied, but are well preserved; only the skin, which has shrivelled, seems to have suffered from the effects of the damp in the coffin. It has taken on a grayish tinge and is covered with patches of mildew and quite a large number of crystals and calcium salts, but the body does not seem to have putrefied, nor has any decomposition of the cadaver set in, although this would be expected and normal after such a long period in a vault hollowed out of the earth."
Nevers, April 3, 1919, Dr. Comte
This doesn’t sound like a miracle but more like a mummified skeleton! We must remember that when Bernadette was first buried she was buried in a lead coffin. Like John XXIII, this would have helped to preserve the body. Since the body was preserved for so long naturally, it hardened and hardened items last longer and the hardening itself helps to preserve the body. In 1909, the body was buried in a new lead coffin lined with white silk.
Bernadette declared revulsion for all worldly things when she became a nun taking vows of poverty. Would she agree with being buried like somebody special in a lead coffin? Or getting special treatment?
In 1925 the third and last exhumation of the body took place. The doctor said he wished to open the chest to the neck to take some of her ribs as relics and he wanted to remove the heart. He didn't remove the heart because "of the inclination of the trunk to the left arm it would have been hard to remove the heart without making very large and destructive incisions." Clearly, the arm had become part of the trunk. She was immovable.
The Church does not claim that the preservation of the corpse is a miracle. It says it is odd that the body survived so well considering Bernadette was virtually rotting alive.
Also, the Church said the dampness of the habit and the rusted rosary should have meant that the body would decompose. But we read that there were patches of damp on the habit. It was not that wet. Was the dampness just new?
The significant quantity of carbon found on the body in 1909 is telling. The carbon was used to preserve the body as it had an antiseptic effect. The layer of calcareous salts on the body was never analysed or explained.
The Church apologists say that these techniques would have partly helped preserve the body but the excellent preservation still has to be explained. It says that if Bernadette was embalmed she would have been immersed in chemicals including aluminium sulphate for three days at least (page 339, Bernadette of Lourdes, Therese Taylor).
Also the carbon only preserves short-term (page 339, Bernadette of Lourdes, Therese Taylor).
The Church says that Bernadette was displayed from her death on Wednesday to her funeral on Saturday. The embalming would have needed to have been started hours after she died. But as she was displayed all that time there was no chance to do it.
There was certainly time after the funeral to do it. Sceptics have said that the Church had something done to the body to preserve it in the several days between the funeral and the internment. The Church replies that the only reason the body was not buried as it had to have a crypt made for her in the chapel. Therese Taylor relays her view that according to science it was PROBABLY too late then to embalm (page 339, Bernadette of Lourdes). But we know of cases where untreated bodies did not corrupt and turned into mummies. Surely then a body given even a seemingly belated treatment with embalming fluids would have a better chance of surviving?
We must consider the following: the preservation of Bernadette is reasonable. Its not good. Its not wonderful. Its not excellent. Perhaps the embalming was started too late but did the best job it could?
The body of
St Bernadette has been on display in its glass case in Nevers since August 3,
1925. The face of Bernadette that
looks so natural is in fact a wax mask created by Pierre Imans in
The Church always says a light mask of wax was made for the face and hands. That is an understatement. The experts had to look at a number of photographs of Bernadette to make the facemask (page 340, Bernadette of Lourdes, Therese Taylor). If she only needed a light covering that would have been unnecessary. And the Church lies that the only reason the mask was put on was because they wanted to hide the darkened skin and the sunken eyes and the damaged nose. There was more than that to hide!
If there wasn't much to hide then experts and the expensive Pierre Imans was not required.
The following photo shows how Bernadette's hands are covered in heaps of wax. The hands are just too smooth. The lips have a waxen or painted appearance. The eyebrows look lighter than they did when Bernadette died.
The picture below is of Bernadette shortly after her death
When I was a
Catholic, the phenomenon of incorruptibility was one of the bedrocks of my
faith. Had I had the internet then to
research, it would have been very different.
I would have been less impressed by the Church. The phenomenon is unusual but that isn’t
enough to make it a miracle or a sign from God. The Catholics use
it as a sign that somebody is a saint or that God is recommending that
person's Catholic faith and no other faith. This is effrontery.
And arrogant bias as well. To them, when a Catholic is the subject of
this preservation it is a miracle. When a non-religious person or a
Protestant is the subject, it is not a miracle but a phenomenon.
The Catholics use it as a sign that somebody is a saint or that God is recommending that person's Catholic faith and no other faith. This is effrontery. And arrogant bias as well. To them, when a Catholic is the subject of this preservation it is a miracle. When a non-religious person or a Protestant is the subject, it is not a miracle but a phenomenon.
One last thought: There is no such thing as a corpse that remains the same way for decades, that keeps looking like it just died! All of the bodies are unpleasant to look at in their natural state. None of them are flexible.
God, PJ McGrath,
Bernadette of Lourdes, Rev CC Martindale, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1970
Bernadette of Lourdes, Her Life, Death and Visions, Therese Taylor, Continuum, London, 2008
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Miracles in Dispute,
Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM,
Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society,
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Healing, Martin Daulby and Caroline Mathison, Geddes & Grosset, New
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Appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Lourdes, JB Estrade,
Art & Book Company
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Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline,
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Guadalupe, Francis Johnson, Augustine,
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Reference this article:
Dunning, Brian. "The Incorruptibles." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 4
Nov 2008. Web. 29 Nov 2010. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4126>
Saints Preserve Us!
BIBLE QUOTATIONS FROM:
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