If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
Miracles – undermined and refuted by
A miracle is a sign from God. A miracle is what is not naturally possible. It is a supernatural occurrence. It is paranormal.
If the paranormal is a reality and parapsychology is a true science then it is clear that we have no reason to regard any miracle as a sign from God and even less that it’s a sign that any particular faith is true. To say something is supernatural is to say we don't understand the source or how it can create supernatural effects. We therefore do not even know if it is supernatural! It could be some natural cause we have no inkling of. So if something other than God could be the explanation then we have no reason to believe in miracles.
Lisa J Schwebel wrote Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas to hopefully start the Catholic Church looking at parapsychology when it is thinking about if a miracle is real or from God. That the Church ignores parapsychology shows that its conclusions about apparitions and miracles are defective. It has got that bad that the only theologian who wanted this to change was Karl Rahner (page 16). He also suggested that the Church must reappraise many of the visions and healings it recognised as authentic for in the light of modern knowledge a different conclusion could be drawn about many of them.
The book says that the Catholic Church believes in the existence of psi, telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis but holds that they are morally neutral (page 27). This is false for psi was what the fortune tellers condemned in the Bible were trying to do. The Church must hold that they are gifts from Satan, regardless of how comforting and helpful these gifts are. It is certainly correct to say that more people get comfort from psychic beliefs than do from the hierarchy of the Church and its doctrines. The former is what gets the most devotion and the Church is ignored when it condemns things like reiki and trying to develop mediumship. Its good that the book points out that the Church does not consider healings and miracles and visions to necessarily mean that you are holy if you experience them. They happen to bad people too (page 28). That is why the Church focuses on the virtue of a person who is being considered for canonisation and not on the reported miracles.
The book says that visions caused by telepathy or psi alone should still be considered to be God’s work if they make the recipients holy. If they don’t they are your own work or the work of some other influence. Your own powers may be causing them but since God created those powers the visions should be considered to be his work if they help you serve him better in your neighbour. The trouble with this view is it assumes God exists and is the God of Christianity. If God gives you psi like all the other gifts he gives you it can lead you astray and you can use it to mislead yourself and fool yourself. Most visions take place outside a Catholic context and it is usually people who have once-off spiritualist experiences. There is just no way to get light from visions about what is true or false in religious dogma. That would mean the Catholic Church would have no right to use a vision or message to back up its doctrinal ideas.
The book is honest enough to explain that the predictions of the vision of the Virgin Mary at LaSalette could have been figured out from what was already happening in the locality and so their fulfilment was no surprise (page 37). Not all present in Fatima where Mary supposedly appeared saw the sun spinning and witness reports are inconsistent and no authentic photograph exists (page 39). Visionaries who produced a life of Christ from their visions all contradicted one another. The Venerable Mary of Agreda, St Bridget of Sweden, Anne Catherine Emmerich all disagreed on how long after Jesus’ death Mary died (page 19) and made lots of false prophecies. Blessed Anna Maria Taigi’s false prophecies being among the most notorious (page 19). That people who make false prophecies are considered holy and authoritative is blasphemous in the light of Deuteronomy 18 that says that prophets that make false predictions are to be slain for they are fake saints. The Bible does not have any sympathy for people who say they were sincere but erred. The Bible says that if you make a false prophecy you are an anti-God and should not be allowed to live.
The book points out that St Margaret Mary’s visions of the Sacred Heart contain errors such as the nun being told by Jesus to tell her sister nuns that she was chosen by God to do penance in their place (page 123).
The book is disturbed by the fact that the Queen of Peace appearing at Medjugorje took the Croatian side in the war in Yugoslavia and sees this as something that cannot be believed (page 128). The National Catholic Reporter reported this warmongering aspect to the so-called Queen of Peace.
The book tells us that at LaSalette, Lourdes, Fatima the initial apparitions was more like some kind of luminous gas that took human shape (page 46). At LaSalette, the children decided that the apparition was a female only because of the shape of her face and hands. This suggests to me the detailed tales they soon came up with about the apparition about how they saw her jewellery were invented after the apparition. It suggests that psi causes the initial vision and gradually improves so that what you see gradually looks more real.
The book agrees with Karl Rahner that apparitions telling secrets that are not to be revealed until after the fulfilment such as what happened with Lucia and the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima does not fit the way God would work (page 105). It is not honest. What would you think of a fortuneteller that made you tell what happened to you lately and then claimed that they knew all about it before you said? Lucia getting a message to destroy communism is ridiculous when she only revealed it after communism had spread (page 106). Why didn’t God want her to reveal it earlier when it might have done some good? Against the observation of apparition rule maker Pope Benedict XIV that excessive penance weaken the facilities (page 115), the Fatima Virgin had the three children doing severe penance which reduces the likelihood of the visions being real for they could have been hallucinations. So the Fatima lady was against the rules of the Church despite advocating obedience to the Church. But the Church was right so the lady was not from God.
The Fatima visionary Francisco was tormented constantly until death by the fear and terror of hellfire that he had seen in the visions (page 113). He had no peace and this to me indicates the apparitions were evil. It is foolish to say this fear made him holier – what is holy about doing good because of terror? Francisco‘s holiness was meant as an example to others so is it really good to want to inspire others to have the same terrors as yourself? He agonised over tiny sins like playing jokes (page 115). Lucia encouraged all this for she even asked Jacinta to take milk on her deathbed though she hated milk just as a penance for sinners.
Sister Briege McKenna a popular Catholic mystic says that the view that you have to please Jesus by saying what you think he needs to hear is wrong. She rejects the view that parents with a dying child should ask Jesus to take the child for it is his will for Jesus understands that it would be unnatural (page 151). This conflicts with the gospels where Jesus tells us that sincere prayer is always answered but not necessarily in the way you expect for God knows what is best. Christians all pray “Thy will be done,” as Jesus commanded in the Lord’s Prayer so it follows that anybody that can’t mean it is wilfully fighting the will and grace of God who never asks the impossible.
Briege knows that the gospel Jesus commanded a lot of unnatural stuff. He forbade sexual desire outside of marriage and ordered that if your persecutor wants you to carry his pack one mile you should go an extra mile. Her ministry is primarily a prayer ministry. Jesus appears to her to give it an impetus. He must have told her to say what she said. In any case, he didn’t correct her so he must approve. The Jesus that appears to her must be Satan in disguise.
The alleged healing of Delizia Cirolli in which her bone cancer vanished it was four months after her visit to Lourdes that it was first found that she was better (page 141). So how do we know that this gradual cure was really a miracle and had to do with Lourdes? Real miracles will be instant.
Overall the errors spoken by visions indicate that if a natural explanation is out of the question, then they are produced by psi. The human mind would be able to fool with realistic visions and messages just like it is so good at slipping into realistic fantasy. Fantasy can take over and seem to have a mind of its own. That is proof. The evidence for psi is a million times better in quality and especially in quantity than evidence that an apparition of Mary is actually caused by the real Virgin Mary.
And that is not a compliment to psi evidence!
Further Reading ~
Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1980
Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas, Lisa J Schwebel, Paulist Press, New York, 2004
A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhof, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritas, Dublin, 1995
Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988
Enchiridion Symbolorum Et Definitionum, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Miracles, Rev Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
Lourdes, Antonio Bernardo, A. Doucet Publications, Lourdes, 1987
Medjugorje, David Baldwin, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2002
Miraculous Divine Healing, Connie W Adams, Guardian of Truth Publications, KY, undated
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
Raised From the Dead, Father Albert J Hebert SM, TAN, Illinois 1986
Science and the Paranormal, Edited by George O Abell and Barry Singer, Junction Books, London, 1981
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, Headline, London, 1997
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
The Hidden Power, Brian Inglis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1986
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Stigmata and Modern Science, Rev Charles Carty, TAN, Illinois, 1974
Twenty Questions About Medjugorje, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. Pangaeus Press, Dallas, 1999
Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, Freeman, New York, 1997