Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lourdes Miracles

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One of the standard opporating procedures I use in my apologetics on boards, is the use of Lourdes evidence for miracles. I think it's hard for atheists to get their minds around what that means. Lourdes is a town in France, and there is a major Catholic Shrine to Mary there. The town does not own or run the shrine, but it clealry benifits from the Shrine, or whatever that means. The purpose of the shrine is to mark the appearing to three frnech chrilden, one girl in particular (Bernadette Subarou) of the Virgin Mary who said to her "I am the immaculate conception." The thing is people are healed of diseases when they partake of the water and pray. Millions of peopel have been through the shrine. Estimages of healings run as high as 20 million, although documented cases are not nearly that high. Of all these the Catholic chruch has only taken 65 cases as official miracles, but there are 4000 "remarkable" cases that just barely missed because they could not meet all the strengent rules required by the committee.

The rules the committee has set have grown over the years. They are strict, they are oreitned around a scientific understanding of medicine, and they are callculted to promote a scientific outcome. For example, they don't take Lukemia cases unless they have been free of the symptoms for 10 years, that's because they know the remission rates and want to avoid the prospect of just getting someone in remission. They require complete medical documentation for the prognosis and diagosis. All x-raya snd results of other texts, and the full course of treatment must be known to the committee before they will even consider a case.

The atheist I was arguing with on CARM,and several others and different times, have demanded that I show a double blind experiment with control group and experimental group. They argue that unless I can show that the percentage of miracles is higher than the rate of natural unexplained cures then there's no way to say that something was a miracle. I say they don't understand the nature of medical research. First of all, it would nice sure, if we had an ideal double blind experiment with good controls. But we dont' have that nor can we if we are talking about Lourdes. There's no way Luourdes can do this since it has to be expost facto. The people have already had the illness, treatment failed completely, and sought and recieved healing from the shrine at Lourdes. It would be impossible to set up a control group to run an experiment that's already over before you know of the partcipants in it.

Even so, the evidence form Lourdes doesn't need to be proven in double blind experimcment to be effective evidence of a miracle. First we must understand what we are talking about. We are not talking not talking about proving a statistical average, nor are we field testing a drug. If we thought that God woreked automatically as a force of nature we would hve to seek an incidence rate, that would helpt have a control group. But God is a will, God has "his" own ideas about things, and one is suggesting that we can automatcially compell God to action by prayer. So it would be foolish to even think about a control group. Moreover, control group and double blind would be important if we thought the outcome could be affected by knowledge of the participants. But these participants of course know they have prayed adn sought healing at Lourdes so the whole concept is just idiotic. From whom would the double bilnd be hidden? In what way can the people effect their healings by knowing they prayed?

The whole concetp of a miralce is predicated upon the idea that there is 0 probalbity of this happening. Its' not that its something that is just very very rare, but could happen. It has to have a 0% probalbity. Medical science knows this for many diseases, and the Lourdes rules are dsigned to screen out cases that remitt or that don't fall within that 0% range. That's why they don't take Lukimea cases for 10 years. But the incidence rates and cure rates, death rates, remission rates, are well estabished and well known to most of medical scinece.

The point of investigating Lourdes miralces for the chruch is to give glory to Mary, not to establish a scientific law or a statitsitcal incidcnece rate on miralces. But the comparision of a 0% probalghity veres this did happen, the impossbile happened is enoguh to know a miracle happened. There will always be some epistemic gap between what we think has happened and what could have happened. One coudl stand before God in judgment and argue that it's not happening, how do I know this isn't a delustion. The first couple of million years in hell can be used to sort that one out. When a patient comes in with total black lung and prognosis gives him just weeks or days to live, and the next day after prayer his lungs are like knew, with no trace of the diesease, we know something happeened that was not suppossed to have happened. We don't need a control group of Minors with black lung and an experincmental group that we pray for to know that something amazing and beyond explianation has occurred.

One athiest arguing on CARM has stated that unless the cure rate for miracles is stiatistically higher than the rate of unexplained cures then we have to assume that it is a naturalistic phenomenon that we will someday come to understand. This is nothing more than sheer garbabe. It assumes that God is an automatic force and is bound to work x% of miracles in all cases of disease. God doenst' have to do anyting. God can't be pinned down to a statistically cure rate, that's why its' a miralce, it's contextually impossible.

form a memeber of the Lourdes commitee (quoted on Doxa):

Balzaretti with same members of Lourdes International Medical Committee (LIMC)

Italy is represented by three members; in addition to the undersigned, LIMC members include Prof. Fausto Santeusanio, Director of the Chair of Endocrinology at Perugia University, and Prof.Graziano Pretto, Director of the Otolaryngology Department of the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza Hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. Each complete medical file, accurately drawn up by the medical practitioner in charge of the competent Medical Service, after having been checked and accepted by the Bureau Médical, currently chaired by Dott. Patrick Theiller, is submitted to the LIMC, which meets in Paris or Lourdes once a year.

Just like a court of appeal, the LIMC confirma or invalidates the position taken by the Bureau Médical in the “first instance”, after having carefully examined and evaluated the various files and, should this be required, it can request the advice or opinion of highly qualified external experts. The LIMC is currently analysing two very interesting cases, which may lead to major developments. In order to take into account the acknowledgement of a recovery, the premises of the following two fundamental aspects (which however need to be carefully distinguished) need to exist: 1. The abnormal fact: the phenomenon of recovery itself, which is characterised by its being absolutely unexpected and unexplainable, compared to ordinary medical predictions and to scientific literature data, and which will be subject to an in-depth medical analysis; 2. The sign: which leads to the belief of a special intervention by God, by intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes; this intervention has to be acknowledged by the Church, based on the report of the cured person. But at this stage, we also need to point out: a) The definition of miracle: this is an extraordinary and exceptional event, which cannot be explained through today’s scientific knowledge; b) The features of a miracle: this is a sudden or exceptionally rapid event, with permanent effects and no relapses, which can be assessed through a scientific and interdisciplinary methodology involving biology, forensic medicine, theology, etc. c) The context in which the miracle occurs: historic age, documentation and iconography, taking place within catholic religion and not other religious beliefs and/or cultures, etc.; d) The authority proclaiming the miracle: after the favourable judgement passed by the CMIL (Comité Médical International de Lourdes), this is the ecclesiastic ordinary of the diocese of origin or another authoritative representative of the Church.

After 1977, following the proposal put forward by Mgr. Donze (who has recently died) to reword the rules laid down by Benedict XIV in the light of nowadays’ scientific and technological innovations, a 16 query scheme prepared by the LIMC was laid down; among other things, this introduced the need to rule out any psychopathic component, as well as any other subjective pathologic statea or manifestationa (which are therefore not verifiable), hence only taking into account the recovery acknowledgements relating to serious and provable affections, the only ones that could be deemed as “scientifically inexplicable”. And therefore, in this case it will be possible to close the medical report supporting a “certain and medically unexplainable” recovery, only when:

1) The diagnostics and authenticity of the disease has been preliminarily and perfectly assessed;

2) The prognosis provides for an impending or short-term fatal outcome;

3) The recovery is sudden, without convalesce, and absolutely complete and final;

4) The prescribed treatment cannot be deemed to have resulted in a recovery or in any case could have been propitiatory for the purposes of recovery itself. These criteria are still in use nowadays, in view of their highly logical, accurate and pertinent nature.

They undoubtedly and straightforwardly set out the standard features of an unexpected recovery and have actually made it impossible to put forward any objection to any form of lack of scientific exactitude on the part of the medical practitioners belonging to the Bureau and to the LIMC. The rigour of the Lourdes medical practitioners, whose scrupulousness throughout the years has been centering on the suddenness of recoveries, on the relative effectiveness of the therapies administered, on the objective evidence of the disease found, or on the shorter or longer length of the monitoring period (depending on the disease), has always been exemplary and appreciated by all the Diocesan Canonical Committees that have been called to express their opinion.

Compliance to such criteria has corroborated the seriousness and objectivity of the former Bureau des Constatations and, today, it continues to guide the Comité Médical International de Lourdes, whose conclusions have always represented an indispensable expert’s piece of evidence generating and motivating any further canonical judgements required to acknowledge the real Miracles amongst the thousands of recoveries ascribed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes


Anonymous said...

What's ironic is that the Atheist's naturalistic worldview should dissallow All miracles; so just ONE genuine, verifiable, example is all that is needed to blow their worldview to smithereens. Because it can't happen in a worldview where there are unyielding physical laws and in medicine we've got that pretty well mapped out.

J.L. Hinman said...

I know but they say anyting to deny the evidence. Once they even argued that the people werent' really sick because my evidence didn't say that they had been examined by a real doctor. Now why would an article about Lourdes say "O and btw, the doctor that examined them was a real doctor." Then the rules of Lourdes they have all this medical evidence. it's so absurd.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know why they rabidly cling to a worldview that selects only one demonstrably imperfect and limited criteria (science) as the means for their whole epistemology. What do they get from it? Perhaps its a very predictable world.

SingingOwl said...

What do they get from it? Interesting thought. I think a world with no mystery, no unexplained coincidences, no "miracles" is a very predicatable world, and perhaps some feel a need for such structure. We humans are so arrogant, aren't we? I prefer at bit of the unknow myself.

J.L. Hinman said...

yes I agree wtih you anon. What get's me is, I can accept the idea that we need good systematic documentation for things. Science is good, and we need sceintific proof for miracle claims. But we have it! Lourdes miracles are the best documented of any such claims in the world and the documentation is very good. They just will not have it. It cannot be so and they must reject it at any cost.

Anonymous said...

Are you not working from a false dichotomy? Science not having an obvious explanation for an event does not prove that supernatural forces are active. It may merely mean that we don't yet have a natural explanation for a few rare, idiosyncratic occurrences.

Their attribution to the intervention of a supreme being requires an additional element viz. a prior belief in the existence of that being. It also begs further questions such as why are such interventions so rare and arbitrary, when there is so much other human suffering?

Is even faith that needs to be propped up by miracles true faith?

J.L. Hinman said...

"Are you not working from a false dichotomy?"

>>>not any kind of dichotomy. You are lionizing skepticism. You assume belief is the pathology and skepticism is the noramative state, why should I assume that?

you can say that these events happen in proximity to prayer and that's why we are concerned with comparing them to other forms of sickness and healing.

"Science not having an obvious explanation for an event does not prove that supernatural forces are active."

>>>Yea of course not. I did NOT argue that it is proof. My arguments are always in terms of "rational warrant." There will always be a need for leap of faith. But a good probabalistic case can be made.

"It may merely mean that we don't yet have a natural explanation for a few rare, idiosyncratic occurrences."

>>>you are expressing faith in naturalism. That's ok, I think faith is imiportant. Faith keeps us going. I am will to tolerate other faiths. you can express hope in naturlism if you wish.


"Their attribution to the intervention of a supreme being requires an additional element viz. a prior belief in the existence of that being."

>>as you have faith in naturalism. But you wish to lionize your faith and make normative and to minimize my faith and make it marginal. This goes back to original comments.

"It also begs further questions such as why are such interventions so rare and arbitrary, when there is so much other human suffering?"

>>>Hate to be pedantic, but you use the phrase "beg the question" woronly. It doesn't mean we are begging to ask a question, but that one is arguinig in a cirlce. But never mind.

why are they rare? partly because faith is a prerequesiste and faith is a hard thing to have. also they are not as rare as all that. what's rare is capturing just the right conditions to get a really documentation of the mrialce. that doesn't happen often. Remember, the Catholics only have 65 offical miracles because they have a set of rules they drew up and the 4000 amazing cases that almost make it just didn't make it past all their rules. sot here are more miracles that they just dont' let in becuase the docs aren't there.

"Is even faith that needs to be propped up by miracles true faith?"

>>>MY faith doesn't need to be propped up by Luordes. But atheists at one point on message board were clamouring for empirical evidence so I went and found some, and its fun to watch them squirm, back peddle, lie, get angry say aything rather than admit here is a good argument.

Not that you are doing that. Not that i'm calling you an atheist.Not that there's anything wrong with being one.

Anonymous said...

Thie site might have a bit of credibility if you even took the trouble to spell correctly

J.L. Hinman said...

I did spell checkit. When you have dyslexia edition is a kind of waste of time you see? What good does it do to edit when you see backwards?

Anonymous said...

All those crutches and braces and wheelchairs, and yet, still not a single glass eye or toupee among them. And God still doesn't heal amputees.

J.L. Hinman said...

All those crutches and braces and wheelchairs, and yet, still not a single glass eye or toupee among them. And God still doesn't heal amputees.

all those explanations and answers and atheists still don't read the materials.

Anonymous said...

I do believe in God. I do believe in miracles. Science is necessary for our lives. But Science cannot exhaust the Reality. It cannot satisfy all our questions and problems. Human existence is a mystery. Lourdes is God's sign for his presence in the world. Medical care cannot replace God.
I hope that we can always discuss about miracles, endlessly...
Dr.Ivo da C.Souza

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that the skeptics, presented with a miracle, then change the rules and say, "Yes, but He doesn't heal lost limbs or replace glass eyes."

But, of course, were that to happen, then we would hear, "Yes, but He didn't raise the dead." The skeptic always raises the bar to prevent haven't to say, "I am wrong."

In fact, just ONE miracle of any sort proves those skeptical of miracles wrong. Their theory is broken with just one miracle, yet they act as if a single case that has gone unhealed will justify their contentions.

Why are they so stubborn?


If they admit they are wrong, then they must also admit that there is a living Christ who will judge the unrepentant of their sins.

The skeptic would rather wallow in his sin than have to admit wrong doing and face the need for repentance. And as long as such an attitude remains, they will turn their unhealed, blind eye toward any miracle whether it be one, 67, or thousands.

Or even one who did come back from the dead.

Kelly Thundercloud said...

What really gets me about this Lourdes stuff is that after having to go through that rediculous process to "prove" a miracle, all that's resulting is lack of faith. But what did God intend for Lourdes to be? He intended it to be a place where people can gain faith! Wow, that's really going over well...(insert rolling eyes icon here). We are defeating the purpose of Lourdes. If God needs to be proven, then there's no point in even talking about a God. He wants us to have FAITH in him. Proving him does not equal faith.

This is an exceptional post. I couldn't agree more with everything you said.

Oh yeah and another thing...Why must they have to have all these strict criteria to make a miracle official when heck, shouldn't something as simple as reading about Lourdes, becoming inspired and returning to the faith be a miracle? We've lost the true meaning of the term "miracle". The human body itself is a miracle and science can certainly prove that! Just look at how complicated it is. Miracles don't have to be "unexplained". They are awesome happenings without an obvious explanation...NOT something that meets criteria.

I say HAVE FAITH and don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you that a miracle can only happen according to this law and that law. REDICULOUS! Look to your heart. You'll find many miracles there.

Thank you!

Metacrock said...

I appreciate your comments Kelly but I disagree. I don't think that process has cost anyone faith. it think it builds faith becuase it has produced scientific evidence of miracles.