October 17, 2010


Miracles have a measure (ANDY RIGA, 10/16/10, The Montreal Gazette)

The Vatican calls on multiple outside medical experts to go over the files of people who have experienced supposed miracles.

In 1987, hematologist Jacalyn Duffin, now a medical historian at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., was hired to review the files of a woman who suffered from acute leukemia. She wasn't told anything about the case and assumed the review was related to a lawsuit.

It was only after Duffin submitted her report that she learned the Vatican had commissioned her study to verify the story of an alleged miracle attributed to Marguerite d'Youville. Founder of the Grey Nuns, d'Youville was recognized as a saint -the first born in Canada -in 1990.

"What the church was looking for from me was not to declare that it was a miracle, but to give a scientific explanation, and I didn't have a scientific explanation for why she was still alive," Duffin said. "If I could have provided a scientific explanation, then they would have moved on and looked for a different case."

Duffin went on to write a book, Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World, in which she reviewed 1,400 miracles used in canonizations from 1588 to 1999. She said she was surprised to find the church works hard to use "rigorous medical evidence" in studying apparent miracles.

"I am an atheist and I believe in miracles," Duffin said. "It all rests on how you define a miracle. The definition I have come to after studying all those miracles in the Vatican archives is that there are things that happen that we can't explain."

Some will "pretend that it didn't happen or that the people are lying," she added. "But I refuse to believe that, because the documentation is just so solid and the people are far too sincere and the evidence is really, really impressive.

"The word miracle is derived from (the Latin word) miro -to wonder. I'm left wondering, so I'm left with a miracle."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2010 6:22 AM
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