Saturday, December 19, 2009

mirabile dictu

Canto: So is Mary Mackillop deserving of sainthood?
Jacinta: She's deserving of the highest recognition, I'm sure. I think we're both agreed on the sainthood business. It's tainted by the official chase for nonexistent miracles.
Canto: I'm not sure if I would use the word tainted. Spiced up is better. It does provide some fun after all. Miracles, funny gestures, glittering outfits, secret societies, sex and scandal - the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church has something for everyone...
Jacinta: And then there are those on the coal-face, honestly trying to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged, leaving the world a slightly better place.
Canto: You're right, Mary M left a finer legacy than Jesus himself. What did he ever do for kids' education?
Jacinta: The question is whether her becoming a saint will highlight her real achievements or obscure them.
Canto: Very wise, Jass. So tell us more about these essential miracles.
Jacinta: Well, Mary was beatified in 95. That's after she got her 'heroic virtue' gong in 1992. Apparently the beatification miracle took place in 1961 - a woman was dying, someone prayed over her in the name of Mary M, who, being in heaven, got on the local line to Fred, and the woman was still alive and well in 1995, mirabile dictu, when Mary M became Blessed. Don't know if she's still kicking today.
Canto: Right, so we need to know what the woman was dying of, we want medical records, test records and so forth.
Jacinta: Well apparently they get their miracles more or less exclusively from the medical field these days....
Canto: The safest option, people get sick a lot, and if they don't die, they get better. I mean, this happens to millions of people a year, and a substantial fraction of these recoveries aren't easily explicable medically.
Jacinta: Very wise, Can. Apparently this 1961 woman was dying of leukemia, but if you think it's going to be easy to find her medical records, to check whether it really was leukemia, or to read the reports of the [presumably Catholic] doctors assigned to determine the miraculosity of her cure, then think again. We're talking about the Catholic church here, hardly the most open organisation on the planet.
Canto: Yes and of course the media are treating all this with the usual supine complacency - no questioning of these claims, not even a trace of irony, nothing more than a reporting of them, as if miracles are simply matters of fact.
Jacinta: Yes, and not without a certain jingoist fervour - our Mary to become a saint, fancy that! And I notice in this Melbourne article that they're claiming her as purely Victorian, though she did far more of her educational work in South Australia.
Canto: Now don't be jingoistic, Jass. But the best thing about that article, in which some nuns try to claim that Mary Mackillop had a hand in the survival of the recently unconjoined twins Trishna and Krishna, is the scathing critical response to this sort of claptrap.
Jacinta: Yes, the mainstream media might need to get with the program, hear what educated Australians are saying, or risk being sidelined as irrelevant. Anyway, I doubt if I'll have much luck tracing any details of this first miracle - can't even find out what the woman's names was - but the second miracle is reported on in the Sunday Mail somewhere [I can't find the link now], en passant of course, a woman who recovered from inoperable cancer in 1995. No names, no details. I suspect this is partly because the newspapers are embarrassed to spend too much time on something as questionable as a miracle, preferring to focus on the 'honour' of our Mary being granted sainthood.
Canto: Not granted, Jass, remember. Here sainthood has been discovered at last. But I think also its probably about the active suppression of names and details by the Catholic investigating committee. They would clearly be actively opposed to anybody independently investigating their investigation.
Jacinta: But again, I noted the scorn and scepticism directed at the Catholics in the comments. All very healthy, methinks. The Catholics will have their saint, and everyone else will have their laugh.
Canto: Okay, that's enough fun with Mary, unless we uncover more dirt on these miracles.
Jacinta: Yes, it's time to get serious again.

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