AP

Miracle under scrutiny in John Paul beatification

Share
Related Topics

The Vatican this week marks the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death amid some doubts that the miracle needed for his saint-making cause will stand up to scrutiny and questions about his record combatting pedophile priests.

The inexplicable cure of a young French nun from Parkinson's disease had initially seemed like the perfect case for a miracle as the Vatican fast-tracked John Paul's beatification. The nun, who suffered from the same disease that ravaged John Paul for years, had prayed to him for relief and one morning two months after John Paul died, woke up completely, inexplicably cured.

But from the beginning, Simon-Pierre's mysterious cure seemed difficult for the Vatican to certify as a miracle. According to the Vatican's own rules, the medically inexplicable cure must be instantaneous, complete, and lasting.

While the nun's cure was by all indications instantaneous and complete, some would argue the world will have to wait her entire lifetime to determine whether it was lasting, in case the symptoms return.

New questions were raised in recent weeks, after a Polish newspaper reported that doubts had been cast about whether Simon-Pierre had Parkinson's to begin with. The Rzeczpospolita daily, one of Poland's most respected and widely read newspapers, suggested that Simon-Pierre instead may have suffered from another neurological disease which has smilier symptoms as Parkinson's but which can be cured.

Without citing sources, it said the Vatican had called in new experts to examine the case.

Responding to the report, the emeritus head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, suggested that what may have happened was that a doctor, who is asked in a preliminary phase by the Congregation to advise whether it's worth sending the case onto the fuller Vatican-appointed medical board, may have expressed some doubts.

"It could be that one of the two medical consultants perhaps had some doubts," he told reporters last week. "And this, unfortunately, leaked out. But we cannot confuse one thing with another.

"So it's wrong to say the doctors haven't approved the miracle," he said. "It's absurd because the doctors of the medical consultation board haven't pronounced themselves."

That said, he acknowledged that the doubts would require further investigation. In such cases, he said, the Congregation would ask more doctors to come in and offer an opinion.

The postulator who is spearheading John Paul's cause, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, has declined to comment on the reports, citing the Vatican rule for secrecy in the handling of the case.

Beatification is the first step toward possible sainthood. The Vatican must confirm one miracle has occurred due to the intercession of John Paul before he can be beatified. A second miracle is needed for him to be declared a saint.

Saraiva Martins was also asked how the Vatican could be certain that the cure is lasting, when a disease like Parkinson's is something that most commonly occurs late in life. For a woman who suffered from it in her 40s, how could the Vatican be certain she won't get it again?

The cardinal acknowledged the difficulty of the case, and hinted that waiting might be necessary. "It depends on the nature of the illness," he said. "For some illnesses, it's clear: it's totally cured. Some others return. That's why we need to wait."

Saraiva Martins stressed that he was speaking only in his capacity as someone knowledgeable with the Congregations' procedures and not as someone currently involved in the case.

Benedict put John Paul on the fast-track for possible sainthood just weeks after his April 2, 2005, death, heeding the calls of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately!" that erupted in St. Peter's Square during the funeral of the much-loved pontiff.

Benedict waived the customary five-year waiting period and allowed the investigation into John Paul's life and virtues to begin immediately. In December 2009, Benedict signed a decree attesting to his "heroic virtues."

And on Monday, Benedict will celebrate Mass at the Vatican marking the fifth anniversary of John Paul's death. The Vatican moved the service to Monday so the Mass wouldn't conflict with Good Friday.

But recently, new questions have been raised about John Paul's record in combatting pedophile priests. John Paul presided over the church when the sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States in 2002 and the Vatican was swamped with complaints and lawsuits under his leadership. Yet during most of his 26-year papacy, individual dioceses and not the Vatican took sole responsibility for investigating misbehavior.

But John Paul himself had long championed the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative order that fell into scandal after it revealed that its founder had fathered a child and had molested seminarians.

The Vatican began investigating allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico in the 1950s, but it wasn't until 2006, a year into Benedict's pontificate, that the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a "reserved life of prayer and penance" in response to the abuse allegations — effectively removing him from power.

Subsequently, Benedict ordered a full-on investigation of the order since its entire existence was so closely intertwined with that of its discredited founder.

Saraiva Martins said historians who studied the pope's life as part of the sainthood process didn't find anything problematic in John Paul's handling of abuse scandals.

"According to them there was nothing that was a true obstacle to his cause of beatification," he said.

The OK from historians led to Benedict's decree last December that John Paul had led a virtuous life. As a result, all that's needed for him to be beatified is for the miracle to be confirmed.

But with such a high-profile case as John Paul's, the miracle is going to be heavily scrutinized — as will Simon-Pierre for the rest of her life. Amid reports earlier this month that the nun had again fallen ill, the Aix-en-Provence archdiocese issued a statement March 10 attesting to her health.

"I categorically deny this rumor," Rev. Luc Marie Lalanne, archdiocese chancellor said. "Little Sister Marie Simon-Pierre remains to this day in perfect health."

Saraiva Martins said the case of Simon-Pierre is still very much in play. But he added that there are many other reports of inexplicable cures, or "graces" as he termed them, that have reached the Vatican in the five years since the pope died and any one of them could be used if need be.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss