John H Williams

(Investigator 132, 2010 May)

Mary MacKillop's presumed 'spirit' is to be canonised at St Peters on 17/10/2010. Her beatified 'self' will join 10,000 others in a sky-club open to dead people involved in miracle-making.

In #128 I referred to the recovery of Irishman David Keohane from a year-long coma as a likely MacKillop-inspired 'miracle', but a presumably stronger 'miracle' was confirmed in December 2009. A NSW great-grandmother, Kathleen Evans, had recovered from inoperable lung cancer (which had spread to the base of her brain) in 1993, due to her having prayed to God via  Mary's intercession, while having a piece of Mary's clothing pinned to her nightwear. Mrs Evans' revealing comment: "All I had left was prayer. I was a great believer in prayer." (The Advertiser, 12/1/2010)

I'm pleased Mrs Evans is, at 66, alive and well, but surviving relatives of other cancer deaths might wonder why their prayers weren't answered. Her story is one delusion amidst a long-running grand delusion, involving issues such as life after death, the existence of miracles, the alleged power of prayer and the promotion of Christianity's oldest and largest denomination.

Medically, something extraordinary did happen to Mrs Evans, and, at our current level of knowledge, it's not scientifically explicable. But it's a big jump from we don't know (but one day we might) to a default conclusion of a supernatural cause. Not one miracle has ever occurred, due to the absence of a 'non-Earthly' force capable of re-arranging the laws of physics.

Consider the paucity of 'miracles' (the first involved a recovery from leukemia, reported in 1961) in over a century. Isn't it statistically likely that if one took a large sample of terminally ill patients and had them pray to a god of their choice, there'd be as good a rate of 'miraculous' recovery?

Why have unexplained recoveries been dominantly from cancer, and few from other fatal illnesses? Or lost limbs, eyesight, or hearing miraculously renewed? Has any study been done on those with incurable illnesses who've unsuccessfully prayed with or to Mary? Is the deity which enacts medical miracles capricious? Is one person's faith as a "random beneficiary" is better than another's? Where is the documentation on the "exhaustive and thorough" Vatican medical investigation (it's kept secret)? Was the placebo effect relevant, given that Mrs Evans admits to her strong belief in prayer?

The Vatican view on canonisation is that it "doesn't make a person a saint, it recognises what God has already done"! I'd like to know how they know this, but it expediently obviates the problem of a saint interceding while not yet canonised or beatified.

Apparently one prays with saints, not to them. It's believed that all prayers are passed on but "some saints are very close to God in heaven, and their prayers are particularly effective. It's never been explained how whatever does the healing transmits itself from an unknown sky location to deactivate cancers.

The Vatican's 'canonisation game' is used as a PR device to promote Catholicism, reinforce its mythology, increase recruitment, and as a 'stick' to beat its 'competition' the Anglican Church whose dogma has it that the 'age of miracles' ended at the end of NT times, and that all Protestant Christians are saints!

MacKillop opened some of the first free schools in Australia, but Adelaide's Bishop Sheil didn't like the idea of free education to the poor, which led to her excommunication in 1871 (rescinded in 1872). With Father Julian Woods, she founded the Josephite Order in 1866, "the brown joeys", and her lasting legacy is that she devoted much of her life to social justice and humanity. She was unjustly accused of alcoholism, embezzlement and prostitution, from which she was eventually cleared, but typically offered kindness and forgiveness to those who spoke out against her.


Almond, P, Miracle Cures Threaten to Put God In The Dock, Weekend Australian, 30/1/2010.
Stutchbery M, Little Aussie Battler Who's Heading For Sainthood, Crikey 22/2/2010.
Williams, J H, MacKillop Miracles? The Investigator #128, Sept 2009
Williams, J H, Saint Machine Soon To Be Sainted? Investigator #122, 2008.