Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Sainthood" for John Paul II- Unbelievable!

Lewy bodies in the brain, associated with Parkinson's disease. If the claimed miracle was real, than an autopsy of the nun's brain ought to reveal them and their decrease in size.

The push is on, to hear it from within some quarters of the Vatican, to put the late Pope John Paul II on a fast track to "sainthood". Maybe this was triggered by the fact that when John Paul died in 2005, three million devout followers repeatedly chanted "Santo subito!" or "Sainthood now!" The Church is thus merely attempting to satisfy the expectations of the devout, and comport with their desires.

The more cynical among us, and that includes most skeptics and non-believers, happen to be more suspicious and with good reason. The Church right now remains in dire financial straits as claims from past victims of priest sexual abuse are heard in the courts, and money is pouring out from Archdioceses (Milwaukee's is a recent bankruptcy) faster than you can say: "Holy See!" Thus, having a canonization at the right time may be one of the best PR strategies to take the eyes of the world off the bad deeds and focus them on a putative "saint".

Most interesting in all this, the current Pope (Benedict XVI) who was responsible for concealing the deeds of many priestly pedophiles (and enabling their easy movement from parish to parish- while diverting calls for accountability) waived the traditional requirement of a 5-year waiting period before the process could even begin!

Why the rush? If John Paul II is really a saint, and now in the bosom of eternity (so to speak), why the unseemly haste for sainthood which makes the Vatican's effort appear more like a PR stunt?

Now, for those who may not know (or even care) "beatification" requires Church certification of at least one bone fide "miracle" to be confirmed, as part of the path to full sainthood. This is no mean task, and there's no evidence whatever that ANY of the recent "saints" canonized have fulfilled that requirement, including "Mother Therese" - who actually engendered more earthly suffering by keeping her charges in a passive caretaking situation than really ministering to their health deficiencies and problems.

Specifically, the Church - according to one pundit- "demands an old-fashioned, abracadabra -type of miracle such as a vision before a Catholic businessman as he's about to perform an illegal insider trade".

Or an atheist might ask for all the solar activity - including all incipient active region magnetic fields - be reduced to a quiescent condition of 1 gauss over the whole solar surface for at least one day. Not too much to ask a saint, eh? And further, it's something that could actually be confirmed by our vector magnetographs and other measuring devices.

As opposed to some subjective claim, like someone overcoming an illness.

So what did the Church offer us? Nothing like the quieting of solar activity, but much more prosaic: the claimed cure of one Sister Marie Simon -Pierre (a nun of the Congregation of the Little Sisters) from Parkinson's Disease. The claim is that Sr. Simon-Pierre awakened one morning, 2 months after John Paul's death, to discover all her symptoms were gone. She insisted she'd prayed to the dead Pope and he "answered my prayers".

Maybe, but maybe not! While she does remain symptom-free there are loads more possible explanations for her recovery than that some dead pontiff performed or enabled a "miracle".

The most plausible is that she never had Parkinson's disease in the first place. The only objective clinical diagnosis, in fact, rests on the pathology and identification of the accumulation of alpha-synuclein protein forming inclusions called Lewy bodies.

Since this identification requires autopsy, it means that at the very least the beatification must be postponed until Sr. Simon-Pierre's death. (In which case, canonization is postponed even longer.) Then, careful examination ought to reveal the abatement or diminution of the Lewy bodies. In addition, such examination would confirm she had Parkinson's rather than some other condition.

As it is, according to one AP report, "Vatican-sponsored doctors" simply determined that "her cure had no known scientific explanation". But under pressure from the Vatican, how hard did they really look?

Nice try, but it won't wash! What we need is the actual examination of the nun's brain for the presence of diminished Lewy Bodies (see image). That would confirm: a) she did have Parkinson's and b) that the primary source (Lewy bodies) had retreated. Then, the Vatican's medical experts or others could search the archives for any similar cases. If they exist, then what happened to the nun is not a miracle, merely an unusual and improbable happenstance.

Ironically, in the real world the actual plausible cure for Parkinson's rests with stem-call research which the Church foursquare opposes on the grounds that it uses and destroys human embryos. (In fact, the embryos are already allocated for destruction and most of them resulted from natural abortions or miscarriages).

Even after the "miracle" is confirmed, as per the above process, canonization can't occur without at least one more miracle.

At this point, let me suggest one for consideration: the instantaneous conversion of all evangelical Protestants to Catholicism! (Since this sect or cult represents the biggest threat to the Church's own missionary work in under-developed nations such as in Africa and South America.) Heck, if they can get Pastor Mikey to retract all his current beliefs, toss his KJV in the nearest dumpster and re-join the Church, that would be a miracle in itself!

We ("NBs") shall await the results with bated breath. As for believers, they may well end up with a plaster saint, but to most of us in the skeptical community it will be about as real as the existence of 2" high fairies or actual full grown men being swallowed whole by whales, and emerging alive after 3 days!

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