Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Beatification of John Paul II

Pope Benedict XVI has recently signed a decree officially recognising nun Marie Simon-Pierre's apparent recovery from Parkinson's disease as a miracle (reported here on the BBC).  The significance of this particular "miracle", is that Marie Simon-Pierre and her fellow nuns prayed to then deceased pope, John Paul II, for her recovery.  The recognition of this miracle then, makes it possible for John Paul II to be "beatified" - the necessary preliminary step on the path to official sainthood.

Especially as an evangelical Christian, I have lots of problems with the whole concept of "sainthood".  First and foremost, whenever the Bible talks about saints, it is referring to all those who have trusted Jesus for their salvation and persevered as His followers.  In contrast, the Catholic concept of "sainthood" elevates certain people to a special holy status - unattainable to the rest of us mere mortals.  What's more, the gateway to this exclusive heavenly club is controlled, not by God, but by the earthly (and it has to be said, often not very "saintly"!) Catholic institution!

The thing I dislike most about the Catholic model of sainthood though, is the whole idea of people praying to them!  As I understand it, saints are not deemed to have any special powers of their own, but according to Catholic doctrine they can, and do intercede with God on behalf of the rest of us.  I just can't grasp though, why anyone (well, any Christian anyway) would want to go that route.  The whole point of the gospel is that God is accessible - personally accessible - to all of us!  The only person in heaven whose job it is to intercede on our behalf is Jesus - that's one of the primary reasons he came to earth, died and was resurrected in the first place!  Jesus taught us to pray in His name, and to pray to God as Father - he actually used the word "Abba", implying a close personal relationship.  The whole sainthood thing just puts an extra layer back into a hierarchy that shouldn't really be there in the first place, and seems to me to make God look more like a distant remote authority figure instead of a loving caring personal God.

All that said however, this "miracle cure" remains.  Marie Simon Pierre said she was completely healed.  Certainly her symptoms seem to have disappeared and she was able to go back to work as a nurse again.  There have been claims that she has since fallen ill again, but as yet these seem to be unsubstantiated.

Was she really cured from Parkinson's disease?  There have also been claims that she may not have had Parkinson's disease at all, but instead some sort of psychiatric condition which simply mimicked Parkinson's symptoms.  To me though, in all honesty, this sounds like the argument of someone who's desperate for an alternative explanation because they're determined not to believe in miracles, rather than someone giving a totally honest and unbiased assessment of the evidence.

What's your opinion?

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