Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Last Saints

Over the weekend, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis.  The nun's canonization comes just a couple of years after Pope John Paul II was given the same honor--on a fast-track basis.  The two may be the last "modern" saints to join the Catholic canon.

The greatest challenge "modern saints" face is that it's a lot harder to perform "miracles" nowadays.  To become a saint, the Church must accept and "verify" two "miracles"--and to be honest, the John Paul and Mother Teresa "miracles" are flimsy at best.  One of the former Pope's "miracles" was a woman being healed of a brain tumor after praying to a magazine cover featuring a picture of the Pontiff on it.  One of Mother Teresa's was a woman being cured of stomach cancer after nuns in Calcutta prayed to former director on her behalf.  The husband of the "cured" woman--who was not a Catholic--initially claimed that his wife's tumor went away after receiving treatment from doctors--not because of any praying.  However, after he converted to Catholicism, the husband changed his story and claimed it was the praying--not the doctors--that healed his wife.

You have to admit, those "miracles" don't quite measure up to feeding a multitude of thousands with just a few fishes and loaves--or a boy growing back an amputated leg.  That darn Science keeps coming up with explanations for things that used to be fodder for "miracles".

Another roadblock to sainthood for modern Catholics will be the world's view of their actions on many social issues.  Both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa were strong opponents of both abortion and the use of contraceptives in any form or for any reason.  The late Christopher Hitchens pointed out that for Mother Teresa, having poor families continue to have children unfettered was "good for her business".  And that the nun often worked to keep her sickest patients away from better medical facilities--as video footage of more dying people in her homes kept the donations flowing in.  And let's not forget that Pope John Paul oversaw a church that first fostered child molesters, then denied and finally challenged in court allegations of priest sexual assaults around the world--and then cried poverty when it came time to pay the victims.

Of course, most Catholics today--especially in the US don't actually "practice what they preach"--so it's possible there could one day be Saint John Kerry Church or Saint Mel Gibson School--whose "miracles" included "voting against the bill before I voted for it" and getting people to see an over-rated sub-titled film about the crucifiction of Christ.

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