By Tom Quiner


Will sainthood shake your faith in atheism?

Quiner’s Diner has many faithful atheist readers. I appreciate your comments. You keep me on my toes. I hope I make you pause and think once and awhile.

I’d like to call attention to the notion of sainthood for the benefit of my atheist readers. In fact, my Protestant and other non-Catholic readers will find this post interesting.

Sainthood is in the news. Right here in Des Moines, I just staged the Bishop Sheen Event at the Fleur Cinema this past Saturday. I wrote about it a few days ago (“The 20th century’s John the Baptist comes to Des Moines”).

As I recounted, Bonnie Engstrom gave birth to a dead baby two years ago. He had no signs of life for 61 minutes. The parents prayed to the late Bishop Fulton Sheen to intercede. Little James “Fulton” Sheen was resuscitated.

He lived.

He lives today, and despite the medical impossibility, he is perfectly normal and healthy.

Did a miracle occur?

For atheists not familiar with the lingo, a miracle has be attributed to a person after they have died as one step toward canonization. Catholics believe in the idea of the intercession of the saints, attributed to the biblical passage, Hebrews 12: 1:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses … “

For example, the late, great Pope John Paul II has been “beatified,” the first step toward sainthood. He has been credited with interceding in the healing of a French nun with debilitating Parkinsons Disease. She went to bed with the disease. She prayed specifically to him for intercession. And she woke up healed.

Is this all hokum pokem?

I think it is a fair question.

You should know that the Church conducts an extensive investigation at great expense to determine if an event was a miracle, that is, an interference with nature by a supernatural power, as C.S. Lewis would characterize it.

We produced a 14 minute documentary which you can view above to give you a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the alleged miracle of James Fulton Engstrom’s implausible resuscitation.

The Church is weighing the evidence.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican scrutinizes the exhaustive data collected by scholars on purported miracles. This can take a long time, because it is critical to the Church to eliminate all doubt on the authenticity of the miracle.

Miracles abound through intercession of the saints.

An Indian woman with an abdominal tumor, Monica Bersa, held a medallion of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and prayed for her intercession.

The tumor disappeared overnight.

Jack Sullivan is a Massachusetts Deacon in the Catholic Church. While undergoing deaconate training, he battled severe back problems.

They required surgery.

The pain was unbearable.

He struggled to breathe.

The surgery revealed horrendous spinal damage with ruptures so severe, fluids had leaked out.

Mr. Sullivan prayed to the late Cardinal John Henry Newman for intercession.

The healing was immediate.

Mr. Sullivan gingerly inched his toe to the floor. Then he rested his foot on the ground. And then he walked.

He walked for the first time in months.

His doctor, Dr Robert Banco, chief of spinal surgery at the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, was baffled:

“Because of this persisting and severe stenosis, I have no medical explanation for why he was pain-free and for so long a time. The objective data, CT, myelogram, and MRI demonstrated that his pathology did not at all change, but his symptoms [pain] improved drastically. With the tear in your dura mater, your condition should have been much worse. I have no medical or scientific answer for you. If you want an answer, ask God.”

I present these inexplicable healings for your intellectual curiosity.

Man wants to understand his world. We are rational creatures. When events occur that defy natural explanation, we can react two ways:

1. There has to be a rational explanation.

or …

2. If there is no rational explanation, there may be a non-natural explanation, divine intervention.

The Church embraces #1 until all rational explanations are exhausted. They embrace #2 when a prayer for intercession is linked to credible evidence that this intercession has occurred.

In the meantime, chew on the video above. Listen to Bonnie Engstrom’s blow-by-blow account on the life, death, and life of little James Fulton Engstrom.

Did Bishop Sheen intercede in this healing?

The Church weighs the evidence.

No Comments

  1. trena on April 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Love this! What a powerful post! Interested to hear what others say. I for one believe in miracles!

  2. Jeane Bishop on April 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Beautiful video!!
    Thank you, Tom and Karen.
    Thank you, Fulton Sheen!!

  3. NotAScientist on April 30, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I can’t currently watch the video, but I will say this: I would love to see the medical records of those reported miracles. And speak with the doctors.

    “Did Bishop Sheen intercede in this healing?

    The Church weighs the evidence.”

    The question, which we can’t answer unfortunately, is would the healing have taken place without the request for intercession?

    Do people get ‘miraculously healed’ without praying to saints or gods or angels? Yes, they do. They aren’t called ‘miracles’, but amazing unknown medical events happen all the time. Unless there’s a certain amount of consistency, we can’t really point to one thing as the cause for those ‘miracles’.

    • quinersdiner on April 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

      I do hope you have a chance to watch the video. It factually presents what happened to Bonnie Engstrom’s baby. You’ll find it interesting. The Church isn’t calling it a miracle yet. They are weighing the scientific evidence. I think atheists would appreciate the fact that the Church rejects calling events a miracle unless supported by overwhelming evidence in support of divine intervention.

      Yes, amazing unknown medical events happen all the time. Many times, they may have a rational explanation, but we are unable to discern this explanation because of a lack of knowledge.

      What makes the miracles of the saints so compelling is that someone first prayed to a specific saint (or pre-saint) for intercession of a specific problem, perhaps medical, perhaps something else. The “answer” came quickly. The Church investigates these claims with intense scrutiny. When the Church finally claims it was truly a “miracle,” I think atheists should take notice. Most atheists I know pride themselves in being objective, except in one area: the possibility of an Intelligent Designer. To be truly objective, atheists need to consider the possibility of the Divine.

      • NotAScientist on April 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

        “It factually presents what happened to Bonnie Engstrom’s baby.”

        What does this mean? Where did you get your information? This is not meant as an insult to you, but it’s important information to have. If it’s in the video, sorry, but I won’t be able to watch it until tonight at some point.

        “I think atheists would appreciate the fact that the Church rejects calling events a miracle unless supported by overwhelming evidence in support of divine intervention. ”

        I appreciate it on one hand, but on the other I imagine we disagree what ‘overwhelming evidence’ is.

        What is overwhelming evidence? To me, something unlikely or unknown happens and an associated prayer seems like conflating correlation and causation.

        I would put together a two rooms full of sick people, and have the relatives of every sick person in one room pray to a specific saint, the relatives in the other room not pray, and see what happens. If the sick people in one room get better at a statistically faster rate than the other, then we have something interesting. Individual situations and anecdotes aren’t particularly compelling to me.

        I acknowledge the possibility of an intelligent designer. I just don’t think it’s terribly likely, and I don’t think the evidence backs it up.

  4. Bob Zimmerman on May 1, 2012 at 9:42 am

    “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” — Socrates

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