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The Miracle Joint At Lourdes

AN INDIGNANT physician called on the telephone the other day to tell us of an article in "Liberty" magazine for Feb. 21, 1942, dealing with the miracle shrine at Lourdes.


The article affects a skeptical air, yet is written in that familiar there-may-be-something-to-it style common in popular journalism, and is nicely calculated to tap religious gullibility. The author, Morris Markey, speaks of himself as "not a Catholic" but as "an agnostic". Any Catholic priest could have written the same kind of trash.


One of the "cures" mentioned by Mr. Markey is that of a Mlle. Delot, who had "a large cancer of the stomach" which was "inoperable and incurable". Immersed in the icy water at Lourdes, the lady "felt a moment of almost unbearable pain, and then suddenly felt herself glow with health. She cried out that she was cured." On examination, "her cancer had completely disappeared and had been replaced by healthy tissue."


The miracle shrine at Lourdes is just another Catholic fake. If the water had any medicinal properties (we leave its "miraculous" qualities to the dodos of superstition), what would be easier than to ship some of it to America for use in Catholic hospitals? Why should Catholic doctors here waste time with medicine?


According to Mr. Markey, "the cures most often reported are tuberculosis, blindness, cancer, and paralysis." If this be true, then why has not the Catholic Church shown a little decency by sending some of the famous water here for President Roosevelt's bath? We have just had a great national drive for funds to fight infantile paralysis, and here is a steady stream of "miraculous" water said to be flowing at the rate of a thousand gallons a day. If it will cure "blindness", too, a few buckets at least could be spared to put on the sightless eyes of some in our midst. As for cancer, why all our present research if the Catholic Church has a cure? A hundred and fifty thousand victims die of this dreaded disease each year in our own country alone.


Boiled down, what do the facts about Lourdes reveal? Merely that out of the millions of sick who are said to have visited the famous shrine (Catholics report as many as 55,000 in a single day), only an insignificant fraction, a pitiful handful, are even so much as "reported" cured. The vast bulk come away as sick as they arrived. And who "reports" the alleged cures? The priestly custodians of the Grotto and a few Catholic doctors whose faith in saints and miracles is greater than their understanding of science. There is not a reputable body of physicians today that would endorse the sacred joint.


"Only a very small percentage of the sick are cured," writes the Rev. Francis Woodlock, S.J., in a pamphlet issued by the Paulist Fathers. "Those who seem to have most faith have been passed over . . . Some big pilgrimages have no cures to record; at least one small pilgrimage [we are not told whether it consisted of 300, 30, or only 3 persons] had all its sick cured." And here we come to the most curious point of all, the phony "origin" of the water itself.

According to Catholic "tradition", the shrine was established by the Virgin Mary, who appeared, in a vision, to a poor and sickly peasant child, wandering in the woods. The child, Bernadette Soubirous, on seeing the "vision," rushed back to tell her priest what she had seen. The "beautiful Lady" wanted a church.


Bernadette (so the story runs) was bidden by the Virgin to scrape the hard, dry ground with her fingers and instantly water gushed forth, which soon became a steady stream. And did the Blessed Mother reward the sickly child? She did--by keeping her corpse from decay for thirty years after it was entombed. But in life, the water had failed to cure Bernadette of her chronic sickness. "She was from her birth till her death," says the Jesuit Francis Woodlock, "a constant invalid from asthma."


Yet what can one expect from the Neglectful Virgin, who, in answers to prayers, turns away pain-racked victims and "big pilgrimages" of sufferers who come to her shrine in the hope of being cured?

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