In the lead up to Christmas, it was announced that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints accepted a second claim for a miracle attributed to 19th century Australian nun Mary MacKillop, paving the way to her canonisation, which would make her Australia’s first saint.
Skeptics are naturally, well, sceptical about claims for miracles, and as the details of the “miracles” attributed to MacKillop emerged it became clear that alternative explanations would not be hard to come by. The two cases were both recoveries from terminal cancer which, according to reports, could not be explained by medical science.
Eran Segev, the president of Australian Skeptics, was interviewed on ABC News Radio (click here to listen) about this matter and pointed out a few possibilities that do not necessitate intercession by Mary MacKillop; these include spontaneous remission but also a miracle by another would-be-saint; how would the church authorities know which prayer did it? In the end it comes down to a desire by Catholics to see MacKillop as a saint and a god-of-the-gaps attitude which makes divine intervention the default position when another explanation cannot easily be found.
The research into the supposed miracles led to a few interesting articles, showing that there are others who are sceptical of various elements of Mary MacKillop’s impending sainthood, though unfortunately none of them is skeptical of the possibility of miracles. Those links are listed below.