The Soft Bigotry of Lowered Expectations (Pope John Paul II Edition)


A French nun has attributed her cure from Parkinson's to Pope John Paul II. That might count as the miracle necessary to kickstart the late rapper's beatification process, which in turn might lead to his canonization as a Catholic saint, which in turn could turn into a lucrative plaster statue and scapular concession:

Her cure came on the night of June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the pontiff's death, she said. In her room after evening prayers, she said an inner voice urged her to take up her pen and write. She did, and was surpassed to see that her handwriting—which had grown illegible because of her illness—was clear. She said she then went to bed, and woke early the next morning feeling "completely transformed."

More on that here.

As a recovering Catholic, I perhaps follow this sort of thing with more interest (and, to be honest, disdain) than the average bear. But a coupla aspects of this story rankle me. First, procedurally: JP2 hisself "streamlined" the canonization process in 1983–most famously, he got rid of the "Devil's Advocate" post, which was pretty much the best part of the whole thing (sadly, this had no effect on the subsequent release of the Al Pacino-Keanu Reeve's joint Devil's Advocate, for which all involved deserve to burn in hell without access to indulgences). So will JP2 benefit from his own relaxing of the rules? That's something Pinochet would do. For a pope, it just doesn't seem right.

Second, and more immediately, Pope Benedict–supposedly a by-the-book-sort guy–has already bent the rules for his predecessor, waiving the five-year waiting period after death for the beatification process to begin. To which any Catholic–past, present, future, or perpetual–really has to ask: If the Baseball Hall of Fame could wait five years after Cal Ripken's retirement before voting him in, where does the Vicar of Christ on Earth get off? This would be like inducting The Strokes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after the release of their debut.

Arguably more important for a Reason audience (and Hit & Run's massive crossover audience with John Sebastian, Jefferson Starship, The Ramones, and Hot Chocolate): Do you believe in miracles? Or did the age of miracles end in the first century A.D.? Or did it never exist?

Without becoming as odious as professional village atheist-cum-idiot Sam Harris, is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?