John Henry Newman gets his second (bogus) miracle; stay tuned for sainthood

February 14, 2019 • 12:30 pm

As you know, to become a saint in the Catholic pantheon a candidate has to have performed two documented miracles, which are ostensibly debated in the Vatican after being stink-eyed by a hired nay-sayer, the literal “Devil’s Advocate“. (Hitchens was the Advocatus Diaboli for Mother Teresa’s canonization, but apparently they didn’t find him convincing.)

Now, according to the BBC and other sources (click on screenshot below), the second critical miracle has been approved for John Henry Newman, and so he’s on the fast track to sainthood—the first English saint in a long while. Newman (1801-1890) began as an Anglican and then, converting to Catholicism, became a cardinal and was beatified nine years ago (that’s step 1, which requires only one miracle).

The first miracle was “curing a man’s spinal disease.” Wikipedia says this about the pair:

In 1991, Newman was proclaimed venerable by Pope John Paul II, after a thorough examination of his life and work by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  After this, Jack Sullivan, a man studying for the diaconate in Boston, Massachusetts, was on the verge of complete paralysis in 2000 and 2001 and claimed to have been miraculously healed after praying to Newman. The miracle was investigated and confirmed by the Vatican. Newman was beatified on 19 September 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI on a visit to the United Kingdom.

A second miracle, necessary for his canonisation, was approved by the Vatican in November 2018. This miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman from a life-threatening condition. The decree approving this miracle was authorized to be promulgated on 12 February 2019.


The Torygraph gives a bit more information about this second miracle:

The Church claims the recovery had no scientific explanation and attributed it to Newman’s intercession.

“An expectant mother was suffering from unstoppable internal bleeding which threatened the life of her child in the womb,” the diocese of Westminster said on its website.

“She had long been a devotee of Blessed John Henry, and in prayer she directly and explicitly invoked Newman’s intercession to stop the bleeding. The miraculous healing was immediate, complete, and permanent.”

The Diocese’s website adds no further information.

So I wrote my doctor asking if there are known natural causes for stopping internal bleeding during pregnancy, and of course there were. As the doc wrote me (my emphasis):

The devil is in the details. There are many causes of uterine bleeding during pregnancy.

Here’s just one from UpToDate:

Threatened miscarriage. Uterine bleeding in the presence of a closed cervix and sonographic visualization of an intrauterine pregnancy with detectable fetal cardiac activity is diagnostic of threatened miscarriage. The term “threatened” is used to describe these cases because miscarriage does not always follow uterine bleeding in early pregnancy, even after repeated episodes or large amounts of bleeding. In fact, 90 to 96 percent of pregnancies with both fetal cardiac activity and vaginal bleeding at 7 to 11 weeks of gestation do not miscarry; the higher success rate is associated with bleeding at the later end of the gestational age range [10,11]. Uterine bleeding in these cases is likely due to disruption of decidual vessels at the maternal-fetal interface. These separations generally cannot be visualized by ultrasound, but sometimes appear as a subchorionic hematoma. Management is expectant.

“Management is expectant” means the bleeding usually stops on its own. Hope that helps.

Yes, it helps. So what we have here is a “miracle” that occurs regularly without the intercession of prayers to saints. But of course that characterizes all the medical miracles touted by the Vatican. When an amputee regrows an arm after praying to a beatified candidate, then we’ll talk!

h/t: Kevin

70 thoughts on “John Henry Newman gets his second (bogus) miracle; stay tuned for sainthood

  1. I might be feeling particularly cynical this morning, but the timing and nature of this miracle seem suspect. Perhaps I am too US-centric, but with the media debates about later-term abortion I have my doubts. The argument on the ‘never okay’ side is that there are no medical conditions a pregnant woman faces which would require a termination of the pregnancy to save the mother’s life. This fits right in with that. Going to die because of this pregnancy? Just pray to John Henry Newman!

    1. There’s also the fact that English Catholics need a bit of a boost of encouragement. There’s nothing like a new, local saint to renew interest in the Church. It’s been literally centuries since there was an English saint.

      It’s worth noting that there’s a fairly recent beatification in Australia too, and attention is suddenly being paid to an early French nun in NZ. I’d be prepared to bet money that they’re looking for suitable candidates in Canada and the US too.

    2. In late pregnancies, the question is tricky. I believe there are many conditions that require the pregnant woman to be releaved of her fetus ASAP, but when the pregnancy is so late that the fetus is viable, one could argue for bringing it out alive rather than dead.

  2. The miracles always seem to happen to people receiving medical care. It’s like God particularly favours those who are surrounded by doctors and nurses and up to the gills in medicine.

    1. You’ve got to suffer to be saved. Isn’t that what they say and, sadly, want?

      The greatest procedural aim of modern secular civilization is to minimize suffering through laws and engineering controls and yet the Catholic Church honors suffering above all. Like my ten year old son said: it’s Opposite Day. Only it’s been Opposite Day for religion since the beginning of religion.

  3. It seems like the only miracles these days involve medical cures. What happened to stopping the sun, raising the dead, slaughtering your enemies?

    1. I wonder about all those people and organisations (incl churches) who prayed for money and received it. Why don’t we see the people they prayed to coming up for beatification etc.? (Yes, the question is purely rhetorical. I know the answer.)

  4. The Newman story was in today’s (London) ‘Times.’ I thought I’d give the old chap a try the next time I have one of my nosebleeds.

    1. D’you think he’d work for hiccups?

      (More importantly, d’you suppose he could make WordPress restore the ‘y’ on the end of my ‘nym? Now that *would* be a miracle…)

  5. Since the Roman Catholic Church has done away with the Devil’s Advocate, let me play the rôle and say, No evidence of a miracle.

  6. I wonder why someone would pray to a saint, instead of praying directly to the all-powerful big guy. It’s like asking the busboy to make you a fabulous meal, instead of the head chef. And if saints can do miracles, why do they only perform two, and then stop until they are sanctified?

    1. I wonder why someone would pray to a saint, instead of praying directly to the all-powerful big guy.

      Or in this case, a not-Saint. Maybe he has more time for miracles since he hasn’t hit the big leagues?

    2. Or even worse, why would someone pray to a person who had only been “proclaimed venerable” and had not yet even been beatified?

  7. Newman believed in the liquification of the blood miracle and the miraculous transportation of Mary’s house to Loreto. For being able to believe that he is qualified for sainthood.

  8. Dammit! Why is it taking so long for Nicolas Steno’s second miracle?

    We geologists lack a patron saint, and Nick Steno is only ONE miracle away from this glory. Beatified is fine, but we are holding out for full canonization.

    I have faith that the problem is that too few people are praying to Steno for divine intervention. Perhaps readers can help spread the word??

    [Steno was the first to realize that sedimentary rocks recorded a history that could be unravelled. He came up with three principles of relative dating, and he presented conclusive evidence that fossils were remains of once living things, as opposed to having formed in ways perhaps analogous to crystals. He also realized that comparable angles on minerals crystals were always the same. Alas, late in his life he went from Protestant to Catholic and became very devout. He became an archbishop and denied himself so many mortal pleasures (e.g., food), that he may have hastened his own demise.}

    [P.S. He was also a rock star of anatomy.]

    1. I remember enjoying a book about Steno titled: The Seashell on the Mountaintop. I don’t know if it’s considered a good biography or not, but I thought it was amazing. It also went into his remarkable anatomy skills. I remember the telling of Steno dissecting a shark’s head. It’s a sad tale though since in the end, Steno decried his findings as blasphemous and died a miserable pauper.

    2. Steno looks like a good patron saint for geologists. Until his sainthood is finalized, you can use the generic patron saint of scientists, namely, Doubting Thomas :-).

  9. Newman was an Anglican who pressed for the CofE to return to its Catholic roots. When it showed no signs of doing so he became a Catholic himself. No wonder the RCC is so fond of him: if he can do it, why not the rest of the apostates? Dream on!

    There is another wrinkle to his story. As The (London) Times points out, when Newman died in 1890, he requested that he be buried alongside his lifelong ‘companion’, Ambrose St John, who had died 15 years earlier. 78 years later, the RCC insisted on moving his remains to Birmingham Oratory, allegedly to reflect his growing importance. Go figure.

    1. Can’t have those corpses engaging in forbidden mon-love, now, can yhey. Best keep them far apart, away from temptation.

  10. My morning coffee is a goddamn miracle, save my day! sure enough i feel warm and not so fuzzy.
    The United States imports more coffee than any other nation.[6] The per capita consumption of coffee in the United States in 2011 was 4.24 kg (9 lbs), and the value of coffee imported exceeded $8 billion.[7] As of 2015, Americans consumed approximately 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world.[8]
    Saint Coffee BEAN, saviour of the free world, and generator of shit loads of dosh. CC needs to ditch the church and open coffee shops.

  11. Trump will be in line for this saint business very soon. The wall is almost finished and it was all accomplished with talk.

    1. Yes, our Gas-lighter in-chief has made a wall with words. He vows to “finish the wall!” How can one finish something that hasn’t been started?

      1. Yes, it looks like the bill to do what we are suppose to do with no need for a bill is going to be signed. So no 2nd shut down. However, it looks like the chief clown is going to call an emergency and attempt to get money for his wall. This will not work and he will be stopped in the courts on this. You only get to declare an emergency when there is one. Otherwise Article one says the congress handles the money, not the executive.

        1. A State of Emergency is almost as good as a war for exercising arbitrary authority.

          Of course, from the viewpoint of the rest of the world, it’s decidedly better since no innocent third parties have to get killed to sustain it.

          (what, me, cynical?)

  12. When I went off to college in the early Seventies, almost all campuses had “Newman Centers,” named after ol’ John Cardinal Henry N, which served as hubs of sort for Catholic student life. My godmother (my mom’s “Irish twin” sister) used to mail me pamphlets about them and urge me to drop by, even though she knew I’d walked away from the Church years before. (Little did she know I was much more likely to drop in at the Hillel House for their monthly “open house” breakfasts — not out of any theological empathy, but simply because I love bagels and lox.)

    She’s 91 now and still with us. I spoke to her recently, and love her like a second mother, though I’m not sure she’s ever given up completely on seeing me return to the flock. I think of her every time someone mentions Cardinal Newman.

  13. As a one-time Catholic, I had no idea Catholics prayed to either Priests or Cardinals who were not already canonized. Go figure.

  14. That’s an excellent example of a fully functional minor deity in Catholicism. I knew that Folk Catholicism is a polytheism, but wasn’t aware that summoning powers of long dead clergy was an officially acceptable practice.

    I wonder what Sophisticated Theologians make of this? Did a metaphorical dead clergyman metaphorically heal someone?

  15. Man, what I wouldn’t give to see Hitchens’ smackdown of Mother Teresa at the Vatican. I’ve watched his excellent documentary on her many times. The woman was very, very far from a Saint, either religious or colloquial.

    I have to say, though, that I’m impressed with how the Vatican actually does this. And to invite Hitchens of all people to do it…I’m pretty shocked. Credit where credit is due (I don’t give the Catholic Church much credit, but I find this to be a really interesting process).

    1. If I’m recalling his coda he to Missionary Position correctly, the Hitch testified in Washington, D.C., before the local archdiocese. Represented the Devil pro bono, too.

      Still, I’da liked to have been there to see it myself.

      1. That makes a lot more sense.

        Still, I like to imagine him sitting in an opulent room in the Vatican in front of several wary bishops, his bellowing voice echoing off the high ceilings and gilded finery, denigrating Teresa as a monster (or “Hell’s Angel,” as he called her in his documentary).

        1. I suppose the technical point is, not whether she was a nice person, but whether she performed the necessary two miracles.

          I suppose one could canonise Vlad the Impaler if he had been proved with due evidence to, say, levitate people onto his stakes and turn their blood into wine on two different occasions…


    2. “Credit where credit is due”

      So you do not think that the church had already decided the outcome of this “test” before Hitchens had even said a single word?

      1. I for one credit them for this “even for show” thing because it shows that they think they need to appear to be rationalists. A parallel is to all those non-democracies that have fake elections.

  16. So important question:

    What were the circumstances behind the first miracle? Did the guy slowly degrade due to an autoimmune disease and then next day, it suddenly just ceased to attack his body?

  17. So, if we could get a ward full of cancer patients to pray to FSM (or Cthulhu, it doesn’t matter much which), then, by the operation of statistics and normal remission rates, we would have enough evidence to canonise His Tentacle-y Divinity.

    Please can somebody organise this? 😉


  18. I think the Catholic Church needs a lesson in causality. Just because the guy prayed to John Henry Newman and he was “healed”, doesn’t mean John Henry Newman had anything to do with it. It’s plausible that Newman was napping on a cloud and Mary just decided to take care of it herself.

  19. Just a quick correction: although this kind of bleeding can sometimes resolve on its own, “expectant management” in this case does not mean that the bleeding usually stops on its own, it means that during the threatened miscarriage no medical or surgical procedure is done to expel the fetus, as the body can expel the deceased fetus without intervention. Expectant management in the medical context doesn’t have to do with if things resolve, it just involves taking the approach of monitoring, rather than taking direct action. Sometimes people use the term “watchful waiting” in a very similar way.


    1. You are right. The point is, however, that many successful pregnancies produce a bleeding at some point that resolves spontaneously. Actually, if the fetus is alive and the woman wants it, to my knowledge, the best thing to do is to rest at home. Seeking medical help requires physical activity and stress diminishing the chances of the fetus. And medicine has a lot to offer to the mother, but practically nothing to the fetus (unless it is already viable).

  20. “When an amputee regrows an arm after praying to a beatified candidate, then we’ll talk!”

    I’d settle for a patient with Parkinson’s disease losing his shake and bradykinesia. Without taking L-Dopa. Permanently.

  21. “When an amputee regrows an arm after praying to a beatified candidate, then we’ll talk!”
    You may want to read a book by catholic journalist and writer Vittorio Messori, “Il miracolo” (The miracle). It’s about an amputee regrowing a leg in XVII century Spain. Messori has been translated in many languages, but it seems that book is not available in english. Amazon has a french translation, though (Le miracle impensable), and I’m sure Jerry can speak and read french very well. There is also a spanish translation (El gran milagro).
    Additional info: I’m not a believer and Messori is not so objective as he claims, but he’s certainly neither a cheater nor a stupid guy, so the book is worth reading.

    1. Yeah in July 1964 Messori converted to Catholicism at age 25 years & I think he’s still alive at around age 80.

      Here is Mr. Googles translation of the Italian Wiki:

      At the end of July 1637, Miguel Juan Pellicer, a twenty-year-old native of Calanda in Aragon, is in Castellón, about 60 km from Valencia, where he works as a farmer with his uncle. While he is driving an agricultural wagon, riding one of the two mules who are pulling him, he falls, probably because of a sleep, and the wheel of the cart passes on his right leg fracturing his tibia.

      After receiving the first treatment in Castellón, August 3 is admitted to the hospital in Valencia, where he remains for five days; then he decides to go to Saragossa to be treated in the hospital dedicated to the Madonna del Pilar, to which he is very devoted. The journey, three hundred kilometers long, lasts fifty days; on his arrival the doctors find that the leg is now in an advanced state of gangrene and there is nothing left to do but amputate it. In mid-October two surgeons, Juan de Estanga and Diego Millaruelo, performed the surgery: the leg was cut four fingers below the knee and buried, according to the custom of the time, in a special area of ​​the hospital cemetery. The stump is cauterized in focus.

      Miguel Juan Pellicer remains hospitalized for a few months, until in the spring of 1638 he is provided with a wooden leg and crutches and discharged. For the next two years he was kept begging, provided with a regular permit, at the sanctuary of the Pilar: during this period, a large number of citizens of Zaragoza regularly saw him regularly. He periodically returns to the hospital to be checked and medicated by Dr. Estanga. Every evening he asks the attendants of the sanctuary some oil that burns in the sacred lamps, and uses it to anoint the stump of the leg, in the conviction of drawing the help of the Virgin to him.

      In the first months of 1640 Pellicer, now twenty-three, decides to return to Calanda with his parents, and after a trip of about a week he arrives in the second week of Lent (between 4 and 11 March). Not being able to help in the work of the fields, he resumed the “job” of begging turning every day for the surrounding villages riding a donkey: many other people can thus see its mutilation.

      On the evening of March 29, at about ten o’clock, Pellicer goes to sleep: since his bed is occupied by a soldier of a garrison who stays in Calanda that night, he lies down on a temporary couch set up in his parents’ room. Between half past ten and eleven, his mother enters the room and sees two feet emerge from the cloak. Initially he thinks that the soldier and Miguel Juan have swapped places, and calls her husband to clarify the misunderstanding. But, moving the cloak aside, the two amazed spouses find that it is really their son. Immediately they shake him and shout to him to wake up: it takes a few minutes for Pellicer to wake up from a very deep sleep and say he dreamed he was in the Pilar sanctuary and was greasing his leg with the blessed oil, as he had done many times. All three immediately agreed that the reappearance of the leg is certainly due to the intercession of the Virgin del Pilar.

      The news immediately spreads to Calanda: the following morning the judge of the village, assisted by two surgeons, examines Pellicer and extends a report that he immediately sends to his superiors. On 1 April, Palm Sunday, Don Marco Seguer, parish priest of Mazaleón, a town about fifty kilometers away, accompanied by the royal notary Miguel Andréu, goes to the place: the latter drafts a deed in which he verbalizes the sworn testimony of ten people.

      On April 25, Pellicer and his parents go on a pilgrimage to Saragossa, to thank the Madonna del Pilar, and here too the young man is seen by many people who had seen him with only one leg: at the request of the municipal authorities opens a formal investigation to ascertain the truth of the fact. The trial, presided over by the archbishop of the city, opens on 5 June and lasts almost a year. All hearings are public and no voice of dissent is recorded. Twenty-four witnesses are recorded, chosen as the most reliable among the many who have known Pellicer, both in Calanda and in Zaragoza.

      On April 27, 1641, the archbishop of Zaragoza issues the sentence, with which he officially recognizes the authenticity of the miracle. At the end of that year Pellicer was also invited to the court of Madrid: King Philip IV kneels in front of him and kisses his miraculous leg.

      A singular circumstance that emerges from the reports is that the reappeared leg appeared to be the same leg that had been amputated two and a half years earlier. In fact, it was recognized by some pre-existing scratches and scars; in addition, at the hospital in Zaragoza the pit was dug in which the cut leg had been buried, and it was found empty.

      If this is such a famous incident that definitely qualifies as a miracle I wonder why it’s not recognised as such by the church of the day or of today.

      1. I’m sure it was and still is recognised as a miracle by the church. One may wonder why it’s not so widely advertised, though.

        1. I couldn’t find this miracle in online Catholic stuff, but I found critics saying they also can’t see anything. The author leaves out some details such as this guy had brothers – the simplest explanations are the author has polished the story as have others in the past presumably OR one of his brothers [he had a few] impersonated him.

          The detail about his amputated leg disappearing from the grave & moving back to it’s correct place on his person is just laughable – restored with all its scars & birthmarks, in the dead of night without waking him up & no witnesses.

          God works in mysterious ways & doesn’t want to be caught in the act of creating – his first ever job was creation 🙂

        2. The author Messori may have been neither a cheater nor a stupid guy, but he is clearly gullible and the character in this story (if true), Pellicer is clearly just a prankster or a fraud.

  22. I am reminded of the Witch trial in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

    “She turned me into a newt”

    “A newt?”

    “I got better, though”

    “She’s a witch!”

    ‘Proof’ of sainthood seems to rest on no more secure an argument. (And then of course there was the ‘sophisticated theology’ approach to the question of whether the woman was a witch, based on things that float!).

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