In the Church of Rome, the practice of the invocation of the saints is still very much in vogue. Every decade there are dozens of new saints created, and for each them the Vatican requires miracles to demonstrate that they have a beatific vision of God,[1] and so are able to make intercession for their devotees. To sustain this cult of saints, appeals are continually made to the laity to send in accounts of their being ‘the recipients of divine favour’ after praying to each deceased ‘servant of God’ whom Rome wishes to elevate to sainthood, to see whether any putative miracles can dredged from them.[2]

 

Until 1983 the process leading to canonization was juridical and adversarial. Those promoting the cause for sainthood (headed by the Postulator) had to face a prosecutor, the Promoter of the Faith, in the role of ‘Devil’s Advocate’, who would raise all possible objections and make the case against canonization. But Pope John Paul II changed the process from a juridical to a collegial one, and abolished the role of the prosecuting Devil’s Advocate. Accordingly, the whole process became far less rigorous. Now there is no impediment to the Pope putting pressure on the ‘saint factory’ to deliver the result that he wants, when he wants.[3]

 

Additionally, Pope John Paul II halved the number of miracles required for sainthood, from four to two, but miracles were still required and he complained that there was not nearly enough veneration and invocation of the saints ‘to produce miracles essential for making more saints’ from northern Europe. He also bemoaned that Roman Catholics in northern European countries affected by the Reformation were more sceptical about miraculous claims from local shrines.[4]

 

Such has been the case with the cult being fostered around John Henry Newman (1801-90), originally an Anglican and one of the founders of the Romanizing Oxford Movement, who joined the Church of Rome in 1845. Newman’s path to Roman sainthood (canonization in Rome, October 13, 2019) has been assiduously promoted since the 1950s by the Birmingham Oratory of St Philip Neri, which Newman himself founded in 1848, though it has not been all plain sailing. Much to the disappointment of the Oratorians, no human remains of Newman were found when they attempted to exhume his body for veneration, so the intended green marble sarcophagus to receive his relics had to be quietly shelved. Moreover, there were simply no credible reports of miracles that Newman had performed since his death in 1890. Pope John Paul II frequently grumbled: ‘I would like to beatify Cardinal Newman, but he won’t do a miracle’—at any rate, not the sort of miracle that English Roman Catholics, the National Health Service, or the British press would blindly swallow. Miracles would need to come from the more credulous communities overseas.

 

Accordingly, a TV programme (featuring the English Roman Catholic priest Ian Ker, who has written a biography and many books on Newman) entitled ‘Cardinal Newman at 2000’ was produced by C. John McCloskey, Director of the Catholic Information Center of the Archdiocese of Washington, to promote the cult of Newman in the USA. The programme was first aired in the USA on June 26, 2000 by Mother Mary Angelica’s cable network EWTN, an influential television channel among traditional Roman Catholics. Viewers were told that the Church had been waiting over a hundred years for a miracle, and urged them to send in their accounts of ‘divine favours or extraordinary experiences’ occasioned by prayers to Newman. It was the effect of this programme on the American Roman Catholic constituency that spread the cult and ultimately generated the necessary ‘miracles’.

 

 

Newman’s credulity for ‘ecclesiastical’ miracles

Embracing Roman Catholic ideas, Newman himself actively promoted belief in an inferior class of ‘ecclesiastical’ miracles, which, he said, were not ‘miracles like the Apostles’, but ‘very different in object, character and evidence, from those of Scripture’, often having a ‘romantic character’ and appearing ‘scarcely more than extraordinary accidents or coincidences’. Accordingly they are properly described by Protestants as counterfeit miracles. Newman eschewed the requirement for evidence and reason for such ‘miracles’ as tend to promote the veneration of the saints and other aspects of specifically Roman Catholic piety, averring that ‘there is no room for the exercise of reason…we must…leave the verification of particulars as unnecessary for devotion.’ As Alfred Fawkes relates, ‘His credulity was amazing. He is indignant at a doubt as to St Winifred having carried her head after decapitation…he accepts the legend of the miraculous transit of the Holy House of Loreto.’ [5] Edwin Abbott demonstrated that ‘[a]lmost all Newman’s “Enquiries into the Evidence for Particular alleged Miracles” partake of the nature of impostures.’ He had

 

a contempt for facts—a contempt so great that he might, without much exaggeration, be said almost to prefer to believe in a miracle that is unsupported, rather than one that is supported, by the basis of facts; and he hardly conceals his contempt for the Protestant reader who cannot help asking for evidence. [6]

 

Newman argued that because Protestants accepted the miracles in the Bible they should accept an ‘antecedent probability’ that God would perform miracles in the Church in later times. He expected his readers to have forgotten that he had distinguished between biblical and ‘Ecclesiastical’ miracles, and evidence for and acceptance of the former is no argument to expect the latter ‘very different’ type, any more than encountering a pride of lions on a trip to the jungle gives an antecedent probability that we shall find unicorns on our next trip.

 

 

First ‘miracle’ for beatification

Perhaps the first alleged miracle wrought by ‘Saint’ John Henry Newman was performed during his lifetime in October 1877, and appears in the diary of Wilfrid Blunt:

 

I went to Edgbaston and stayed three days at the Oratory…on my way back from the west of Ireland…I had caught a toothache fishing on the Lough which worried me greatly…Nevertheless my distress was vain, for I was shown up to [Newman] at once, and, at the instant of touching his hand when he received me, my pains vanished, nor did they return while I was staying in the house…I felt that a miracle had been wrought. I told Father Ryder of it at the time, but he charged me that I should tell no man, and I said no word of it to the Saint himself.

 

When Blunt eventually disclosed the matter more than 40 years later, it was impossible to investigate or corroborate. In any case, an alleged miracle performed by a living person is no proof of their being in heaven now, and though Newman was declared ‘Venerable’ by Pope John Paul II in 1991, in Rome’s eyes even a Venerable person could still be in Purgatory, so a posthumous miracle was required to give evidence of having the beatific vision.

 

The alleged miracle used to support beatification to ‘Blessed’ John Henry Newman in 2010 relates to Mr John ‘Jack’ Sullivan of Massachusetts. More than ten years previously Mr Sullivan had developed a painful and debilitating condition in his lower back. Following a CAT scan on June 6, 2000, the condition was diagnosed as spinal stenosis, in which deformities within the lumbar vertebrae were applying pressure on the spinal cord and femoral nerves. Left untreated, such a condition could deteriorate and cause nerve damage, leading in rare cases to eventual paralysis. He was examined on July 6 by specialist Dr Parazin, who advised that to avoid nerve damage he should immediately seek hospitalization if the pain became severe. On July 15 he had another scan which confirmed that his discs were compressing the spinal cord, and he was advised by neurologist Dr Brick that he should undergo an operation sooner rather than later. Accordingly, Mr Sullivan was scheduled for surgery in early September 2000, but he then saw the television programme promoting the cult of Newman on the EWTN channel and immediately ‘felt a strong compulsion to pray to Cardinal Newman’, and then ‘experienced a new and uplifting sense of trust and confidence’ accompanied by a temporary abatement of his back pain. He consulted a third specialist, Dr Cueni, who referred him to the Roman Catholic neurosurgeon, Dr Robert J. Banco, who counselled a ‘wait and see’ approach: though the MRI scan and myelogram showed that the underlying condition was unchanged, Dr Banco was reluctant to proceed to surgery on a patient in a state of remission of pain. The surgery for September was cancelled and Mr Sullivan had several good months but by April 2001 the pain had ‘returned in full fury’, giving him ‘intense and incessant pain’. Dr Banco counselled a laminectomy or ‘spinal decompression’, one of the most common back surgery procedures, which selectively removes vertebral bone to relieve pressure on the nerves. For the condition of spinal stenosis which Mr Sullivan had, recovery after a laminectomy (without spinal fusion)— is expected to be fairly rapid, and the relief long lasting. Mr Sullivan underwent surgery on August 9, and because more underlying damage was found than expected the operation was more complicated,[7] and Mr Sullivan was advised to have post-operative bed rest lasting four days.

 

On the fifth day after surgery Mr Sullivan refused to attempt to mobilize when encouraged by a physiotherapist. The following day, August 15,[8] he prayed silently to Cardinal Newman, whereupon ‘I felt a surge of strength and confidence that I could finally walk.’ He got out of bed and walked with a stick.[9] His improvement continued and by September he was free of pain and able to walk normally.

 

It is important to note that Mr Sullivan’s pre-operative discomfort (until April 2001) had been far less than would have been expected based on the underlying compression of the spine. Dr Banco himself stated that Mr Sullivan’s symptoms ‘improved drastically’ for some months whereas ‘The objective data, CT, myelogram, and MRI demonstrated that his pathology did not at all change.’ This points to there being something uncommon about Mr Sullivan’s physiology: he experienced uncommonly little pain from compression of the spine, though he suffered significant pain when the spine’s protective dura mater was ruptured, as expected. Both were fixed in the operation. Had Dr Banco more carefully reflected on the evidence in the case then he could have predicted that, with such an uncommon physiology, Mr Sullivan’s perception of recovery after his operation to decompress the spine would be both good and rapid, especially as he was very motivated to be functioning normally again. Dr Banco may well be an excellent neurosurgeon, but it does him no credit to learn that he sowed in Mr Sullivan’s mind that his tolerance of pre- and post-operative pain related to compression of the spine was nothing short of ‘truly miraculous’.[10]

 

Michael Powell, consultant neurosurgeon at University College Hospital, London, speaking about the Sullivan case noted that ‘Pain is subjective. A motivated patient will leave the next day on minimal analgesics, but a sufferer can refuse to mobilise and be in hospital for over a week. I had another patient recently who refused to get out of bed, and gobbled opiates prescribed by the acute pain team till she went unconscious, for exactly the same op as my motivated 88-year-old…To us here, Sullivan’s story is not surprising, other than the claim of a miracle, that is.’ Jonathan Lucas, a consultant orthopaedic and spine surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, London stated that given the complications of Mr Sullivan’s surgery a period of recovery would be indicated, but that if the operation had gone well he should have been able to walk within days.

 

Clearly, all the physicians who recommended surgery did so because they knew it had good prospects of relieving pain, improving mobility, and obviating more serious damage to the nerves. Accordingly, the operation must be judged a complete success. And yet, as urged by the TV programme, Mr Sullivan sent off an account of his recovery to the Birmingham Oratory for consideration as a miracle, and later told reporters ‘I don’t know that it’s a miracle until the Holy Father says that it is.’ How different from the miracles recorded in Scripture:

 

What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. [Acts 4:16]

 

The Roman Catholic press reported the story grossly misleadingly, stating that Mr Sullivan had been cured of a crippling spinal condition and saved from paralysis after praying to Cardinal Newman, without even mentioning that he had undergone back surgery to effect his cure. They reported that he had been ‘bedridden’ prior to his alleged miraculous cure, whereas he was following the surgeon’s advice concerning bed rest for a few days after surgery. An article was published by the Archdiocese of Birmingham stating that Mr Sullivan ‘was restored to full mobility after prayers to Cardinal Newman’, implying an association and a miracle rather than mere succession of time. It would be far more straightforward to state that Mr Sullivan was restored to full mobility following recommended treatment, but that would have done no service to the miracle bandwagon. Desperate as the Roman church was to claim a miracle wrought by Newman’s intercession, and nothing more convincing turning up over the intervening years, Mr Sullivan’s recovery after surgery was eventually declared a miracle in 2009 so that Newman could be ‘beatified’ in Birmingham during the Pope’s visit to England the following year.

 

Second ‘miracle’ for sainthood

Once Mr Sullivan’s submission was under investigation and had cleared the initial hurdles, the Birmingham Oratory sent him a lock of Newman’s hair (cropped while alive) to see whether he could use it to obtain more putative miracles in order to pave the way for Newman’s sainthood.[11] Mr Sullivan, by this time a deacon, reported great success with this coveted relic:

 

A lot of the results have been remarkable. A young man in New Hampshire was literally brain dead after an automobile accident. I touched him [with the relic]; he came to life… There were many others.

 

He refers to the case of Andrew Munroe, who received a head injury on October 17, 2005. It was wrongly stated in the Roman Catholic media that Munroe was in a coma; moreover he was not ‘literally’ brain dead: surgeons removed part of his skull to relieve internal pressure, and he lay in a state of ‘unresponsive wakefulness’, which is quite a different thing. Functioning gradually returned within a few weeks, as it often does quite naturally. Notwithstanding, Munroe’s case was sent up for investigation as a putative miracle wrought by Newman’s intercession and relics. But even the Roman authorities were not going to swallow that.

 

The successfully alleged miracle, which enabled ‘Blessed’ John Henry Newman to be elevated to sainthood, relates to the sixth pregnancy of Mrs Melissa Villalobos of Chicago in 2013. She also had watched the TV programme in 2000 that promoted the cult of Newman, as well as his beatification in 2010 on the EWTN channel, which induced her to become ‘completely devoted to him’: ‘I would pass his picture in the house and I would say little prayers to him…I really started to develop a very constant dialogue with him.’ As of May 1, 2013, Mrs Villalobos had had four normal pregnancies and one miscarriage, and she was now just commencing the sixth week of her sixth pregnancy when she noticed some discharge of blood.[12] An ultrasound scan on May 8 revealed that she had a subchorionic haematoma (SCH), an accumulation of blood between the uterus and the gestational membranes, causing some separation of the placenta. This condition affects around 3% of pregnant women. There is a large amount of literature on SCH and its effects on the outcome of pregnancy, which indicates that in general SCH doubles a woman’s risk of miscarrying. However, the vast majority of SCH conditions resolve themselves within a few weeks as part of the body’s natural healing process and growth of the baby, and a majority of women diagnosed with presentations like Mrs Villalobos will go on to have perfectly normal pregnancies. As it turned out, Mrs Villalobos was one of that majority.

 

Following diagnosis of SCH, Mrs Villalobos was advised to rest to minimize her risk of a miscarriage. Because the bleeding was perceived to be worsening, Mrs Villalobos and her husband consulted a physician on May 10, and he recommended bed rest. For reasons best known to themselves, Mrs Villalobos’ husband flew out on a business trip early on May 15, leaving his wife to wake at 7am ‘in a pool of blood’ (she says) and care for their four children (aged 6, 5, 3, and 1) entirely on her own. Having prepared breakfast, she anxiously went upstairs to ‘manage the situation’ alone, and after praying to Cardinal Newman (as she had been doing continually for years) she discerned that her bleeding had subsided. It was confirmed by the scan at her pre-arranged appointment that afternoon that the SCH condition had now cleared up and disappeared—as most do in time.[13] The remainder of Mrs Villalobos pregnancy was normal, and she was delivered of her fifth child on December 27, 2013.[14]

 

There is nothing unusual here—every year similar stories could be repeated by millions of mothers all over the world. Mrs Villalobos wasn’t one in a million, she was one of millions with the same condition as herself, and with the same favourable outcome. So what is there to see here?

 

After the birth Mrs Villalobos sent an account of her pregnancy to the promoters of Newman’s canonization. The case found its way to the Vatican in 2018, and Pope Francis declared it a miracle on February 13, 2019, whereupon Mrs Villalobos claimed (and the Roman Catholic media uncritically reported) that Newman’s intervention had miraculously saved not merely one but two lives because without a miracle she would have lost her own life also (an extremely unlikely possibility).[15] Even though there were no independent witnesses to events of the morning of May 15, 2013 (before which Mrs Villalobos had not been seen by a medical practitioner for 5 days), the Roman Catholic media uncritically repeated and endlessly recycled a slew of misleading details based on Mrs Villalobos’ sensational misunderstandings. No attempt was made by that media to obtain an independent expert opinion; or, at least, if opinion was sought, we can guess why it was not published.

 

Rome’s deceitful handling of Newman’s counterfeit miracles

In both these cases, the first a condition resolved through surgery, and the second a natural resolution of a common complication, the outcomes were not unexpected. In fact, they were statistically the most likely outcomes. In Mr Sullivan’s case, his surgery did not go wrong, only to be rectified by a miraculous intervention: the prognosis was that the condition would be rectified by the surgery, which is why the surgery was performed. In Mrs Villalobos’ case, it was not a likely outcome that she would herself die or lose her baby (only to be averted by a miraculous intervention): the prognosis was that there was a reasonable prospect that the condition would heal up spontaneously by resting, which is why the doctors gave her the advice they did.

 

Even the exceedingly credulous Newman had to admit that operations of providence and answers to prayer ‘within the order of nature’ were not miracles:

 

[I]t will happen that many occurrences will be called miraculous, which, strictly speaking, are not such, that is, not more than providential mercies, or what are sometimes called ‘grazie’ or ‘favours.’

 

Newman posited three tests to determine whether a ‘professed miraculous occurrence’ is ‘clearly miraculous, and not a mere providence or answer to prayer within the order of nature’: ‘1. is it antecedently probable? 2. is it in its nature certainly miraculous? 3. has it sufficient evidence?’

 

By Newman’s own criteria these two ‘professed miraculous occurrences’ underpinning his beatification and canonization are not ‘clearly miraculous’ because they fail two of these tests. Although the concept of ‘antecedent probability’ (so beloved but misused by Newman) is not the most helpful concept, there is no antecedent probability whatsoever in favour of the miraculous in these cases since laminectomies have been successfully performed by trained surgeons for over 130 years, and, since time immemorial, women developing SCH (for which there is no treatment other than rest) mostly go on to bear healthy children. The second test is decisive: it is not in its nature ‘certainly miraculous’ that spinal stenosis should be resolved by surgery, nor is it in its nature ‘certainly miraculous’ for an SCH to resolve itself spontaneously, since most ordinarily do.

 

Newman’s justification—a typically Roman Catholic one— for believing counterfeit miracles that do not pass muster as ‘clearly miraculous’ was ‘If you ask me why I believe it, it is because everyone believes it at Rome’, and he accordingly resisted questioning what Rome considered a miracle even when it could be shown that identical phenomena had a perfectly ordinary natural explanation. Newman could simply give up the ‘antecedent probability’ in a particular case and shunt the ‘ecclesiastical’ miracle from the ‘clearly miraculous’ category into what can best be described as a ‘miraculous, not clearly’ category, deftly avoiding the ‘not miraculous’ category. Newman accomplished this by convincing himself that it was impossible to discern whether any event had occurred naturally (i.e. ‘not miraculous’) or whether the ‘order of nature’ had been miraculously suspended such that an action ‘miraculous, not clearly’ might be performed to accomplish the identical outcome that would otherwise have occurred naturally. By such special pleading the Newmanian ‘miraculous, not clearly’ category became the repository for all those counterfeit Popish miracles that bore the very appearance of having a natural explanation, or had no credible evidence at all. Thus it is entirely fitting that Newman’s own beatification and canonization should rest on counterfeit miracles within that category.

 

Under Rome’s rules, for a healing to be declared a miracle it must be ‘immediate, complete, lasting and inexplicable’ (like Wilfrid Blunt’s relief from toothache). ‘Inexplicable’ is intended to connote that there is no natural explanation for the healing.[16] To be scientifically inexplicable, the healing process must be ‘above, contrary to or outside nature’.[17] Reliable expert witnesses will freely confess that their knowledge of a case is limited by the available data as well as the extent of medical knowledge and understanding, so they will seldom be able always to explain everything that happened, even when there is nothing miraculous suspected. Professor Massimo Gandalfini, the chair of the panel of medical experts (‘Consulta Medica’) advising the Vatican in the Sullivan case, stated that the events were ‘not completely explicable in scientific terms’: but this means no more that the panel could not explain everything (because of limited information and understanding), though they could explain most things. This is hardly a finding of ‘inexplicable’ healing. Accordingly, the Vatican had to whittle down the ‘inexplicability’ aspect to something that was (rightly or wrongly) merely unforeseen. Its judgment in the Sullivan case states that ‘the inexplicability relates solely to the immediate recovery of postoperative function, which was quite unforeseen in this particular case’. In other words, Mr Sullivan made a faster than expected recovery from an operation performed to cure him (yet it was not ‘immediate’ in that it was several days before he ventured to walk). This is farcical, because millions of patients have better outcomes than could be expected, especially those who respond to placebos, where improvement is ‘not completely explicable in scientific terms’.

 

On this extremely tenuous basis Pope Benedict XVI declared that Cardinal Newman’s intercession had wrought a miracle on Mr Sullivan. But it is to be noted that Rome is not claiming that Mr Sullivan’s restored mobility and lessening of pain are miraculous—because that was the intended and expected outcome of the operation—merely that the rate of improvement postoperatively was better than expected; and so a miracle!

 

In the case of Mrs Villalobos, the good outcome could not even be said to be ‘unforeseen’ (since it was probable), and the two weeks that her SCH took to clear up was entirely unexceptional. We can be glad for Mrs Villalobos that she bore another healthy child, but we dare not entertain the fiction that the statistically likely good outcome that ensued was wrought by the miraculous intercession of the late Cardinal. For this Jesuit Pope Francis to declare as miraculous a medically unremarkable episode (freighted as it is by Roman Catholic propagandists with emotions of peril and deliverance) suggests that he is making a claim akin to the Jesuit concept of scientia media, i.e. counterfactual knowledge that some unlikely bad outcome would infallibly have ensued were it not for the intercession of Cardinal Newman. This claim to counterfactual knowledge reminds the author of a similar claim made to a person known to him that he had been miraculously healed of a life-threatening disease that he would otherwise have contracted many years later. Such is the stock in trade of charlatans and quacks.

 

Apart from the above difficulties, Cardinal Newman’s canonization contravenes the Vatican’s own rules to be applied by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. These rules require that for consideration as a miracle an improvement in a medical condition should not be of a type that can naturally heal up spontaneously, nor one that directly follows effective medical treatment. Professor Franco De Rosa of Rome University’s medical school, who has advised the Vatican as a member of the Consulta Medica for many years, is quite clear: ‘We have to be satisfied that effective treatment has not been applied.’ Yet in Mr Sullivan’s case effective treatment was unquestionably applied. It appears to be the case, therefore, that in respect of the ‘professed miraculous occurrences’ attributed to the intercession of John Henry Newman, which manifestly fail to evidence themselves as ‘clearly miraculous, and not within the order of nature’, the barrel was scraped and the bar was lowered—to such an extent that occurrences in the normal course of God’s superintending providence were effectively cast into the Newmanian category of ‘miraculous, not clearly’, and the concept of the ‘inexplicable’ so debased, in order to get Newman’s sainthood ‘over the line’. As ever, the Roman Catholic magisterium elevates the importance of delusions and spin over the importance of truth.

 
Endnotes

[1] Implying that they are not in Purgatory or hell.

[2] We should be clear that we do not seek to minimize the very real suffering of distressed persons who put their trust in venerating the dead for a miracle cure, nor do we deny their sense of relief, joy and thankfulness for deliverance from the difficulties of life that they believe has been wrought by their intercession. Those ordinary Roman Catholics who pursue this miracle-seeking, saint-making invocation of the dead are really to be pitied, since they are victims ensnared in Rome’s false teaching and practice, and being cynically manipulated with the full knowledge of the Roman hierarchy.

[3] This is exemplified in the canonization of the Capuchin friar Francesco Forgione, an infamous ‘miracle worker’ known as ‘Padre Pio’, who was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and faking the stigmata, was investigated several times by the Vatican and found to have a serious personality disorder, and was regarded by two popes as a fraudster. The Devil’s Advocate would have more than enough material to resist any advocacy for Pio. But Karol Wojtyła had known Pio personally, and as Archbishop of Cracow had taken an active role in advocating his canonization, so when he was Pope John Paul II, having swept away the juridical checks and balances, he had him fast tracked to sainthood (venerable 1997, beatified 1999, canonized 2002).

[4] Thus, even though the Vatican was receiving 30,000 letters yearly recounting ‘divine favours’ received from those venerating the remains of the Jesuit Rupert Mayer in Munich, no miracles could be raked out of them that would likely pass muster with the German populace. Eventually the Pope simply bucked the system and beatified Mayer anyway.

[5] We can add many more, including the crib of the Nativity to Rome, as well as the multiplication of the wood of the True Cross, the liquefaction of the blood of St Januarius, and the swivelling eyes of the Madonnas at Rome.

[6] Abbot described Newman as a master of ‘that subtle and delicately lubricated illative rhetoric by which you are led downwards on an exquisitely elaborated inclined plane, from a truism to a probability, from a strong probability to a fair probability, and from a fair probability to a pious but most improbable belief.’

[7] There was a tear in the dura mater, a sheath protecting the spinal cord. Dr Banco noted from evidence in the operation on August 9 that this had occurred some months previously. It would not be unreasonable to infer that it was the rupture of the dura mater that caused the onset of severe pain in April. The rupture itself was probably occasioned by Mr Sullivan’s activity, as he was not experiencing significant pain even though his spinal cord was compressed.

[8] As Mr Sullivan is pleased to report, ‘the Feast of our lady’s Assumption’.

[9] He states that he had no ‘awareness of my affliction or surroundings.’ By his own admission he was ‘on high doses of morphine’.

[10] Dr Banco regarded it as ‘miraculous’ that Mr Sullivan had no pain when his spine was compressed. After removing bone to allow the spine to decompress, Dr Banco considered that it should take weeks to decompress to a normal state, during which time Mr Sullivan would experience pain. However if Mr Sullivan’s physiology was such that he experienced little pain with a compressed spine then he would also have considerable relief of pain during the decompression phase. Because Mr Sullivan ‘should have’ been in more pain, and Dr Banco could not explain why he wasn’t feeling pain, he described it as miraculous. A lack of knowledge, however, does not make a miracle. Neither should an unusual physiology.

[11] This is still the only ‘first class’ relic outside the Birmingham Oratory.

[12] She was ‘due’ on or around January 1, 2014. At this stage the embryo is the size of a pea.

[13] Her ‘pool of blood’ incident may well have been accumulated blood coming away while the condition was healing up during the night, which then continued to pass out of her in the morning.

[14] Thus Mrs Villalobos’ pregnancy in 2013 had an elevated risk of miscarriage for two of the 40 weeks’ gestation, and her outcome was that of the majority of women presenting with her symptoms: a normal birth.

As of mid-2019 Mrs Villalobos has borne a further two children, seven in all.

[15] Mrs Villalobos was under the absurd misapprehension that she had been ‘critically ill’ and suffering from ‘unstoppable internal bleeding’, and that if she had called for help it might have ‘killed me instantly’. ‘I didn’t want to scream because I didn’t know if it would be my last scream’. There are many troubling concerns with Mrs Villalobos’ accounts, including her claim to be in a constant dialogue with Newman, and his giving her on several occasions ‘a great gift’ of intense fragrances of roses that filled the room (though not discernible by another soul).

[16] Probabilities and statistics have no explanatory power in particulars, so cannot explain why a particular outcome ensues in one individual case though not in other seemingly identical cases. That aspect of inexplicability is not relevant here.

[17] Interestingly, the Westminster Confession of Faith Ch.V ‘Of Providence’ has the same concept: ‘God in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above and against them, at his pleasure.’