Sunday, April 27, 2014

Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII !

Two of our beloved popes are being declared saints today at the Vatican! St. John XXIII's pontificate was when I was a small child. I have no real memory of him, but my father-- not a Catholic and not really a religious man-- loved him. I've read some of his encyclicals and his opening speech at Vatican II. He was a wonderful pope and a marvelously clear eloquent writer.

I became a Catholic under the pontificate of St. John Paul II. He is very special to me, and has real claim on being the most consequential (in a good way) man of the 20th century. I simply love the man, as do countless of millions of Catholics and non-Catholics who understand his courage, humanity and wisdom.

We prayed "Santo Subito" for our beloved John Paul II. Our prayers for him, and our beloved John XXIII, have been answered. Please offer the Lord a prayer of thanksgiving on this wonderful day. 


  1. What a joke. They didn't even require the two miracles/misdiagnoses/spontaneous remissions/placebo effects of other candidate saints.

    We can argue about whether Man created God, but in this case it's certain - Man created saints.

    1. One isn't enough? JPII's should be of special interest to you and Egnor, given that it has to do with a brain (cerebral aneurysm). Here's an interview with the neurologist

    2. Curio,

      I'm suspicious of the case. It wasn't the usual berry aneurysm. The patient presented with a haemorrhage, and angiography (the gold standard for diagnosing vascular abnormalities) showed a fusiform dilatation of an artery.

      The 'miracle' cure was 'documented' using a completely different modality - magnetic resonance imaging. All medical investigations have false positive and false negative results. The MRI for example might not be sufficiently sensitive to demonstrate the dilatation of the artery.

      If it rebleeds, will the sainthood be revoked?

      Anyway. The report is from one neurosurgeon, who is reporting all the details of the case, and the opinions of his colleagues. And who also accepts the existence of 'miracles' (reminds me of Egnor). I'd want the case to be completely reviewed by independent experts.

    3. I read the report of the case at the link.

      bach said:

      [I'm suspicious of the case. It wasn't the usual berry aneurysm. The patient presented with a haemorrhage, and angiography (the gold standard for diagnosing vascular abnormalities) showed a fusiform dilatation of an artery.]

      Angiography is not "the gold standard" for diagnosing aneurysms, especially not fusiform aneurysms, in the following sense. Aneurysms are characterized today by several methods, including angiography, CT angiography, and MR angiography. Each modality as its strengths and weaknesses. For fusiform aneurysms, which are long sausage-shaped expansions of the arterial wall, angiograms tend to underestimate the total size of the aneurysm, because angiography only images the lumen, not the outer wall of the aneurysm. There can be considerable incongruity between luminal dimensions and total (outer wall) dimensions, especially of a fusiform aneurysm.

      MR angio demonstrates the entire aneurysm, lumen and outer wall, although with less resolution than an angiogram. Together, angiography and MR angiography (and possibly CT angiography) would be considered the "gold standard".

      [The 'miracle' cure was 'documented' using a completely different modality - magnetic resonance imaging. All medical investigations have false positive and false negative results. The MRI for example might not be sufficiently sensitive to demonstrate the dilatation of the artery.]

      MR sensitivity is certainly in the millimeter range, which is plenty sensitive to diagnose a fusiform aneurysm. In fact, MR angiography is routinely used to screen for aneurysms, because it is highly sensitive. The neurosurgeon didn't specify whether the study was an MR or MR angiogram (which is even more sensitive), but it is extraordinarily unlikely that an MR would miss a fusiform aneurysm previously demonstrated by angiography. If anything, the MR would be more sensitive and less specific than the angiogram-- it would tend to exaggerate the size of the aneurysm. We not infrequently have MR results that suggest a fusiform aneurysm, but angiogram results that show no aneurysm. The opposite is not seen, in my 30 year experience. If there is dilation of the lumen of the artery, there will be at least as much dilation of the outer wall of the artery, and there is often more.

      One should note that the patient went to Italy to have a follow-up angiogram, which apparently showed the same thing as the MR-- the fusiform aneurysm was gone.

      Now, one (rare) reason that a fusiform aneurysm might be "gone" on angiography would be if a thrombus formed around the circumference of the dilated lumen, reducing the lumen to normal. But that would not cause the outer wall of the aneurysm to normalize, so the MR would not be normal.

      The case looks pretty airtight to me as an event that cannot be explained by conventional medical hypotheses.

      The Church is extremely careful about these kinds of things. They know that the media scrutiny will be intense, and a disproven miracle would be a catastrophe. The actual films-- the angiograms pre and post and the MR-- are tangible evidence that can be reviewed by experts and conclusions can be arrived at with near-certainty. I see no reason to doubt that a miracle occurred.

      I point out that bach's skepticism is based on no facts whatsoever. Now if the Church had said that John Paul II was causing global warming, bach would have believed it immediately!

    4. Bach,

      "If it rebleeds, will the sainthood be revoked?"

      Well, there's always the possibility of future illness. It's been a couple of years, and as of now Floribeth Mora seems to be enjoying a healthy life and an unexpected celebrity status.

      Dr. Egnor is correct that the Church is quite a skeptic about purported miracles. And the interview was with a neurosurgeon, not a neurologist. My mistake, but all the better for this blog!

    5. Egnor,

      I still would want the case reviewed by a panel of experts - including the images. The interview in the Telegraph is just from the treating neurosurgeon who is giving second hand reporting of what his colleagues have reported.

      Another possibility is that the patient was said to have been hypertensive, and was suggested to need treatment. Perhaps it was treated, and that's the reason why the size of the aneurysm decreased?

      Anyhow, if the Catholic Church said that Pope John Paul II was causing global warming, I wouldn't believe it, as it lacks plausibility.

      Egnor, on the other hand, believes that the Earth is warming, because it was colder during the Little Ice Age, which finished 163 years ago (or thereabouts). How long does it take for the 'cold' of a previous event to disappear? The cold of Winter, no matter how cold, rarely lasts much longer than Spring.

      And Egnor believes in Thomistic evolution for which there isn't the slightest data in support.


      The Catholic Church isn't skeptical enough about miracles.

    6. Egnor: Thank you for the informative analysis

      Bach: I found you an independent expert.

      ZENIT: Is there any margin of doubt in Floribet’s cure?

      Dr. Carbajal: The margin of doubt is zero, and in my experience, I have never seen a spontaneous cure of an aneurism, but yes many deaths from aneurisms. There are cures with surgery, but in this case, as the problem was at the base of the brain, it was not possible.

      ZENIT: Have there been cases of spontaneous cures of aneurisms in the world?

      Dr. Carbajal: No, that’s why we are here. That is why the Church has accepted it.

      ZENIT: Is there no medical explanation or a margin of doubt?

      Dr. Carbajal: No, there absolutely isn’t. The images of the arteriography indicate the trajectory of all the cerebral arteries, because neither the Tac nor the magnetic resonance show the arterial trajectories. Then they did another arteriography here at the Gemelli, and there is no evidence that anything has been formed or traces of it.

    7. Curio,

      I'm still skeptical. I regard it as a red flag for the medical expert to be asserting 'No, there absolutely isn’t' a 'medical explanation or a margin of doubt'.

      Nothing in medicine is 100% certain. Even the statement that there have never been spontaneous cures of aneurysms in the world is doubtful, because it's unknowable. Unless you did angiography on the entire population of the world to find all the asymptomatic cerebral aneurysms (the ones that haven't bled),
      you'd never be able to exclude that some of them might spontaneously disappear.

      His assertion that she was certain to die from the aneurysm is also doubtful - prognosis can only be given statistically, based on the size of the aneurysm, the patient's age and other medical conditions, etc.

      Henry Marsh (a British neurosurgeon) gave an example in his book "Do No Harm", when he discusses the case of a young woman in her 20s who has an incidentally discovered 7 mm berry aneurysm discovered on her middle cerebral artery. the lifetime risk of it rupturing cause death or a stroke is 5%. The risk of immediate death or a stroke with surgical clipping (it wasn't suitable for stenting) was also 5%.

    8. Bach,

      Just quoting what the doctor said. I agree with you that "never", "no", and "impossible" are inordinately strong words for a medical doctor to use.

      For what it's worth, the neurosurgeon from the earlier interview claims he did not give Mora the grim prognosis she reported receiving. From another article:

      However, her neurosurgeon, Alejandro Vargas, denies he ever told his pious patient any such thing. Though Vargas does admit Mora's condition was potentially fatal, he says he predicted only a two percent chance that the aneurysm would kill her, possibly bleeding into her brain within a year of the diagnosis.

      Two percent chance. A sensible medical estimate. This is the same Vargas who believes the remission was miraculous. I also found some images, in case you're interested.

    9. Another possibility is that the patient was said to have been hypertensive, and was suggested to need treatment. Perhaps it was treated, and that's the reason why the size of the aneurysm decreased?

      Her hemorrhaging fusiform aneurysm was cured by lowering her blood pressure? Remember, it didn't just decrease. There was no trace of it ever having been there in follow-up arteriography.

    10. The spontaneous disappearance of a fusiform aneurysm, confirmed by competent radiological studies, has no ordinary medical explanation. Lowering of blood pressure is a common therapeutic approach, but it only reduces the risk of rupture. It does not make an aneurysm disappear.

      The Church has a very vigorous system for evaluation miracles proposed for sainthood, and in the case of JPII, the process must have been extraordinarily vigorous.

      Miracles happen. It is just a matter of fact. I've seen a few things myself that I can't explain-- one example is a child (of a very religious Catholic family) who had a rupture of the basilar artery during an operation. The bleeding was massive and imminently lethal, and abruptly stopped (without my touching it-- it was inaccessible). I went to tell the mother-- she was alone in the waiting room (it was a holiday) and no one had told her anything about what happened. She told me what happened-- before I said anything-- she described details of the operation and the hemorrhage. She told me that the vision came to her while she was praying for her daughter, and that the Lord told her that her daughter's bleeding would stop and she would be ok.

      We discharged the child from the hospital in a few weeks, in excellent condition. She continues to thrive.

      She and her family came to my baptism.

    11. Curio,

      They only show the 'pre-miracle' angiogram. They don't show a 'post-miracle' one.

      Anyway. An aneurysm is an abnormal dilatation of any part of the cardiovascular system - arteries, heart or veins. At one time or another, sudden cardiac death in otherwise fit young adults was ascribed to coronary artery spasm - focal and impossible to demonstrate at necropsy.

      Who knows what the underlying pathology of the abnormal dilatation of the artery in this case? Could it have just been an episode of 'paralysis' of the smooth muscle of the tunica media of the involved artery, the function of which later spontaneously returned? We don't know that such an event can't occur.

      The idea that a fusiform aneurysm can't heal is silly, when we don't know what the pathology actually was. In a berry aneurysm, we can be fairly certain that it won't 'heal' because there's a loss of elastic tissue and muscle in a localised part of the artery, which is difficult to conceive as being reversible.


      What did you do to the basilar artery rupture, if it was inaccessible? I take it, you mean you were able to see the rupture and repair it, once the bleeding stopped?

      Arteries do spontaneously contract and stop bleeding on their own. If you want to commit suicide by cutting your wrists, it's best to cut along the radial artery rather than across it, because because it's much less likely to stop bleeding on its own. One general surgeon used to divide the renal artery at nephrectomy without clamping it, and go to tea, before returning to finish the operation, as a 'party trick'. Renal artery spasm stopped the bleeding, fortunately.

      We don't know what the pathology of the fusiform aneurysm was - whether it wasn't just a transient localised episode of weakness of the vascular smooth muscle, as in a migraine attack, so it's not possible to be definite that there was anything to 'heal' in the first place.

    12. I actually misunderstood the case. I'd thought that she'd presented with a subarachnoid haemorrhage, indicating that the artery was sufficiently abnormal to have bled.

      Actually, she presented with a severe headache labelled by someone as a 'migraine'. And an angiogram showed a fusiform aneurysm of a cerebral artery.

      Actually, it would have been better to have labelled it 'aneurysmal dilatation' - meaning that there's a localised area of expansion of the artery which looks like an aneurysm.

      'Fusiform aneurysm' is a reasonable provisional diagnosis if it's present today, tomorrow, next week or next year.

      However, the patient's headache slowly disappeared and (naturally) she felt better. A repeat angiogram showed the aneurysmal dilatation had disappeared.

      It's possible that she could have had a fusiform aneurysm which was cured as a result from a miracle due to prayers to Pope John Paul II. Or it could be explicable on the basis that she had a migraine resulting from a segmental area of vasodilatation in a cerebral artery. Which naturally resolved.

      Misdiagnosis, not a miracle. For a miracle to be accepted as a basis for canonisation it has to be 'inexplicable'. This case is explicable.

    13. Typical phony "miracle" concocted to make the politically expedient candidate-"saints" pass the bar at a time convenient to the hucksters in charge. The gullible will of course gobble it up because bona-fide "doctors" have attested to its miraculousness. Medical science can't explain it, so Jesus done it.

      What about the millions of times people prayed to Wojtyla and their loved ones suffered nevertheless? I guess Jesus reserves the right to say no.

    14. Egnor, it's only natural that atheists will deny miracles, no matter what the evidence. They're in a state of rebellion against God and need prayers.

      Among the numerous miracles done through the intercession of St. Padre Pio, one which stands out is the healing of Gemma Di Giorgi, a girl who was born without pupils. You can read about it here.

    15. I actually misunderstood the case. I'd thought that she'd presented with a subarachnoid haemorrhage, indicating that the artery was sufficiently abnormal to have bled.

      Most articles I've read indicate that bleeding had occurred.

      Vargas: In the case of this patient, she had a fusiform one, which is a bit like a chorizo; a dilation of the circumference of the artery, which is why she had bleed.

    16. And Bach, why take issue with the fact that you haven't seen a post-miracle angiogram when it would make no difference? You've committed yourself to a position and appear impervious to evidence.

      The reason the Catholic Church is less skeptical of miracles than you are is that Catholics are Theists, and thus believe at the outset that miracles are possible. If your prior is zero, no amount of evidence will change your mind.

      Alex Pruss's argument against undue skepticism is worth bringing up. You're putting yourself in danger of believing many potentially false propositions by being inordinately skeptical of a large number of propositions at the outset without examining the evidence.

    17. Curio,

      According to the Spiegel article, she had a severe headache. I presume that it was clinically thought to be due to a SAH. Do you have any evidence that it was diagnosed on anything more certain than clinical grounds?

      I'm acting as the 'devil's advocate'. For a miracle to be accepted for canonisation it has to be inexplicable. This one isn't.

      As I've noted before, she could have had a fusiform aneurysm of a cerebral artery which healed by a miracle as a result of a prayer to Pope John Paul II. I mentioned that possibility.

      I also noted that she could have had a migraine, associated with a segmental vasodilation of a cerebral artery causing an aneurysmal dilatation, giving the appearance of a fusiform aneurysm, which then disappeared when the headache went. And therefore wasn't demonstrable with further imaging such as MRI and further angiograms.

      If the Catholic Church is wanting to make Pope John Paul II a saint (well, they already have, for what's it worth), this wasn't the 'miracle' to do so, because it isn't inexplicable, isn't definite - which is the Church's rule.

  2. Not a Roman Catholic (just a regular old catholic with a little "c" :-)) but I loved Saint John Paul II. A truly great man. Was probably more responsible for the dissolution of the Evil Empire than Ronald Reagan. He was pope throughout my formative years and left a lasting impression.

  3. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 27, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Pope John Paul's funeral brought together what was, at the time, the single largest gathering in history of heads of state outside the United Nations[...] Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended, alongside the faithful. It is likely to have been one of the largest single gathering of Christianity in history, with numbers estimated in excess of four million mourners gathering in Rome.

    The event had an estimated viewership of over 2 billion people; the Catholic Church claims only 1.3 billion among its members. The funeral of John Paul II was by far the largest funeral in the history of the world.

    --- Wiki: Funeral of Pope John Paul II

    And today I also remember and pay my respects to a mighty troika who worked an an astonishing, history-bending miracle: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher brought liberty to the enchained slaves of this symbol of human pride and untrammeled envy.

    1. Unfortunately America is fast heading into the same chains which bound the the Soviet Union and China in the 20th century. We're in dire need of a wake-up call to turn us away from the zealous pride and hatred rampant in secular society and back towards God.

  4. Finally the pedophiles and rapists have their patron saint.

    1. Between 1950 and 2002, out of over 100,000 priests in the US, 252 were convicted of sexual abuse charges and 100 went to prison. A child is over 100 times more likely to be molested by a teacher in a public school. And so I put it to you, are you consistent in applying standards? That is to say, do you go around referring to school teachers as pedophiles and rapists?

    2. Remember the 4th commandment, Michael.

      Your numbers are misleading to put it mildly. The RCC covered up many crimes of their priests, so no miracle (heh) only 252 convictions resulted. Plus there are far more public school teachers than RCC priests. What's the per capita rate of sexual abuse for teachers and priests? I doubt it's higher among teachers.

      In the Netherlands alone the number of children abused by RCC priests runs in the tens of thousands during that period (this week alone two bishops were outed as abusers). In the US with a Catholic population twenty times as large probably in the hundreds of thousands.

      Why do you keep defending those criminals?

    3. troy:


      How many girls were molested by the male priests? (answer key: virtually none)

      How many of the victims were post-pubescent young men, rather than pre-pubescent boys? (answer key: more than 80%)

      Isn't there another word besides "priest" and "pedophile" that accurately describes this kind of sexual act?

      Why isn't that word ever used to describe sexual crime by priests?

    4. Egnor,

      The Australian ex-Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale, who was recently sentenced to spend the rest of his life in gaol, was an equal opportunity abuser, his victims including both girls as well as boys.

      The exception that proves the rule, eh?

    5. Egnor:

      How many of the victims were post-pubescent young men, rather than pre-pubescent boys? (answer key: more than 80%)

      Do you call boys 11-14 post-pubescent? 75% of victims were 14 or younger I seem to recall.

      Isn't there another word besides "priest" and "pedophile" that accurately describes this kind of sexual act?

      Buggery? Sodomy? What did you have in mind? Or did you mean multiple words like "gay rape"?

      Why isn't that word ever used to describe sexual crime by priests?

      Isn't it? I suspect you use it a lot.

    6. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthApril 27, 2014 at 6:41 PM

      As usual, Troi has no idea what he's talking about beyond a general hatred for anyone who's not a cheerleader for sewer sex.

      However, for those interested, Newsweek (2010) did some investigative reporting and observes that:
      Most child abusers have one thing in common, and it's not piety—it's preexisting relationships with their victims. That includes priests and ministers and rabbis, of course, but also family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, youth-group volunteers, and doctors. According to federal studies, three quarters of abuse occurs at the hands of family members or others in the victim's "circle of trust."

      Which is why gay men of any profession, trade, or relationship should never be entrusted unsupervised with male children or adolescents. While most are probably fine people, there are simply too many of them that are predators.

      The definitve literature review of child sexual abuse was conducted by C Shakeshaft at Hofstra University (under the auspices of the US Department of Education). I've quoted from it here several times (I suppose Troi and bumful are too thick to read anything scholarly), and I won't do so again. But for those interested in facts as opposed to vitriolic hate screeds, is here:

      Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature

      Review it for yourself and laugh at the purveyors of atheist/gay hate screed websites. And post a link everywhere you go. :-)

    7. Senile old fart,

      Agree with your first statement. Disagree with your second statement that gay men should never be allowed unsupervised contact with boys.

      Didn't you read my comment about Gerald Ridsdale, the Catholic ex-priest who was an equal opportunity abuser, with both girls and boys amongst his victims.

      Agreed - there are probably no more paedophiles amongst the Catholic clergy than elsewhere. Although there are probably more homosexuals, latent and overt. The disgraceful thing that the Catholic Church did do in the past was concealing abusing priests and transferring them from diocese to diocese.

  5. Doc, if you're still monitoring this thread, I would be interested on your take on Pope Francis' latest comments about inequality being at the heart of social ills. I'm afraid that his comments, quite to the contrary of Saint John Paul II, are in total beginning to point toward Marxist leanings if not outright Marxism. I don't want to believe that but it is getting harder to escape.

    1. Big Rich,

      I doubt you'll get an answer from Egnor.

      I quite approve of Pope Francis, generally, despite my ridicule of the canonisation of Pope John Paul II. I incline to the belief he did it for political reasons - canonise a conservative pope at the same time as canonising a liberal one. An inclusive gesture to the Church.

      My take on Pope Francis is that he's criticising excessive inequality. Inequality per se isn't bad, but excessive inequality is. Money isn't the root of all evil, but excessive love of money is.

      Matt Taibbi has written two recent books, 'Griftopia' on the GFC and 'the Divide' on inequality in America, which address these very issues.

      Capitalists who produce products people want are good, even if they become very rich in the process. Capitalists who manipulate financial markets in order that they become rich, and in the process cause the GFC, making almost everyone else poorer, are bad.

      Despite Boggs' claims, I'm not a Bolshevik - I'm more than comfortably rich, with a 5 figure income in dividends from shares.

    2. I agree with bachfiend. I'm a liberal atheist leaning libertarian, and I think inequality is good, up to a point. I'm happy to pay 52% income tax on my upper income. The pope should be applauded for his stance.

  6. I'm glad to know that you both are not totally anti-capitalism. While I agree that there's been some corruption in the private sector, it pales in comparison to the corruption in government. Helping the poor should always been done voluntarily. Not by the government. Nevermind the immorality of it, Paying taxes is the absolute worst way help the disadvantaged. Money must be filtered through an inefficient bureaucracy that eats up most of the money. That's why the Post Office is broke. Just to send SS checks costs billions in administrative costs. And then it's a complete conflict of interest. Government bureaucrats vote for those who vote for more bureaucracy who exists for the perpetually poor. That's why there has been no progress on poverty since the New Deal. The bureaucrats have no incentive to eliminate their reason to exist with cushy government jobs.

    1. Big Rich,

      You should read 'the Divide'. When you've read it, comment again on the latest thread available, and I'll reply.

      The trouble with charity is that it's even more inefficient - many of the needy won't get help and many of the rich won't donate.

      The Post Office is going bankrupt because the volume of mail is collapsing with the advent of the internet. The junk mail I used to throw into the rubbish bin unread has been replaced by junk emails which I move to the electronic 'trash' unread.

  7. Are you kidding? Voluntary charities are models of efficiency compared to the grossly bloated bureaucracy that is government. More gets to those who need it, there is more control and far less corruption and fraud. It's not even close. The PO is going broke because of inefficient practices. There's still plenty of junk mail. I throw away reams of it every day.

    1. Big Rich,

      Read 'the Divide'. Charity is inefficient because those who need the charity often don't get it, and those who can afford to give often don't.

      Efficiency also considers other factors besides the overheads.

      The Post Office is losing money because are cheaper methods of delivering messages. Either the Post Office charges what it costs to deliver a letter (and having the chain going from sender to recipient isn't cheap) or it attempts to compete on price with emails (which is almost free) and loses money.