Early last week, amid the flurry of news about tornadoes, President Obama’s birth certificate, and the killing of Bin Laden, former Pope John Paul II was beatified, a major step on his way to sainthood. The Vatican’s preoccupations and machinations in this regard are literally none of my business, although I’m inclined to applaud the whole rigmarole as an inoffensive act of organizational onanism, the sort of in-group self-pleasuring that provides innocuous outlet for energy and which, albeit unproductive, is at least un-harmful to the rest of us. If masturbation is the epitome of safe sex, beatification—and presumably canonization as well—represents its theological equivalent: Good clean fun. No blood, no foul. (Although I note that according to the Times, “A vial of John Paul’s blood, saved by a Rome hospital in case he needed a transfusion, will now be used as a holy relic.”)
For some reason, however, I just can’t leave well enough alone. Looking into the details of beatification in general, I find that it requires a bona fide miracle, which in John Paul’s case consists of his alleged healing of one Sister Marie Simon Pierre, a French nun with Parkinson’s Disease, who had prayed for the deceased Pope to intercede on her behalf. She has in fact recovered, after which, according to The New York Times, several doctors were consulted, whereupon “their testimony was then notarized, and the committee certified the miracle.”
As it happens, Parkinson’s Disease nearly always gets worse over time, although sometimes it remains unchanged for months, even years. Cures are indeed rare and worth noting when they occur. But just a few minutes of Googling makes it clear that remissions and possible cures for PD have in fact been reported, and attributed to all sorts of things: changing one’s diet, adding herbal remedies, getting more exercise, and, of course, prayer. (Also the genuine possibility that in specific cases PD had simply been wrongly diagnosed in the first place.)
In any event, I can’t help noting that “miracle” cures always pertain to maladies such as cancer, stroke or Parkinson’s, which do occasionally remit … even in the absence of appeals for divine intervention. Never—at least in recent times, such that they can be genuinely evaluated—do they involve something that is otherwise truly impossible, such as spontaneously regenerating an amputated limb. Which poses an interesting question: Why doesn’t God cure amputees? Given the horrendous carnage experienced by so many presumably God-fearing Americans, who have lost hands, feet, arms and legs—and, moreover, have done so while fighting those infidel Muslims—at least some of whom have, I bet, prayed in good faith, why hasn’t God “cured” them? I’d settle for just one.
There have been and I very much hope will continue to be remarkable recoveries of brain function even after the most serious wounds (e.g., Gabrielle Giffords, so far as we can tell), but I guarantee not a single case in which a wounded veteran or member of Congress has sprouted a new head. Now that really would be a miracle!
Maybe the absence of miraculous head-regeneration is because those jerks from the Westboro Baptist Church are correct, and God hates America because of its gradually liberalizing attitude toward gays. Or maybe God is lazy and only chooses to do the easy stuff (that which is, just coincidentally, concurrent with the laws of biomedicine and probability). Or maybe He doesn’t like doing anything really unlikely because this would smack of pandering to the disbelievers (kind of like Obama revealing his long-form birth certificate).
Of course He or She doesn’t regenerate foreskins, either, doubtless because He/She, being Jewish, approves this particular amputation. Well, maybe Muslim, too! But then again, to my knowledge there have been as yet no cases in which female genitalia have regenerated after the barbaric, inhumane practice of “female circumcision,” yet I’d hate to think that He/She approves of that, as well!
The simplest conclusion? For whatever reason, God just hates amputees.
Puzzling over this, I trolled the Internet yet again, and discovered, somewhat to my chagrin, that in fact others have beaten me to this conclusion (which makes me think that perhaps Ecclesiastes was right, and there really is nothing new under the sun). Thus, there exists a Web site to which I direct anyone who might be interested: http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/.
On the other hand, He or She evidently has a soft spot in His/Her heart for starfish and certain lizards who autotomize their tails, after which they sometimes grow them back, presumably without prayer. (Or—leaping lizards!—maybe there are praying lizards, too.) Of course there are also numerous limb-regenerating salamanders, especially the regeneration champ among vertebrates, the axolotl, (Ambystoma mexicanum) much studied in laboratories for this reason … but then again, its very name derives from the ancient Mexican Nahuatl language, referring to an Aztec god, Xolotl. Which explains everything.
[axolotl photo from from Wikimedia.commons]Return to Top