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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bomb scare at Lourdes and silly comments

It was sad to hear that there was a bomb scare at Lourdes on Sunday, the feast of the Assumption. Everyone had to be evacuated from the Domaine for three hours while the army searched the place. Not pleasant for the people there, but I suppose it is good for Lourdes to have a dry-run evacuation. With the amount of anti-Catholic hatred being whipped up in Europe it is not impossible that places like Lourdes will become real targets.

Given that danger, I was irritated by the silly bits at the end of the Telegraph report Bomb scare at Lourdes. Here they are:
Around 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860, and the Roman Catholic Church has recognised 67 miracle healings, the last in November 2005.

Despite this, the Lourdes (sic) has built up enemies over the years among those who criticise its commercialism. It makes millions from tourism and souvenir selling every year.

Others, including members of the Catholic Church, are deeply sceptical of its alleged healing powers, attributing them to superstition.
Why would Lourdes build up "enemies" because it engages in commerce? Why don't the enemies moan about  Oxford Street or Bluewater shopping centre instead? They are a lot more commercial than Lourdes. If a town has a religious shrine in it, are all the people of that town supposed to live in some kind of monastic super-community without owning anything?

On the second point, it is true that many people are sceptical about the miracles of Lourdes, but in reports such as this, the one thing that you never hear of is the Lourdes Medical Bureau. Richard Dawkins did not mention it when he did his own piece about Lourdes. Anyone medically qualified or with other reasonable cause can consult the records of all the 67 approved miracles, including the medical records from before and after the alleged cure.

It is perfectly proper for people to question the authenticity of miracles. The Church does so rigorously as a matter of standard practice. What is not rational is simply to "be a sceptic" without any reference whatever to the evidence that is made available. That does not deserve the honourable name of scepticism. The more accurate word for making an a priori judgement without reference to the evidence is prejudice.
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