On Miracles Outside the Catholic Church

Originally posted 3/15/2010.

The following is the fruit of 30 months of intensive research and was originally posted at the Wonderworkers blog, where I catalog claims of miracles worked by Catholic and Orthodox Christians (see the list of resources here). For a list of names of individuals more or less completed, click here for Catholic saints and here for Eastern Orthodox saints. I’m going to try my best to really flesh out the Wonderworkers blog this summer.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

What Is At Stake: No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church
(1) No one who knowingly and deliberately refuses to enter into visible communion with the Catholic Church before death can be saved [Denzinger 247, 423, 430, 468-469, 570b, 714].

No True Miracles Justify Schism from Catholic Church
1. The reports of posthumous miracles worked by loud formal schismatics,{1} which have not been verified by anything close to such a trustworthy body as the meticulous Congregation for the Causes of Saints, are a priori extremely unlikely. According to the 2003 New Catholic Encyclopedia 9:669-670, while God sometimes works miracles outside of the Catholic Church to manifest His presence in certain events, support a doctrine that separated Churches have retained from the Catholic Church, or to increase the faith of individuals, He never works miracles in circumstances that could, with good reason, be construed as confirming a non-Catholic “religion as a whole or … a doctrine” opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Any so-called miracles of this sort are the product of (1) demons; (2) imagination; (3) hallucination; (4) exaggeration; (5) legendary accretion; or (6) outright fabrication.{2}
Causes of Occurrence of Some Miracles Outside Catholic Church
2. There are certain Eastern Orthodox individuals, who in the Church’s words, despite being “outside the visible boundaries of the Church,” nonetheless retain an “imperfect communion with the Catholic Church” because they value and practice “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements, all of these coming from Christ and leading back to Him.”{3} It sometimes happens that such persons work miracles, within the limits described above.
On Incorrupt Relics
3. My Wonderworkers blog has many pictures of purportedly supernaturally incorrupt Christians. According to p. 306 of the Jesuit Fr. Louis Monden’s Signs and Wonders, “pre-canonization inquests in the Orthodox Church are very different from their Roman counterparts. Examination of the bodily remains is of primary importance; perfect preservation is a favorable and often conclusive factor warranting canonization. … the norms applied in these inquests concerning miraculous events are not the same as the strict rules applied by the Catholic Church, and thus no purported miraculous facts may be accepted as such without prudent critical investigation in every case.” The Russian Orthodox Church censured Evgeni Evstigneevich Golubinski when he said that incorruptibility is not an essential mark of sanctity, according to p. 457 of the Assumptionist Fr. Martin Jugie’s Le Schisme Byzantin.
4. Don’t assign too much weight to incorruptibility. It is not a be-all end-all indicator of sanctity, there are different degrees of incorruptibility (e.g., John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco [†1966] is brown and withered, whereas St. Charles of Sezze [†1670] has full, lifelike flesh and normal coloration), and rigorous investigation is required to determine whether the causes are supernatural in individual cases. How is it that, for instance, men like St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori (an example of a loyal son of the Catholic Church, obedient to the Holy See as is required for salvation for everyone who is not invincibly ignorant) and the “incorrupt” Athanasius of Brest could both be members of the Church? Can a formal schismatic be a saint, with alleged incorruptibility manifesting that he was right to persist in notorious formal schism until the end of his life?
Apologetic Value of Catholic Miracles
5. There have been many true miracles in support of doctrines that the Orthodox have (but not via an ecumenical council) forsaken: e.g., Eucharistic miracles with unleavened as opposed to leavened bread,{4} God endorsing the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas,{5} and the Θεοτόκος proclaiming her Immaculate Conception to St. Bernadette Soubirous.{6} Moreover, “major prodigies” with intrinsic apologetic value are absent outside of the Catholic Church, according to Fr. Monden, whose meticulous study of the issue is a must-read.
Notes & References
{1} E.g., Alexis Toth (ex-Catholic), Athanasius of Brest, John of Kronstadt, Mark of Ephesus, etc. See the documentation of their hostility to the Catholic Church at https://thebananarepublican1.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/extra-ecclesiam-nulla-salus-part-2/.
{2} The Catholic Church has the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to rule out cases that belong to one or more of those categories. Historically, the Catholic Church has been much more rigorous than the Orthodox Church in this regard. Jugie, Martin, A.A. Le Schisme Byzantin: Aperçu historique et doctrinal. Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1941, p. 450.
{3} Ecumenical Council of Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio 3.
{4} On the Eastern Orthodox absolute rejection of the use of unleavened bread, see the following: Two Epistles of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius of Constantinople to Patriarch Peter III of Antioch; Encyclical of Metropolitan Mark Eugenikos of Ephesus (1440); Council of Constantinople with Patriarchs Jeremiah II Tranus of Constantinople, Silvester of Alexandria, and Sophronius IV of Jerusalem (1583); Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs Anthimus VI of Constantinople, Hierotheus II of Alexandria, Methodius of Antioch, and Cyril II of Jerusalem to Bl. Pope Pius IX of Rome (1848); Encyclical of Patriarch Anthimus VII of Constantinople to Pope Leo XIII of Rome (1895).
{5} Kennedy, Daniel. “St. Thomas Aquinas.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 21 Sept. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14663b.htm>.
{6} “Biography of Bernadette Soubirous.” Biography Online. 2 Oct. 2009 <http://www.biographyonline.net/spiritual/bernadette-soubirious.html>.


3 Responses to On Miracles Outside the Catholic Church

  1. […] Miracles *Catholic and Orthodox Wonderworkers 11th Century to the Present *On Eastern Orthodox Miracles *On Miracles Outside the Catholic Church […]

  2. Tap says:

    You said : “see Two Epistles of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius of Constantinople to Patriarch Peter III of Antioch”

    but when i click on the link i do not see any letters, it says coming soon. Do you plan on putting up these epistles at a later date?

  3. Will Huysman says:

    I am always grateful for your readership & feedback. A couple of years ago I wanted to do a good biography of Michael I Cerularius, but never got to it. The page I linked to in this post on miracles was supposed to contain that biography. Hopefully I will put up these epistles on unleavened bread at a later time, but right now I have no idea how soon that will be. Pray for me, a sinner.

    God bless you & yours,
    Will R. Huysman

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