Lourdes is a village in southern France close to the Pyrenees mountains and Spanish border that is home to a famous shrine that sick pilgrims visit in hope for healing.
It is also a place where many miracles of supernatural healing have been said to have occurred since the year 1858. In 1858 a 14-year-old girl said she saw a beautiful lady that Roman Catholics believe was Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, today Lourdes is recognized as the Catholic Church’s center for investigating miracle healings. Likewise, medical professionals from around the world are invited to investigate the evidence for the reported healings.
The Lourdes Medical Bureau
In order to make sure the claims of miracle cures are examined properly and to protect the town from fraudulent claims, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was established at the urging of Pope Saint Pius X. The Bureau is completely under medical supervision and any doctors practicing in or visiting Lourdes may apply to become members. Irish doctor and member Michael Moran explains that they are “very much a scientific committee so we are not the people who can say the word miracle – that’s something for the church to comment on” (4). Moran continues: “The committee is really convened as a group of professional people who sit with the best medical evidence and can even request more medical evidence to substantiate what has been claimed by the person.” Doctors of any religious affiliation or none are also welcome to become members.
69 Miracles Confirmed
Around 7000 people have submitted cases to have confirmed as a miracle, of which 69 have been declared scientifically inexplicable by both the Bureau and the Catholic Church. The Church has vigorously investigated and validated 69 of them (1). This may seem like a few and something hardly worth writing home about. However, there is more to consider. First is that the Church should be commended for refusing to use miracles as propaganda or the basis for false claims like is the case with many faith healers seeking profit. Instead, the Church has medically and scientifically examined the cases and disqualified many that have not passed the vetting process. In fact, the requirements are so strict that only a few are accepted, which is not to say that those that did not meet the requirements were not themselves a miracle. For example, an individual might have witnessed life returning to his paralyzed legs but was unable to supply medical documentation to the Bureau as proof. In fact, 2500 of the 7000 cases are considered remarkable but lacked some requirement needed to advance to the next stage of the confirmation process (3).
Criteria for Confirming Miracles
Where possible, people claiming to be healed are examined on the spot by the medical bureau and the information is reviewed by an international commission of medical specialists, independent of the Catholic Church. To be regarded as authentic, claims have to satisfy four requirements:
• The illness and cure was well documented,
• The illness was serious and was unable to be effectively treated,
• The symptoms disappeared within hours, and
• The healing lasted for sufficient time to ensure the ‘cure’ was not just a temporary remission (e.g. in the case of leukemia, 10 years is required).
Most of the claims are unable to meet all these requirements, but 69 cases have. Of these 69, the illnesses healed include tubercular meningitis, stomach and liver cancer, tubercular peritonitis, cancer of the uterus, a malignant tumour of the hip, a herniated disc, multiple tuberculous lesions, and more. Dr. Moran explains that these 69 are ”the ones that we have absolutely certain medical evidence and we can stand over.”
3. Marian Library Newsletter. Available.
4. Ferguson, S. 2014. Dr Michael Moran evaluates Lourdes miracles reports. Available.