A Catholic priest from Massachussetts was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart. During that time, Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.
That story, in various iterations, has been popping up in my news feed all day. Even apart from the matter of God’s gender, on which I offer no thoughts, and the matter of religious near-death experiences, which I addressed here, there’s no truth to the article. It is a hoax, a falsehood that was (probably) designed to attract cheap clicks. There is no 71-year-old Father John Michael O’Neal in Massachusetts whose heart failure required hospitalization, and who met God during a 48-minute detour through heaven.
If you go to Shutterstock and search for “old man in hospital bed,” this photo is among the top results:
You can find the same image on stock-photo sites like Dreamstime and Photolia.
As best I can tell, the story originated with World News Daily Report in early February. The publication claims to be an “American Jewish Zionist newspaper in Tel Aviv,” and unleashes on the world such fine fare as “California Man Gets 25-Pound Penile Implant to Become Pornstar,” “World Famous Taj Mahal to Be Turned into 5-Star Hotel,” and “Hollywood’s Most Famous ‘Butt Double’ Found Dead in Motel Room.” Perhaps it’s supposed to be satire.
Since then, the tale of “Father O’Neal” was initially picked up mostly by African news media with low news standards, such as Nigeria Tell, Spy Ghana, and Uganda’s Sunday Monitor (whose motto is “Truth Everyday”). From there, it migrated and multiplied to lots of other (perhaps accidental) bullshit peddlers, from India Today to KVIL, a CBS Radio affiliate in Texas.
I would’ve thought that religious life contains enough real absurdities to quash the need to make up additional ones.
According to a recent media update, this story is false, but I believe if it hasn’t yet happened, it truly will! Someone once said: “all stories are true some actually happened.”
Because, you know, fuck the facts.