An American priest who died 130 years ago could be a saint within a decade. The Rev. Michael J. McGivney, who died in 1890, is best known for having founded the Knights of Columbus, the fraternal organization that was instrumental in getting the words “under God” added to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
But the accomplishment that put McGivney on the path to sainthood is that he saved the life of a fetus that was sick inside the womb… more than a century after he died.
Pope Francis is crediting the healing of an unborn child with a life-threatening condition to the priest, the Rev. Michael J. McGivney, after the child’s family said they prayed to him, the Knights of Columbus said.
The step clears the way for Father McGivney to be beatified, or declared “blessed,” by the pope — the second-to-last step before a figure is canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. An additional miracle must be accredited [sic] to Father McGivney before he is declared a saint.
The miracle recognized by the Vatican paving the way for his beatification occurred in 2015 and involved an U.S. baby, still in utero, with a life-threatening condition that, under most circumstances, could have led to an abortion. He was found to be healed after his family prayed to Father McGivney.
The blessed event happened just five years ago. That makes for an interesting timeline. Consider that the campaign to get McGivney declared a saint was kicked off by the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut in 1996 (McGivney had ministered extensively in that state). Then, in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed McGivney a “Venerable Servant of God,” an early station on the path to sainthood.
So we have
1996 — the request for canonization is made
2008 — the Pope opens the door to sainthood
2015 — McGivney performs a miracle 125 years after his death.
Isn’t this backwards, in both senses of the word? Why put the cart before the horse? Shouldn’t the so-called miracle have preceded the canonization attempt? Doesn’t this look for all the world like the divine marvel was invented and grafted on to a predetermined narrative, to give the whole thing a sheen of [cough] legitimacy?
What of the first miracle — how did the Vatican’s investigators establish with anything approaching certainty that the purported saint saved the unborn child, rather than the medical staff, or just the luck of the draw? How can anyone demonstrate that the child would’ve died if the parents had instead prayed to a fluffy cloud, a ’59 Buick Skylark, or an avocado?
What of the second miracle — will evidentiary standards be practically absent, again? When will it materialize? Why is everyone involved so sure that a second miracle will occur at all, much less within a decade, considering that McGivney took well over a century to perform the first one? Is that a rat I smell?
It all gives new meaning to the term papal bull.
(Screenshot via YouTube)