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New Vatican rules for testing miracles in causes for canonization

September 23, 2016

The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints has announced has issued new rules governing the medical boards that investigate reported miracles in connection with the causes of candidates for beatification and canonization.

The new regulations toughen the requirements for acceptance of a miracle's authenticity, and also set stricter standards for the documentation of payments to experts involved in the investigation.

Reported miracles have "always been examined with the utmost rigor," the Vatican observed in announcing the new rules, and since 1743 all reported miracles have been examined by medical experts. In 1959 Pope John XXIII established rules for the medical boards responsible for the investigations; these rules have been updated under Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and now Francis.

The new rules require that at least 5 medical experts out of a 7-member board, or 4 out of a 6-member board, approve the certification of a miracle. If a reported miracle is rejected, it cannot be examined again by the same consulting group; and in no case can one report be examined more than three times.

The rules also specify that medical experts who are consulted about miracles must be paid only by bank transfer. This new rule was obviously added to tighten financial controls; the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has come under heavy criticism for its failure to account for the funds collected and spent in connection with the causes of saints.

The new rules do not apply retroactively; those miracles that have already been certified by review boards will not be re-examined. Also, the Vatican statement affirms that the Roman Pontiff has the final say: the "exclusive competence of acknowleding an extraordinary event as a true miracle."

 
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