Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Miracle cure: a thought-experiment

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 17, 2021

Imagine: A monk at a small monastery somewhere in the mountains announces that he has a miraculous cure for Covid. St. Luke the physician appeared to him, he says, and promised that anyone who drank from a certain mountain stream, located near the monastery, would be safe from the epidemic. The monk reports that several people suffering from Covid have drunk from the stream, and in every case the symptoms quickly disappeared.

Imagine the reaction to such a development. Two very different responses would be completely predictable:

  • Enthusiasts would rush to the mountain monastery. Hundreds would drink the water. Many would bring it home in the largest containers they could handle, to share with family and friends. Some, no doubt, would try to set up a business, selling the “miracle water” for profit. A few would make even more extravagant claims about the water: that it reverses balding, sharpens memory, etc.
  • More sober observers would denounce the monk’s claims as irresponsible. They would lament that the excitement over the “miracle water” was distracting attention from the campaign for universal vaccination. They would complain that those who drank the water were acting recklessly, ignoring calls for masks and social distancing. They would put pressure on major media outlets and social-media providers to squelch reports of the phenomenon.

Which side would you be on? Or would you take a “wait-and-see” attitude? How about your local board of health? The newspaper editor in your community? Your pastor? Your bishop? Your governor?

The water would be thoroughly tested, of course, and a chemical analysis would show absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Oddly enough, both the enthusiasts and the skeptics would cite this analysis to bolster their claims. The skeptics would argue, quite reasonably, that water is water, and it is unscientific to claim that water from a particular source has miraculous properties. The enthusiasts would counter, just as reasonably, that since ordinary water is harmless, there was no reason not to drink from this particular stream.

Now let’s take this thought-experiment a few more steps, and imagine that over time, the monk’s claims hold up. No one who drinks from the mountain stream comes down with Covid; anyone who is already suffering from the disease recovers quickly after a few sips. Eventually many thousands of people have sampled the water, with universally positive results. There is no medical explanation for the cure, but… apparently it works.

As the favorable reports multiplied, the ranks of the enthusiasts would swell. The mainstream media, which debunked the monk’s early claims, would be forced to notice the surge of traffic toward his remote monastery. Politicians, fearful of being caught on the wrong side of a popular groundswell, would defend the rights of citizens to drink whatever water they choose. Public-health officials would have no choice but to abandon as hopeless the effort to dissuade people from drinking the miracle water.

At this point, the public response to the monk’s claims would fall into three categories:

  1. Believers would believe—both in the curative properties of the water and in the miracle that provided them.
  2. Agnostics would be willing to try the water. Why not? It couldn’t hurt and it might help.
  3. Adamant skeptics would continue to ridicule the growing public belief in the miracle cure. To accept the notion that an ordinary object (in this case water) can have extraordinary properties, by virtue of a special blessing, would thoroughly undermine the scientific approach of the rational secular mind. Yet eventually even the hard-line skeptics would be taking secret nips of the mountain water, after learning that their 7th and 8th vaccines boosters had proven ineffective.

The end result of this fictional scenario, as I see it, would be not only the defeat of the Covid epidemic but also a rebirth of faith, as people recognized the legitimacy of supernatural claims. So I pray that something like this scenario will actually play out on the world’s stage, and I invite readers to join me in that prayer.

Meanwhile, as we wait and we pray for a miracle, I also invite readers to reflect on how long it would take different people, and different groups of people, to move from skepticism to belief, from an impulse to debunk the monk’s claims to grateful acceptance of a miracle.

Phamaceutical-company executives and investors, who are reaping massive profits from the vaccines, would have a strong incentive to resist belief. The politicians and public-health officials who have coordinated the Covid response to date would also be slow to accept the miracle; they would be forced to acknowledge that their approach was fruitless. The “fact-checkers” of the social-media giants would do their utmost to tamp down enthusiasm for the miracle water.

You would think—wouldn’t you?—that religious leaders would be among the first to welcome the monk’s discovery. They would not be required to re-adjust their fundamental beliefs. (Christians in particular already profess belief in the enormous sacramental powers that water can carry.) Yet our Church leaders, like our public-health officials, have invested heavily in the vaccination campaign, which would collapse as belief in the miracle spread. I suspect, sadly, that agnostics, inspired by nothing more than the desire to try something new, would be clogging the roads to that remote monastery long before the first Catholic bishops appeared on the scene.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Dec. 20, 2021 2:29 PM ET USA

    Moreover, some bishops will be hinting that what the monk is doing is the work of the devil, since the monks at the monastery celebrate the TLM. And that these monks are likely motivated by a desire to profit financially from those gullible Catholics rushing to the mountain monastery.

  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Dec. 17, 2021 6:31 PM ET USA

    Phil, after the last 5 years of the fake news media reporting what it wants regardless of what the news is, and this means doing it before even covid started, I can't believe you would write such an article as this. You are treating the enemies of our country,the enemies of good people throughout the world, as if they have bona fide good intentions but might be wrong without knowing it. If you aren't going to wake up and smell the coffee, why would you think the powers that be will do it?