So here’s the story reported at KUOW Seattle that I have slightly edited for length. The bold face is mine:
Three years ago, first–grader Jake Finkbonner nearly died of a horrible infection. As he fought for his life, people all over Washington state — and the world — prayed for a miracle. Now, the Vatican will decide whether his recovery qualifies as one. And if so, it could mark a historic milestone for the Church.
Jake’s face had swollen beyond recognition. And within days, he was hovering near death at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. The Strep A infection had become necrotizing fasciitis — it’s commonly known as flesh–eating disease. It ravaged through his body, killing tissue as it went.
A team of doctors at Children’s raced to keep ahead of the infection, using surgery to cut out diseased tissue where they could. They also sent Jake for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber — the kind used to treat scuba divers who suffer the bends. He was fortunate. The only hyperbaric chamber in the region is located right near Children’s Hospital. The treatment raises the oxygen levels in the body, helping kill the bacteria. But in Jake’s case, even that couldn’t shut down the infection.
Bacterial infections have claimed lives for centuries. More than 350 years ago another case — one with some striking parallels to Jake’s, had unfolded in an Indian village in New York state.
In 1656, a baby girl named Kateri Takekwitha, was born to a Mohawk chief. Her mother was Algonquin, and also Catholic. When the little girl was four, smallpox tore through her tribe, killing her parents and brother. Though she survived, her face was severely scarred.
When she grew up, she converted to Catholicism, and devoted the rest of her short life to caring for the sick. Kateri was revered for her kindness. And when she died, witnesses reported that her scars vanished. What’s more, so the story goes, the sick who attended her were healed on the day of her funeral.
The church is conducting an investigation to determine whether a miracle took place, and whether it could be attributed to Blessed Kateri. If they decide she was responsible, it could mean her elevation to sainthood. And if she is made a saint, it would mark the first time that distinction has ever been given to a Native American in the history of the Catholic Church.
Church officials have sent an investigative team to review Jake’s medical records, and interview those involved, including Father Tim, the doctors, and Jake himself. Father Tim will say only that the Vatican’s process is rigorous, and very private. The church won’t say how long the investigation will take. Jake’s parents, however, don’t need word from on high to have reached their own conclusion. Neither does Jake.
Smith: “So Jake, do you believe in miracles?”
Jake Finkbonner: “Yes.”
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So we have a bacterial infection in Jake’s case and a viral infection in Kateri’s. They are not “strikingly similar” whatsoever. We have a young boy who is treated intensively by the best medical team and medical practices available. Seems to me like that medical intervention may have played some part in Jake’s survival and the story could end right there. But how can we involve some woo and turn this event into a religious controversy?
Enter a girl from more than 350 years ago who was kind… and catholic. What is under ‘serious’ consideration is whether or not the long dead girl played some kind of active part in the survival of the boy.
A team from the Vatican will investigate we are told to find whether or not a causal link exists not only between the girl and boy separated by time, distance, but also by a slight impediment known as death.
And some religious people – including the Roman Catholic Church and its leadership who insist that they are concerned about proclaiming the truth – think that such an investigation passes muster for what constitutes acceptable science.
No, really. I’m not making this up.
According to this Vatican team, who Father Tim assures us is “rigorous” in its investigating, what might constitute as evidence I wonder? Does anyone have any idea? I certainly don’t. Maybe that explains why the investigation is so “very private;” whatever the acceptable evidence may be, I suspect it has nothing whatsoever to do with science and establishing a causal link as claimed and everything to do with political considerations to elevate a First Nations person who lived in what we now call the United States.
It is truly remarkable that Jake and his family lend any weight to the miraculous intervention of woo playing some significant part in his recovery but utterly fail to even remotely consider divine intervention as having caused the accident and his infection. But then such thinking might interfere with the Church’s goal of proclaiming the truth. And we can’t doubt any of that, now can we?