I have a strange relationship with my neighbour’s cat. At best we can be said to tolerate each other. We view each other suspiciously and then I glare, hoping he will go away. He sees my garden as his personal fiefdom. I frequently challenge that perception and sometimes secretly wonder what life will be like once he has “passed on”.
But, bear with me … just suppose that he did “pass on”. And just imagine that I had this strange conversation with my neighbour afterwards. She tells me: “Tiddles was a perfect cat. He got rid of the mice and occasionally bought me dead birds as a present. I accidentally walked over the spot at the bottom of my garden where he was buried yesterday and I felt a strange sensation in my foot. When I got to bed I noticed that my bunion was healed. It was a miracle. I know for certain that he has immediately gone to be with my invisible friend in the sky, and I know that when I want my other bunion healed, I can either walk on his grave again or I can talk to Tiddles who, I know for certain, will talk to my invisible friend for me and get it fixed.”
I go inside, put the kettle on, and make a mental note to self to avoid future neighbourly chats at the garden fence as much as possible. What she said to me is wrong, on so many levels!
I don’t want to get into challenging the assumptions about the afterlife and resurrection (hell, purgatory, heaven, and invisible friends in the sky) – though I personally believe it to be mumbo-jumbo, but that argument is for another post. However, I do want to at least question four of the assumptions that the Catholic Church has made in order to proceed with Mother Teresa’s canonization.
There is plenty of public evidence to challenge the position put forward by the Catholic Church (see Krithikar Varagur’s Huffington Post article for starters) that Mother Teresa wasn’t necessarily as perfect as they might want her to be. In addition to that I have worked as a psychotherapist within a faith community long enough to know that there is often (perhaps always) an enormous gap between what is portrayed on the outside and the reality of the inside. If the Vatican is prepared to acknowledge Teresa had human frailty, but judged her to be on the acceptable side of failure, then where is that line drawn, and who on earth could ever have all the invisible evidence to make a meaningful judgement? At best, they must have made an arbitrary decision based on inevitably incomplete evidence. And on that basis, if Teresa can be a saint, why not millions of other supposed worthies?
Come on? If the PR machine announces to the faithful that she is being considered for sainthood, then the faithful would produce the miracles. If the church announced that you were being considered for sainthood, someone (or two), somewhere would find the miracles. You always see what you look for, and in an expectant community that clearly ignores the rules of logic and science when it wants to (and has done for two thousand years), you will see miracles.
(The NHS could do with a few miracles at the moment to help relieve the pressure from using science, but strangely the miracle workers never seem to be able to convincingly help out in sufficient numbers – despite the taxpayer paying the expensive salaries of hospital chaplains.)
Didn’t the Catholic Church get itself into a bit of bother pre-Reformation by selling indulgences and telling people (for a price) that they or their relatives could be fast-tracked through purgatory and go straight through the alleged pearly gates? Isn’t it slightly arrogant to know and declare who god has allegedly let in? Seems a bit presumptuous to me.
The fact that I am told I can now pray to Teresa who will doubtless ask god (or perhaps take the longer route via Mary or other saints before reaching the desired destination) to consider my request, leaves me slightly cold. As I have argued elsewhere (My Five Problems with Prayer) there seems to be a failure of beneficence. Why does an allegedly all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful god need me to communicate with her/him via such convoluted channels? And how can anyone with any sense presume to know where (if anywhere) this woman is after death, and what (if anything) she is doing?
My mind just boggles!