Help a doubting reader!

I received an email from a reader whose identity I’ll withhold for obvious reasons. It links to a video (embedding is prohibited) showing a woman with apparent stigmata, followed by an obviously bogus claim that a wafer turned into blood and a heart in the 8th century. But the stigmata require an explanation, and I know that there are skeptics, doctors, and magicians among our readers.  So please help this reader with your expertise after watching the video. I myself have written to my doctor for an explanation.

The email is reproduced with permission of the writer.

Jerry,

I am almost finished with your book and have watched many of your videos on evolution which have been extremely helpful in my overall understanding of the topic.

I was born and raised Roman Catholic and am clinging to my faith but just barely. I have been deeply influenced by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, et al. and their writing on atheism. This latest papal/Vatican scandal has just about caused me to slam the door behind me as I leave the Church…very embarrassing.

Then I go to my parish mission last night and watch this video called “Science Tests Faith” about a bleeding statue, bleeding host and a woman in Bolivia with the stigmata – the wounds of Christ. Apparently these “miracles” have been independently tested and authenticated by various experts. There are two people featured in the film – one is a lawyer and one is a reporter, both Aussies. Both were atheists and have converted to Catholicism because of their experience.

I know you are a busy man…but I am wondering if you could watch this short video about this woman and give me your thoughts. Obviously if it is true, it is pretty amazing, if not then a huge fraud that these two individuals have bought hook, line and sinker and are trying to get others to. Both seem sincere and seem intelligent and articulate which makes the whole thing very strange.

Four-minute video here: “My Jesus, the signs from God”

This is the kind of thing that Catholics cling to and keeps them hoping and praying for an afterlife. It makes absolutely no sense but these odd occurrences are difficult to explain.

Any thoughts you could share would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

[Name redacted]

The heart and blood at the video’s end refer to the “Miracle of Lanciano”, which you can read about here. It’s supposedly the remains of communion bread that was transformed into actual flesh and blood before the eyes of an an Italian monk around 700 A.D.

The ancient flesh and blood were examined by an Italian doctor who concluded this:

  • The flesh is real flesh and the blood is real blood
  • The flesh and the blood belong to the human species
  • The flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart
  • In the flesh we see present in section: the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium. The flesh is a heart complete in its essential structure.
  • The flesh and the blood have the same blood type, AB
  • In the blood there were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of fresh normal blood
  • In the blood there were also found these minerals: chlorides, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium
  • Both the flesh and the blood showed no evidence of preservatives(or other added chemical agents of any kind) being used.

To me this says nothing, except that the AB blood type militates it being Jesus’s, for that requires two human alleles for different Landsteiner blood groups. (Of course, God can do anything.)

Reactions to the video, especially the stigmata? And remember, we have an honest request here from someone whose faith is tottering.

126 Comments

  1. Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    EITHER we are looking at faking or self-deception, OR God chooses to perform weird and outlandish miracles while otherwise leaving the world as it is.

    Take your pick.

    • gbjames
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      +1

      • Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Great observation. If there is a god, s/he sure chooses funny ways to manifest. And by *funny,* I mean as ridiculous as ridiculous gets.

        • @eightyc
          Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

          lol.

          well can’t get any sillier than statues that sweat! haha

    • rodgerma
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Alektorophile
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      As often is the case, Tim Minchin says it best. I think his “Thank You God (Sam’s Mum)” song is spot on when describing God’s rather peculiar choices in performing miracles while, as you put it, “otherwise leaving the world as it is”.

      • Heber
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        I just listened to that song on youtube, tough the only available version is a girl’s cover, and was astounded. Tim’s genius for writing songs of this type is absolutely mesmerizing.

      • gbjames
        Posted March 7, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

        There’s a good intro to the Sam’s Mum song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7xYSJB2JnU

  2. Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    The stigmata is supposed to have the wounds of Christ but the parts of all stigmata are the ones that were painted in the Church paintings (don’t know where the first one came from) … They were not the wounds of Christ as depicted in the New Testament. Muslims don’t believe that Christ was crucified at all. And their belief, like the Christian belief, is VERY RELIGIOUS. You can’t expect them not to believe in what they think is GOD’s WORD.

    Why do people accept this stigmata idea (I know the Church promotes it … but why should a sane man not question this at all) …

    Have we found similar wounds on any other fossils or remains of a crucified person of yore? I am told there never was anyone with these wounds found!!!

    • Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      there is one instance of a ankle bone with a spike in it. Wiki has it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion#Ancient_practice

      As it says, the heels were nailed not the front of the feet as most icons depict.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 7, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        Also the arms would likely be nailed at the wrists, between the radius and the ulna, rather than through the palms, to ensure effective hanging.

        Oops, just noticed blueollie’s similar comment below.

  3. Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I always understood that, without supporting ropes, you couldn’t crucify people by nailing their hands; rather one nailed the wrists.

    Still: I am always struck by this: if there is some miracle, why not have it in the middle of New York City or Tokyo instead of in situations like this?

    • Alektorophile
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that was my understanding, too. Unless one used ropes, it was the wrists that were nailed to the beams. But somehow medieval and popular art always depicted the crucifixion with nails in the hands, and of course as a consequence that is where stigmata are usually made to appear, i.e. where people would (wrongly) expect them.

  4. Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    sub/

    • Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      my first attempt to subscribe to comments didn’t work, so I’m trying again . . .

  5. Bonzodog
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Wonder what the Y chromosome would show? Just a thought ….

    • microraptor
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      The next door neighbor who stopped by to borrow a cup of sugar while Joseph wasn’t home or the mailman, most likely.

      • Xtrchessreal
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        Mary was only a virgin if you don’t count anal…sshhhhhhhh

        lmao – that is what my shirt says.

  6. Alex Lickerman
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Jerry,
    Well, two ways to approach this: 1) It’s all staged/fake, 2) It’s real and there exists a medical explanation. Given that I’m not invested in the bleeding actually representing the stigmata (so I’m not influenced by confirmation bias) I’m inclined to believe this is staged.

    However, if we consider the possibility that it wasn’t staged, how might a physician (me) explain this medically? Without knowing more details of how this all occurred, without having been able to examine her before, while, and after it occurred, what I’m about to say is pure conjecture. (If a concerned family member had described what happened to this woman to me via email seeking my help as a physician and concerned only about her health and not what the bleeding may or may not prove about Jesus, I’d tell that family member that I don’t have nearly enough information to have even a good guess. I’d want to take a careful history and do a physical exam.)

    Having said that: spontaneous internal bleeding is well known to happen in disorders of coagulation. (When I heard that the lungs were filling with fluid, I thought about pulmonary hemorrhage–many diseases do that. But then she spontaneously recovered. Hmm.) Usually, though, with such diseases, there is an inciting event (i.e., trauma). However, if the blood becomes anticoagulated enough, spontaneous internal bleeding can definitely happen (usually as a result of an overdose of a blood thinner–remember that Coumadin, the most commonly used blood thinner, is what’s used in rat poison). What’s far less likely is that a patient whose blood had been thus thinned would spontaneously bleed through the skin. In the absence of trauma to the skin, such bleeding, even in the context of a blood thinner overdose–well, I’ve never seen it.

    On the other hand, skin ulcers occur all the time in certain diseases–often autoimmune diseases. The one quick shot we get to see of the woman’s hand shows what looks to me like an ulceration–which could certain bleed spontaneously. It doesn’t appear to be made by trauma, given how uniformly deep it looks and how uniform its border is (though, admittedly, it still could be). Yet even if the hand is bleeding because of an ulceration, that wouldn’t explain the bleeding of the forehead or feet.

    That’s about all I can say without beginning to sound like a true believer myself trying to rationalize how this is indeed the stigmata. I would conclude by asserting that, if what we see on the video did indeed happen, it certainly will have a scientific explanation. I’ve seen more bizarre symptoms than this that ultimately proved to be entirely explainable by natural means.

    The point here isn’t that I can’t successfully explain her symptoms medically (too little data). The point is the thought process I’m using to think about what happened. I’d even entertain it WAS the stigmata as a hypothesis…if I could test it.

    • H.H.
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Well, two ways to approach this: 1) It’s all staged/fake, 2) It’s real and there exists a medical explanation.

      You miss the third option: It’s all staged but still real, i.e. self-harm.

      And Stigmatics truly do harm themselves. Padre Pio was suspected of using acids to keep his stigmata wounds fresh. I’m sure it was quite painful. Stamatics endure it because of all the positive attention they receive from their community, though.

      • Matt Bowman
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Whenever I hear about the stigmata I always think of Padre Pio. The most obvious answer is always that the stigmata is self inflicted. The faithful are shocked by the suggestion. They wonder why anyone would inflict that kind of pain on themselves. But people do engage in self harm.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pio_of_Pietrelcina#Controversies

        The “physician and psychologist Agostino Gemelli” said Padre Pio was “an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people’s credulity.”

        I think that is the more likely answer.

      • Xtrchessreal
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchausen_syndrome

        Fanatics, psychopaths, sociopaths,

        Why is this post here in the first place? How does it relate to evolution?

        I just started reading this site and I am now thinking of deleting it from favs and subscriptions.

        Really???

        Seriously???

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

          Don’t let the door hit you…

          • Heber
            Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

            +1

        • gbjames
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          Let me get this straight… You’re unhappy with the topic discussed and so you plan to stop reading WEIT? And the rest of us should care because…?

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

          Please, PLEASE delete me!

    • Dominic
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      Some type of syndrome perhaps then?

      • Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        There are various mental illnesses that are know to drive the suffers to produce stigmata-like wounds in non-stigmata locations. Add in religion and these people could easily fake-up their wounds through their obsessive-compulsive self-harming.

        THen there are the fakers. Legions of them.

  7. Dave Hooke
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Apparently her visions are fraudulent. This doesn’t mean her stigmata is fraudulent, but it makes it damn likely.

    From the Skeptics Dictionary:

    “Guadalajaran writer José H. Prado Flores claims Katya’s messages are photocopies of his book Formacion de pedicadores (Training preachers), published six years before Catia’s “messages.” She was scheduled to speak in Guadalajara a couple of weeks ago, but the show was cancelled by Juan Cardenal Sandoval Iñiguez, the bishop of Guadalajara, after Prado Flores and a friend showed the bishop his work and the book Catia was claiming to have written from divine inspiration.”

    http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/funk21.html#rivas

    http://www.skepdic.com/rivas.html

  8. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Since it was an “honest request” I’ll provide my honest response.

    Please, PLEASE stop watching daytime television! I’ve never seen a bigger load of malarkey in my entire life. The expressions on that woman’s face could easily land her a job with Saturday Night Live.

  9. steve oberski
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    After watching that cheesy video I’m not entirely convinced that this was an “honest request”.

    The only miracle there was the fact that I finished watching it without throwing up.

    If this is the only thing keeping the reader from leaving the church then the reader is not ready to leave the church.

  10. revjimbob
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    The guy doing the talking came across as sincere, but I didn’t find this stuff very compelling at all. It all just seemed preposterous.

  11. Atheist in a Closet
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Don’t give up. I was saved from religion by reason and education. Don’t stop reading. Don’t allow a charlatan’s tricks be the basis of your faith in a god. Keep thinking! The loss of my faith in my early 20s was a difficult process for me emotionally. But just like a soap bubble, it popped, never to blind my eyes again. Hopefully your bubble will pop too. A skeptic’s life can be difficult, as made clear by the name used in this reply. We have to deal with death, for example. Losing a loved one and knowing that you will most likely never see them again hurts much more than the idea that you will be reunited with them in an afterlife. You lose the comfort of religion when your bubble pops, but you gain clarity of mind!

  12. Sunny
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Any converts, yet? I simply could not bring myself to watch the entire video.

    How come one never hears of such dramatic manifestations of the divine among Muslims or Hindhus? I would love to see an elephant head on a devout Hindhu.

    • Sajanas
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      In the first season of the travel show An Idiot Abroad, Ricky Gervais sends his friend to India, and while there meets with a holy man they called the “Elephant Baba” (I hope I’m spelling that right), who was their for a Hindu festival, and was famous for having a deformity where the flesh of his face hung down and looked vaguely like an elephant snout.

      So, while not a manifestation of the divine, the Hindu’s aren’t immune to Mother Teresa Toast situations.

    • Gluon Spring
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Or even Protestants. One could as easily ask your Baptist friends why they don’t accept this ‘miracle’ as a bunch of atheists, because by and large they do not.

  13. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The video we’re seeing here is apparently not the same as the “Science Tests Faith” video your correspondent saw. In particular I see no claims in this video about the conversion of former atheists, just one man speaking about his “journey back to God”.

    On the evidence we’re being shown, I see nothing to convince me this isn’t staged. What I’d really like to see is an analysis of this video not by doctors, but by makeup artists and special-effects people.

    It reminds me of the alleged “alien autopsy” video from some years back. When doctors saw it, they all said, “This is very poorly documented. I can’t see enough to tell what’s going on.” But when special-effects guys saw it, they said, “Yes! This is exactly the kind of fake video I’d make!”

  14. Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    If we are to take this at face value, and give the presenters the benefit of the doubt (no matter their sincerity they wouldn’t be the first liars for Jesus) and assume that this is supernatural, then we must then compare the supposed supernatural cause to other supernatural causes. I could just as easily, with as much evidence as is suggested for the stigmata hypothesis, speculate that this phenomenon could be the result of a psycho-somatic reaction. Is the “Passion of Christ” working its magic here, or is her deep belief in that phenomenon causing these reactions in her own body? Is it perhaps the “Devil” who would seem to have a vested interest in the RCC maintaining membership? Even if you can prove that this does not have a natural explanation, which would require much more methodological rigor than what is presented here, then you still have your work cut out for you in providing the specific flavor of supernatural explanation. Once we enter that realm of exposition, many hypotheses may be presented that have nothing to do with Catholicism, and may run counter to Catholicism. Indeed, Deepak Choprah might even mention the quantum ability of cellular evolution to generate an experiential crucifixion based on the woman’s understanding of the alleged event. As Blueollie mentioned, it was more likely that the wounds would be in the wrists and legs counter to popular artistic interpretations. Could it be VooDoo? An overzealous priest has taken to casting spells in order to excite interest in his church? Or is it simply telekinesis? In the realm of the unknown or supernatural, how do we distinguish causes? How do we get to the “Passion of Christ” from an apparent unexplained phenomenon. Even with apparent “evidence”, any non-natural explanation that you accept is accepted on faith. If this were to occur to a Hindu or Muslim woman without Catholic witnesses or bias, how would it have been received or explained? Wouldn’t that be a much more interesting stigmata?

    The woman in question did look awefully bloated in the feet and hands. It would be interesting to know what kinds of medication she was on, I don’t know the specifics but my father-in law is on medications that make the skin on his hands like tissue paper and he bleeds with the slightest abrasion, the gentleman in the video was pretty active with that cotton swab, and it looked dry so I’m not sure what the point of that was since she wasn’t bleeding profusely.

    Blood on the forehead? No video of it suddenly appearing and no apparent wound, they could have been splashes.

    As far as the host turning into flesh, well, twice in 2 thousand years ain’t too bad for something that’s supposed to happen at every Communion.

    This brings up another question, what were they all doing there in the first place? Was this an expected event? “Oh, do please come over, I feel a stigmata coming on.”

  15. truthspeaker
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    The letter writer makes a few assumptions: that the two Aussies really were atheists who were converted by these “miracles”, that the speakers in the video are sincere, and that the doctor who examined the blood and tissue was honest.

    I would ask the letter writer if he or she has ever watched something like the Home Shopping Network. That network features a host who talks to a salesperson displaying or demonstrating a product. You might ask yourself, why not just have the salesperson? What the producers of HSN and similar networks found is that viewers perceive the “host” as neutral. The salesperson is obviously making a pitch, but viewers perceive the host as being someone like them, and then view the host’s opinions about the products as more trustworthy.

    I think a similar trick is going on here.

    • darrelle
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      “. . . and that the doctor who examined the blood and tissue was honest.”

      That is certainly true, but relatively minor compared to accepting that the material in question started out as communion bread and then spontaneously changed into a bloody human heart. Because an Italian monk said so back in 700 AD. Having a doctor examine the remains and then pretending the results lend credence to the claim is a standard carny trick to divert peoples attention away from the real issues with the claim. Such standard carny diversions are, in and of themselves, a clear indication that the buyer should beware.

      • Scott P.
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Exactly what I was going to say. Well said. Whenever you see a lot of time and attention being devoted to a relatively minor detail, it’s a form of distraction.

        • darrelle
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          Thanks. :)

          Carny’s, hell even sales people, irritate me.

  16. Veroxitatis
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    She may have been so intensely devout that subconsciously she has produced these symptoms. Simple self hypnosis.
    I had cousins who lived in Southern Rhodesia for many years. One of their staff – an intelligent urban youth – originated from rural parts. Once after returning from a short holiday he looked decidedly pale. He eventually confided in his employers that he had been cursed by a witchdoctor for inciting the murder of a woman. He denied this but knew for a certainty that he would die. He refused the offer of my cousins to take him to their family doctor. He simply wasted away and was found dead a few weeks later.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think the “psychosomatic” or “self-hypnosis” argument holds much water. We’d still want a medical explanation of how it’s possible to make one’s hands bleed by pure power of thought.

      There are, on the other hand, many documented instances of faith-motivated self-mutilation.

  17. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed listening to “Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ”. The rest of the video – not so much; too cheesy.

    • Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Close. If you’ll all permit me a bit of OT music pedantry: The piece was not Tomaso Albinoni’s (unfinished) Adagio in G minor, but Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

      On topic: there’s nothing in this video that leads me to assume the wounds aren’t fake or self-inflicted.

      • Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        Also OT – I noted Barber’s Adagio as well – it still gives the goosebumps at the ending of the crescendo.

      • Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Also OT, and even more pedantically, Albinoni’s “Adagion in G minor for organ, solo violin & strings” as we know it was likely actually composed (at least, finished) by Remo Giazotto. ;-)

        /@

        • Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Pedants rule! :-)

        • Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          Indeed! :)

          By “unfinished” I actually meant “not really even started.” I’m pretty sure Giazotto assembled the Adagio from random fragments of Albinoni’s. I figured “good enough for a biology/atheism blobsite.” I should’ve known better.

  18. Alan
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Wikipedia has an interesting article on stigmata, including its occurrence in non-christian communities and the scientific research that has been undertaken.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigmata

  19. Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Is it God? Even if it’s a) not staged AND b) has no known medical explanation, is the stigmata evidence of God?

    There are a zillion other explanations beyond the existence of a single interacting Supreme Being. Just one explanation would be an alien life force zapping the lady with an invisible laser just to mess with us.

    While odd, this is still infinitely more likely than a God, especially one as portrayed so ignominiously as in the Bible and/or Koran.

  20. Alektorophile
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    As for the Lanciano “miracle”, the Italian wiki page has a slightly different account of the doctor’s findings. The compositional analysis for example did not simply reveal the presence of the above-mentioned minerals, but specifically that these were present in a proportion and quantity radically different from what is found in human blood. Also I would add that finding proteins in a medieval sample is not that unusual, as we know of proteins found in much older mummified Egyptian remains for example.

    And of course even demonstrating that the remains are human is a far cry from demonstrating that they are miraculous. After all one could equally analyze the hundreds if not thousands of remains of the True Cross spread all over Europe and scientifically confirm that they are indeed made of wood. That does not in any way confirm that this hypothetical giant cross (JC must have indeed been superhuman to carry it all by himself if all those relics belonged to that one specific Roman torture apparatus) ever existed or that the relics date to early 1st Century AD Palestine.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Right. Even if we confirm that it’s human blood, there’s still no evidence that it was ever communion bread.

      • Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        I only hope they didn’t cut out someone’s heart to create this.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted March 7, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          “No humans were harmed in the making of this miracle”

  21. alice
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to be blunt but its all a complete fake pure and simple. I am not at all convinced by the tone of voice of the first man – all rehearsed and acted. People lie!

  22. Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Its flim flam as usual….crucifixion is thru the wrists and ankle bones. There all in on it.

  23. gr8hands
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Video of magician trick stigmata you can purchase

  24. Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    This pretty much sums up this fraud:

    http://www.skepdic.com/rivas.html

    • eric
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      “Name redacted” – read Douglas’ link above. Her messages god are copied from other peoples’ books.

      • Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Also “redacted” should follow some of the links in the Skeptic article – there is further discussion of the shady character of the film maker as well.

  25. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Depending on which sources you read, the method of crucifiction would leave holes in the wrists (not hands) and through the heel bones. Perhaps this makes the classic ‘stigmata’ more likely to be fraud or psychosomatic rather than repeated historical evidence.

    Films made by conspiracy theorists, frauds, ponzi schemes and activists always seem convincing – until you ask where the contradictory evidence has been provided.

  26. mikeb
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    There is an old Russian saying: “He lies like an eyewitness”.

  27. Diane G.
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    sub

  28. Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    totally unconvincing. If the camera was fixed on the spot where the stigmata would appear, and we saw a gradual change in the skin leading to spontaneous bleeding, we might have a genuine phenomenon which needs explanation. but the film is nothing more than snippets cobbled together with lots of cuts in between giving plenty of time for makeup artists to work on it. you really have to be predisposed to catholic bs to believe any of this.

  29. Paul S
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a special effects expert, but my Halloween zombie makeup is better than that. Her wounds have no depth. They only swab the blood off the smooth skin instead of from the inside of the wound. First rule of wound make up is texture. You start with a latex base and then add strips of tissue paper and smashed cornflakes and then more latex for texture. Then the fissure has depth and you can use fake blood that oozes from the wound.
    This is beyond amateurish. I recommend a trip to Riley’s trick shop for some pointers.

    • skepticook
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Exactly right, it is amateurish. I would recommend the reader watch this video until he or she clearly sees that it’s never clear that the wounds are beyond superficial. Why is there only what looks like one scratch on the woman’s forehead? Is that supposed to be from the crown of thorns? Ask yourself why the palms of the hands aren’t ever shown and be sure to notice that there is only one view of the bottom of the foot which shows some red blood (or other liquid), but isn’t clearly a wound either. In the doubting Thomas story I was told in Catholic school, Jesus made Thomas put his hand right into the wound in his side. If you’ve really been reading Dawkins, ask yourself if he would consider anything in the video convincing.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        “Jesus made Thomas put his hand right into the wound in his side”

        Fondling guts! That is an important trope on this website!

  30. BillyJoe
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The presenter in this video is Mike Willesee. He was Australia most popular ever current affairs presenter on a program called “A Current Affair”. His form dropped and the program was taken over by someone else. He made to make a return as host of the show but on his first appearance, he appeared to be drunk and he was not heard from again until the video about the stigmata.

    Here is the video of his return to A Current Affair:

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=aPzw-IuuFzs&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DaPzw-IuuFzs

    A few things need to be understood about this video

    1) The presenter is genuine.
    Mike Willesee has set up a chapel in his home and remains a devout catholic since his experiences with this woman

    2) This is not a psychsomatic illness.
    Really, you cannot make yourself bleed for the hands and feet at particular locations by pure power of will

    3) This is not a manifestation of a medical illness.
    No disease is going to make you bleed at the stigmata points

    4) The stigmata are on the wrong areas of the body and, in any case, it is not likely that Christ was nailed to the cross and much more likely that he was tied on the cross with ropes.

    5) There is not even much evidence that JC existed at all.

    6) It is not true that the woman was oberved at all times by cameras and crew.
    There were numerous occasions when the woman was left on her own.

    In conclusion, the woman faked her stigmata by self mutilation which she performed on the numerous occasions when she was not observed. The wounds are superficial, just as you would expect. The stigmata are supposed to be deep nail wounds.

    Mike Willesee was a lapsed catholic who fell from grace as a TV host. He needed something in his life and he found it. That is, he convinced himself that he had found it.

    • H.H.
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      In conclusion, the woman faked her stigmata by self mutilation which she performed on the numerous occasions when she was not observed. The wounds are superficial, just as you would expect.

      We have a BINGO!

  31. Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m also a magician.

    I admit I quickly skimmed the video, but one thing that struck me was that they were dabbing/cleaning the wounds with a q-tip.

    It would be quite easy to dip the q-tip in acid (or other corrosive chemical) before dabbing the wounds, and they would ‘magically’ get worse and worse.

    • Curt Cameron
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m not a magician, but I have a more parsimonious explanation. Yes, the Q-tips were a strange addition, and why would that man keep dabbing the blood off her hand from areas not in the wound, where blood dripped onto? I think that was just show.

      This poor lady was just scraping her skin with her fingernails while no one was looking. I say “poor lady” because she’s mentally troubled.

      • Gluon Spring
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        If we were starting a betting pool, I’d bet scratching skin off with fingernails. I do this in my sleep sometimes. It’s not hard to make quite ghastly looking wounds. And the swab is obviously just for drama, to glop around in the blood, to keep it from coagulating, and to smear it around in a dramatic pattern around the wound. Any reasonable person would clean all the blood up, and then you’d more clearly see the wound for what it is, but here they just play in it.

  32. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Wikipedia, on the Miracle of Lanciano: During the Mass, when he said the Words of Consecration (“This is my body. This is my blood”), with doubt in his soul, the priest saw the bread change into living flesh and the wine change into live blood…

    I thought Wikipedia articles were supposed to be written from a neutral viewpoint. This article takes the believer’s view and states it as simple fact. This looks like a jog for “Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia.”
    (links omitted because they cause hassles)

  33. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    From the Wikipedia page on the Miracle of Lanciano:
    Investigations: … 1973, by a World Health Organization commission (citation needed)

    That totally sounds like something the World Health Organization would get involved in. Not. It is so implausible on its face that it should be dismissed unless the citation is not only produced, but verified.

    According to Bob and Penny Lord, the first test in 1574 found that each of the five different “pellets of coagulated Blood”, though varying in size, all weigh the same and always produced the same weight no matter how many are simultaneously weighed.[3]

    That sounds miraculous indeed. And it should be easy to reproduce. Unless it is pure bullshit.

    • cornbread_r2
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      I LOVE Bob and Penny — the two most credulous Catholics who have ever lived! There’s no miracle too hokey, too outlandish, too unnecessary that they won’t believe. They have a regular series on the EWTN Catholic television network and travel all over Europe making videos at sites like Luciano — which they will be happy to sell you copies of for “weddings, birthdays and first holy communions”. I suspect this started as a post-retirement hobby that turned into a business and now they get to write off all the travel/hotel/meals as business expenses. Sweeeet

      Most of the time they portray themselves as humble pilgrims, but occasionally they get a bit carried away and start preaching to the locals who, of course, don’t understand a word they’re saying.

  34. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The Miracle of Lanciano: this came up several years ago at Unreasonable Faith. Dyan Puma of The Examiner wrote about it, then deleted domments and backtracked when she was challenged on just about everything.
    You can find a lot of stuff reproduced in the comments. at UF.

  35. Christopher
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Erm, I don’t want to be rude, but this video appears like one of the biggest crocks of crap I have seen in quite a while. The kind of thing you see on some lame and shabby cable channel that makes cheap programmes about vacuous pap. You all know what I mean.

  36. Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Look at their faces, they’re acting, and rather badly at that. This is a shameful scam, and a disgraceful misuse of Barber’s beautiful music.There is no honour here.

    Why did the cameras happen to be there in the first place, and yet still manage to miss the moment to moment transformation?

  37. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Commentary on the Miracle of Lanciano, at “Recapitulations on the Descent of Man

    Here’s an odd tidbit. This commentary was written in 2008, and this is included in the list of claims by Dr. Linoli:
    The Flesh and the Blood have the same blood type, AB, which is also the same blood type found on the Shroud of Turin and all other Eucharistic Miracles.

    Note that on the current Wikipedia page, the bit about the Shroud of Turin has been excised. As RotDoM points out, that claim about the Shroud has been debunked.

    • cornbread_r2
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Thomas of Aquinas was of the opinion that the flesh and blood being presented in Eucharistic miracles is NOT the actual flesh and blood of Jesus even if they were miraculously created. In other words, the accidents of bread and wine simply [sic] become the accidents of flesh and blood, but not those Jesus.

      • Posted March 6, 2013 at 2:01 am | Permalink

        I think you have misunderstood Thomas of Aquinas completely. He said that the accidents of the bread and wine do not change, but that they do become the body and blood of Christ.

        “The accidents of color, taste, figure, etc. remain.”

        • cornbread_r2
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          I was referring to Aquinas’s opinion of Eucharistic *miracles&. The following is from the wikipedia article on Eucharistic miracles:

          “According to Thomas Aquinas, in the case of extraordinary Eucharistic Miracles in which the appearance of the accidents are altered, this further alteration is not considered to be transubstantiation, but is a subsequent miracle that takes place for the building up of faith. Nor does the extraordinary manifestation alter or heighten the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as the miracle does not manifest the physical presence of Christ: “in apparitions of this sort. . . the proper species [actual flesh and blood] of Christ is not seen, but a species formed miraculously either in the eyes of the viewers, or in the sacramental dimensions themselves….” Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, 76.8 ad 2

          • cornbread_r2
            Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            In other words, *in Eucharistic miracles*, the accidents of bread and wine *do* change from bread and wine into human flesh and blood, but not into Jesus’s flesh and blood.

  38. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Detailed commentary on the Linoli paper at Recapitultions on the Descent of Man
    (RE Miracle of Lanciano)

  39. Mary Canada
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t make it through the whole video. It appears too grainy for modern technology. I think you’re being duped into providing sufficient reasons against this so-called religious ‘evidence’. The fact that you’re taking the time to consider this may come back to haunt you. Just because ONE man stands up in front of a crowd to tell some supposed miraculous story about ‘witnessing’ some godly deed, doesn’t make it true. Where have we heard this before?

  40. brdke
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Nice comments. The whole thing reminded me of the “psychic surgery” videos I had seen from James Randi. Has Skeptical Inquirer or some source like that done anything on the Lanciano event, or even on this woman (and presenter)?

    I was also reminded of the Clever Hans type videos. Rapid cutting, with no context, you can’t see what other people are doing, or waht has happened before–all those things suggest fakery.

    Here’s waht I would say to the woman, and I do take her to be sincere: Yes, these videos, and events like this even before videos, are used by the powerful in the church (of various types) as very powerful reasons to believe. Tehy are convincing to those who have no ability to think critically about what might be going on, and believing, as my mother apparently does, that Christians “just wouldn’t lie” is a part of it.

    We don’t have to have an explanation for everything, every single occurrence. Taht’s the beauty of it! We can ask ourselves, is it MORE likely that these people are faking and lying than it is that this is really happening (and as several on here have aptly mentioned, that it confirms the God/Mary/Jesus/Catholic story more than even other non-natural causes?

    This is essentially the question that David Hume asks in his essay, On Miracles. LIke someone else suggested, read extensively, and keep questioning. We here–I speak for myself but think others would agree–value you and your mind in this journey that you are on, and will support you however we can.

    • Gluon Spring
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      ‘Christians “just wouldn’t lie” is a part of it.’

      This is easily demonstrated to be false, of course.

      But aside from that, lying is often not necessary since the human capacity of self-deception is so substantial. A credulous woman who scratches herself till she bleeds may well believe that the stigmata wounds caused the scratching rather than the other way around. A credulous observer may simply silence the critical parts of their mind and see what they wish to see, may tell themselves that when they see the woman scratching her hands and feet she is “merely” scratching and not causing the wounds, so that they can “honestly” report that they were watching her and she didn’t “wound” herself. They may skew their report, omit facts, emphasize things that are minor while ignoring things that should be considered, all without lying, per se.

      It is to overcome the tendency for self deception that much of the practice of science is about. All the blind experiments and controls and so on are not to combat fraud, but to combat wishful thinking. Was it Feynman who said that the easiest person to fool is yourself?

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      LIke someone else suggested, read extensively, and keep questioning. We here–I speak for myself but think others would agree–value you and your mind in this journey that you are on, and will support you however we can.

      Nicely said! I agree.

  41. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    From the stigmata video:

    Two cameras… I sat there and saw the drops form one by one

    What a pity they couldn’t get any of that on camera.

  42. ForCarl
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    My question to the woman whose faith is tottering is this: Even if all of this is real and this is the way “God” interacts with his creation, through the story of crucifixion, is this a god you find attractive?

    And as Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism asked once, “How does the murder of an innocent absolve another’s sin?”

    Most people could come up with a better and more wonderous way for a god to behave in the world of humans. I think the whole salvation idea with its attendant stories rather embarrassing and rather beneath an entity that supposedly created the whole universe. Stars are created and destroyed with much more beauty and sense of awe than this now-getting- very-boring “Passion Play”.

    • Gluon Spring
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      It’s a beautiful story if you are a polytheist. If your god, YHWH, sacrificed himself (or his son, or whatever it means in Trinitarian view) to save you from some OTHER power in the universe, some other god, or the ultimate ground of reality or whatever, something that YHWH himself can’t directly control, that would be a nice story… big powerful guy sacrifices to help the little guy. That’s just love and people, reasonably, respond to love. If I sacrifice myself, or someone else, to appease… myself…, well that’s just psychotic.

      • Sines
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        This is why I often bring up Prometheus at times like these.

        Prometheus was horrifically tortured for much longer than Jesus, simply by giving man the gift of fire, which the other gods jealously held back.

        Prometheus helped out mankind, who were cold, and cowering in the dark of the night. For this heinous crime, the gods sentenced him to have his liver torn out every day for the rest of eternity.

        While in the end, he was rescued by Herakles, he had gained nothing for all his suffering. Merely the knowledge that those weak little humans were living better lives thanks to him.

        That is a wonderful story.

        Compare to Jesus, who was tortured for only a weekend. And all so that he could keep mankind subservient to him, by demanding belief and worship, with the threat of hellfire for those who don’t obey.

        That is a horrible story.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

          Excellent!

  43. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures
    by Joe Nickell
    Prometheus Books, 1999

  44. Gluon Spring
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    There are hundreds of possibilities. Fraud is one possibility, and given the prevalence of fraud a good first bet. But if you want to believe that this nice woman is sincere, here’s just-so story from my own experience that doesn’t require God.

    I often wake up to my wife saying, “What happened to your hand?” or “What happened to your leg?” I look down to see very bloody patch on my leg or hand that wasn’t there the day before. Sometimes the sheets will be blood stained. I look at the obvious bleeding wounds on my hands and ankles and it is sometimes quite shocking because I don’t remember being wounded and the wounds look too awful to have missed. And the striking thing is that these spontaneous wounds appear over and over in the same places. These bloody patches look an AWFUL lot like the bloody patches I see in this video. A very well defined patch of skin that is sunken very slightly relative to the surrounding skin (like several layers had been carefully sliced away) and oozing blood all over the sunken area. The main difference between what I wake up with and what I see in this video are the exact location of the “wounds” in the film and the fact that in the film the blood is obviously being smeared in a nice symmetric pattern around the wound(apparently by the guy with the swab) rather than being cleaned up as any normal person would do.

    What’s going on? Well, in my case, I scratch myself in my sleep. Often times it’s a mosquito bite or something that I am scratching but I also have recurring itchy spots on my lower legs and hands (maybe a latent virus, or fungal infection, scabies, or an allergic reaction… who knows.. for some reason there are a few spots near my thumbs and ankles that have flare ups and itch madly). During the day I seem to keep my scratching to sane levels but apparently when I am asleep, or half-asleep, I go nuts and scratch the devil out of them until I have bleeding wound. I literally scratch off a layer or two of skin in a very cleanly defined area, and often the bleeding is quite substantial. My wife finds this tendency quite disturbing, but I am unsure how to keep myself from scratching in my sleep short of tying my hands down.

    Now imagine if you itched on the top of your feet and hands. Or imagine if you were just obsessed with the top of your feet and hands because you are obsessed with Jesus or with stigmata, so that you scratched those places, either intentionally or unconsciously while you sleep. Voila! Stigmata.

    This is obviously a just-so story. All we can do with the sorry evidence presented is spin hypothesis. So there’s one: conscious or unconscious scratching on the part of the woman coupled with credulous attention of bystanders.

    As to the claims that people were watching her… really? Why were they even there if not to see the already existing stigmata wounds. Did she feel a stigmata coming on and summon them? In any case, they aren’t going to watch her day and night, even as she sleeps, and once wounded in this way it’s easy to get that kind of wound to ooze again if it isn’t allowed to scab up. And note the careful wording… he saw drops of blood oozing up by one. He didn’t say he saw a wound suddenly appear, and it looks like a wound. He also doesn’t claim to be an atheist, only to “not have converted” at the time. From what the film tells us, he could have been Episcopalian and already feeling the tug of the older Catholic church. Just so much that is vague and weasely about this film. Not impressive at all, unless you are wanting to be impressed.

    If I have another of these scratching episodes in the near future, I’ll take a photo to share.

    • BillyJoe
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      The reporter, Mike Willesee, was a lapsed catholic whose life was heading south and who found a reason to believe again.

  45. dhart52
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    As a doctor already commented here, there just isn’t enough information available to draw a conclusion. So why conclude that it has anything at all to do with Jesus? It’s the same story with all religion: “We don’t have an explanation for such-and-such, ergo god or Jesus” (name you’re deity). That, to me as a scientist, is totally unsatisfactory. I would rather leave it as an unknown than substitute an unknowable.

  46. Sastra
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    One of the first things you see is the woman putting a cloth to her own head and quickly taking it down. An unremarkable thing easily dismissed … and yet probably the sort of thing which a trained magician might take notice of, I suspect. She touches her face.

    Nobody — skeptic or true believer — has enough information here to know or say what’s going on or what went on. We can guess, but that’s it. This is not a controlled study or test being done by scientists. It’s apparently a propaganda video being filmed by devout Catholics who are taking all sorts of breaks and working on the assumption that the woman is not only sincere, but genuine. Maybe. Maybe not. There’s only a couple snippets of film to go by here.

    I think it’s important though to point out that there are not all “frauds” are aware they’re frauds. The average mind is very strange — and minds that start out strange are even stranger. Either this woman or the people around her could be faking the wounds and yet manage to block that inconvenient fact out of their minds; several people could be faking parts but know that the rest of it is genuine — and around it goes. You don’t just get “sincere” or “lying.” There are permutations of gray. This goes double when you’re dealing with faith and a commitment to believe.

    People like Joe Nickell who have dealt extensively with investigating these sorts of claims know that the reams and reams of objective scientists who have tested and confirmed the paranormal/supernatural phenomenon often evaporate when you ask for specifics. We may not have enough evidence in this video alone to say what’s going on, but experience doesn’t support any leaps towards conversion here.

    Besides, as people have pointed out, this entire proof of God stigmata idea is creepy and oddly trivial. It’s like trying to prove the existence of God by doing a card trick where the Queen of Hearts actually starts to bleed. The size and scope of the universe … and we get a cheesy carny show which we’re supposed to get credit from God for believing. Not impressive — neither the evidence, nor the god.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      +1

  47. @eightyc
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    lol.

    It’s like saying a conjoined twin is evidence for the existence of Agni, the Hindu God of fire. lolz.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agni

  48. ploubere
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Back in the 1970s there were some videos of some Philippine doctors who claimed they could perform operations with their bare hands. The videos showed them apparently slicing open and reaching into peoples’ bodies and pulling out malignant organs, using nothing but their hands. The whole thing was later revealed as a hoax, of course.
    There were also videos of Buddhist monks who appeared to levitate from a sitting position, which received some brief media attention. Again, exposed as fake.
    Video, like photos, is not proof of anything, it’s a medium well suited for illusion.

    • @eightyc
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      lol.

      And even if those wounds were genuine, how does one leap to the conclusion that ergo Jesus is the Creator of the Universe! lolz.

  49. Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Message to Doubting Reader: Think of the issue in a different manner:

    How would a “message from God” be delivered?

    Well, back 2000 years ago, there was obviously a lot of “phenomenon” that were considered 100% the province of the Supernatural, i.e. God. Thunder, Lightning, Earthquakes, Tides, even rainfall…these all seemed quite contrary to human origination and obviously not reproducible or controllable by man. Why would a God create these phenomenon?

    Well, the explanation (<wrong!) back then, was to communicate His pleasure/displeasure…it was to "give a sign" from the Lord.

    You are looking at this stigmata event in a similar way, as a "sign". "Signs from God", in spite whatever the Catholic Church likes to maintain, no longer exist. They can't. All the old ones (Lighning, Thunder, Sudden gusts of Wind, Fire for No Reason, etc.)as well as anything else, have shown to be natural phenomenon in a natural world. The interpretation of something as a "sign" or "message" from some Supernatural being is ridiculous. Even the dumbest mayor in the smallest burg you can imagine would put up a "Stop" sign if they want to communicate a message, that is, to stop your car before proceeding through an intersection. That mayor would not leave a "sign" on certain people's cars, that had failed to stop at an unmarked intersection. Too ambiguous. And yet, you are prepared to believe that the Supreme creator of the Universe would resort to "signs" to attempt to communicate an obscure message?? Dumber than that mayor? For what possible reason? Only a mythological being, one that doesn't exist, would possibly associate themselves with stigmata, wounds, …anything.

    Whether the stigmata were faked, or not faked, the answer is, both are natural, real world phenomena.

    A Supreme Being doesn't have to remain cloaked or hidden. A five-year-old reveals himself constantly to the toys he loves…You think a child has more love for his toys, than a Supreme Being would have for humans??? Only a myth would be involved in deception. It is the definition of a myth, for something that doesn't exist, to never never never appear.

  50. Mark Sumners
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    The Australian commentator in this clip is named Michael Willisee. He has had a long distinguished career in Australia.
    Unfortunately what is not started in the clip is that Willisee had been a long time very devoted catholic. At one stage he even contemplated joining the priesthood.
    So for any claims that this apparent miracle helped convert him are a blatant fabrication of facts.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      MW had a long and distinguished career, but that was on ‘serious’ TV news/current-affairs from the late 60s to early 80s. After he was first publicly dumped from TV when the problem drinking and domestic violence (currently unmentioned in his wiki entry) became widely aired, he was more of a freak show, occasionally trotted out on the commercial magazine-style shows.

  51. madscientist
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Looking at the video I would expect any amateur film buff to be able to churn out that sort of thing with very little effort.

    Anyway, looking at the claimed stigmata I can say the following:

    1. the picture quality is too poor to see if there are any actual wounds (vs makeup or animal blood wiped on as is obviously the case in a few of the scenes)

    2. if there are indeed any wounds they are abrasions rather than punctures; if it’s true that the wounds appear as people watch then the person exhibiting the stigmata have concealed some implement to wound themselves – perhaps a rasp or even a grater. Anticipating the question “why would anyone do that” – well, people do some damned weird things.

    Now going back to the cookie that turns into blood and a heart – is god type A or type B? What does the bible say? What was Mary’s blood type and is it consistent with Jesus’ blood type or is god really screwing with our minds?

  52. Pete UK
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Don’t panic! OK, I have no idea how these stunts were accomplished. But that doesn’t matter: we’re used to being completely bamboozled by magicians.

    Three points to add to the many excellent ones already made:

    1. The heart bit. Why the heart? The whole sacred heart thing is based on the mistaken belief that the heart is the seat of the emotion of love. Well it ain’t. It’s a pump. The sacred pump of Jesus? (and one only – no redundancy – poor design ;-))

    If Jesus was the son of god, you think he wouldn’t have known that? And why persist with the heart in 2013? Now we know, why not give us a bit of amygdala or temporal lobe? It suggests the whole structure, including the supposed transformation of biscuit into organ, is bogus and human.

    2. Nails through the palms?? As other commenters have pointed out, this isn’t how it was done. If it had been done this way, the result would have probably been an ugly tear, not a nice hole.

    3. Bayes’ theorem. Worth getting to know. Our instinctive feeling as to how likely these stigmata are to be real is misleading. Try Richard Carrier’s Proving Jesus for a good and relevant exposition, although shorter ones can be googled.

  53. Dominic
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    Roman Catholicism loves blood. It is central to their religion, usually spilt. It would make an interesting dissertation to examine that!

  54. Dominic
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    This looks like a good place to start Stigmata: A Medieval Phenomenon in a Modern Age
    Harrison

  55. Marcoli
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    NONE of the things on the video come close to being believable. Everything stated is to be taken on faith — that it was her blood, that she was actively bleeding, that she was suffering (and not acting), that the testifier had come closer to the faith by this experience, NONE of it. It is all done with simple editing, emotive words & music , and 2ND HAND heresay from unvetted experts. Bah. It is not even done well.
    I know that there are believers who will lie for Christ, but then come to believe their own stories, converting it to a delusion. Children tell lies and come to believe themselves, and some adults just never quite grow up.
    I had an extremely religious student tell me that they had silver tooth fillings turn to gold, and then swore to me that their dentist confirmed it. Yeah, sure. But that person actually believed their own lie/delusion. I had a student tell me she could see an angel beside her while talking with me in my office about YEC. She too refused to budge from their lie/delusion. I have a neighbor who swears her daughter sees ghosts that tells her things she could not possibly know. I have never been able to convince her for a moment that there must be simpler explanations.

  56. Posted March 6, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand what needs to be explained. It’s the believer who says there were two (why two?) cameras on her at all times? (*all* times?) And why were there cameras on her in the first place? She was a patient. And what reason do we have for believing that believer? And it’s not as though smart people haven’t been fooled before.

    We didn’t see in the video any trickles of blood suddenly appearing, did we? And the guy didn’t mention HUGE WOUNDS opening up on her hands and feet when people were right there watching, did he?

    There is absolutely no reason at all to think that this is anything other than fakery of one sort or another. I don’t see any reason to work out what particular trick was involved and there’s not enough information to establish that anyway. Let’s go with Occam here, although I suspect fingernails rather than razors in this case.

    Funny isn’t it how people occasionally complain that Jesus’ nail wounds were actually in his wrists rather than his hands, but never point out that claimed stigmata never actually goes CLEAN THROUGH the hand or wrist, like a nail obviously would.

    I think there are plenty of people who could examine wounds like that woman’s and have a good idea about how they were caused.

  57. Posted March 6, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Wikipedia, while treading lightly (and certainly not comprehensive), does have a decent summary of what mental heath experts are believing on this issue. As I said, it’s not comprehensive, but does list some of the more common findings:

    Some modern research has indicated stigmata are of hysterical origin,[21] or linked to dissociative identity disorders,[22] especially the link between dietary constriction by self-starvation, dissociative mental states and self-mutilation, in the context of a religious belief.[23] Anorexia nervosa cases often display self-mutilation similar to stigmata as part of a ritualistic, obsessive compulsive disorder. A relationship between starvation and self-mutilation has been reported amongst prisoners of war and during famines.[24][25][26] A psychoanalytic study of stigmatic Therese Neumann has suggested that her stigmata resulted from post-traumatic stress symptoms expressed in unconscious self-mutilation through abnormal autosuggestibility.

    There are also strong cases for this being a symptom of many different types of mental illnesses not listed. Schizophrenia is one and I know there are more.

    (Remember, different mental illnesses can produce the some of same external, over-lapping behavioral symptoms.)

    This doesn’t, of course, rule out the fakers. It’s like speaking in tongues. Having witnessed this many, many times, what you usually hear is authentic gibberish that I call ‘pseudo-Russian.’

    Biblical Tongues, as indicated in the scriptures, is the speaking of ACTUAL LIVING LANGUAGES that the grantee did not otherwise know without the direct intervention of God (the granter). Scripture is very clear that tongues are genuine languages (Acts 2-4) and are not meaningless sounds, or ecstatic pseudo-Russian gibberish.

    Now, some of these ‘speaking in tongues’ people are crazy and speaking in tongues is part of their mental illness. Others are just fakers and are playing the crowd.

    And so it is, I believe lacking any real evidence to the contrary, with those who suffer from Stigmata or witness all the physics-challenging miracles.

    • cornbread_r2
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Some common features of many Catholic mystics:

      They fasted excessively.

      Their peers thought they were crazy.

      They suffered from chronic illnesses, some since childhood.

  58. michieux
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Mike Willesee was once a respected television journalist here in Australia, until he went over to the “dark side” and, having lost all credibility, disappeared up the black hole of his own orifice.

  59. Marvol
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I also did not (need to) make it to the end of the video.

    To the “original requester” I would say this – these were my thoughts as a sceptic when seeing this movie.

    What do I see? A woman, in a bed, looking dramatically, ostentaciously ill. A bit of a combination between what we observe in pentacostal church and B-grade acting.
    Question: do ‘real’ ill people make such a drama?

    What more? She’s got wounds – a scratch on her forehead, some superficial 2-inch wound on her hand(s?) and some wounds we can’t really see on her feet.

    You already start by asking: wow, these look like stigmata, what if they are made by God?

    Why? To a sceptic like me, that is already giving well too much credit. You’re buying into the myth already.

    Questions: do we see the wounds appear? No. Well that’s where it ends for me, immediately. They could have appeared for any number of reasons, and Occam’s Razor puts ‘The Catholic God’ quite far down the list. Self-harm and make-up tricks, are all far more parsimonious explanations.

    If you find this video even remotely attractive, I daresay you are not ready at all to leave your faith behind. This feeling is strengthened by your remark that it apparently is the scandals in the Catholic church that drive you away – but that is the superficial religion, not your belief in God/Jesus/Catholicism.

    Are you REALLY a sceptic giving up your faith – or are you merely looking for a substitute?

  60. Jeff Johnson
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Occam’s razor tells us that of all the possible explanations, the simplest is the most likely. This suggests we start with the least surprising explanations: Lanciono’s heart tissue and blood were cut and extracted from a real human cadavar, and the video of Catalina Rivas, being highly edited, is faked using makeup. This is just the basic default skeptical position to start from. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    There is plenty of motive for Rivas to want all the attention and prestige associated with her status. The makers of the film, if they are believers, may not feel they are being false or fraudulent in recreating for film something they already believe to be real. This is no different than makers of History channel recreations. So the default skeptical position doesn’t ask us to believe anything extraordinary nor inconsistent with human behavior or motives.

    To move beyond the default position requires some work, and certainly at the very least one would wish to see is an unedited video with no cuts, just a single uninterrupted take of the stigmata in progress from start to end. We know from cinema what convincing footage can be made, so we should not be surprised by this video, since it is most likely nothing but special effects.

    Even if the phenomenon were proven to be medically real, that she actually spontaneously bleeds from certain parts of her body, one has to ask “why is this evidence of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection?” Certainly if it were a sign caused by Jesus he would have known the correct locations, the wrists and heels, where history tells us Romans would have pounded the nails. There still could be some medical explanation based on neurological causes or viral infection. Hemorrhagic fevers are known, though it would be unusual for them to be so selective. As unlikely as this seems, it still seems more likely to me than a spiritual miracle caused by Jesus.

    If God or Jesus wanted to convince doubters, as in the case of Lanciono’s miracle, why wouldn’t they just give all of us stigmata or mess with our bread and wine until we believed? Why not just speak as a clear voice in our heads or a voice in the clouds? Nothing could be simpler for an omnipresent omnipowerful creator of everything who badly wants us to know him and believe in him. So the elaborate and rare nature of such miracles seems like a very dubious way for such a deity to communicate with us, and far more likely to be the work of occasional fakers desperate to make others believe what they believe.

  61. Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    oh my, that new Bible series on the “history” channel has Jesus waving with a big ol’ hole in the palm of his hand. Oh well, I guess it’s okay, it’s not like that show is accurate in anything at all. What’s one more misplaced hole?

  62. cornbread_r2
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    This may have already been noted. When Catholics were taught that Jesus was nailed through the palms of his hands, Catholic’s manifesting stigmata had wounds in the palms of their hands. Later, when it was speculated that Jesus might have been nailed through the wrist instead, subsequent persons claiming stigmatas then had wounds on their wrists.

  63. Xtrchessreal
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Follow the money!

    and

    This is obscene!

  64. maxamillion
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    The man giving the lecture? is journalist Mike Willesee.

    Given his career I would have thought that he could see through this rubbish. Just goes to show.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Willesee

    In his fifties Willesee rediscovered the Roman Catholic faith of his upbringing.[2] He has reported on religious topics and in 1998 he made a report entitled Signs From God on the appearance of stigmata displayed by a woman, Katya Revas, in Bolivia. This documentary was watched by an audience of 28 million in the United States.


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