New rules and regulations for the Medical Commission for the Recognition of Miracles

Source: FSSPX News

St. Peter's Square during the canonization of Mother Teresa, September 4, 2016.

On September 23, 2016, the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints published the new rules and regulations for its Medical Commission for the Recognition of Miracles.

The first time medical experts intervened in a process was during the canonization of St. Charles Borromeo in 1610. Blessed Pope Innocent XI (1676-1689) made medical consultation obligatory in 1678, and the first order of medical experts was created in 1743, at Pope Benedict XIV’s decision. In 1948, Pius XII instituted a Medical Commission to study the cases of inexplicable and miraculous healing. John XXIII gave this commission a precise handbook of rules that Pope Paul VI had revised on April 23, 1976.

Forty years later, a new set of rules has been born. In September 2015, a commission was created to accomplish this revisal. Cardinal Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, was its director. A first draft of the rules was submitted to the ordinary assembly of the Congregation and to the president of the Medical Commission, Professor Patrizio Polisca, on June 27, 2016. The prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, finally addressed the final text to the Secretary of State of July 9, submitting it for papal approval. Thus after ten months of work, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, approved the new rules on August 24, 2016, in the Holy Father’s name – de mandato Summi Pontificis. This document was published on September 23.

The first consultation is still realized by two doctors, who decide whether to open an in depth investigation – the price of this consultation is 500€. This is in keeping with the 1917 Pian-Benedictine code that called for the obligatory opinion of two doctors on whether or not the healings could be explained (canon 2013, 2); this opinion has to be obtained before any theological examination. The second step is a consultation by a group of seven experts – for a price of 3760€. The new set of rules establishes that the examination of a miracle case cannot be submitted to more than three examinations by three different groups of experts, whereas before the number of examinations was unlimited.

Other novelty: the new rules establish a qualified majority for the recognition of the miracles; a majority of 5 members out of 7 or 4 out of 6 is required. And the president of the Medical Commission can no longer be in office for more than two five-year terms. Lastly, all persons implicated in the procedure are held to absolute secrecy, and they will be paid by bank wires and no longer in cash.

These are the principal dispositions of the new rules. But allow us to point out that the Church can canonize without always requiring a miracle. By the power of the keys, the pope can exceptionally dispense from the obligation of a miracle. Thus did Pope Francis decide not to require a second miracle to proceed with the canonization of John XXIII, which took place on April 27, 2014, and on which we highly suggest you read Doubts on the canonization of John XXIII and Paul VI (DICI no.283 Oct. 18, 2013).

For martyrs, a miracle is not necessary for beatification. Thus, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig, called “the Angel of Dachau” was recently beatified on September 24, 2016, in Wurzburg, Germany, by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints and representative of the pope. Pope Francis considered him as a martyr, and therefore no miracle was necessary to proceed with his beatification.

Fr. Unzeitig, a Mariannhill Missionary, was ordained in 1939, at the age of 28. Arrested by the Gestapo in April 1941 in his parish in Glöckelberg, Bohemia, he was deported without trial to Dachau on June 8, 1941. He stayed in the “priests’ barracks” where he devoted himself tirelessly for the other prisoners, a true model of faith and charity. In 1944 he cared for the typhoid patients, a sickness that spread quickly with the terrible hygienic conditions and famine. He caught typhoid himself and died on March 2, 1945, shortly after the end of the war and the liberation of the camp by the American 45th Infantry division under General Troy Middleton on April 29.

Allow us to recall that martyrdom is an unshakable attachment to truth and justice against the assaults of the persecutors, a witness of the faith borne with strength to the shedding of blood: “death suffered for Christ is essential for a true martyrdom,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas. This death can be directly caused out of hatred for the faith, but it can also be the consequence of measures taken out of hatred for the faith, such as prison, exile, or despoliation.

(sources: radiovatican/ORLF/cath-info/imedia – DICI no.342 dated Oct. 14, 2016)