Changes to the regulations for confirming alleged miracles during the causes of saints aim to preserve the scientific rigor of the examination and maintain its distinction from matters of theology, it was announced Friday.
The changes, which were approved by Pope Francis Aug. 24, were announced by the Vatican Sept. 23. They concern the professional secrecy of the proceedings regarding presumed miracles and hold that a supermajority of two-thirds (five out of seven, or four out of six) of the votes from members of the Medical Board must be positive for the cause to continue to the next step.
Previously, only a simple majority of medical experts acknowleding a supernatural healing was required. The changes also stipulate that the medical experts will receive their remuneration only through bank transfer – not cash.
“The purpose of the Regulation can be none other than the good of the Causes, which can never neglect the historical and scientific truth of the alleged miracles,” Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, wrote regarding the changes. “Just as it is necessary for the legal checks to be complete, convergent and reliable, it is also necessary that their study be performed with serenity, objectivity and sure competence by highly specialised medical experts.”
“This Regulation obviously concerns only the good functioning of the Medical Board, whose task appears increasingly delicate, demanding and, thanks be to God, appreciated both inside and outside the Church.”
Archbishop Bartolucci added, “Always the Church is convinced that miracles of the saints is the ‘finger of God,’ which ratifies, so to say, the human judgement of their holiness of life.”
“This vision is part of the mind of the Church and has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the ordinary magisterium to the pronouncements of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It is historically certain that miracles are always a decisive argument for the canonization of Servants of God,” he stated.
The new wording is based on the regulations approved by Blessed Paul VI in 1976. The drafting of the new regulations was done by a special commission which began its work in September 2015.
Besides the new requirements of a qualified majority and professional secrecy on the part of those involved, the president of the Medical Board is limited to one term and one reappointment (a total of 10 years in the position). Nor can a case be re-examined more than three times, and when a re-examination is made, there must be a nine persons on the Medical Board.
Also, it is now the Under-Secretary of the Council who will undertake the functions previously under the rapporteur, who had been responsible for reporting on the proceedings of the meetings.
In addition to the changes introduced, there were also adjustments made to procedural language.
Since the 12th and 13th centuries the Church has continually revised the regulations under which a miracle is confirmed in cases of causes for beatification or canonization. The 1917 Code of Canon Law established access of the miracle to theologians only after the alleged miracle had been studied and verified by two expert doctors, aside from issues of philosophical and religious consideration.
“And even today it is so: the scientific aspect remains distinct from the theological,” Archbishop Bartolucci affirmed.
“Miracles are not marginal events of the Gospel or the causes of saints. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God in word and with ‘messianic signs,’ that he worked to make clear his identity and credibility to its mission and also to anticipate the final news of the redeemed world,” Archbishop Bartolucci said.
“The same is true for saints,” he said.
“Miracles, that they receive through their intercession, are a sign of God’s presence in history and, at the same time, are the confirmation of their former high holiness, expressed first of all in the exercise of heroic Christian virtues or martyrdom.”
By Hannah Brockhaus