Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

 


A PAMPHLET MAKES US DOUBT THE REALITY OF MARY'S APPEARANCE AT LA SALETTE

La Salette is a mountain near Grenoble in France. There on September 19th, 1846, the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ who is God in Catholic dogma, allegedly appeared to Melanie Mathieu and Maximin Giraud when they were tending cows. This apparition was given the approval of the Church in 1851 (page 111, The Thunder of Justice).

Here is an interesting work worth examining.

FROM A Pilgrimage to La Salette: Or, a Critical Examination of all the Facts Connected with the Alleged Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Two Children on the Mountain of La Salette, On Sep. 19, 1846, James Spencer Northcote, Burns and Lambert, Bristol, 1852
 
This work claims that the apparition is inexplicable and so it can be believed that it is miraculous.
 
The preface dismisses those who argue "the fact that an alleged event is of a supernatural character, is at once conclusive evidence against its existence." Their view is that "all such narratives are necessarily false, because we are satisfied on a priori grounds that they could not possibly be true." Another way this can be put is as follows. The unbelievers are credulous or gullible. They believe silly natural explanations. It is not the believers in well-evidenced miracles who are gullible. "Truly the credulity of the incredulous is most astonishing!" (page 40).
 
The Church itself agrees with their reasoning when it suits it. For example, if a Hindu guru rose from the dead like Jesus the Church would say that it is an illusion or fraud. Also, most miracle stories are absurd - eg seeing visions of fairies was a big thing in the past and the Church laughs at them. It can't see any reason why even the Devil would get involved.
 
What the Catholic author does not tell us is that good witnesses stated that they saw a vision of Jesus having sex with a man that the Church would say that even if it is a miracle it is a satanic one and that the revelation is false.
 
Page 16, says the children admitted to the lady that they did not say their prayers well. She told them, "Take care to say your prayers, my children, every night and morning. When you can do nothing else, say only a Pater and an Ave Maria; but when you have time, say more." This was spoken to shepherd children.
 
The apparition repeated what she had to say (page 17).
 
Page 22 points out how "the personage who was supposed to have appeared to them had not required them to communicate it to the ecclesiastical authorities; there was no obligation, therefore, on the part of the bishop to give any judgment at all."
 
Page 23, gives an example of how the children were able to tell the same story all the time about the lady. "In forwarding the depositions to the attorney-general, which was done on the following day, the examining magistrate enclosed a private note, saying that the children had given their evidence very much as if they were reciting a lesson; but he added, "this is not to be wondered at; for they have repeated it so often, and to such a number of persons, that they have naturally acquired this habit".
 
Page 28 discusses how the children were urged by the bishop to write down the secrets that the lady told them so that the letters could be forwarded to the pope.
 
Page 34, states that while speaking to the children, the Virgin goes, "I have given you six days to labour in, I have reserved the seventh to myself". She speaks as if she had been the author of this commandment. God was the author. The book states that this manner of speaking was used in the Bible too. An angel told Abraham, "I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for my sake". So the angel is not God and then talks as if he is.
 
Page 35 has the honesty to admit that the not all the prophecies of the Virgin were fulfilled. page 36 states that the prophecies that the gapes will fail and the nuts, the famine will come, and the plague that ravages children will be inflicted did not come to pass. However the vines did fail in 1850. The other prophecies did not take place. Page 37 states that in the Bible God threatened Nineveh absolutely and unconditionally through the mouth of Jonah the prophet. The threats did not take place for Nineveh converted. The lady however made her prophecies conditional. Not all the bad things would happen if the people lived a bit better. she said none of them would take place at all if the ;people converted properly and with enthusiasm.
 
Page 42 deals with the problem of the lady beginning her discourse in French and she had to change to the local patois because she noticed they were failing to understand her. It says the problem is how the children could remember the part of the discourse they couldn't understand. The second is how Mary could fail to communicate. The book sees no problem with the first because the children had good memories as the vision had made such an impression on them. Melanie claimed she was able to remember what the vision said through repeating it over and over gain to herself (page 44). The second is that if the children had invented the story they would not have invented such a "clumsy and improbable a feature." This is the trick you constantly see when religion attempts to verify that apparitions happen. It twists evidence against the miracle into evidence for it.
 
The book says that the Virgin using French and then the patio in order that the children would understand her does not undermine the apparition story because they narrated what she said in perfect French though they had prior to the apparition being ignorant of it (page 43).
 
The witnesses outstanding memory of what he lady said does not agree with page 47 where we read that they "had been brought up in the grossest ignorance, both secular and religious." Of Melanie page16 we read, "her memory and intellectual capabilities were so feeble that, even at the age of sixteen, after having been taught to repeat twice very death for a twelvemonth the acts of faith, hope and charity, she could not be trusted to recite them correctly by herself". Of Maximin we read, "he, too, was of poor natural abilities, and grossly ignorant at the time of the apparition. His father testifies that it was a work of three or four years to teach him the Our Father and Hail Mary" (page 48).
 
Page 49 claims they had not the intelligence or the wit to invent the story of the apparition and the messages. Later it would emerge that Melanie would reveal the Virgin's secret. The secret was absurd and the Church didn't accept it as true. But it proves she could invent things. The secret is long but she could recite it easily. This refutes the Church's claim that Melanie though too stupid to remember anything was miraculously aided by the Virgin to remember what she told her.
 
Page 55 shows that Maximin was able to answer a priest on Catholic doctrine. And Melanie when asked if the devil could carry Jesus said he could for Jesus wasn't glorified then. This is a very theologically advanced answer. Melanie became a teacher of poor children (page 66). This does not fit the allegation by the Church that the children were stupid. Evidently, the Church engineered a false perception of the children that made them almost retards. That way it was able to make it appear that they were too dumb to invent such a good apparition story.
 
It was part of a church scheme to make out that the children's story and their memory of what the lady told them was miraculous!
 
The stream on the mountain was intermittent and has flowed steadily since the night of the apparition. This stream is considered to be holy water because of the Virgin's apparition. Its steady flowing is thought to be a miracle. It could be coincidence.
 
It was only assumed that the stream permanently flowed from that time on.
 
Maximin admits the fraud to a reputed saint 
 
Please read page 173 of Encountering Mary.
 
Maximin told the Cure of Ars, now St John Vianney, that he lied and saw nothing. This was confessed on September 25 1850. Vianney had lots of visions himself and because of what Maximin admitted he believed that the apparition was false. If his visions were real then he was in a position to judge.
 
Maximin was very stressed at that time due to critics of the apparition. It is speculated that he lied to Vianney for the stress confused him. That is useless speculation for Maximin never explained it if he lied. And why didn't Maximin correct what he said later? He let Vianney believe that the vision was a hoax even though Vianney's support would have brought him more prestige than he already had. Maximin told the truth.
 
Maximin seems to have told Abbe Raymond the same thing. Maximin said, "Ah! M. le Vicaire of Ars said that I had invented a tale and that I had not seen our Blessed Lady. I was not in a good mood, so I replied: 'Well, if you like, put it that I have told a lie and that I have seen nothing!' After that I walked away."
 
He said, "The Curé d'Ars is not easy to understand because he has not many teeth left. He asked me whether I had seen the Blessed Virgin. I answered, ‘I cannot say whether it is the Blessed Virgin or not; I have seen something… a Lady. But, M. le Curé told me if you know that it is the Blessed Virgin, you should tell it to all those pilgrims, so that they may believe in La Salette'."
 
This is important - it shows that Maximin did not trust the entity he saw or know what it was. Had he trusted it he would have said it was Mary. He was not even telling pilgrims for sure that it was her.

Maximin told Vianney that he sometimes lied to a priest, "Ah! I said that I had occasionally lied to M. le Curé of Corps. 'You must retract,' M. Vianney told me. 'No, I cannot retract with regard to those lies; it is not worthwhile.' He told me once more that I must. And I: 'As it happened a long time ago, I can no longer do so, it is too old a story'." Maximin then was refusing to turn over a new leaf and expose his own lies. The excuse he used was that it was a long time ago.

Maximin said the lies were little ones and not about the apparition. He said that Vianney misunderstood that the lies were about the apparition. Maximin blamed Vianney's hearing.

Then why did he never try to put Vianney straight? He would have known from his reaction if he had really misunderstood. Maximin meant the vision was lies. Vianney understood him correctly. He would have taken huge care in questioning the boy to ensure that there was no misunderstanding. It was not hard to ask, "Did you lie about seeing the lady?" Maximin behaved like a lad who admitted the truth that it was lies and then regretted it.

Vianney did not believe in the apparition until eight years later. His reason for belief was dubious, "I was in need of money to complete the requisite sum for the foundation of a mission. I prayed to Our Lady of La Salette to procure the money for me, and I found just what was needed. I looked upon the incident as miraculous." (Procès apostolique ne pereant, p. 897, as quoted by Trochu, ibid., pg. 386.)
 
Conclusion
 
The La Salette vision is just a hoax. Magic claims need a high standard of evidence.  Here is what A Pilgrimage to La Salette tells us despite being a defence of the story.  It is about the lady talking to the children.  "It appears the Virgin Mary began her discourse in French. How could the children, who only understood their own patois, recognise any language but their own jargon for French or any thing else? Whence came the interpretation of the prefatory matter (that is, the portion that was spoken in French and not repeated in patois)? Why did the Virgin Mary mystify these wretched children by talking to them in a language they did not understand? — The difficulties, then, which are proposed are in fact twofold : First, how were the children enabled to recollect, and bring away with them, so as to report to others, words spoken in a language they did not understand ; and secondly, how came our Blessed Lady to speak to them in such a language?"  If they saw a lady they made up her message that is for sure.  Even if the children's testimony were foolproof we would still be entitled to assume that we don't have full information and that some of that information may give a different understanding and explanation. Many waterproof testimonies are waterproof not because they are entirely true but because contrary evidence has been lost or forgotten or is waiting to be found. The apparition can be dismissed as evil for it asks us to defy the fact that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence simply by seeking our belief in it and in its utterances. To attack that principle is to attack reason and evidence and good sense and therefore human welfare. If we start messing around with the methodology of evidence we mess people around.
 
BOOKS CONSULTED
 
A Pilgrimage to La Salette: Or, a Critical Examination of all the Facts Connected with the Alleged Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Two Children on the Mountain of La Salette, On Sep. 19, 1846, James Spencer Northcote, Burns and Lambert, Bristol, 1852
Beauraing and Other Apparitions, Fr Herbert Thurston, Burns, Oates & Washbourne, London, 1934
Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine, Raymond E Brown, Paulist Press, New York, 1985
Catholic Prophecy, The Coming Chastisement Yves Dupont, TAN, Illinois, 1973
Encountering Mary, Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, Avon, New York, 1991
Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture, Victor and Edith Turner, Columbia University Press, 2011
Introduction to the Devout Life, St Francis de Sales, Burns Oates and Washbourne Limited, London, 1952
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Marian Apparitions, The Bible and the Modern World, Donal Anthony Foley, Gracewing Publishing, 2002
Mother of Nations, Joan Ashton, Veritas, Dublin, 1988
New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Cult of the Virgin Mary, Michael P Carroll, Princeton University Press, 1986
The Evidence for Visions of the Virgin Mary, Kevin McClure Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1985
The Exaltation of the Virgin Mary, by Rev S.G. Poyntz, M.A., B.D., Association for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Dublin, 1955
The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, Fr Herbert Thurston, Burns, Oates & Washbourne, London, 1952
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Supernatural A-Z, James Randi, Headline Books, London, 1995
The Thunder of Justice, Ted and Maureen Flynn, MAXCOL, Vancouver, 1993
 
http://books.google.ie/books?id=2LM8AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false