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The Patron Saint of Church Abuse?
October 17, 2010 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Mary MacKillop became Australia's first ever saint yesterday (Vatican time). In a counterpoint to the celebrations, pressure groups are calling for MacKillop, once banished from the church for exposing sex abuse, to be made the Patron Saint of those sexually abused by the clergy.
posted by AmbroseChapel (38 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, that'll happen.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:29 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I doubt the church will ever let her be the patron saint of sexual abuse--I think the whole reason why the canonized a bunch of saints (several countries' first saints--including Australia and Canada, which hasn't had a saint canonized since becoming Canada proper, if I recall correctly) is to focus attention away from the almost daily scandals. But good for her for bravely exposing those priests, even though she was temporarily excommunicated for it.
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:30 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The other five new saints
posted by shii at 4:47 PM on October 17, 2010


It seems she wasn't involved in exposing the sex abuse at all as she was in a different state when her fellow sisters exposed the sex abuse, and this is coming from Father Paul Gardiner, the man who is credited with making the revelations in the first place. He claims that his statements were misrepresented on the television program that broadcast the claim. Given that he's not actually denying that the sisters in her order exposed the sex abuse, or that it happened, I see no reason not to believe him on this. Furthermore, it seems that not even the program involved, nor the historian, maintain that she was excommunicated because of the reporting of sex abuse. From the little reading I've done (mainly because this was actually present in the Wikipedia article a few hours ago, but seems to have disappeared), the "excommunicated for exposing sex abuse" angle seems to have just been too juicy to let go and is now something that all the news outlets are going with. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for Gardener to have it continue being represented as fact.
posted by bunyip at 5:11 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


From shii's link, she's the patron saint of Australia and the diocese of Wagga Wagga, Australia. Assuming I, as a non-Catholic, have understood this correctly.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 5:12 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's on twitter?

I noticed that her miracles occurred over 60 years after her death, is it common for ill Catholics to pray to non-saints and people they never even knew for healing?
posted by cyphill at 5:12 PM on October 17, 2010


Well, if she's on twitter and she's been dead for over 60 years, I guess that's one miracle.
posted by notswedish at 5:17 PM on October 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


I noticed that her miracles occurred over 60 years after her death, is it common for ill Catholics to pray to non-saints and people they never even knew for healing?

Well, they pray to Jesus an awful lot, I understand.
posted by smoke at 5:21 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


> is it common for ill Catholics to pray to non-saints and people they never even knew for healing?

As far as my limited understanding goes, that's precisely the way the process works. Saints are people who have performed miracles. You pray to her, you get better, the church is informed. But of course she's not 'someone they never knew', she's a well-known figure in the Catholic church who has been moving toward sainthood for some time now.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:23 PM on October 17, 2010


Jesus, the Catholic church needs a Saint for those sexually abused by the clergy. WTF is wrong the leaders of that church?
posted by nomadicink at 5:29 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Jesus, the Catholic church needs a Saint for those sexually abused by the clergy. WTF is wrong the leaders of that church?"

The way I see it, the biggest thing wrong with the leaders of the Catholic Church is an inability to see beyond narrowly defined preconceived ideas and address reality. Thank you bunyip for that link.

We seem to have a pattern of missing key details in catholic FPPs on the blue.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:37 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm strongly reminded of this XKCD cartoon.

What I mean is, given the various Catholic assumptions, it is doubtless a good thing to have a patron saint for the victims of priestly sexual abuse to pray to. But wow does it show that someone is clearly doing their job horribly wrong.

Not that Ratzinger would ever let her be the patron saint of the victims of sexual abuse by priests of course.
posted by sotonohito at 5:45 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Patron Saint of those sexually abused by the clergy?

They've already got one.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:56 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having sexual abuse victims pray to their patron saint in private is a convenient way to keep them from opening up in public. Plus there's good revenue to be made by chic ironists and goths wearing her medal to school. It's all in this Powerpoint presentation, Your Holiness.
posted by swift at 6:45 PM on October 17, 2010


is it common for ill Catholics to pray to non-saints and people they never even knew for healing?
My mom was very catholic. She wanted to name me Julie but there was no St Julie, only a beatified person - Blessed Julie Billiard - so she named me Julianne so I would have a saintly appendage to my name.

Meanwhile, growing up, we went to school under Notre Dame nuns so between the nuns and my mom, everyone was hoping for a miracle that would catapult Blessed Julie up a rung into sainthood. I had an older sister who nearly died several times from an illness; when she got better, my mom and all the nuns and priests wrote to the bishop and the pope submitting her recovery as a miracle, but apparently it wasn't miraculous enough because Julie Billiard is still only "blessed" and not "saintly."

I have no idea if this was common, and it may be even less so today, but yes, it does happen that some people try to get miracle from the would-be saints.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:49 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


God answers all prayers.



(But sometimes the answer is "No.")
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


madamjujujive, St. Julie Billiart was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1969. The book you reference predates her canonization.
posted by RichardP at 7:20 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


she's the patron saint of Australia

So now the Monarch, Governor General, Prime Minister AND Patron Saint are all women! Take that, patriarchy!

Now, can a zoologist please confirm that the Kangaroo & Emu on the coat of arms are both female?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:58 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like a job for the advocatus diaboli.
posted by ovvl at 8:34 PM on October 17, 2010


I'm astonished that the 'miracles' haven't attracted more criticism.

MacKillop became eligible for sainthood after the Vatican approved a second miracle attributed to her intercession, that of Kathleen Evans, who was cured of lung and brain cancer in 1993.

Because that could never happen without supernatural intercession. Wiki...

In a carefully designed study on mammography it was found that 22% of all breast cancer cases underwent spontaneous regression [3].

No magnets jokes, please
posted by 7-7 at 8:50 PM on October 17, 2010


thanks RichardP, goodd to know my name is finally legit ;-)
Too bad my Mom is no longer around to share that with. But maybe she's having tea with St Julie right now.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:16 PM on October 17, 2010


Remind me again how saints differ from, say, lares and penates.
posted by kafziel at 10:16 PM on October 17, 2010



MacKillop was a woman of great holiness, but the leaking of her
involvement in stopping a sex abuse scandal, and ending the career of
this one priest, reinforces the vaticans essential positon, namely
that sex abuse is rare, that it is committed by "bad apples" or
"impure men" and that there is no insutitonal problem, in this sense,
her work becomes an extension of the roles that women are given,
namely the domestic, the care taker.

It reminds me as well, of in their attempts at making Day a saint,
they have emphasized not her work on peace, on socialism, on her
problems and attempts to correct the power imbalances of the church,
but her work against abortion. This work safely domesticises her, just
as the singular priest with the singular problem emphasizes the
beliefs that the vatican has about paedophillia.

(or how Edith Stein was cannonized just at the height of the scandals
about the vatican's role in the Second World War)

It pisses me off, because in some weird way, it makes these women less holy, and more political pawns, and it becomes an act of vioelnce against them

I am reminded of a qoute about Julian of Norwich in the essay, mystical bodies and the dialogics of
vision, by Laurie Finke, found in women, autobiography, theory: a reader edited by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson:

"The growing distance between the clergy and the laity co-incided with
a resurgance of lay peity that left both men and women searching for
outlets to express their own religious sentiments. The priveleged
states of the mystic reflected this tension between clerical
centralization and any expression of peity. On the one hand, her
claims of authority could easily be seen as subversive of clerical
perfotives. on the other, they could when nessecery be co-opted by the
church" (, 407)

we are not that far from the 12th
posted by PinkMoose at 10:42 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yay Mary! You go girl!
posted by Ahab at 11:46 PM on October 17, 2010


What sort of strike rate do you need to become a saint? How many people prayed to her but got diddly? Get a thousand people to pray to me and I can guarantee something miraculous will happen to two of them.

Hell, you could pray to my cat if you want. Or his litter tray.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:53 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait. Let me get this straight. You don't need to actually perform any miracles in your own lifetime to become a saint? You can die, never having shown any sign of divine power, have someone attribute miracles to you after your death, and be canonized for it?

Is there a patron saint of Incipient Headaches?
posted by JaredSeth at 4:52 AM on October 18, 2010


By the way, sorry if that's truly ignorant but I always thought Sainthood was a result of turning water into wine or driving all the snakes out of Ireland or somesuch?
posted by JaredSeth at 4:54 AM on October 18, 2010


Driving the snakes out of Ireland was St Patrick's lesser feat. More importantly, he is credited with inventing whiskey.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:25 AM on October 18, 2010


JaredSeth: "By the way, sorry if that's truly ignorant but I always thought Sainthood was a result of turning water into wine or driving all the snakes out of Ireland or somesuch"

The size and scope of miracles have shrunk proportionally to the amount of recording devices available, I would imagine. You've gotta adapt with the times.
posted by charred husk at 6:13 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Driving the snakes out of Ireland was St Patrick's lesser feat. More importantly, he is credited with inventing whiskey.

From what I understand, Patrick never drove actual snakes out of Ireland; the accounts of him having done so are a metaphor for wiping out pagan religious practices.
posted by acb at 7:05 AM on October 18, 2010


Looks like a job for the advocatus diaboli.

What can I do for you?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:13 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing I've been wondering about is the miracles cited as a prerequisite for the canonisations of saints, and how they'd break down into various categories. The way I imagine it, there'd be classified as one of:
  1. Unlikely, but not impossible, events which would occur in some small number of cases; effectively proving that there are enough Catholic faithful to act as a large enough sample pool and to find and relay these incidents
  2. acts of deceit carried out by the faithful for the purposes of canonising saints. These may be conscious (like the priests that warm up the vials of "miraculously liquefying saints' blood" kept as relics in various churches) or subconscious (it's possible that, for example, a devoutly religious doctor may reclassify a serious but curable condition as terminal after the equally religious patient "miraculously" recovers)
  3. like 2, but created after the fact by wilfully misreading statistics and such
  4. (I've left out 4, or instances in which the Deity actually does suspend the laws of physics to express His approval of a saint. Extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary proof and all that.) Anyway, I wonder what the breakdown of the miracles cited for recent saints would be. (I imagine if you go further back, standards of evidence and scientific understanding (i.e., why an event is actually miraculous) would become weaker and it'd be easier to find miracles to support whoever the church authorities of the day wish to canonise.)
posted by acb at 7:22 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


St. Aditya, the patron saint of banned Mefites.

His miracle? Apparently getting friends to actually let him use their PayPal accts. to get back in here!
posted by Danf at 9:59 AM on October 18, 2010


acb I thought that the current consensus was that Patrick never actually existed, and the only reason he's still a Saint is because the Church knows that every Irish Catholic would go into open revolt if they ever tried to decanonize him? Which would make both the snakes and heathens equally plausible!

Actually, aren't a lot of the Irish Saints just the old Irish gods repackaged (like Brigid)?
posted by sotonohito at 11:39 AM on October 18, 2010


Patrick never drove actual snakes out of Ireland; the accounts of him having done so are a metaphor for wiping out pagan religious practices.

OK, so what's the invention of whiskey a metaphor for? Delivering people to salvation?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:37 PM on October 18, 2010


By the way, sorry if that's truly ignorant but I always thought Sainthood was a result of turning water into wine or driving all the snakes out of Ireland or somesuch

In the interest of dispelling ignorance....here is what I was told about sainthood.

"Saint" just means "someone who's in heaven." (Actually, the ones in heaven are the "saints triumphant" -- the Catholics on earth are the "saints militant". So "saint" just means "believer" I suppose.) Anyone who is in heaven is a saint. My grandmother, if she's there, is a saint.

The reason the church doesn't automatically call out every last person who dies and says "yay, this person's a saint," is partly because they're hedging their bets; technically, we have no way of knowing what may have been lurking Grandma's head or heart or conscience at the exact moment of her death, and what secrets may have been lurking in her past.

So for most folks -- well, it's not like the church is passing judgement saying "they're flawed so they're probably not saints," it's more like "we like to have really, really, really good odds before we start saying someone is or is not in heaven". With people who have officially been deemed saints, it's the church's way of saying, "okay, it's really pretty good odds that THIS person's in heaven." That's why there are these specific conditions -- it's sort of the church's way of checking whether it's a safe bet.

So as far as the church is concerned, it's very possible my grandma is playing poker with St. Anthony right this very minute. They just don't want to say DEFINITELY that she is yet until they see better odds. St. Anthony, though, they've seen enough evidence to be pretty sure he is, so they gave him that title.

(Personally, I like to think that whereever she is, Grandma IS playing poker.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, so what's the invention of whiskey a metaphor for? Delivering people to salvation?

That was probably to make it more marketable. Much like keeping Yule and all its pagan traditions (the feasting, the gift-giving) and conveniently deciding that Jesus was born then and it's really about that.
posted by acb at 4:40 AM on October 19, 2010



I'm astonished that the 'miracles' haven't attracted more criticism.

Here's some for you.
posted by TedW at 7:48 AM on October 19, 2010


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