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The Vatican announced yesterday that Pope John Paul I, who assumed the role for all of 33 days before his sudden death in 1978, would be beatified. It’s a key step on the path to sainthood.

While it’s hardly shocking that a former pope is receiving this honor, it’s worth taking a moment to describe the absolutely batshit crazy process that got us to this moment — because you can’t get beatified unless there’s 100% proof of a miracle… and since actual, verifiable miracles don’t exist, it requires the Catholic Church to make things up.

Here what they’re saying, in short:

1) Pope John Paul I died in 1978.

2) Over three decades later, in 2011, there was a sick girl in Buenos Aires suffering from “acute onset epileptic encephalopathy.” She had seizures, was intubated, and struggled with bronchopneumonia.

3) When she was essentially on her deathbed, the family began praying for the former pope to intervene.

4) The girl got better.

5) Vatican doctors couldn’t figure out any other explanation for her recovery.

6) Therefore, they claimed it was a literal miracle.

That’s it. That’s their proof. The doctors, who clearly have a conflict of interest here, insisted that only a miracle could have saved the girl — which is the least scientific way to handle an unexplained result — and they attributed it to the intervention of the Ghost Pope. And now the Vatican is just running with it — like they did twice with Mother Teresa.

The entire process is nothing more than a Catholic version of the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy. When you can’t explain something, just insert the name of some dead person and give that ghost full credit.

If they can make up one more story just like that, Pope John Paul I will become a saint.

By the way, I enjoyed this paragraph in the New York Times article about all this:

The campaign for John Paul I’s canonization began in 2003 but languished because of the difficulties in collecting evidence and documents in the two decades after he died, according to the so-called postulators who have been working on his case.

They tried to attribute a miracle to the guy nearly two decades ago but couldn’t do it because there was no evidence… but now, the same people insist with absolutely certainty that some unnamed child whose medical records we can’t see was cured because the dead pope decided to intervene in that situation and that situation only. (Maybe next time, stop COVID before it’s unleashed upon the world and leave a calling card?)

Here’s the thing: I doubt anyone will pay any attention to this story because the Church has been doing this forever. Hell, in the very same press release, they announced the beatification of someone else, too, attributing to her a similarly ludicrous “miracle.”

If I told you this was a proclamation from the Church of Scientology, I think most people would rightly dismiss it as the bizarre rantings of people known for having crazy beliefs. But because we’re talking about the Catholic Church, people won’t say it’s weird at all. We’re all just used to it.

Church officials can always honor people’s lives the same way the rest of us do — by talking about what people did during their lives and how it’s impacted the world for the better since they died. The Church doesn’t want to do that, though. It probably doesn’t help that in 1978, we know the Church’s child sexual abuse was rampant even though the stories of most victims wouldn’t be told for decades to come.

Anyway, the Church insists on making up stories that make these dead people seem more powerful than they ever were. In some ways, that actually diminishes their memory. If the former pope’s life was worth honoring, they shouldn’t have to resort to lies — or at least stories they convinced themselves are true — to do it.

(Image via the Vatican. Portions of this article were published earlier)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.