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Cartoon by M J Shepherd

Here’s the whole story in a nutshell: Back in 2006, 11-year-old Jake Finkbonner had a bad case of flesh-eating bacteria. Really bad. The prognosis for his survival wasn’t good. And the pictures are pretty disturbing.
After many surgeries and more than a week spent in a hospital, Jake started to get better. Today, he’s doing just fine.
Who should get the credit for his recovery? The family knows who they’re thanking and the Pope is taking that a step further:

At the urging of [priest Fr. Tim] Sauer, they began praying for the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to intercede on Jake’s behalf. Friends, neighbors, community members and strangers joined them.

On Monday, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognized the miracle attributed to Tekakwitha –- the last step on her way to canonization.

Tekakwitha died in 1680.
So, yeah, that makes perfect sense…
No need to give credit to the doctors who kept him alive, who no doubt tried a variety of remedies, and who worked on him during his surgeries. They obviously had nothing to do with it. Instead, we’ll thank the woman who (probably) has no idea what bacteria are, has never seen a hospital, and who ceased to live centuries ago.
Even if we can’t point to a particular reason for how or why Jake got better, there’s no reason to jump to the ridiculous conclusion that a person who died 331 years ago has any direct impact on someone’s health today.

MSNBC has a poll at the end of the article asking whether readers believe in miracles:


The results are exactly what you would expect — skewed toward the surreal:

Let’s change that.

***Update***: Jake Finkbonner, the boy at the center of all of this, has this somewhat-more-sensible statement on his website:

There’s been a lot of media around me lately especially with the announcement of Blessed Kateri becoming a Saint based on my story. Please don’t confuse the issue which is that my survival is a miracle. We thank the doctors at Children’s Hospital for all that they did to save my life. I wouldn’t be here without them. I also thank all the people that prayed for me. Obviously, God heard their prayers. This decision to canonize Blessed Kateri is something that the Vatican and the Pope declared, not us. Although we are a part of this story, we did not have any influence on this decision. Congratulations to the Catholic Church and the Native American culture in the canonizing of the now Saint Kateri.

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