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Worcestor Bishop Releases Preliminary Findings in Audrey Santo Case

Matt Nisbet

January 21, 1999

CSICOP Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell to Appear on NBC Nightly News Tonight at 630EST

January 21, 1999
For more information, contact Matt Nisbet at 716-636-1425 X219

In a press statement this morning (Jan. 21), the Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcestor, MA, released preliminary findings of the Bishop’s commission appointed to investigate the alleged Audrey Santo miracles. The summary report can be found at: http://www.worcesterdiocese.org/

Bed-ridden and comatose, eleven-year old Audrey Santos has received international media attention as hundreds of thousands have made the pilgrimage to her home in Worcester, MA, believing that Audrey had the power to heal. Adding to the worldwide interest, the Santo home has also been the site of icons that mysteriously “weep” oil.

The commission’s report, while noting that the source of the oil was not yet explained, correctly concluded, “one cannot presume that the inability to explain something automatically makes it miraculous.”

It insisted on “the need to have controlled tests performed involving some of the religious articles and lab analysis of resulting oils or other secretions since no two reports from past tests have come back with the same results.”

The report added, “We must be careful not to identify this oil as ‘holy oil'—that is, oil blessed by a Catholic priest and used to annoint the ill—and should not be offered or used as such. The report also noted that in accordance with Catholic teaching, people should only pray for Audrey and that therefore “the distribution of a ‘Prayer to Audrey’ should cease immediately.”

Among other things, the commission members showed skepticism toward claims that Audrey is a “victim soul” (one who suffers for others). Noting that this is not “an official term in the Church,” the report noted that “It was used in some circles in the 18th and 19th century when there was a fascination with suffering and death.”

It remained to be determined, the commission concluded, that Audrey demonstrated “cognitive abilities” or “at the age of three was, and presently is, capable of making a free choice to accept the suffering of others.”

The following is an overview of the Audrey Santo case by Nickell. For more information contact Matt Nisbet at 716-636-1425 X219.

Matt Nisbet

Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D, is a professor in the School of Communication at American University. From 1997 to 1999, he worked as public relations director for CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer.