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Still a Miracle?

News & Comment

Joe Nickell

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 23.4, July / August 1999

Reported just in time to make news on Good Friday, 1999, a claim of an astonishing miracle became the subject of an investigation by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The story actually began earlier when the pastor of Ascension of Our Lord Church attempted to dispose of a discarded communion wafer by dissolving it in holy water as mandated by church policy. Instead, in a few days it had become stringy and fleshlike, seeming to many parishioners to confirm the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. This holds that the consecrated wafer and wine of holy communion are not merely symbolic, as most Protestants believe, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

Archdiocesan authorities responded with caution, predicting “a scientific, naturalistic explanation” for the phenomenon and commissioning a medical school professor of biochemistry to test samples of the substance.

After a week of analysis the scientists reported that “no human cellular morphology or structure was seen,” only “mold or fungus.” At least one church member was undaunted. She told reporters, “to me it was a miracle.”

Joe Nickell

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Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC's Today Show. His personal website is at