Ven. John Henry Newman’s miracle approved

Before a person who has been determined within a moral certainty to have lived a life of heroic virtue can be declared "Blessed" by Holy Church, beatified, some miracle worked by God through his intercession must be, again within a degree of moral certainty, authenticated.

It seems that a miracle attributed to Ven. John Henry Newman has received approval from the Congregation for Causes of Saints.

Apparently, on 2 June the Plenary meeting of the Congregation approved a miracle by which Jack Sullivan, aged 70, who lives with his wife Carol in Marshfield, near Boston, was cured of an extremely serious spinal disorder on August 15, 2001, the Solemnity of the Assumption, following his intense intercession to Cardinal Newman.

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  1. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    This miracle is a joke. The back “pain” went away for a 8 months, then came back and he was “cured” by having back surgery. This “miracle” will only serve to make the Church look like a bunch of fools. This does not come close to meeting the traditional standards of a miracle. If this is the new standard the Church would be better off getting rid of the miracle requirement, then pretending. I am open to correction with further facts, but medicine could never call this a cure. At most it was a remission of his pain, but it could have happened for any number of reasons. Pain can be very subjective, and it absence or presence could be due to any number of things, especially back pain. I doubt the “Amazing Randy” would even bother trying to debunk this miracle, because it bears so little of the miraculous. Article describing the “cure”:

  2. Kimberly says:

    Christopher – I read the article you attached and I dont’t see how you arrive at this being a joke. Is there something else you have read on this that leads you to this conclusion. Just knowing people who have back problems, it is a very terrible, painful problem. The recovery period in itself can be horrible and yet he was able to get up and walk. As the man said, he went through a lengthy, indepth process when asked about his cure. From what I have read about the Church, they do not take these type of things lightly – if there is any room for error, the interogators will have a field day with it. Specialists as well as his private doctor will also be questioned. Maybe a “wait and see” approach would be best.

  3. Edward says:

    I would be a little wary of this news – nothing has come from the Postulator of the Cause, nothing from the Birmingham Oratory, nothing of the wedsite dedicated to the cause (

    I think that these would be the first to tell the good news, not a journalist to ‘The Times’.

  4. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    According to the an article in 30 days interviewing Michele Di Ruberto, Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, there are three categories of medical miracle:

    “So three degrees of miracle are to be distinguished. The first degree is represented by resurrection from the dead (quoad substantiam). The second concerns the subject (quoad subiectum): the sickness of a person is judged incurable, in its course it can even have destroyed bones or vital organs; in this case not only is complete recovery noticed, but even wholesale reconstitution of the organs (restitutio in integrum). There is then a third degree (quoad modum): recovery from an illness, that treatment could only have achieved after a long period, happens instantaneously.”

    I imagine they are trying to say that his miracle is of the third type, however, he never recovered, he had a temporary remission of pain, surgery was required when the pain came back. He was cured by modern medicine ie back surgery. I have always been taught that for a cure to be considered miraculous it must be permanent. I would like to know why the theologians rejected this “miracle” the first time around, and what changed to make it more miraculous the second time they considered it.

  5. Matthew says:

    The big question now is where, when, and who?

    Will Newman be beatified at Westminster Cathedral, since he was an Englishman through and through, or, since he was a Cardinal of Holy Roman Church with a titular Church in Rome, will he beatified in the Eternal City?

    Also, if he is beatifed in Rome, will the Pope do it personally? He apparently has taken great interest in Newman’s cause. Depending on how long the Canonization process takes, Pope Benedict may not live to see it (though we all wish him long life!), and may want to personally beatify his fellow theologian.

  6. Kimberly says:

    Christopher – I agree with what you write. I’m just wondering if there is more to the story than what we are getting. I guess, in honestly, I pray that the church is not becomming lax on this also, because I have always trusted the church in thier decisions and I would hate to see the title of “Saint” become questionable.

  7. RedShirt says:


    All comments were deleted on NLM, where I did comment on this – at least until recently Peter Jennings was the Oratory Fathers’ Press Spokesman, and he is listed on the website of Archdiocese of Birmingham as Press Secretary, so he isn’t just a Times journalist.

  8. Mary says:

    Interesting; Mr. Sullivan was studying to become a married deacon and in the middle of classes. The pain returned after he finished his classes.

  9. Joan M says:

    The man got what he asked for – “I said, ‘Please, Cardinal Newman, help me so I can go back to classes and be ordained,’ ” Sullivan said. “The next morning I woke up, and there was no pain.”
    after his last class, the pain returned, he said

    While it may be less than we would like to see in a miracle, it appears to be a miracle, exactly providing what the petitioner asked for.

    To compare this with a Benny Hinn “miracle” is offensive.

  10. Fr Paul McDonald says:

    Didn’t Pope Benedict tighten up, or demand that they be tightened, the criteria bu which a miracle is judged to be so?

  11. prof. basto says:

    On a related topic (causes of Saints): a Statement related to the cause of Pope Pius XII was included at a late hour in yesterday’s Bolletino.

    When I checked it in the morning, the statement wasn’t there. Late at night, I checked the bolletino again (to read the Pope Vespers homily), and two entries had been added: one for the Vespers and another was a statement by the Holy See Press Office Director. The statement reads:

    A proposito di affermazioni riportate da agenzie di stampa sulla causa di beatificazione di Pio XII, il direttore della Sala Stampa ribadisce che la firma dei decreti che riguardano le cause di beatificazione è di esclusiva competenza del Papa, che deve essere lasciato completamente libero nelle sue valutazioni e nelle sue decisioni.

    Se il Papa pensa che lo studio e la riflessione sulla causa di Pio XII vadano ancora prolungati, questa sua posizione va rispettata senza interferire con interventi non giustificati e inopportuni“.

    What are the press agencies saying now? What’s the story here?

  12. If the Congregation did in fact accept the miracle, perhaps there is something more to it than what the papers report. To call it a “joke” seems to be a hasty judgment at best, hostility to the cause of Ven. Newman’s beatification at worst

  13. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    Calling it a joke, perhaps is hasty, however, my judgment is based on the papers, and what the papers present is a joke. Now maybe the congregation has some secret information, that no one is releasing, but I doubt it. The man was not cured by the intercession of Cardinal Newman. Maybe he never asked to be cured, but that does not fit into the three degrees of medical miracles. Finally hasty judgment is objectively sinful, while hostility to the cause of Ven. Newman is a perfectly legitimate opinion, even if it is a minority one. However, being so in favor of his canonization that you are willing to bring scandal upon the system, by approving a miracle that has no basis in objectivity is much worse. Joan castigates me for comparing the miracle to a Benny Hinn miracle, yet being free from back pain and being able to walk straight again is the bread and butter of the “Miracle Crusade.” I wonder why?

  14. mpm says:

    The article is not very clear. There were two intercessions (notice the dates):

    (1) Sullivan’s suffering erupted on June 6, 2000…. “I said, ‘Please, Cardinal Newman, help me so I can go back to classes and be ordained,’ ” Sullivan said. “The next morning I woke up, and there was no pain.”

    (2) Sullivan remained free of pain for eight months, but after his last class, the pain returned, he said.

    (3) He had surgery at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston on Aug. 9, 2001. Five days later, his second prayer to Cardinal Newman was answered.

  15. Edward says:


    I would be more wary of Peter Jennings than of any alledged miracle at Newman’s intercession. He is a bit of a loose canon, and very embarrassing to the Archbishop of Westminster viz:

    and this is the man who broke the news of the miracle…come off it!

  16. Tom says:

    Edward, there’s more to this source than might be realised:

    Let’s all wait for formal confirmation from the appropriate dicastary in Rome, possibly via the Postulator in Birmingham, rather than relying on an article written in a UK newspaper not renowned for its support of the Catholic Church. It may be true; it may not be.

  17. Edward says:


    Thanks for that – the Jennings ‘source’ of Newman news is even looser and nastier than I first thought. Just shows how careful one has to be with instant global (mis-)infirmation.

    As you say, lets wait… but I’m not holding my breath.

  18. Micael says:

    Seems to me this is nothing more than a hoax, derived from a significantly biases source.

    Nothing, but a waste of time.

  19. Steve says:

    Would it not be best to leave the matter to dear Jesus. He’s done a fine job thus far. I expect He shall not falter in this matter.

  20. amsjj says:

    I pray every day for the Venerable John Henry’s cause, but will wait until the news is realised by the Birmingham Oratory.

    I do find it interesting, however, that the deacon was described as “doubled” because so was the Cardinal described in his later years: “I slept at the Oratory and the Cardinal came in to see me for twenty minutes. I hardly knew him again: doubled up like a shrimp and walking with a stick longer than his body.” (Herbert Vaughan, then Bishop of Salford in 1889). But a few days before his death the next year, the Cardinal surprised his caregiver, Fr. Neville, by returning to his rooms “unbent, erect to the full height of his best days in the fifties; he was without support of any kind.” I could understand why he’d want to help the deacon, if he felt kinship with him.

    Anyway, I also wish we could see how the committee of doctors came to their conclusion. They knew the gentleman had had surgery for his back; when one has a procedure done, one hopes it’ll solve the difficulty. So I am curious as to what made this situation different?

    Cardinal Newman, pray for us!

  21. mpm says:

    Comment by amsjj — 22 June 2009 @ 12:08 am

    Dear amsjj,

    Thanks for the little tidbit on Cardinal Newman’s physical affliction.

    I too am curious, not judgemental, about what the scientists felt was inexplicable,
    since they voted unaminously last summer, I think it was, to that effect. It
    was the theological consultants who seem to have had doubts until they were able
    to get clarifications about some points.

    I’ll also be patiently awaiting the news from the appropriate authorities before
    beginning to celebrate.

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