Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
One of the trendier pieces of atheist agitprop is the "Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" game. The way it works is this: the world is chockablock with various accounts of miraculous healings. Lourdes, for instance, has a big database of people who have been healed there, and sundry saints like Padre Pio have all sorts of amazing healings that cluster around them with gobs of documentation. However, the atheist is an obscurantist who does not fearlessly follow evidence where it leads as a Christian is free to do. He is, rather, a dogmatist who is constrained to ignore evidence of the miraculous by his creed. So, in order to weed out all that threatening evidence of the miraculous, the latest trick is to set up a demand that God heal amputees and, when he fails to comply with a demand for laboratory proof (something he is noted for doing) to claim that the supposed fact that God does not heal amputees is "proof" of... well, something or other. (Never mind the fact that there are in fact claims that God has, now and then, healed amputees. The whole point of this game is to define the evidential demands so strictly as to make sure that God's failure to comply with the critic's demands means that God does not exist, not to acknowledge that God is under no obligation to comply with the demands of critics).
Anyway, I'm reminded of this since the other day, in this space, I made a passing mention of the fact that people who fear having children lest they suffer don't pay attention to the fact that everybody suffers but we don't generally say "I'd rather die than suffer". I mentioned a brief list of my own sufferings over the years and made a joking reference to having received a line drive to the groin in sixth grade. A particularly humor-impaired atheist took me to task for the joke since, being humor-impaired, he thought I was seriously asserting that my brief moment of pain was on a par with the sort of suffering that can afflict, say, an amputee or a sufferer from chronic depression. Apparently, he was trying to say that *that* sort of suffering could justify not being born (with, of course, the attendant "Why doesn't God heal amputees?" subtext).
Thing is, God does heal amputees:
Somebody without a theology of the crucifixion or the resurrection doesn't get this. "Why did God allow them to be born without limbs, or to lose their limbs?"
St. Thomas tells us that God allows evil so that his glory will be shown even over evil. The glory of God is a human being fully alive. The atheist solution to evil is to gripe at God for allowing it and, in the culture of abortion, to prevent it by preventing the human sufferer. In Christ, the suffering is allowed to proceed and even to mark the sufferer forever. Just as these two have not been magically given legs, so the Risen Jesus was not magically given intact hands, feet and side. He retains his wounds forever. But now they are are the source of life, just as this happy pair find that their wounds are a source of joy.
Why doesn't God heal amputees? For the same reason he often doesn't heal others, because he wishes to bless them and make them a source of blessing to others. We don't have the option of escaping the Cross. We only have the option of refusing to let it do its work.