The Catholic practice of "faith healing," also referred to as "spiritual healing," is based on the belief that physical ailments can be healed through prayer and blessing. The phenomenon is evident in the bible and is acknowledged by the Vatican and present in the Catechism, which states The Holy Spirit gives some of his devout followers a special ability to spread prayer in a way to produce physical healing.
Faith healing in the bible
Many who believe in faith healing point to the Bible to validate the practice. Sonja Corbitt, a reporter for Catholic Online, points out in her article, "The Finger of God for Healing," that Bible stories describe Jesus curing the sick, sometimes by placing his hand on patients' bodies. In the Gospels, priests are instructed to anoint the sick and the impaired with oil. The Catholic sacrament of the anointing of the sick may also be considered a prayer for faith healing, as priests invoke both spiritual and physical wellness.
Faith healing is also evident in the legend of Saint Peregrine, the Patron Saint of Cancer Victims, who was born in Forli, Italy in 1260. The story of Saint Peregrine states he developed cancer in one of his feet and was scheduled to have it amputated. The night before the operation, Saint Peregrine prayed to God for a miracle, and the next morning he was healed. The parable lesson states that Peregrine was rewarded for his faith with physical healing, explains Catholic Online. Peregrine's story continues with him teaching others the ways of healing through faith.
Catholic v. Secular faith healing
Corbitt later distinguishes the Catholic interpretation of faith healing from other secular faith healing practices, which she alleges to be sensational. She describes evangelists on television or in camps along the streets who use theatrical "healing" in order to draw donations. Catholic faith healing, however, is endorsed by the Vatican in the document "Instruction on Prayer for Healing," which explicitly states sensational, theatrical spiritual healing should not take place. It discourages a crowd and states faith healing can be accomplished between two people, the sick and the healer.
Members of the scientific and medical communities, including the American Cancer Society, offer arguments to the Catholic belief in faith healing. The society's website acknowledges that each year a small percentage of people with cancer experience remissions of their disease that cannot be explained, but there is no scientific evidence to link the remissions to claims that faith healing occurred. Instead, the society argues when a person believes strongly that a healer can create a cure, a “placebo effect” can occur. The placebo effect can make the person feel better, but it has not been found to medically improve chance of survival.
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