An important part of Catholicism is the canonization of saints in the present day. One of the criteria for canonization is the confirmation of miracles associated with the would-be saint. In particular, a great number of "modern" Catholic miracles involve the Virgin Mary, e.g. the "Miracle of the Sun" at Fatima.

Given that protestants believe miracles occurred historically, as recorded in the Bible, and also that protestants are unlikely to believe that the Virgin Mary is performing miracles in the modern days, my question is the following:

How do protestants react to Catholic miracles? If these claims are met with disbelief, how does a protestant defend her disbelief in the miracles in a way which is not also applicable to the miracles in the Bible?

If it will result in a sharper answer, a response which focuses on one specific miracle, like the Miracle of the Sun, would be helpful and interesting.

  • Answering your question would be highly inflammatory since it would require some evaluation of some basic and deep seated differences in belief between the Catholic and many Protestant churches. For that reason I am voting down your question.
    – BYE
    Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 14:54
  • 5
    I'm upvoting, because some good theology really can be done on this question. Answers can be respectful and still highlight the differences, without being incidiary Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 15:10
  • Quick answer: We protestants are the Devil's Advocate :) Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 15:18
  • @CecilBeckum I understand your concern, but I guess I consider questions which "require some evaluation of some basic and deep seated differences in belief" to be a good thing. Unless you are referring to the fact that this website is not a discussion board, in which case I suppose you have a valid point. Let's see what happens...
    – Jeff
    Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 16:00
  • 1
    The Miracle of the Sun can be easily disputed. A better subject might be Deacon Jack Sullivan's healing, which led to the beatification of John Henry Newman. Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 18:39

4 Answers 4


It depends on the mentality of the person.

When Protestants hear some miracles happening from the Roman Catholic side, the 3 most common reactions are -

  1. Joy: When I hear a catholic healing others in the name of Jesus, I praise God and simply say, "Wow! God still loves the Roman Catholic Church!".
  2. Criticism: Some protestants who deem the RCC as the Anti-Christ would simply say that it is the work of the Devil or the wolf in sheep's clothing.
  3. Ignore: Many liberal protestants don't really care what is going on in other denominations. They only focus on their relationship between God and them.
  • 1
    I agree with 'joy'. Nice answer. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 15:09
  • 1
    I would guess that skepticism is also a common reaction? Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 18:49

This question strikes very close to the heart of the Protestant Reformation, along with the subsequent generations of the Reformers. This topic mainly revolves around what the Catholic Church defines as the communion of Saints, which is one of the main Catholic theological DNA strands rejected by Protestants. Perhaps the most feasibly specific answer can be narrowed down to the positions held by the Reformers of the Classical Reformation.

Its important to note that there are quite a few categories of Catholic miracles such as Eucharistic, stigmatic, healing, etc.

However, for the sake of conserving time and space, let's focus specifically on the two aspects indicated in the body of your question...

Miraculous intercession of the Saints

What the Catholic Church teaches

A canonized saint, according to Rome, is a Christian who during his/her life lived a life of exemplary holiness. At first martyrs were singled out as such. From the 4th century on, confessors, those who had refused to deny Christ in the face of death, were also recognized. Finally many others who had lived remarkable lives of holiness were admitted to the cultus.

In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honoured with great respect the memory of the dead; and, "because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins" (2 Mac. 12:46) she offers her suffrages for them. The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ's martyrs, who gave the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood, are closely united with us in Christ; she has always venerated them, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels, with a special love, and has asked piously for the help of their intercession. Soon there were added to these others who had chosen to imitate more closely the virginity and poverty of Christ, and still others whom the outstanding practice of the Christian virtues and the wonderful graces of God recommended to the pious devotion and imitation of the faithful. (Lumen Gentium 7.50)

By the 12th Century popular devotion to saints swelled so incredibly that it became difficult to separate fact from fiction. It was Alexander III, who in 1170 first declared that no one should be venerated as a saint apart from the Roman Church. This found its way into canon law. The process of beatification and canonization was an attempt to regulate the cult of the saints and to remove the abuses.

Beatification is the act by which the Pope permits the restricted public veneration after death of a Christian who lived an exemplary life of holiness. Normally, the person in question had to have performed one attested miracle. Those beatified receive the title "Blessed." Only those beatified are eligible for Sainthood.

Canonization, as mentioned above, is the definitive declaration by the Pope, that a Christian previously beatified has entered into eternal glory and therefore a public cult is established for the new Saint throughout the whole Church. Prior to this declaration, however, is a long legal process which begins at the diocesan level, proceeds to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome, and eventually comes before the cardinals and bishops who advise the Pope. Normally one miracle since beatification is required for canonization. There must be a miracle associated with the person's grave or relics, which is said to occur through the intercession of the saint in heaven.

What the Reformers taught

The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, however, involved a radical reaction against the cult of saints and their relics. The Reformers rejected the idea of saintly intercession, which was thought in Lutheran terminology to constitute reliance on works rather than on faith.

Traditional Lutheran theology teaches that saints pray for the Church in general, but are not mediators of miraculous intercession. Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, approved honoring the saints, but condemned with strict sobriety the acceptance and promulgation of miraculous intercession by the Saints in Heaven.

From his commentary on 1st Peter:

Thus Scripture calls us holy while we are still living here on earth, if we believe. The papists have taken this name away from us and say: `We should not be holy; only the saints in heaven are holy.' Therefore we must get the noble name back. You must be holy. But you must be prepared not to think that you are holy of yourself or on the strength of your merit. No, you must be holy because you have the Word of God, because heaven is yours, and because you have become truly pious and holy through Christ. This you must avow if you want to be a Christian (Luther's Works 30:7)

Luther is commenting here on the phrase in 1 Peter 1:2, "by the sanctifying work of the Spirit." But his emphasis, as in the previous quote, is on the Scriptural fact that all believers in Jesus Christ, all Christians, are holy, that is, are saints.

In Luther's 1531 Galatian commentary he reflects on the view of saints he previously held.

When I was a monk, I often had a heartfelt wish to see the life and conduct of at least one saintly man. But meanwhile I was imagining the sort of saint who lived in the desert and abstained from food and drink, subsisting on nothing but roots and cold water. I had derived this notion about unnatural saints from the books not only of the sophists but even of the fathers . . . But now that the light of truth is shining, we see with utter clarity that Christ and the apostles designate as saints, not those who lead a celibate life, are abstemious, or who perform other works that give the appearance of brilliance or grandeur, but those who, being called by the Gospel and baptized, believe that they have been sanctified and cleansed by the blood of Christ. Thus whenever Paul writes to Christians, he calls them saints, sons and heirs of God, etc. Therefore saints are all those who believe in Christ, whether men or women, slaves or free (Luther's Works 27:81-82)

A little later in the same work...

When we have repudiated this foolish and wicked notion about the name "saints" which we suppose applies only to the saints in heaven, and on earth to hermits and monks who perform some sort of spectacular work let us now learn from the writings of the apostles that all believers in Christ are saints (LW 27:83)

John Calvin composed a systematic critique of the cult of miraculous relics in the vernacular (Traité des reliques,1547), in which he rejected the veneration of relics on theological grounds.

The Thirty-Nine Articles formulated by the Anglican Church condemned the "invocation of saints" as...

...a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. (Article XXII)

Theological opposition often turned to violent iconoclasm on the part of Huguenots during the Wars of Religion. Collections of Catholic relics that had been revered as miraculous were destroyed and the statues of the saints in many French churches still bear the scars of attack.

Many Protestant churches strongly reject all saintly intercession, on the basis of verses like 1 Timothy 2:1–5, which says that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man, as well as Deuteronomy 18:10-11, which seems to forbid invoking departed souls. They also point to the fact that there are no examples in the Bible of anyone requesting the intercession of the dead - Jesus Christ being the lone exception, because he is believed to be alive and resurrected, and because he is believed to be both human and divine.

Marian apparitions

According to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, the era of public revelation ended with the death of the last living Apostle. A Marian apparition, if deemed genuine by Church authority, is treated as private revelation that may emphasize some facet of the received public revelation for a specific purpose, but it can never add anything new to the deposit of faith. The Church may pronounce an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith. The Holy See has officially confirmed the apparitions at Guadalupe, Saint-Étienne-le-Laus, Paris (Rue du Bac, Miraculous Medal), La Salette, Lourdes, Fátima, Pontmain, Beauraing, and Banneux.

The only way a protestant (or anyone else) could justify belief in Marian apparitions is to accept completely the Roman Catholic view of Mary. If these apparitions are authentic and are performed under the auspice of almighty God, then we are dealing with the Mary revealed in Roman Catholic theology. These apparitions do nothing but confirm distinctly Catholic beliefs.

For example:

In 1858 Saint Bernadette Soubirous was a 14-year-old shepherd girl who lived near the town of Lourdes in France. One day she reported a vision of a miraculous Lady who identified Herself as "the Immaculate Conception" in subsequent visions. In the second vision she was asked to return again and she had 18 visions overall. According to Saint Bernadette, the Lady held a string of Rosary beads and led Saint Bernadette to the discovery of a buried spring, also requesting that the local priests build a chapel at the site of the visions and lead holy processions there.

The messages of these approved apparitions are, for the most part, cut and dry. You won't find many (if any at all) protestants willing to accept any of this. If you do find any...then perhaps you might consider quietly and charitably directing him or her to their nearest parish priest.


Some time ago a pastor said to me:

God makes miracle among the catholics, even though they pray to theis saints, because of his mercy.

In my pont of view, you find many claims of miracles happening around the world in various religions and even in non religious groups. For example, you will fin many "testimonies" of people saying that they were heald by some diet, from headaches to cancer.

Because of all that, mature christians will not be very impressed by miracles itself, since theis faith is based in the written Word of God, the Bible. Miracles do exist, but the Bible says the Anti-Christ and his false prophet will operate many signs and miracles in order to deceive humankind.

People tend to think that if something supernatural happend to someone, that person is somehow better than others. But, in the Bible we see Paul, a great "miracle maker", saying to the church do not listen to him if he preach another gospel.

To sum up, miracles and other signs does not validate one's faith. So, my approach before a miracle in any religion (or outside any religion) would be:

If you received a miracle, give all the glory to God and Him alone. If you share His glory to another, you will put youself in a dangerous position, since the entire Bible condemns people that give credit to God's work to other people or deities.


Proverbs 18:17 says,

In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

My first test is of my pride. I listen and do not reject the report out of hand until I have heard both sides. Having been raised as a Catholic and now belonging to a Baptist Church, I know it is easy to be biased, bigoted and unreasonable in my judgments.

Galatians 1:8 says,

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

The second test is to see if the person who reports the miracle contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible. Even if the miracle occurred, if this happens, I will reject it.

I Corinthians 3:4 says,

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

My third test is if accepting the miracle becomes a test of loyalty within my church fellowship. If agreeing on the Bible and orthodox doctrine and sharing a history of years of friendship and joint service is not enough and you have to also endorse questionable practices of dubious pedigree in order to be accepted, then the "miracle" is divisive.

I apply these tests equally to Catholic miracles and Protestant ones, having encountered both genuine and false miracles in my life and among my friends and acquaintances from both quarters.

  • I would also add the test of independent utility. The miracles we see in the Scriptures were never simply displays of power, or even to confirm the word, but also had a practical beneficial effect: The deaf heard, the blind saw, the lame walked, the language barrier was surmounted, and so on.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 16:16

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