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The story of the Miracle of Lanciano is that, in 700 AD, a monk in Lanciano reported that:

During the Mass, when he said the Words of Consecration [...], with doubt in his soul, the priest saw the bread change into living flesh and the wine change into live blood which coagulated into five globules, irregular and differing in shape and size

Many Catholics believe that this was a genuine miracle.

What is the evidence for and against this alleged miracle?

  • I am not sure if this question fits this site are-religious-questions-on-topic since true believers might take a view offside scientific arguments. – bummi Sep 15 '13 at 7:30
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    @Bummi By that reasoning, questions about UFOs would be off topic because some UFO believers would take a view offside scientific arguments. Similarly for dowsers, homeopaths, Holocaust deniers, etc for their respective beliefs. – Gamma Function Sep 15 '13 at 16:12
  • @JacobMayle I'd except at least one from your list, but argumentum bellatum, though I'd tend to separate these, but this is subjective. – bummi Sep 15 '13 at 16:17
  • @bummi: It is a question about something that (allegedly) happened in the physical world. We can address it by showing (a) the evidence is unpersuasive - e.g. Sancho's answer, (b) that it is explained by known laws of science, or, potentially, (c) it is an area that confounds scientists. – Oddthinking Sep 16 '13 at 7:46
  • @Mr.Bultitude: Let's discuss in the comments on that question. – Oddthinking Feb 11 '15 at 23:00
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Assuming the bits are actually flesh and blood, the main question is whether or not they used to be bread and wine.

The only evidence for this transformation occurring is the long-ago testimony of a monk sometime near the year 700:

During the 700th year of Our Lord [...] a monk of the Order of St. Basil was celebrating Holy Mass according to the Latin Rite. Although his name is unknown, it is reported in an ancient document that he was "... versed in the sciences of the world, but ignorant in that of God." (Cruz 1984, at p. 10)

With this being so long ago, and very little documentation surrounding the incident, I would treat descriptions of what happened as hearsay.

Philosopher David Hume explained:

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.

In this case the testimony's hearsay nature makes the likelihood of its falsehood quite high.

Meanwhile, science has a very solid understanding of matter and chemistry. Under our current understanding, such a transformation is not possible. The likelihood of that being so substantially incorrect that bread could transform to flesh and blood in the hands of a doubting priest is very, very low.

This hearsay account is not enough to be persuasive that a miracle occurred.

References

Joan Carroll Cruz. Relics. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1984.

  • [I've deleted a long comment discussion that lead to a chat session that lead to an edit that I hope makes everyone happier and the discussion obsolete.] – Oddthinking Sep 16 '13 at 7:21
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    given that the human body digests bread and wine and uses it to make flesh and blood, there's hardly a miracle involved in the process :) – jwenting Sep 16 '13 at 9:22
  • You could probably reference the Catholic rules used in identifying a miracle. I don't think this qualifies by their standards either. Let me see if I can dig up a link for you. – Sklivvz Sep 18 '13 at 10:23
  • Maybe this: uaar.it/ateismo/controinformazione/miracoli – Sklivvz Sep 18 '13 at 10:30

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