Hi all. I’ve been reading up on the incorruptible saints, and came across some criticism - mainly that they have either been (a) embalmed, (b) are wax features, in an attempt to dupe the public (one commenter cited that the Vatican had not allowed any scientists to observe the bodies to prove the claims) or © use “food preservation. Salt, dry, wax, the right acid balance, and a surface sealant to keep the moisture out, stuff will basically last forever.” I was linked to this article in an attempt to debunk the claim. I just curious as to if anyone had any knowledge on this area and could share it? Thanks, and God Bless.
Read Joan Carroll Cruz’s book “The Incorruptibles”.
She covers this quite extensively.
I’ve read articles about them in the past as well, and even the secular ones I read say pretty much the same as the one you were directed to. The Saints exhibited some “incorrupt state”, whether part of their body was preserved or whether their entire body was, naturally, until they were moved from their initial place of rest. Skeptics claim that it’s just the environment that preserved them (dry air, or whatever) while others say that it was God’s grace. Whatever the case may be, the bodies of holy men and women have, at various times, exhibited at least an initial resistance to decay. Having been exhumed for whatever purpose, most of them do begin to decay (some at a normal rate, some at still a slower pace than normal).
Here in Portugal, we have several incorrupt saints’ remains in display, including Saint Justina. The thing is, before declaring a body as “incorrupt”, the church sends a team of experts to verify if the body wasen’t embalmed, or if it wasen’t sealed inside a triple-sealed coffin like one Pope was. If they determine that there is no humanly findable reason for the bodies to be like that, then you’ve got an incorrutible body.
Then, there’s the lay people’s signs. Incorrutible Saint’s remains normaly emanate a floral scent, and sometimes even let out fluid, like St Charbel, whose body exudes a bloodish-red fluid that is given as a relic to those who visit his burrial place.
I always thought there was a link between Arsnic and incorruptible bodies as Arsnic is a well know preservative and is used in some application with bacteria. It was commonly found in ceramics and pottery, as was lead in the past. While there may not be such a link whatsoever to the incorruptible saints, I thought I would just mention it.
I have also read that the European definition of “incorrupt” is somewhat flexible, and this is borne out by some photos I’ve seen which appear more mummified than what I would consider incorrupt. Maybe natural causes, maybe not. I’m honestly confused as to the degree of importance to attach. And yes, several of the “incorrupts” have wax or silver masks. I believe St. Pius X is regarded as “incorrupt” but pictures of his exhumation are out on the Web, and seeing those, “incorrupt” would not have been the first word that came to mind.
There are some that were embalmed and being passed as Incorruptible… John XXIII for one. It was purely science that did that, but I heard a priest on EWTN describe him as one of the incorrupt saints, which made me upset because its not true. It was his embalming process that made his body like that, not any sort of spiritual sign from God.
This question has been discussed many times here - just do a search.
The book “Incorruptibles” is very interesting and readily available.
There are examples in and out of the Church of finding bodies more or less intact after long periods of burial. It may be a sign given by God to increase faith, or it may be a case of natural causes that sometimes result in an unusually preserved body.
As has been mentioned, often these bodies do begin to decay after exhumation, and a number of incorruptible bodies that are on display do have wax reconstructions or coatings on them. That does not mean they are not a sign from God, but it is worth noting.
Personally none of the criticism bothers me because being incorruptible is not a requirement to become a saint and nor does it prove someone is a saint.