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Abstract

Pierre Coste’s analysis of Catherine Laboure and her visions serves as a case study in “the tension that can exist between the demands of a dispassionate historical criticism and those of popular devotion.” He did not believe in the visions and tried to prevent Catherine’s beatification. Publication of his research would not have been permitted, so he held one view publicly and another privately. Stafford Poole’s study uses two versions of Coste’s treatise, giving the publications and testimonies of the visions in chronological order and following each with Coste’s criticism. Among other things, he was troubled by the fact that Catherine refused to testify during the canonical inquiry of 1836 and that her own later reports of her visions had inconsistencies. Furthermore, she made no reference to prophecies accompanying the visions until after the supposedly predicted events had occurred. Coste thought that the cures attributed to the Miraculous Medal lacked causal relationships, were due to psychological factors, or were exaggerated. Finally, the Double Family had held that Catherine’s identity was a secret until her death and that she was beatified for her virtue. Coste showed that both assertions were false. This extremely detailed study gives a chronology at the end.

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