I’m sorry I’ve been away from the keys almost all day. My uncle had surgery on his broken leg this morning, and I’ve been waiting with the family at the hospital. He made it through fine, but the follow-up has been a lot longer than I expected. Still, I wanted to share this with you so you would know why posting has been very light today (and so you could, if inclined, offer a prayer for my uncle, who suffered a very bad break and has a steep recovery ahead of him).

Anyway, in the spirit of fairness, I publish with the author’s permission an e-mail from someone who was very close to Stephanie Lemoine, and who is very close to Sister Dulce, the Catholic nun who is believed by her supporters to have a spiritual gift of healing and discernment. Sister says God, whom she calls “Papa,” talks to her, and gives her words for those who come to her asking for prayer. Stephanie was a fervent follower of Sister Dulce, and told me (and a number of others) that Sister kept telling her Papa said she was going to live to see her grandchildren. Stephanie clung to that with all her might. In my post reporting Stephanie’s death on Saturday, I mentioned my anger at Sister Dulce for misleading Stephanie.

One friend of Stephanie’s told me today that Stephanie, citing Sister’s prophecy, told her (the friend) that her first transplant (stem-cell, I think) must have failed because God was testing her faith. She was sure the second one was bound to work. Another friend of Stephanie’s wrote yesterday to say she had long feared that Sister Dulce’s prophecy was not true, and it grieved her how much stock Stephanie put in it.

Today I received this from X., a person I know who was very close to Stephanie, and is very close to Sister Dulce. Again, I publish this with permission:

I really wished you had verified the message Stephanie was given by God before you shared your  opinion.

Stephanie and I have been friends for 17 years. We have been in almost daily communication since her diagnoses 3 ½ years ago. The message that Stephanie shared with me and her family was not shared with you in its entirety. When Stephanie was told by Sister Dulce that she would live to see her grandchildren, Stephanie asked her if that meant she would see them on earth or in heaven? Sister replied to her that she did not know. The reason Steph never shared with others the full version of her message was because her hope was that God meant to see them on earth. It is now clear that God meant she would see her grandchildren in heaven.

No one would be more hurt by this article than Stephanie. She loved Sister Dulce deeply and wholeheartedly believed in her gift.

I know Stephanie loved Sister Dulce deeply and wholeheartedly believed in her gift. That’s precisely why this upsets me so much. I can’t accept X.’s explanation for Sister Dulce’s prophecy. Sister’s words mounted to telling Stephanie, “You are either going to live, or you are going to die.” Any believing Christian could have said to Stephanie, “You are either going to see your grandchildren in this life or the next,” because it amounts to saying that whether you live or die, the death of the body doesn’t mean the death of the soul. That’s basic Christian teaching. It doesn’t take a prophet to say that.

This particular prophecy could only be meaningful to a cancer sufferer if the patient chose to believe that it applied to this life. Assuming that Sister Dulce really did believe these words came to her from God, it seems incredibly reckless and irresponsible, even cruel, to share them with someone who is fighting for her life, and holding on with white knuckles to any shred of hope she can. If those words did come from God — and I don’t believe they did, for the record — then what kind of God would toy so capriciously with His suffering child? It makes no sense to me. Besides, how can the prophet be wrong? I understand that prophecy can be ambiguous, but this one was straightforward. To say that what God, speaking through Sister, really meant was that the cancer-stricken woman was going to live on in heaven makes the prophecy unfalsifiable, therefore worthless. How on earth could Sister Dulce have not grasped that Stephanie was bound to hear her and to believe that she would survive this cancer?

Does this mean I think Sister Dulce doesn’t have a real spiritual gift? No, it does not. I knew another Catholic woman, now dead, who had a real and substantial spiritual gift — I saw it work dramatically on two separate occasions — but who also made some prophecies that were absolutely and unambiguously wrong. I think it’s possible that Sister Dulce may have a genuine gift, but a limited, fallible one — and that should make her approach her ministry to extremely vulnerable people with much greater caution than she showed Stephanie.

It was not only Stephanie, it seems. Today, a man wrote me to say that he had started to pay attention to Sister Dulce when she detected something specific about a friend’s medical condition that had eluded his doctors, who later found that the nun had been right. Later, though, when he asked the nun about his troubled mother, he says Sister told him not to worry about Mom, that Papa would take care of her. Shortly thereafter, she suffered two severe medical events, back to back, and died. He felt betrayed.

Of course, you could always say that God only promised to “take care of” his mother, not keep her alive through her crisis. By “take care,” that could mean He would receive her into heaven. Maybe. That would certainly provide plausible deniability for an apparently failed prophecy. But for this man, the plain meaning of the nun’s words gave him hope that she would come through this rough patch okay.

Despite that, he says that he can’t say for sure that she doesn’t have some sort of spiritual gift. All he can say is that he gives her the benefit of the doubt, in that he doesn’t think she’s intentionally malicious. At this point I would agree. Still, I think about how strongly Stephanie believed she was going to beat this cancer, and how much hope she placed in Sister. The last text she sent out to her friends and family list was on June 6, as her second transplant began to fail. It was confused; in it, she said the “can’t figure out” the last five weeks, and can’t explain them to others. I took this to mean that she thought this transplant was supposed to work, but it was failing, and nothing made sense. She went into hospice care shortly after that. The last words I have from Stephanie were in that June 6 note, in which she wrote, “please thank sister n tell her i love her.”

If you have any Sister Dulce stories, pro or con, please leave them in the comments thread, or drop me a note.