The answer from a non-religious perspective is a bunch of inconvenient facts, principal among which is the fact that Hubert Schiffer and the other priests were not the only survivors, or even the closest.
Those eight blocks place the church about 1km away from ground zero. According to different accounts (not even secular accounts; the only ones I could find all proclaimed a miracle) the church itself was destroyed; it was the parish house next to it, where the priests were having breakfast, which stayed more or less intact (Hubert Schiffer, the public face of the priests, said he was buried under a wall).
A bit of architectural knowledge helps too. Hiroshima was an industrial city, very earthquake-prone, working at full capacity making dangerous equipment for the war. Reinforced concrete, the next best thing to lead for protection from gamma radiation (and the best thing for neutron radiation), was everywhere. It would have been used to construct or renovate a tall building with big windows, such as a church.
So if the priests were a kilometre away in the shadow of a huge reinforced concrete building which took most of the force of the blast and the radiation, their survival without the help of a miracle sounds much more likely.
It is indeed unlikely that all of the priests would be completely unaffected by radiation, but there are a few things to consider:
- The radiation was not constant everywhere. It blasted some things while leaving others unscathed. There was one Japanese lady, alive in the 1990s, who had one foot blown off but was not otherwise irradiated.
- It’s not guaranteed that irradiated cells will be poisoned, it’s just increasingly likely over time.
- Cancer can take a very long time. Hubert Schiffer and the future Father General Arrupe are the only two of the eight whose name anyone seems to know, though you can find most of the others if you look. After 1976 when they were apparently all alive, how many then quietly succumbed to cancer? What did Schiffer ultimately die of? (Old age and a stroke did for Arrupe.)
As I said earlier, there were closer shaves than the priests. Eizo Nomura survived in a basement, 100m from ground zero. Akiko Takakura survived in the Bank of Hiroshima, well above ground and just 150m away. There were plenty more between there and a kilometre. In amongst the tens of thousands of people who died instantly, there were those few in just the right places where the shockwave was absorbed, the fireball couldn’t reach and the radiation just wasn’t as strong.
The number one thing which makes me doubt the occurrence of a miracle in that parish house is that variations of your statement pop up everywhere: “Some of the World’s greatest scientists have investigated the Hiroshima bombing.
They have provided the world with documentation proving beyond any reasonable doubt…”
Who are the scientists and where are the documents? Nobody seems to have a link to their names or their work.
All I can find is the account of one Stephen A. Rinehart, Ph.D. who was a Catholic engineer. Only an account, no actual structural analysis as you’d expect from a military engineer in a blast zone. On the same page is the statement from another person, “...every other person who was within a radius of roughly one and a half kilometers from the center of the explosion died.” See above; that’s just not true.
One last point is that Arrupe, according to Wikipedia, “headed the first rescue party to arrive in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.” He arrived after the bomb? So did he leave the shattered church and come back? Or was he never there and added in retrospect? Why was Schiffer the go-to priest for publicity if Arrupe, the eventual top Jesuit in the world, was there too?
The more one reads, and the less one realises there is to read, the less likely it seems that there was a miracle. But since it’s the kind of thing that seems like a miracle at first glance, every effort has been made to expose as many people as possible to that first glance, and no more. That’s what you do when you present the event and declare that it’s been proven, without providing documentation of the proof.
Posted: May 22nd 2008
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