Miracle Of Mary’s Tears Turns Out To Be Hoax
STE.-MARTHE-SUR-LE-LAC, Quebec (AP) _ A statue of the Virgin Mary that its owner claimed shed blood, sweat and tears has been banned from public display after the owner reportedly admitted smearing it with oil and his own blood.
Police chief Michel Beauchemin said Friday that the statue’s owner, Montreal railroad worker Jean-Guy Beauregard, asked for psychiatric help and was taken to an undisclosed location ″where he can rest and not have any visitors.″
The 2-foot-high statue was diplayed at a house in this lakeside town on Montreal’s northwest outskirts. Police estimate it attracted 12,000 devout or curious people in less than a week after television newscasts and Montreal’s newspapers reported Beauregard’s claims.
The Journal de Montreal reported Friday, however, that Beauregard had told its reporters and police he made the statue appear to cry and bleed by applying blood from his own finger and oil.
The newspaper said Beauregard claimed he did this while hypnotized by Maurice Girouard, in whose home the statue was displayed. There was no immediate confirmation of the report from police.
Ste.-Marthe on Friday obtained a temporary court injunction ordering Girouard and his wife, Claudette, to close their home to the public, remove the statue and make no public statements on the subject.
None of the three could be located for comment. A sign on the Girouards’ door Friday read, ″Closed for the day. No journalists. No photographers. Pray.″
Beauregard had said his statue began weeping on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
When the statue began to attract curious crowds, Beauregard’s landlord asked him to move it. He took it to the Ste.-Marthe home of the Girouards, who put it in their private shrine to the mother of Christ.
In January, the Girouards told reporters, the Virgin’s tears began to mix with blood and many of the icons, crucifixes and statues in the shrine also reportedly started weeping and bleeding.
Even temperatures of 15 below zero did not stop people from lining up for hours to gaze and pray in front of the statue and icons.
But on Wednesday, the French-language television network of the Canadian Broadcast Corp. borrowed an icon and took it to a laboratory, where scientists said they found it was coated with pork and beef fat that would liquefy in droplets and run like tears once the room warmed slightly.
Also Wednesday, Dr. Augustin Roy, president of the Corporation of Quebec Physicians, said Maurice Girouard had been twice convicted of illegally practicing medicine by promising to cure ills through hypnosis.
Roy described the bleeding statue as ″a pure and simple fraud, a hoax, an imposture and collective hysteria.″
Girouard responded by telling reporters: ″Modern science always wants to destroy anything supernatural.″ He suggested the animal fat could have been added to the icon after it was taken from his home.
As for his convictions of illegally practicing medicine, he said: ″I told you I was a big sinner. I didn’t hide it.″
Soon afterward, the Girouards met with church officials and said they were going into seclusion to pray.
Beauchemin told a news conference that he and federal authorities have not decided whether to press charges against anyone.
He said an ″important amount″ of money had been left in a collection plate in the Girouards’ house, but said there were no plans to confiscate it.
″They never asked for money, as far as we know,″ he said. ″These were voluntary donations made by visitors.″
Roman Catholic Church officials have been cautious in their statements. The local bishop, the Rev. Charles Valois of St. Jerome Diocese, called the affair ″an exaggeration of the marvelous.″
″God seldom speaks by extraordinary means but rather through the Bible and the teachings of the church, ″ he said. ″It is not through such means as these (the statue’s tears) that we are going to find out what the Lord wants to say to us.″
The English-language Montreal Gazette said it was ″for the police and the priests to determine″ whether the Girouards have done anything illegal or immoral.
But the Gazette said in an editorial: ″The evidence already leads irresistably to the conclusion that they have done something indecent - cruelly exploiting the deep yearning for any sign at all that some divinity cares about suffering humanity.″