Talking about Marie Lemarchand. There is a good story surrounding her remission.
The famous novelist Zola, said before he came to Lourdes: "I only want to see a cut finger dipped in water and come out healed."
When he went to Lourdes he saw Marie Lemarchand suddenly cured of a hideous disease, a tuberculous suppurating ulcer of both cheeks, the nose and upper lip. Doctors present after the miracle testified to the presence of new skin on her face. Dr. Boissaric (President of the Medical Bureau) presented the cured girl to Zola, thinking that such evidence must overwhelm him.
"Behold the case of your dreams, Monsieur Zola," he said. "I do not want to look at her," said Zola, "she is still too ugly" (alluding to the red color of the new skin). "Were I to see all the sick at Lourdes cured, I would not believe in a miracle."
Well, I think I’ve found your source
for those quotes (currently it is the only place I can find quotes from Emile Zola and Dr. Gustave Boissarie. The article is written by George Sim Johnston
, a contributor for Crisis magazine. His contributions to Crisis magazine are very clearly heavily biased in favor of the Catholic Church and against science. A few of his other articles include claims that the Theory of Evolution is losing support in the scientific community and that the “Pill” is the cause of increased divorce rate in the United States. His articles also very curiously are completely devoid of sources. The magazine itself has very conservative overtones and it seems that most contributors fail to source claims.
Without proper reference to the original source I have no way of knowing if those quotes are legitimate or taken out of context. Given the absurd and baseless claims from the author I have further reason to question the legitimacy of the quotes.
Regarding Emile Zola
, he was a French novelist who contributed to the literary school of naturalism and helped develop theatrical naturalism. By the time that he visited Lourdes in 1892 he was a well known play writer although he was obviously not a qualified scientist in any sense. He was publically skeptical of the Lourdes miracles and viewed the local Catholic officials there as exploiting hope for a cure as a way to make money. Of course he is no friend of the Catholic Church and obviously this is true today as well. Zola is more well known for his defense of falsely accused French soldier Captain Alfred Dreyfus
as well as his contributions to naturalism.
Regarding Dr. Gustave Boissarie, I can’t find much information other than he was indeed the President of the Lourdes Medical Bureau
. In my opinion though, simply stating that he was President of a Medical Bureau is a bit deceptive. The Lourdes Medical Bureau is the organization responsible for reviewing claimed miracles and transfer the possible miracles to the International Medical Committee of Lourdes. While I’m sure that the personal working for both organizations are qualified medical doctors, the organizations themselves are not entirely independent parties separate from the Catholic Church. Both organizations are comprised of both Catholic Church representatives and independent representatives in the medical field.
Now, onto Marie Lemarchand. Miraclehunter.com states that Marie suffered from severe pulmonary tuberculosis (Koch's bacillus + ) for two years while George Sim Johnston for the most part agrees stating that Marie suffered from an advanced stage of lupus, pulmonary tuberculosis, and leg ulcerations the size of an adult’s hand.
Given the description of her symptoms, Lupus
might be a likely diagnosis today, although it is not really clear whether that was the diagnosis in 1892, although it could have been. Today we know that Lupus can be caused by genetics, medication as well as non-systemic reasons. None of these causes were known in 1892 as genetics were not a suspected cause until the 1950’s, the systemic nature of lupus was not firmly established until 1904
. Drug induced Lupus was probably not suspected until the mid 20th Century
. Even today though it is clear we know very little about the cause of Lupus. We do know that symptoms of Lupus flare up and recede and it is possible for flares to be reduced. In fact, in 1894 J.F. Payne reported various methods of treatment to reduce flares of Lupus and lessen their effects. Prior to 1950, most patients diagnosed with Lupus did not live longer than 5 years, although it was possible for patients to live normal life spans especially with treatment and limited exposure to other diseases and illnesses. Today with more advanced treatment, 80 to 90 percent of those diagnosed with Lupus live normal life spans.
The medical community in the 1890’s would not have been able to properly diagnose what type of Lupus Marie Lemarchand had and they certainly would not been able to determine that she had been cured as they did not know the causes of Lupus. Additional information on Lupus
Assuming that Marie Lemarchand did indeed suffer from Lupus (which is a reasonable assumption) then she would have certainly been susceptible to pulmonary tuberculosis
. Little was known about TB in 1892 and there was no known cure at the time. It wasn’t even until 1869 that the disease was found to be contagious by Jean Antoine Villemin
. In 1882, Robert Koch identified the infectious agent. Successful treatment of TB didn’t occur until 1944 with the use of an antibiotic. Prior to 1944, many methods were tried, none were conclusive since the disease is not 100% fatal. TB can recede and remain dormant for years and even never return while that person lives a normal lifespan and dies of other causes. Given the results of a number of Sanatorium experiments, there are many examples of people recovering from TB and living normal lives with the disease remaining dormant. Additional information on TB 
The leg ulcerations were likely a symptom of Lupus, although they could have also been symptoms of extrapulmonary tuberculosis (but that is not a claimed diagnosis). Since the stories are semi-inconsistent it is difficult to determine what the actual diagnosis was. It would be nice to review soft copies of the medical reports as that would be helpful in clearing up what Marie Lemarchard was actually diagnosed with. Additionally, I can find no information about Marie Lemarchand and what her background was (who where her parents, where did she live, when was she born, when did she die, where is she buried, what was her families medical history, what was her medical history, etc etc).
I also have to wonder, given the contagious nature of TB, how many people Marie Lemarchand infected during her pilgrimage to Lourdes. It was 1892 and it is not clear how many people were aware that TB was contagious (given this information was only discovered 23 years earlier and the complete lack of standards at that time). It wasn’t even until the beginning of the 20th century that governments started taking measures to reduce the spread of TB.
We don’t have any way of knowing if her Lupus symptoms were systemic or not, or if she was taking some kind of treatment that led to Lupus which could have cured itself upon ceasing the treatment during the pilgrimage. There is little reason to believe that a miracle actually occurred, and given the current complete lack of means to determine if “God” was actually the cause we have even less reason to believe that a miracle actually occurred.
The attitude of Zola is one of mindless bigotry. It is a striking example of the degree to which perversity of the will can blind the intellect.
Wow those are some strong words for a man who risked his career, status and even his life to defend an innocent man and combat anti-Semitism perpetrated by his own country-men and even the Catholic Church itself (which the Catholic Church apologized for half a century later) under a corrupt government. Especially considering there is no evidence that the quotes are legitimate or that the Marie Lemarchand story is true. You might want to turn your gaze upon your beloved Catholic Church if you want to see what an attitude of mindless bigotry looks like and how the perversity of will can blind the intellect.
Sure : Instead of having Marie Lemarchand's face cured of a tuberculous suppurating ulcer of both cheeks, the nose and upper lip.
1. We would find some kind of marks or something indicating a plastic surgery.
2. We would find some kind of unknown treatment after effect if she was ever under a treatment for that kind of ulcer.
3. We would find that she lost her cheeks some days after. (like if it was an illusion)
I hope this gives you enough ideas to understand what is needed for me to doubt a miracle.
First of all, your analysis of the diagnosis is incorrect as pulmonary tuberculosis is lung related, and does not cause ulcers on the face. Extrapulminary tuberculosis could be the cause of ulcers on the face however. Although again, I can find no evidence of what her actual diagnosis was as it is not clear if the ulcers on her face were caused by EP TB or Lupus.
Secondly, your ideas are precisely what is needed for one to avoid ever having to doubt a miracle as they can’t possibly be proven.
Your first idea to look for evidence of plastic surgery is absurd since it has yet to be proven that her skin was actually healed as opposed to the ulcer simply being removed and new skin growth appearing, which is a real possibility. Additionally plastic surgery in 1892 was very limited and would have been easily detectable in contrast to natural flare ups and recovery which very easily could have been mistaken as being cured.
Your second idea to look for treatment aftereffects is also absurd since there was no known treatment for TB at the time. It is also possible that successful treatment could have been accidently applied without realization and the trip to Lourdes prolonged discovery that could have helped countless others with real treatment rather than rest on wishful thinking.
Your third idea seems to imply that maybe her cure was a hoax. This would be difficult to prove given the lack of evidence that it was even a miracle and that the case is over a hundred years old. It could have been a hoax, she could have healed naturally or it could have been a miracle.
Considering the lack of evidence, the case of Marie Lemarchand is not falsifiable and thus can’t be considered. The lack of evidence is my first reason to doubt a miracle.