Did a ‘Mystery Priest’ Really Save the Life of Katie Lentz?

This is really an incredible story… with two distinct interpretations of what went down.

The first narrative that’s getting passed around is this one: 19-year-old Katie Lentz was driving in her convertible recently when a drunk driver crashed into her. As she got ever-so-close to dying, with the firefighters’ equipment failing, a mysterious man dressed as a Catholic priest randomly appeared, prayed, used some anointing oil, and left before anyone could get his name. (Stranger still was the fact that a perimeter had been created around the crash site to block out random people… which the mystery man got past.)

All of a sudden, new equipment arrived from a nearby fire department and Lentz, still alive, was taken to a local hospital where she’s currently in critical condition.

“I think that this time I’ve actually witnessed a guardian angel at work,” Jeremiah See of the New London Fire Department told ABC News.

“Whether it was just a priest as an angel, or an actual angel coming down,” Lentz’s friend Travis Wiseman said, “he was an angel to everyone and to Katie.”

Amazing, right?

The other narrative is the one the media isn’t sharing because it’s not really a hopeful, inspiring story. It’s the honest version of what happened.

Here’s how Glenn Beck‘s The Blaze reported what happened:

Witnesses say [the mystery man] anointed Lentz and her rescuers with oil, prayed with them, asking them to remain calm and saying that the crew’s equipment would work, KHQA said.

The Hannibal Fire Department pulled up shortly after with fresh equipment and the rescue proceeded easily and the tools worked, as the priest promised. But when nearly a dozen firefighters turned around to thank the priest, he was gone; the road was empty. Since, no one has seen or heard from the man and his identity remains a mystery.

The priest said the crew’s equipment would work… and it didn’t. In fact, another crew showed up and — surprise! — they had working equipment. If the priest hadn’t been there, the second crew would still have showed up. That’s not a miracle, that’s just good timing.

What about the anointing with oil?

Well, there’s no evidence it had any effect on Lentz’s condition. The priest could just as easily have spun around in circles three times and we would’ve seen the same results. But anointing sounds religious, mysterious, and magical, so people are quick to assume it had an effect.

Who’s responsible for Lentz’s survival?

I would start by thanking that second crew of firefighters for bringing the equipment to extricate her from her car. Then let’s thank the doctors who operated on her in her awful condition and appear to have saved her life. And the first responders for all the work they did on Lentz, talking her through the situation and prepping the scene so that the “working” equipment could get her out of her vehicle.

The priest doesn’t belong on that list. If you think he does, he has to come with an asterisk because there’s no way to show that he did anything useful.

I’m glad Lentz is okay. I hope she makes it through. But the priest is nothing more than an oddity in an otherwise horrific situation.

Libby Anne wrote up a list of questions no one else seems to be asking in the wake of this accident:

Why didn’t God stop the wreck before it happened?

Why don’t God send people to comfort every critically injured individual?

Why did the girl’s improvement correlate perfectly with the arrival of a new team with new equipment?

Why couldn’t God just heal her?

Why would God send an angel to help one critically injured woman when millions of people are starving around the world?

Those are tough theoretical questions. I have no idea who this Mystery Priest was (or how he got through the barricade, which is even more concerning…), but needless to say, the people jumping to the conclusion that he’s an angel don’t know any more than we do. The story just conforms to what they want to believe.

It’s the same reason books about going to Heaven are bestsellers. People are so eager to believe something hopeful that they’ll easily throw facts and critical thinking out the window.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.