They sampled holy water in Vienna churches and hospital chapels and discovered traces of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, and where these come from you don’t want to know. However, it is clear from this evidence that at least some parishioners did not heed sister’s rule to wash after going.
The authors also traveled the city to its holy springs and found that about eighty-percent of these had various impurities, some of them at (European) regulatable levels.
Doubtless the findings of Kirschner are true—and of absolutely no surprise to anybody who reads (or helps create) the medical literature. Three or four times a year new studies issue forth showing that doorknobs have bacteria on them, or that the pencil you’re chewing on has lingering traces of some bug, or that doctor’s ties (I did this) are not only ugly but happy home to nasties of all sorts.
So many studies like this are there that it is safe to conclude that absolutely everywhere and everything is infected and that the only sterile place on the planet is in one of those bubbles John Travolta gadded about in in the 1976 beloved classic The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.
Since the stated purpose of the authors was to “raise public awareness” of the dangers lurking in holy water, I’ll do my bit to help. It’s good advice not to sip from the parish font or to get too cozy with the aspersory. Not only could it be injurious to your health, but it’s in bad taste.
The authors also recommend not drinking from holy springs because they fret over its little wigglies. But since there’s little evidence of a practical effect from this—lots of people drink from the springs without keeling over—it’s probably not worth changing your habits. Keep opening doors, too, and chewing on pencils and go to your doctor even though he wears a tie.
(There’s a nun joke in there somewhere, but I’m still jet lagged. Invent your own.)