Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Mar/13

4

Trickster Padre

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Padre PioI happened to come across this 2011 piece by CSI’s Joe Nickell the other day:

…In fact, notwithstanding the claims in uncritical biographies, Pio’s stigmata devolved—from bleeding wounds that could easily have been self-inflicted (like those of many fake stigmatists before and after, as I described in my 2001 book Real-Life X-Files) to merely discolored skin that appeared to have been irritated by the application of a caustic substance. Indeed, a bottle of carbolic acid was once discovered in the friar’s cell, and Luzzatto cites letters from Padre Pio in which Pio requests that carbolic acid, and at another time a caustic alkaloid, be secretly delivered to him. Eventually Pio began wearing fingerless gloves, supposedly to cover his stigmata out of pious humility; however, to me, the practice seems instead a shrewd move to eliminate the need to continually self-inflict wounds.

Nor were the fake stigmata the friar’s only deception. Years before, Pio had written numerous letters to his spiritual directors describing his mystical experiences; however, it is now known that he copied these words verbatim from the writings of stigmatic Gemma Galgani (1878–1903) without acknowledging they were hers. And that is not all: Pio attempted to divert suspicion from his plagiarism by asking for help in procuring copies of Galgani’s books—saying he would very much like to read them!

…By the time of his death in 1968, Pio’s stigmata had disappeared, but that was effectively remedied in death. Although there was no need to cover his hands and feet—and indeed Capuchin rule forbids the wearing of socks—Pio’s “father guardian,” Father Carmelo of San Giovanni in Galdo, worried that the absence of stigmata might cause a faulty rush to judgment. Carmelo therefore had Padre Pio’s hands and feet covered, as if the covering still concealed his allegedly holy gift. And so the deception continued.

In 2002, the late friar was canonized Saint Pio of Pietrelcina—not for the stigmata he was so famous for but for his healings that were, with due illogic, assumed miraculous because they were said to be inexplicable. And when his remains were exhumed for display forty years after his death, those hoping his body would be found incorrupt… or that it would still exhibit the stigmata, were disappointed. The embalmed corpse had deteriorated sufficiently that it required a silicon mask—complete with bushy eyebrows and beard—fashioned by a London wax museum. Of the supposedly supernatural wounds there was not a trace.

Oh well.

That the friar was a fake is no great surprise, That the Capuchins forbid socks, on the other hand…

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1 comment

  • Marco · March 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    It’s worth bringing up these evidences of fraud when available, just so that they’re out there. Of course, it will make no difference to true believers, who will dismiss them as lies, and put faith above evidence in any case. Nor, to be fair, will it make much difference to non-believers such as myself, who simply assume fraud unless the miracles hold still for rigorous empirical investigation. Which never happens.

    Actually, am posting to regret that this blog seems so lethargic. A secular conservative viewpoint seems so valuable, but perhaps the number of hits on this site does not support that, and the bloggers are concentrating their efforts elsewhere. At least Andrew Stuttaford is making an effort to keep the site active.

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