SCEPTIC.INFO Free your mind - question!
SCEPTIC.INFO Free your mind - question!
PADRE PIO and the Dubious Stigmata
St Padre Pio was an Italian Franciscan who said he got the visible stigmata in 1918 after having pains in his hands and feet and side on and off since 1915. Jesus was supposedly nailed hands and feet to a cross and got stabbed in the side. A stigmatic is a person who carries similar wounds as the result of a miracle.
Did Pio Fake His Stigmata?
Pio was never observed 24/7 to make sure he was not making the stigmata "wounds" himself. The doctors who examined him merely said he had wounds or marks and they did not diagnose a cause. They could not when the observation was not done.
Padre Pio Under Investigation: Were there Wounds at all?
In pro-Pio book, Padre Pio Under Investigation, Francesco Castelli states that a Monsignor Rossi (in 1921) examined Pio's stigmata and found no wounds in the palms even though there was a scab of blood in each palm. Rossi found two white button like marks on the feet but no blood or wounds there. Rossi described the marks not as wounds but as the effusion of blood - like blood getting out through skin. How could he know that? He evidently saw the blood there and Pio said it must have come through the skin.
This book admits that Pio was ordering and keeping carbolic acid but says without proof that he needed it to sterilise needles. Why was the ordering left to Pio?
One would hold that as Rossi investigated in 1921 when Pio was still young, he could bear full open stigmata. The assertion that Pio later on in life had the full wounds of Christ is strange in that context.
For this person it seems Pio settled for putting blood on his unbroken skin. For others he made actual wounds or sores.
[NOTE: In Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age page 105, 106 we read that Rossi found only a wine coloured triangle on Pio's side. He did not see the reversed cross shape that Romanelli said was there. On the feet where the nail marks would be expected there was only two spots of whiter and softer flesh than the rest of the skin. However he stated that the hand wounds were stigmata. My comment on that was that Pio seems to have conveniently had the best marks where they would most often be seen - in the hands! Moreover, Rossi incidentally rejected all the alleged miracles attributed to Pio such as bilocation (page 108, ibid).]
Padre Pio Under Investigation, says that Rossi found no lesions but yet Pio told him that his hands were very sore. Why would they be sore when there were no wounds but only scabs?
What physicians say carries more weight.
This book says that in order the doctors who examined the alleged wounds were
* Doctor Romanelli in 1919. Asserted there was a side wound "lacerated" and "linear". Stated that he thought the wounds in the hands went right through.
* Professor Bignami in 1919. Asserted there was no side wound - there was only a mark like abrasion. Denied there were any deep fissures. Father Lemius who was investigating Pio for Rome agreed (page 96, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age). Bignami did not see any bleeding during this examination (page 100, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism). Another source says Bignami was perturbed a halo of iodine marks around the hand wounds but Pio said it helped stem bleeding and disinfect (if the wounds were a miracle then that was a lie for he said the wounds were untreatable and not prone to infection anyway and if it were the truth then the wounds were indeed faked). He was definite in his negative conclusion about the miracle, "This seems to be the most reliable interpretation of the facts that I have observed. In any case one can affirm that there is nothing in the alterations of the skin as described that cannot be the product of a morbid state and of the action of well-known chemical agents."
* Doctor Festa in 1919. He contradicted Romanelli who said the wounds in the hands went right through. Asserted there was no side wound. Denied there were any deep fissures.
* Doctor Festa conducted a second examination in 1920.
* Doctor Festa conducted a third examination in 1925.
They did not agree on what they saw in relation to the side wound and the feet wounds.
Sometimes the wounds were described as stab marks. Other times they were thought to be just the result of bleeding out of unbroken skin. In other words, they were not wounds. One would wonder why the marks would change so much in the space of the year 1919. It sounds like he was making them himself. Why should Bignami and Festa see a cut in the shape of an upside down cross when they looked at the side wound and why should Rossi see no wound but only a red triangular mark?
The same book Padre Pio Under Investigation contains a Vatican file that says Pio had no real sores on his body. But it says Pio said the marks were very painful. That is hard to believe. The pain was probably an excuse to stop people being too curious about the marks. It was to deter examination.
Vatican document 21 in the book from 1921 states that Pio had no skin lesions at all. It says he bled as if through the skin. A mark was found on the chest but no piercing of the skin. Fr Lorenzo did this investigation and swore to the truth of the statement.
Pio’s Provincial said he would testify on oath that he could see through Pio’s hand wounds (page 68, The Bleeding Mind). But no doctor ever could so that is worthless. And seeing through a hole encrusted with blood is impossible. A piece of a mirror in the middle of the encrusted blood could be used to give the impression that the hand could be seen through just like a magician could do it. The Provincial took an oath that it was the truth. He lied under oath - period.
Most physicians believed Pio's wounds were superficial. The determination was made difficult by their supposed painfulness and their being covered by "thick crusts" of what was thought to be blood. A distinguished pathologist sent by the Holy See noted that beyond the scabs was a lack of "any sign of edema, of penetration, or of redness, even when examined with a good magnifying glass." Indeed, he concluded that the side "wound" had not penetrated the skin at all. And while in life Pio perpetually kept his "wounds" concealed (wearing fingerless gloves on his hands), at death there was only unblemished skin (Ruffin 1982, 146-154, 305).
Reason bids us believe the doctors who said the wounds were superficial for that would explain why they were not septic – as can carbolic acid! It would explain why there was not a mark on Pio when he died. When there is conflict of testimony the testimony that is closest to a rational or simplest interpretation has to be preferred. We are surer that there were no blemishes on Pio when he died than we are that he had deep wounds when he was alive. This makes us see that the only reasonable assumption is that Pio did not have deep wounds.
It is absurd to think that the wounds may have changed - they would not change so much as from superficial to complete perforations if they were miraculous. They might change if they were natural.
Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age, page 158, tells us how Pio fanatic Brunatto wrote that it was amazing to watch Pio pick up wooden balls while playing a shot putting game with the friars during the summer days. Who in their right mind would believe Pio was telling the truth about the wounds being painful after learning that? Nobody with deep wounds pain or not would be that carefree!
Pio supposedly lost a cupful of blood every day from all the wounds and especially the side-wound (Padre Pio, page 6). The side wound did most of the bleeding. Yet his hand wounds were caked in blood, which is strange considering that he cleaned them with iodine. Also the scabs are huge. They didn’t bleed that much so the caking in blood was just something he deliberately produced for one of his accidentally-on-purpose exposures of the hand wounds. It had to be for the caking was avoidable. He could have used bandages to soak up the blood. He wanted the mess. If the scabs were too small it would have been harder for the wounds to be "accidentally" snapped by a photographer. All this sounds like manipulations to make people think he really was bleeding a fair bit.
Was Dr Romanelli Reliable?
Romanelli claimed the hand wounds may have gone through the hands.
Dr. Alberto Caserta took X-rays of the hands in 1954. Nothing strange was found about the bone structure. A wound going through would have had to do bone damage.
The doctors who examined the supposed wounds did not agree on whether or not fingers could meet through the hands.
Doctor Romanelli described his opinion that there was a fissure as being an impression for he said he got the impression of a void (page 7, The Bleeding Mind). He said that feeling the fissures suggested that there was a void between them (The Bleeding Mind, page 68).
He claimed he felt what appeared to be a thin membrane across the fissures (The Stigmata and Modern Science, page 14). He only thought it was a membrane for he could not see or feel through it so was it a blister or just the skin? Real stigmata would not have a membrane for Jesus had open holes.
The doctor stated that he could not tell if the wounds on each side of the hand were joined. All he could tell was that there was a wound on each side of the hand he examined and each wound was deep but could not be sure.
Sure enough the doctor said he could not feel properly for a complete fissure for Padre Pio found the examination which entailed trying to insert fingers into the wounds very painful. The hand wound supposedly went through the hand. Nobody ever said he could press on the front and back entry of the wound and get his fingers to touch one another through the hole. Romanelli "tried". But with the priest crying and struggling and wincing with the alleged pain would it have been done right? Romanelli assumed that his fingers would meet if he tried harder but was afraid to for Pio was in great pain (page 14, The Stigmata and Modern Science). So Romanelli was only assuming.
If Pio had been using chemicals to make the wounds then it is clear we are not talking about ordinary hands here and so the chemicals might have affected the skin in such a way that the hands seemed very soft or perhaps a blister was created thus creating the illusion of a void for there is no sense easier to fool than touch. The doctor would have been very excited by Pio and might have imagined things – it is very very easy to delude your sense of touch. For example, you can imagine a ghost touching the back of your neck if you think you are in a haunted house and it will seem real. Romanelli did not confirm that there were miraculous open wounds. He only guessed that the wounds might be open.
The Church does not hide the fact that Romanelli said Pio had a cut on the side which corresponded to Jesus having being pierced with a lance and this claim has not been supported by the other investigators who merely saw a mark not a wound and the other doctors saw no wound at all. This information is verified in Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age by Sergio Luzzato (pages 89 to 94) and in pro-Pio books. The excuse that Pio's wounds were miraculously superficial one time and deep the next stinks of Catholic desperation. Romanelli was unreliable. He could lie knowing that all he had to do was say something inexplicable was going on and it would just be his word for it. Romanelli had been getting Pio to pray for him months before he investigated him and he even asked him why the prayers had not be answered (page 37, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age). Even on Catholic terms that is superstitious. It is said that God's ways are a mystery. Romanelli was obviously determined to experience the supernatural and to verify it even at the expense of truth!
If a doctor thinks something is happening that is contrary to what is known of medicine and anatomy, he could get careless. After all, if something odd is happening and he says there is a hole where there is no hole he will get away with it.
How convenient that Pio was not put under anaesthesia for examination of the wounds. That shows that neither Pio or those who organised the tests, including the good doctor, were very particular though they did their best to look particular and that Pio was not seriously interested in having the wounds cured for as far as he was concerned he knew how to handle them. Pio wanted the appearance of being verified as a true stigmatist. And Pio was able to undergo two operations without anaesthetic which is a phenomenon known as auto-anaesthesia (page 89, The Bleeding Mind) – many people with trained minds are - which makes his behaviour very suspicious. It looks as if he wanted to use the pain as an excuse for getting the tests rushed and to prevent anything suspicious being found. It paid off.
The Church authorities did not accept Romanelli's claim that the stigmata seem to be supernatural (page 37, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age) so they got Professor Bignami in to investigate as they considered him a more reliable authority as he was not a Catholic like Romanelli but possibly an atheist (page 38, ibid).
Romanelli’s testimony was used in the canonisation process to prove that Pio did not knowingly make fake stigmata. The Church is still open to the idea that Pio may have had problems and did it unawares. But I think that view is far-fetched. If he did it, it was a deliberate ongoing deception. The testimony of Romanelli should not have been used for Romanelli was being totally biased when he said he was certain Pio’s wounds were not superficial but deep when he himself admitted he could not prove it! The attempted finger penetration would have been done very quickly for the sake of the pain so a mistake could have been made. And that is exactly what happened!
There is no doubt for miracle believers that the testimony of Romanelli is the only one that is worth examining for it is detailed and comes nearest to supporting the idea of real deep miracle wounds. He is the only leg that the pro-Pio devotees have to stand on to "verify" the alleged great depth of the wounds. We have disposed of Romanelli’s reliability and we know too much has been read into what he recorded. Remember when we try to refute his testimony, that is all we really need to do to succeed in proving that there is insufficient justification for holding that Pio really had miracle wounds. After all, his was the only one that was nearly any good. So we can be confident that Pio’s wounds were superficial and that naturally he exaggerated the pain from them to avoid detection and so he was consciously deceiving.
Why Festa Thought the Stigmata Supernatural
Festa was a believer in Pio.
Festa tried to help reverse the trend of scepticism towards him as exercised by the Vatican.
A Vatican report in the book, Padre Pio Under Investigation, says that Dr Festa described the wounds as like burns or brandmarks. And it mentions Dr Romanelli who said they were probably open wounds that went right through the hands. Festa specifically said that if Romanelli had been right, Pio would not have been able to move some of his fingers.
Doctor George Festa in 1919 found Pio had a mark on his breast that was not a wound but from which there were some drops of blood issuing. He didn't say but he would have theorised that Pio put the blood there from elsewhere.
Festa however regarded the marks as supernatural. He reached this opinion merely from the fact that the marks were perfumed (page 139, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age). He obviously just took Pio's word for it that no cologne had been applied!
Stigmata expert, Father Gemelli - who believed that the only convincing stigmatist was St Francis of Assisi, was annoyed at Festa's research for he thought it was biased in favour of recognising the stigmata as supernatural (page 140, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age). Gemelli observed that marks of the same nature as Pio's were common among soldiers who were using caustic substances to make sores on themselves (page 140, Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age - it is interesting to observe that Pio had been a priest-soldier before the stigmata appeared. Was this his chemistry school as to how to make deliberate wounds or marks? ). Gemelli wrote that there was no doubt that the marks were caused by erosion through application of some caustic substance. "The base of the sore and its shape are in every way similar to the sores observed in soldiers who procured them with chemical means. The colour of the base, the shape of the margins, their thickness, etc. all suggest this."
Festa saw drops of blood (page 100, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism). He was careful to say that the blood on the side did not mean there was a wound. It looks to the sceptic as if Pio was doing what loads of fake stigmatists do. They make themselves bleed in one place and put the blood on other places.
There is no hard evidence that Pio had significant wounds. His stigmata claim should be dismissed.
FINAL MASS OF PADRE PIO
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