Does the Deceased Padre Pio Continue to Practice Medicine Without a Licence?
"Stigmata, I understand, are marks of supernatural origin resembling the wounds on the crucified body of Christ." — Lubomyr Prytulak
Ukrainian Archive, www.ukar.org
Pope John Paul II
PADRE PIO WHEN YOUNG
The accompanying photograph of Padre Pio When Young (baptized Francesco Forgione, 1887-1968) contains two details which will prove significant: (1) the serration that can be seen along three edges is absent along the bottom, and (2) the cuff of Padre Pio's left sleeve can be seen peeking up from the bottom of the photograph.
The unusual adulation of Padre Pio can be measured by such facts as the following:
Why this unprecedented adulation? I can see two leading reasons:
- His beatification at the Vatican on 02-May-1999 was attended by an estimated 200,000 people, and was called "the most popular beatification in history."
- Some 500,000 Padre Pio devotees gathered in Rome on 16-Jun-2002 to witness your proclaiming him Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.
- The monastery where he died attracts seven million visitors a year — similar to the numbers who go to France's Lourdes shrine.
- Among Padre Pio's supporters is yourself, as evidenced by your praying at his tomb on the 100th anniversary of his birth:
I consider each of these claims below.
- Padre Pio is believed to have effected supernatural cures when alive, and to be able to effect still more of them even though he is dead:
He is credited with performing two miracles after his death for people who prayed to him.|
Before his beatification — the penultimate step before sainthood — he was credited with the medically inexplicable healing of an Italian woman who had a lung disease.
The second miracle was the curing of an 11-year-old Italian boy who had meningitis and whose mother prayed to Padre Pio while her son was in a coma.
- Padre Pio is believed to have been blessed with stigmata which reinforces his claim to supernatural powers.
When a scientist sees that of ten people with a given condition, nine die, he sums up by saying that he has observed a 90% mortality rate. Some priests, in contrast, will say that they have observed a 100% mortality rate together with one miracle, and will turn that interpretation to profit by claiming to be able to repeat the miracle. Any thinking person will be persuaded to side with the scientific view if only because of his awareness that it has added fifty years to man's life span; and will be persuaded to side against the religious view because it has added not a single year to life span, but rather has deducted years.
Any thinking person will also notice that for conditions where a scientist reports a 10% death rate, the priest should demonstrate consistency by claiming that the death rate was really 0% and the one death out of ten was also a miracle produced by supernatural intervention — perhaps one also triggered by prayer, though malevolent prayer in this case — just as we earlier saw the priest assigning responsibility for the one out of ten who survived to supernatural intervention triggered by the benevolent prayer of a priest.
The scientific view further holds that what needs to be known is the rate of cures that accompanies Padre Pio's intercessions, which requires knowledge not only of the number of his successes, but of the number of his failures. Those who credit Padre Pio with supernatural powers, then, are obligated to disclose whether he ever tried to cure anyone and failed, and exactly how many times he failed, which data I do not find currently included in coverage of his accomplishments. For example, documentation of five cancer patients who survived following Padre Pio's intercession with the deity may seem impressive, but begins to seem less so when laid against a thousand others who died following that same intercession.
And even if Padre Pio's success rate were known, what would still be needed is knowledge of the success rate to be expected without his intercession, which can only be known with adequate precision by inspecting a control group in a formal experiment. That is, the scientific view is that for Padre Pio to demonstrate his healing powers, he would have had to apply them to one of two random groups of the afflicted, with the other group lacking the benefit of his intercession. The need for such comparison is made patent by imagining that if 5 out of a hundred cancer patients survived following Padre Pio's intercession, there could remain the possibility that around 5 out of a hundred might have survived in a control group, indicating Padre Pio's impotence; or even that 10 out of a hundred might have survived in the control group, pointing to the conclusion that Padre Pio's intercession had been damaging. The religious view, in contrast, is ignorant of scientific method, and adheres to the fallacy that causality — such as the causal efficacy of supernatural intervention — can be inferred without reliance on a formal experiment, simply by assuming it to be operative within a rare event, on the further assumption, it would seem, that the deity expresses himself in rare events.
The scientific view, then, is that because reports of Padre Pio's medical successes are not accompanied by reports of his medical failures, and as in any case no random control group is disclosed to which comparison of Padre Pio's success rate could be made, the Padre Pio claim of supernatural cures cannot be evaluated and so stands without foundation. A stronger grounding of the priesthood in scientific method might have avoided this error in reasoning, together with the ensuing embarrassment to the Church, not to mention the harm to the afflicted searching for relief.
Stigmata, I understand, are marks of supernatural origin resembling the wounds on the crucified body of Christ. Most typically, the supernatural marks happen to be found on the palms of the hands in close proximity to the spot where the nail of the middle finger would be able to scratch open a cut which by this stratagem could be kept bleeding.
Given that Padre Pio had his first attack of stigmata in 1910, and given that he had stigmata continuously for fifty years from 1918 to 1968, and given the development of photography that is milestoned in the Kodak box camera designed for mass production and amateur use being introduced in 1888, then one would expect many fine photographs to be available today documenting Padre Pio's stigmata. All that I have been able to find, however, are disappointingly small and blurred, as for example the first four of the five shown here.
The first of these, labelled Dorsal Stigmata Photo, is of particular interest because the stigmata are shown on the dorsal surface of the hands where covert scratching cannot as readily produce bleeding as on the palm, and where in any case the stigmata appear to be holes in the hands, in approximation of holes produced by nailing to a cross. More will be said of this Dorsal Stigmata Photo below.
The highest-quality photograph in fifth place is not a Padre Pio stigma, but rather a Lubomyr Prytulak stigma delivered not through a direct pipeline to the deity, but only deployed from the refrigerator in the embodiment of ketchup, strawberry jam, and a slice of dried cherry, pressed down in its middle and featured as centerpiece. The Lubomyr Prytulak Stigma Photo serves to demonstrate how even an amateur and quickly-improvised effort can produce a more persuasive product than the ones shown in the Padre Pio photographs, and serves also to bring out the abysmal quality of the Padre Pio photographs by juxtaposing them against something better.
Although the quality of the Lubomyr Prytulak Stigma Photo above is superior to the preceding four Padre Pio stigma photos, that quality would not be at all adequate to document a miracle that was in continuous existence for half a century. For a phenomenon of such great interest and importance, quality closer to that shown opposite would be called for, where the utility of magnification is demonstrated by the tomato seed informing us that the upper blob is ketchup, and by the strawberry seed informing us that the lower blob is strawberry jam. If close-ups of the Padre Pio stigmata of this quality were available, then they would contribute toward revealing whether the stigmata were real or fraudulent. If the Church does have better Padre Pio stigmata photographs than the four presented above, these should be published on the Internet, because the four available are unconvincing, and tend to discredit claims of Padre Pio stigmata more than support them.
Does the Church Stoop to Forgery?
When the large Padre Pio When Young photograph at the very top of the present letter is reduced in size (see A below), and is placed alongside the Dorsal Stigmata Photo which has been left-right reversed (see B), we are able to appreciate despite differences in brightness and contrast that the images originate from the same photograph, which leaves us with a riddle.
The riddle is that if B really photographs Padre Pio's stigmata, then A crops out a central piece of evidence testifying to his saintliness, and believers would seem to be motivated to document evidence of a miracle rather than to conceal it.
A possible solution to this riddle is that the stigmata in B were painted in, and so did not exist in A, and for that reason the forgers needed to crop A so as to prevent the incongruity from being noticed, a hypothesis supported by two observations:
- Cropping of hands in A serves to explain why only the bottom of the four sides of the photograph lacks serration (see the full-sized Padre Pio When Young photograph at the top of this letter).
- The left-right reversal of Padre Pio When Young in comparison to the Dorsal Stigmata Photo may have had as its motive the concealment of their common origin, and thus the discouragement of their close comparison which leads to the sorts of questions that I ask here.
A smaller version of the Padre Pio When Young photo that appears at the top of the present letter.
Dorsal Stigmata Photo left-right reversed.
A white plumb line from the V of Padre Pio's neck would hit the top of the cuff of his left sleeve.
The same white plumb line entirely misses the cuff of the left sleeve.
Without Plumb Line
With Plumb Line
Evidence of forgery emerges most clearly when a plumb line is dropped from the V of Padre Pio's neck in photos A and B so as to produce C and D — and that plumb line reveals that between C and D, the location of Padre Pio's left cuff shifts to our left.
Clearly, forgery has been at work, though the full extent of the forgery is unclear. That is, perhaps A is an unaltered original, with Padre Pio hands showing dorsal stigmata having been painted in at B. However, another possibility is that A and B had been alternative attempts to paint in dorsal stigmata, but with B proving the more successful, the less successful attempt at A had to be cropped out. The latter possibility is supported by an examination of the full-sized Padre Pio When Young photo suggesting that in places, the folds of the cassock have been painted in (I am least impressed by the three large folds on his left breast), which leaves us unconvinced that we have seen the undoctored original of this photograph. Perhaps following the rule that the less cropped image is more likely to be the original should lead us to the conclusion that it is the Dorsal Stigmata Photo that is the more original of the two because it is less cropped not only at the bottom, but also on the left and right, suffering only a small disadvantage along the top.
Our discussion above calls to mind the conclusion that saints are not as good at producing startling impressions as are magicians, from which follows either that all magicians capable of producing effects more remarkable than those produced by the average saint should be canonized; or else that all saints incapable of producing effects more remarkable than those produced by the average magician should be stripped of their sainthood. If the first principle were followed, then Padre Pio would be joined by a flood of new saints more impressive than himself; if the second principle were followed, then Padre Pio would be stripped of his sainthood. The average magician would be able to exude a red liquid onto the palms of his hands even without the commodious cuffs that Padre Pio sported; and with cuffs that ample, for each drop of red liquid that Padre Pio squeezed into the palms of his hand, or for each drop of blood that he scratched out of his self-inflicted injuries, the average magician would have been able to produce a more impressive white pigeon.
It is time for the Catholic Church to finally acknowledge that in the war between science and religion for the control of medicine, science has decisively won, leaving religion obligated to vacate the field and not continue mounting still more attacks which can only lead to further disrepute for religion together with extended suffering for the afflicted. That Padre Pio is the first priest in the two-thousand-year history of the Church to be credited with stigmata indicates not that we have re-entered an age of miracles, nor that there has emerged for the first time in Church history a charlatan among priests. Rather, charlatans have been plentifully available in all walks of life throughout the existence of mankind, such that it is not Padre Pio who is new, but rather what is new is that for the first time in two thousand years the Church has chosen to capitalize on this particular delusional story of one of its priests to help it fleece the public.
Although profiting from huckster Padre Pio must be laid at the feet of the Church as a whole, it is nevertheless evident that truthful and benevolent forces within the Church have opposed, but nevertheless have been defeated by, the duplicitous and malevolent forces. That is, Padre Pio's history reveals that many in the Church hierarchy viewed his claims with incredulity and disapproval, and disciplined him in an attempt to cure him of his deceits and to limit his damage, but that their efforts were repeatedly undone by others who found themselves unable to resist the invitation offered by the public to bilk it, as is evidenced in such biographical notations as the following:
- (31st May) Following an inquest, the Holy Office decrees that there is nothing "supernatural in the events attributed to Padre Pio".
- (17th June) Padre Pio is ordered to celebrate Mass in the chapel inside the convent with no members of the public present, and not to reply personally or through others to letters addressed to him.
- (26th June) Following a general outcry, Padre Pio returns to church and celebrates Mass.
- (8th August) Padre Pio hears of the order (dated 30th July) for his transfer to Ancona, where he is to await further measures.
- (17th August) More popular protest causes the transfer to be rescinded.
- (3rd January) Padre Pio's mother dies in San Giovanni Rotondo.
- (23rd May) Padre Pio is banned from the practice of his ministry, with the exception of Mass, which he may celebrate in private in the friary chapel.
It is evident, then, that the Catholic priesthood is not homogeneous, but rather that good and evil priests battle for control of the Church, and that at the moment, the evil have gained ascendency and have put the Church on the side not of protecting the uneducated and the trusting, but on the side of pillaging them. Is "evil" too strong a word for these currently-ascendant priests? No one hesitates to call a pederast priest "evil," and yet pederast priests do not for their profit send vast numbers to their deaths the way that promoters of Padre Pio do.
What the Church must do is to recognize that the bulk of people who flocked to Padre Pio when he was alive, and who flock to his tomb now that he is dead, are seeking medical remediation, but which they cannot get from Padre Pio, dead or alive, although they do have some chance of getting it from medical science. If they are beyond the help of science, they should be counseled not to waste their wealth on quacks, but to donate it instead to science, so that at least the next generation might have the cure that is unavailable today. The hordes of wealth which the Church has collected from such misled people belong by right to medical science, and should rightly go toward the building of laboratories rather than toward the building of cathedrals. If all the wealth collected by the Church under its empty promise of medical amelioration over the last century had gone instead to scientific research, then cures and remedies would have been discovered that would today be able to genuinely prolong the lives and alleviate the sufferings of the seven million who visit Padre Pio's tomb annually, whereas the Church's misappropriation and squandering of that wealth instead leaves these many supplicants with no better remedy than false hope.
I do not dispute that the Church has a valuable role to play in modern life, but I do invite you to agree that that role should not be one of representing as supernatural such childish stunts as the least accomplished of magicians is able to replicate, should not be one of capitalizing on the public's ignorance of scientific method, and most emphatically should not be one of permitting priests to practice medicine without a licence.