The Truth About Padre Pio

“Did You Know That Padre Pio’s Stigmata Was Self-Inflicted? My ‘Pastor’ Friend Says It Was.”

I have a friend who left the Church many years ago and is now a pastor of a small Pentecostal community in my home town. He protests that he is not anti-Catholic, yet, other than his agreement on the divinity of Christ, Our Lady’s title as Theotokos (I was surprised by this affirmation), and his uncompromising pro-life position (which may include artificial birth control from what he has told me orally in the past), if the Catholic Church teaches it and sanctions it he is against it. Cases in point were Padre Pio and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since I had written treatises on both subjects for our website I decided to engage him in defense of the truth. However, for the purpose of this presentation I will only deal with Padre Pio.

I have saved some of the emails we sent back and forth on this subject. The exchange has not been edited except where absolutely necessary. I ask the reader to bear that in mind and forgive me any repetition. Also bear in mind that certain points that were a bit general at the start become clearer and more developed as the arguments progress. I could have confronted my cousin on many points, especially his blasphemous reference to the Holy Eucharist as a “wafer,” but I avoided that for the most part in this recent exchange. I had refuted him in years past on his heresy concerning the Holy Eucharist, but he was unmoved. Perhaps I am wasting my time again.

First of all is his incredible accusation that Padre Pio uses carbolic acid to keep his wounds from healing. Here is what he alleges:

Padre Pio Used Carbolic Acid

ACDF, Santo Offizio, Dev. V. 1919, 1, Cappuccini, P.Pio da Pietrelcina, fasc. 1, doc. 14: Voto, p. 10.

The record in the Vatican archives of a written request from Padre Pio for carbolic acid obtained by the now Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith.
Perhaps next time you [that’s myself, Brian] write an article on him you can refer to it. [He never did read my article.] Also perhaps you will take note when you speak of his incorruptible body that the good friar has a special silicon coating. [In my article I never wrote that the saint’s body was incorrupt. More on that later.] Please don’t conclude that I am anti Catholic. Satan is the Father of lies, is he not?
Let me turn the table here:
Brian you are brilliant and uniquely gifted. God would love for you to be an apologist for the Truth, Christ crucified.

Your Friend Joe

Dear Joe,

Are you serious? What records? Name your source? How did this “source” obtain such information? Who did Padre Pio write to in the Vatican for this acid? And why the Vatican? Does the Vatican have a pharmacy? Not that I know of. You ought to be more thorough Greg. Do your homework and substantiate such a claim. Do not quote some opposing author that does not give sources and factual data. You seem to be alleging, or your source is alleging, that the Vatican (the pope, too, perhaps) was (is) in on the ruse? And, for fifty years? That would be a greater miracle than the stigmata itself — to pull that one off. His hands were uncovered every day for PUBLIC Mass. Imagine the pain of applying acid on your hands to keep such wounds from healing. One doctor said you could see right through the holes. I have seen myself two portfolios of two other stigmatists of the twentieth century, pictures taken minute by minute, showing these two women going through the passion on Good Friday. I was shown these pictures by the men who were there witnessing it. One was a priest, the other a GI. I speak of Mother Aiello and Therese Neumann. Say it was from the devil if you want, but do not say it was a stunt.

Initially Padre Pio had some adversaries in the hierarchy. Consequently, many doctors were called upon to examine Padre Pio’s wounds; not one of them had a natural explanation, either for the wounds or the heavenly fragrance that emanated from them. And how did this author get to read this “written request”, which, as you say “is in the Vatican archives”? And who is the author anyway? And, presuming you have an author, why has no other author mentioned this?

It is rather strange that you use a certain pope [?] and/or the Holy Office [I had told him that as a young priest news of Padre Pio had come to Rome and that he was under investigation under Benedict XV] against Padre Pio then you take issue with the popes for claiming to be Christ’s Vicars, defining doctrine, and canonizing saints. How convenient! Yes, Pope Benedict XV did put Padre Pio under investigation, not for promoting himself, but because reports were coming in from everywhere about the man and, as head of the visible Church, he had to look into such things. Benedict XV (if you read my article) then granted Padre Pio faculties to hear confession after the pope’s friend, Don Orione, personally testified to Padre Pio’s bilocation, as he [and the Vatican keeper of the keys] saw him praying in the crypt at the tomb of Pius X underneath St. Peter’s altar. Rome is very careful about validating such causes. Most cases of stigmatas were false, self-induced, or diabolic. I visited one such fake when I was in Rome in the 70s. He fooled a lot of young Americans for a short time and has since been discovered as an imposter. He is exiled somewhere now in disgrace. And he never had any wounds. God will not be mocked.

One Bishop, a renowned theologian, came to see Padre Pio early on and demanded to see his wounds. Padre Pio refused. “Aha, so you are a fake,” he said. Padre Pio always acted under obedience, so, he asked the bishop if he had a letter from the pope requesting him to show him his wounds. That was the rule given by the pope to Padre Pio. The bishop said he did not and he went away insulting Padre Pio. That same bishop, later, did come back with a letter, and apologized when he saw for himself.

Too, in 1919, Padre Pio was put under obedience to have a doctor in the presence of four friars wrap his wounds daily, after treating them with iodine. After eight days the doctor ordered the treatment to stop. The more they tried to clean the wounds, causing the uncomplaining victim excruciating pain, the worse the bleeding became. The doctor testified that no man could have suffered so patiently and with such serenity as did the young Padre Pio.

Joe, such things are not part of our Catholic Faith. We are not obligated to believe them. Nor to disbelieve them so long as they are conducive to the Faith and Catholic devotion. The first saint to have the stigmata was Saint Francis of Assisi. There were very many who testified to seeing the wounds and of doctors who touched them in examinations. [The Church has approved of this stigmata even giving it a feast day, September 17. Saint Francis bore the wounds for two years until his death in 1226.]

As far as incorrupt bodies are concerned? Not part of the Faith. You do not have to believe it. I post here the testimony of the witnesses that were there to examine Padre Pio’s body when it was exhumbed forty years after his death:

“On March 2, 2008, the body of Padre Pio was exhumed from his crypt, 40 years after his death. The church described the body as being in ‘fair condition’. Archbishop Domenico D’Ambrosio, papal legate to the shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, stated that ‘the top part of the skull is partly skeletal but the chin is perfect and the rest of the body is well preserved. The knees, hands, mittens and nails are clearly visible . . .’ Archbishop D’Ambrosio also confirmed in a communiqué that ‘the stigmata are not visible.’ He went on to say that the hands ‘looked like they had just undergone a manicure.’. The robes were also found still intact and his feet visible. However, due to some degree of deterioration, Padre Pio’s face was reconstructed with a life-like silicone mask.”

[I conceded here in part to my friend’s claim about a mask by posting the above testimony which I had not seen before.] So, yes, Joe, they did use a silicone mask to cover the deterioration of part of his face. As I said, no one ever claimed that Padre Pio was perfectly incorrupt. Certainly not the Catholic Church nor the Capuchins. The Church has never declared as part of anyone’s canonization that they were incorrupt; although Saint Bernadette after 140 years is still almost totally incorrupt.

But, as I see it, you are straining a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Myself: As far as Padre Pio’s written request for carbolic acid and a record of it in the Vatican archives. I told you this is nonsense. Give your source for this. Who is saying so and what is his documentation that this is “in the Vatican archives.”? How would this “source” know that? Had he access to the Vatican archives? And even if he did, such a document would be sealed not open to the public. Oh, but Joe read it somewhere and so it must be true. Previously you claimed testimony of some pharmacist for this. FYI Padre Pio could not order anything from a pharmacist. It would have had to have been his doctor. He had no money; he was a Capuchin friar under poverty vow. And who was this pharmacist? Does he have a name? Maybe it was some communist pharmacist out to discredit the saint. Italy has lots of communists and masons. In any event, as I told you, 50 years of pouring acid on his wounds to keep them open — which they always were as can be seen when the gloves were off at the altar when he offered Mass — that would be a greater miracle than the stigmata itself.

Just an FYI I have spoken personally to a man who was cured by Padre Pio. His brother, a Gloucester fisherman in Massachusetts, told me the story. This fisherman’s boat was named Padre Pio. The cured man was blind. He was given vision in one eye while going to Communion at Mass. His mother was devoted to Padre Pio. The man had to go to the optometrist every few months to have his eyes checked and his doctor affirmed that, with his eye, it was impossible for him to have vision. Yet he saw. Same thing with another girl who could see with no pupils in her eyes due to Padre Pio’s intercession. A picture of the girl can be found in several books on Padre Pio. This miracle, too, is confirmed by doctors. I ask again, have you even read my biography of Padre Pio on our website? How about the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe whose miraculous image you have attacked as just a painting. Have you read that article? Have you read the testimony of unbelieving forensic scientists who examined the Tilma, declaring it unexplainable. You cannot paint on cactus fiber Greg. Furthermore, there is no paint in the image. The colors are just there like they are in a flower. The cloak ought to have fallen apart after forty years. It still is intact after 500 years.

Joe; Brian I know that your bias drives you.

Sergio Luzzatto wrote a book on Pio, you must have heard of it. I don’t have it (I lent it to a local business man who failed to return it). The book is heavily foot noted. As you know Pio underwent several investigations by the Vatican, that’s why and how the record of the carbolic acid got there. The book claims that Pio had a lady friend (the daughter of the village pharmacist) who obtained the acid for him.

(My interjection: I do not have the book. But I doubt the author would have claimed that the daughter of a village pharmacist got him some acid? And this “fact” was found in Vatican archives? Does this pharmacist have a name? Luzzato did claim (rather “hinted” according to a review of his book that I read) that the carbolic acid was found in Padre Pio’s cell. This is false. Iodine was found in his cell not carbolic acid. Iodine was used to control the bleeding so that he could offer Mass more easily. There was carbolic acid in the monastery’s apothecarium and it was used to sterilize needles for the sick.)

Joe: Don’t be surprised at man’s attempt to do something supernatural for gain or fame, the RCC crosses that line and lied to you the minute they applied wax to the incorruptible Capuchin monk. (Already explained)

My response to Joe: I will try to get this book by Luzzato. Vatican investigations of alleged mystics are standard operation. Of course Padre Pio had to be investigated. The news about him was everywhere. He was never “condemned” by the Vatican. His case was looked into as all mystics, fake and real, are looked into. And what are you talking about when you say the RCC tampered with his body? The RCC? How about the Capuchins of the friary. And there was nothing wrong is applying a mask, unless the brothers claimed that the mask was the actual flesh. They did not say this. And, as I quoted earlier, there was a report of the disinterment in 2008 with the local bishop present. There never was a claim that the saint was perfectly incorrupt.

Just perusing a bit about Luzzatto’s book I note the following from one review of his book: “But lightly worn skepticism and dark hints about iodine and carbolic acid in the friar’s cell are simply not enough. It’s as though Luzzatto got so absorbed in the sociology of sainthood that he forgot the saint himself.” “Dark hints” of iodine and acid in the friar’s cell? I am anxious to see Luzzato’s footnote source for the latter about the acid. One would think that if Padre Pio’s fellow friars were in on the scheme that they would have at least cleaned up his cell. My goodness!

Also, concerning Padre Pio, I just read a summation about the Luzzato claim and the carbolic acid. It is posted by the author Frank Riga. It begins:

“When Canada’s McGill University conferred its $75,000 ‘Cundill Prize in History’ to a book about Padre Pio, the Montreal Gazette reported on Nov. 15, 2011 that the book raised the possibility that the saint used carbolic acid to self-inflict the wounds of his stigmata. The carbolic acid canard was quickly seized by the press. The next day The Telegraph of Britain announced that ‘Italy’s Padre Pio used carbolic acid to cause bleeding wounds on his hands that he claimed were replicas of Christ’s, according to a new book.’ The Huffington Post reported that the book suggests that ‘Italian saint Padre Pio reportedly used carbolic acid on his hands, feet and sides to ‘self-inflict’ the wounds…’ The refutation may be found here. Of the many books available about Padre Pio the article footnotes two that are referenced in the article: Di Flumeri, Padre Gerardo, Le Stigmate di Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, San Giovanni Rotondo, Edizioni Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, 1995, p. 173. They are:

  1. Saldutto, Gerardo, Un Tormentato Settennio Nella Vita di Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, San Giovanni Rotondo, Edizioni Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, 1986, p. 115.

  2. Cruchon, Giorgio, ‘The Stigmata of Padre Pio,'”

Myself: So, here’s your scenario, Joe, if I may take the liberty: Padre Pio could not put holes in his own hands (nor feet of course) so he had to have had help. The friars who found him bleeding in excruciating pain in the chapel loft gave false testimony then. He had to have been pierced elsewhere, if you are correct, someone numbing his hands and feet (also exposed for he was a discalced Franciscan) and puncturing him. Can you imagine what pain? And all for human glory? And not for a short while but for fifty years?

One last point regarding Pastor Joe’s comment above: “Don’t be surprised at man’s attempt to do something supernatural for gain or fame, the RCC crosses that line and lied to you the minute they applied wax to the incorruptible Capuchin monk.” I just added this closing vindication as an addendum for this article; it was not in the duologue between us.

Gain or Fame?

If there is any “gain or fame” it would be for Padre Pio’s love for the poor and compassion for the sick. Through his efforts a hospital called “The House for the Relief of Suffering” was built on a hill in the north of Italy overlooking the town of San Giovanni Rotondo near his monastery. The ribbon was cut in 1956. Funds came from prayer groups all over the world including a large donation obtained by the beneficent efforts of New York Mayor Fiorello Laguardia. These prayer groups continue to flourish today. And the hospital grows, with just under 1,000 beds spread across at least 26 medical and surgical departments, and another 14 departments for diagnosis and other services, all run by nearly 3,000 staff members.

From its humble beginnings as a private clinic, the Casa is now classified as a private national research hospital, specializing in genetic and hereditary diseases, and includes a home for the elderly and housing for families with children receiving cancer treatment.

Entrusting the success of his earthly work to prayer, Padre Pio said that it is that which “unites all good souls and moves the world, that renews consciences, that sustains the Casa, that comforts the suffering, that cures the sick, that sanctifies their work, that elevates simple medical assistance, that gives moral strength and Christian resignation to human suffering, that becomes a smile and the blessing of God upon weakness and frailty.”

One of the doctors who helped out at the hospital with the establishment of a center for the treatment of illnesses related to mental psychoses was the world renowned heart specialist Paul Dudley White. Dr. White met Padre Pio soon after the hospital was finished. This blessed meeting was no doubt the grace that brought Dr. White into the Catholic Church. The doctor lived near Saint Benedict Center in Harvard, Massachusetts, and was happy to be “bothered” by Father Leonard Feeney every day. Father’s driver would park in front of the White’s house and toot the horn. The retired doctor would humbly come out to the car and pretend he was taking Father Feeney’s pulse. What were they really doing? Saying the Hail Mary.

Human glory, Joe? Or, compassion for the poor and the suffering?