A Master Class in sycophancy: Catholic superhero Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Pulling the wool over the eyes of the faithful: A silicone Padre Pio was displayed as ‘a miracle of incorruptibility’ 40 years after his death.

WHEN one operates a blog such as this, it is vital to subscribe to newsfeeds from religious sources. They are gold mines of information, and the stuff they pump out frequently provides shining nuggets of nonsense that we most enjoy poking fun at.

But when writers, who are clearly educated and intelligent folk, rush to their keyboards not only to tap out trash, but trash that takes no account of well-documented facts, I am left feeling more irritated than amused.

Case in question: a blog called Canterbury Tales, run by a fella called Dr Taylor Marshall.

Prof Taylor Marshall

Marshall is Dean of the Fisher More College where he is also Professor of Philosophy.

This is what he recently wrote of a man even the Catholic Church at various times regarded as a complete fraud who faked his stigmata, and was, by all accounts, a sex pest –  though, unusually for a Catholic priest, women were the focus of his lust:

God chose Saint Pio of Pietrelcina to reveal the supernatural life to our tepid era. His supernatural interior life was made visible through his immense suffering and his well-known stigmata.

Well-known, yes. Genuine no!

Marshall recounts a number of encounters Pio had with, among others, a man who died in a poor house when he fell asleep with a lighted cigar that set his bed on fire, and concluded:

Without a doubt, many souls from Purgatory visited Padre Pio seeking his prayers, sacrifices and sufferings to obtain their release.

WITHOUT DOUBT? What colour is the sky on the planet Marshall occupies?

Reviewing Padre Pio, the Scandals of a Saint by Sergio Luzzatto, Joe Nickell, over at the Skeptical Inquirer, relayed this piece of information about Pio’s “stigmata”.

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.

An hilarious section of Nickell’s review centres on the fact that the the saint was schlepped out of his tomb and his corpse put on display in 2008 for the delectation of battalions of Pio devotees (just what is it with Catholics and their sick obsession with dead bodies, or bits of dead bodies?):

When his remains were exhumed for public display forty years after his death, those hoping his body would be found incorrupt (a supposed sign of sanctity), 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.

There was also a deliciously funny piece about the old charlatan by Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph. Here’s a taster:

According to the account embraced by believers, Pio’s life was a continuous miracle, or a succession of miracles. He had the stigmata. He could fly. He beat the devil at wrestling. He could be in two places at the one time … Cynics would mutter sotto voce that he never ran a three-legged race or played himself at tennis or impersonated the Everly Brothers.

McCann added:

Bi-location enabled Pio to visit the United States and the Holy Land without leaving San Giovanni. The 1998 work The Voice of Padre Pio relates that he returned from one flying visit to Palestine disgruntled by his discovery that: ‘The room of the Last Supper is looked after by Moslems!’

His most famous flight came during World War Two when American planes sent to pulverise San Giovanni noticed a monk in full robes arrowing towards them at 10,000 feet as they began their bombing run. Reasonably enough, they turned tail and headed home.

Yet, for all this, plus a great deal more evidence that Pio was a conman, a consummate liar and a plagiarist, this highly educated philosophy professor, charged with shaping young people’s minds, is cheerfully prepared to throw facts and all critical thinking to the wind and paint a sycophantic portrait of a man who manufactured fantastic tales of engagements with confused, dislocated spooks.

But to be fair, Marshall is a Catholic, and can’t help being wired up all wrong. If forced to confront REAL truth, not the Roman Catholic “truth” to which he subscribes, I reckon all of his circuits would spectacularly blow all once.

Note: the picture of the “incorrupt” body of Pio was found on Doug (“Just another faithful Catholic”) Lawrence’s  VERY homophobic blog, where he declares:

To see him resting so peacefully it’s hard to believe that he died 40 years ago.

10 responses to “A Master Class in sycophancy: Catholic superhero Saint Pio of Pietrelcina”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Saint Pio of Pietrelcina = Particioation felonies

    He never ran a three-leged race.

    Rolf Harris was better than him then:

  2. Daz says:

    Could somebody explain to me what the phrase “His supernatural interior life” actually means?

    What colour is the sky on the planet Marshall occupies?

    Possibly green, according to that muppet wot infested my blog. Because we can’t explain why the sky is blue and grass is green. Apparently.

    just what is it with Catholics and their sick obsession with dead bodies, or bits of dead bodies?

    Link (Lyrically NSFW)

  3. David Anderson says:

    Philosophy = Mental masturbation

    Catlick philosopher = Wanker

  4. barriejohn says:

    DA: I think you’re being rather hard on philosophers. If you had said “theology” then I would be in total agreement with you!

  5. JohnMWhite says:

    I concur, that’s a bit harsh on philosophers, and it’s not as if this particular philosopher is engaging his mental faculties at all. He’s just repeating stories told to him by an authority as if they were true, a la the BBC and their entirely non-critical coverage of things like Easter and Christmas. At the moment, this is largely what is sustaining Christianity in the West – people who just plain don’t think about it and hear some cool stories and repeat them to others no matter how absurd they appear.

    Not surprising to see a philosophy professor who isn’t interested in critical thinking pops up at a college that is half named after a vicious killer and suspected torturer the Vatican made a saint anyway. Even JPII waxed about More’s goodness, so obviously this is no mere ancient artefact of the church’s violent middle ages, it demonstrates once more exactly what the priority of Catholicism is – the preservation of the church, no matter how much suffering you have to inflict on other people.

  6. Broga says:

    A characteristic of the religious dement is that they know the mind of the supposed creator and ruler of the universe. And we are told that God “chose” the charlatan Padre Pio. I suppose this Prof. is encouraging his students to revere, unthinkingly, some of the most pestilential phonies of the RC superstition. Mother Theresa, on whom the late and much lamented Christopher Hitchens, skewered beyond redemption comes to mind.

    In passing, I heard TfTD today. One characteristic of this stale offense against the audience is that the preacher hints at his own (usually male) importance. This morning the source of the embarassment told us he had been the leader of hundreds of pilgrimmages to the Holy Land. They always have to be Top Cat. His second comment was of the need for prayer concerning the conflagration between Hamas and the Israelis. And they still censor secular contributions while giving radio time to this daily insult to commonsense.

  7. tony e says:

    Apparently he found himself frequently out of favour with the rc church. Is that because he preferred women to choirboys?

  8. David Anderson says:

    OK then, theological philosophy. I do happen to like reading Daniel Dennett.

    Mind you, other philosophers like Alain de Botton, nuff said.

  9. Daz says:

    when it comes to de Botton, I prefer the term “self-proclaimed intellectual.”

    Or “wanker.”

  10. Matt Westwood says:

    “(just what is it with Catholics and their sick obsession with dead bodies, or bits of dead bodies?)”

    Apparently one of the cornerstones of the faith is (or at least used to be) that unless their body is preserved, they won’t be able to “rise up imperishable” at the last trump. In Victorian times this proved quite a challenge to the authorities who were having difficulty finding anywhere left to bury the bodies of barking-mad religious nutcases (i.e. 90%+ of the populus).