The Problem with Padre Pio’s Stigmata

The Problem with Padre Pio’s Stigmata

Padre Pio is a famous stigmatist of the Roman Catholic Church who is now a saint. He claimed that he experienced the stigmata of receiving the wounds which Christ had when Christ’s hands were pierced by nails on the cross. There have been many Catholics who have claimed to experience this exact same stigmata such as Teresa Musco, Irving Houle, Rhoda Wise, and Therese Neumann.

But there is a rather obvious problem with these stigmata: they’re in the wrong place! The nails were not driven into the palms of Jesus’ hands, but into his forearms. But Padre Pio, who was not exactly a New Testament scholar, did not know this. He assumed that the nails must have gone through the palms of Jesus’ hands because that is what we see in religious artwork and the Bible speaks of his hands being pierced by nails (John 20:25). But what he did not understand is that the Greek term for hand can include not just the palms, but the wrist and forearm as well. The nails were actually driven between the two bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) in order to support his weight. If Jesus had been crucified through his palms, the nails would have torn through them due to the force of his weight when pulling down on the nails to push himself up to exhale in order to breathe in new air.

To see what I mean, you can look at the graphic pictures of people in the Philippines being crucified today. What do each of these people have in common? They all have their arms tied to the crossbeam of the cross and their feet are resting on a platform to support their weight. Without being tied to the cross and without a platform to stand on, the force of their weight would cause the nails to tear through their skin because the nails are driven between the metacarpal bones in their palms rather than between the radius and ulna. Some depictions of the crucifixion have the nails going through Jesus’ wrists, but the problem with this is that our wrists are made up of carpal bones which would have been shattered when the nails went through them. But John 19:36 says that not one of his bones would be broken. This means that the only place where the nails could have gone through without breaking a bone and still be able to support his weight would be between the radius and ulna below his wrist where the nail would become lodged between those two bones to be able to support his weight as he pulled down on the nails.

The only two ways that Jesus could have been crucified through his palms and still been able to support his weight is if his arms were tied to the cross or if his feet were resting on a platform. But the problem with these two possibilities is that the two people next to Jesus had their legs broken to speed up their deaths (John 19:31-32). If they had been resting their feet on a platform or had their arms tied to the cross, breaking their legs would not have sped up their deaths. The reason why breaking their legs caused them to die quickly is because they used their legs to push themselves up in order to breathe out. Once their legs were broken, they were unable to do so and died of asphyxiation. If Jesus had been tied to the cross or if he was resting on a platform, he and the two who were with him did not die of asphyxiation because they never would have needed to pull up to breathe out.

But why would Padre Pio, Therese Neumann, and other stigmatists intentionally try to deceive people by creating fake stigmata? That question can be answered by asking another question: why did people create the forgeries of the Donation of Constantine and Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals? Why do Hindus use illusions to deceive people into believing in Hinduism?

People use deception because they believe the ends justify the means. If the “miracle” of their stigmata can convince people to join the Catholic Church or remain in the fold, then it was worth it because they believed that there is no salvation outside of the church. These stigmata occurred before Vatican II redefined the Catholic Church’s understanding of the extent of salvation. Now that Protestants are no longer anathematized heretics and even members of non-Christian religions can be saved, there is now less of an incentive to create forgeries to deceive because people no longer have to be members of the Catholic Church to be saved. The newfound inclusivism of Catholicism, which is really just a form of religious pluralism, undermines the apologetic enterprise of Catholicism. This is especially true when your own pope tells you that it is not licit to convince others of your faith.

As with claims to extreme fasting, examples of stigmata are not unique to Catholicism. Many Hindus and Buddhists claim to have experienced stigmata as well.


Sunday Meditation – Thanks in Adversity

Sunday Meditation – Thanks in Adversity

“It is peculiar to Christians to give thanks in adversity. To praise God for blessings, others can do, but to give thanks in danger is the highest pitch of virtue: ‘I do not see why I should suffer less; these things are very little compared to my sin. I deserve much more at the Lord’s hands!’ A Christian has taken up his cross. No loss can dishearten him, as the poet says: ‘If the world breaks and falls about my ears, I will not be afraid.’ Afflictions are for our good. They conform us to the Lord, our chief good. They prepare us for communion with the Lord and are fatherly tokens of love. Children must submit to the rod, and kiss it too. The Lord by afflicting prevents and purges sin. Do we not thank the surgeon who removes a damaged limb? Yes, we thank him, and take our bitter pills too. The cross God lays upon is far below what we deserve. What is a drop of sweetened wormwood to the gall of bitterness? What is a little suffering to the lake of fire? Jesus drank the full cup of suffering for us. He drank it fully – we cannot, we need not. O thank God you have so little a share of it! In affliction we learn what we could not otherwise. Wax unheated will not receive the impression of the seal. Man in affliction will receive the imprint of divine wisdom. It prepares us for glory. The potter beats the clay to make it well-tempered, molds it on the wheel, and then bakes it in the oven before use. A wooden vessel is turned and cut before it is fit. Gold is heated and pounded before it is complete. So every vessel of mercy must be treated before it is fit for glory. The cross sharpens our faith and sets a sharp edge and luster upon it. The stone is hewed, cut, carved, and polished. So suffering saints are prepared for the highest degrees of glory.”

William Cooper

The Forgery of the Shroud of Turin

The Forgery of the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is the most controversial artifact in the world. Many claim that it is the original burial cloth of Jesus while others argue that it is a medieval forgery. I will argue here that it is without question a forgery. A glaring fact that is often ignored by those who support the genuineness of the Shroud is that there is no evidence for its existence prior to the fourteenth century. Even sites that support the Shroud admit this. And the known history of the Shroud corresponds exactly with its radiocarbon dating to the fourteenth century. There is also literary evidence that the Shroud is a forgery. In 1389, Bishop Pierre D’Arcis wrote a letter to Clement VII in which he claimed that the Shroud is a forgery:

“The case, Holy Father, stands thus. Some time since in this diocese of Troyes, the dean of a certain collegiate church . . . falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb. . . . Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he discovered how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought or bestowed.”

The Shroud is also contrary to Jewish burial customs. Jesus’ body would have been washed before burial so that no blood would have been left on the Shroud.

Another problem with the Shroud is that the physical dimensions of the face of Jesus do not match that of a real person. As Tim O’Neal explains:

“The anatomical proportions of the figure depicted on the ‘Shroud’ do not match those of an actual human being, but conform to the proportions of the Gothic art of the Fourteenth Century. On a typical human the head from the top of the eyebrows to the top of the skull forms around 40% of the head, or about 80-100 mm. But on the ‘Shroud’ the head from the eyebrows up forms only 25% of the head or no more than 60 mm or less. This shortening of the upper part of the head is a typical anatomical mistake made by first-time life artists, and it is common for early lessons in life drawing to teach new artists not to make this naive mistake by showing that the proportions of the head are actually quite different to the way people tend to see them at first.”

This is an often overlooked argument against the authenticity of the Shroud which is completely ignored by those who believe in the genuineness of the Shroud.

In response to the carbon dating of the Shroud to the fourteenth century, many people have argued that the dating is inaccurate or that the portion of the Shroud which was tested comes from a medieval reweaving after the edges of the Shroud were damaged by fire. But scientists intentionally chose a portion of the Shroud that was not patched so that their results would be accurate. Scientists who specialize in carbon dating have refuted all of these charges. As H. E. Gove explains:

“Along these same lines is the claim that the 10mm x 70mm strip, cut from the edge of the shroud just above the place where a sample had been removed in 1973, contained stitching threads or possibly pieces of the backing cloth of much later than first century vintage. Not only would this have been spotted by the two textile experts present but subsequent examination by members of the dating laboratories would have instantly revealed such extraneous material. All the laboratories examined the textile samples microscopically and removed any foreign material. Another argument has been made (G Hoyas, pers commun May 2, 1989) that the part of the shroud from which the sample was cut had possibly become worn and threadbare from countless handlings and had been subjected to medieval textile restoration. If so, the restoration would have had to be done with such incredible virtuosity as to render it microscopically indistinguishable from the real thing. Even modern so-called invisible weaving can readily be detected under a microscope, so this possibility seems unlikely. It seems very convincing that what was measured in the laboratories was genuine cloth from the shroud after it had been subjected to rigorous cleaning procedures. Probably no sample for carbon dating has ever been subjected to such scrupulously careful examination and treatment, nor perhaps ever will again.”

But there is a simple solution to this problem: allow pieces from the rest of the Shroud to be carbon dated as well. But the Catholic Church does not want this to happen because they are afraid that the rest of the cloth will be dated to the fourteenth century as well. If that were to happen, it would be the final nail in the coffin for the veneration of the Shroud.

This is what Protestants who use the Shroud as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus don’t seem to understand: the Shroud is an icon which is venerated by the faithful in the Catholic Church as an aid to worship. For the Catholic Church to admit that the Shroud is a forgery would be to admit to the faithful that their veneration has been misplaced. It is an aid to worship because the picture of Jesus in the Shroud has become the mental image Catholics bring to mind when they think about and worship Jesus. If this is not what Jesus looks like, then they have a false image of Jesus in their mind when they worship. The depiction of Jesus in the Shroud is based on the artwork of the early church and medieval period which is additional evidence that the Shroud comes from an artist.

The papacy has always advocated for the historicity of the Shroud. Pope Paul VI declared that the Shroud is “the most important relic in the history of Christianity.” Pope Sixtus IV said that in the Shroud “men may look upon the true blood and the portrait of Jesus Christ Himself.” If the Shroud is a forgery, it would prove that the papacy has misled people and undermine the credibility of the Catholic Church. The Shroud of Turin is nothing more than a medieval forgery used to bolster the claims of Roman Catholicism. If it is a forgery, it calls into question papal infallibility since previous popes have declared that the Shroud is genuine.

As Joe Nickell concludes:

“Scholarship and science have proven the Turin ‘shroud’ a fake, from its incompatibility with first century burial cloths and procedures, its lack of historical record, and a bishop’s report that the forger had confessed, to the suspicious-looking ‘blood’ that is really tempera paint, pigments making up the body image, and the radiocarbon dating that confirms the cloth originated at the time of its documented appearance in the fourteenth century.”

I could not put it any better than Antonio Lombatti who laments at how unprofessionally many scholars have acted when it comes to whether the Shroud is authentic or a fake:

“The behavior of professional Bible scholars on this relic has been deplorable. It’s true, the Turin Shroud may be seen as a ridiculous topic to deal with. So, apart from Joe Zias, James Tabor, Rachel Hachlili, Shimon Gibson, and Levy Rahmani – experts on Second Temple Jewish burials and Early Christianity – scholars have rarely tackled the fancy claims made by the Shroud authenticity supporters. And this has left room for popular quackery both on library shelves and, above all, on the web. Lurid falsehoods and distorted reasoning have been repeated so many times that the common people and some scholars too may think they are facing the real burial cloth of Jesus. The method used by these ‘shroudologists’ bends the mind the wrong way, an insidious and real corruption, and it has nothing to share with scholarly analysis and philological tools. The Gospels don’t mention this double full-length image of Jesus left on his burial cloth. The Second Temple Jews used to bury their dead in a completely different way. There’s no historical record on the relic until 1355. When it was first displayed in France, the owner, the diocese bishop and even the pope called it a ‘representation’ of Jesus’ burial shroud. Finally, when the linen of cloth was carbon 14 dated in 1988 it turned out to be from 1325 circa. So, despite the fact that the historical and scientific data do match, the Turin Shroud enthusiasts, usually pushed by their faith, couldn’t stop and admit that the relic was a medieval forgery. They kept on finding all sorts of causes responsible for a wrong radiocarbon date: fire, smoke, fungi, bacteria, and even Jesus’ miraculous radiation emitted during his resurrection. As you can imagine, no scientist who performs carbon dating as a profession has ever imagined questioning the validity of the medieval date of the Turin Shroud.”

Christian apologists who use the Shroud to argue for the resurrection of Jesus need to stop immediately because they are undermining their own credibility in the process. There are far better arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. In an upcoming article, I will give my defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Sunday Meditation – Pardon of Sin

Sunday Meditation – Pardon of Sin

“No man must thank sin, or blame God for sin, even though he extracted the antidote out of this viper. Since the Lord demonstrates his glory in overruling and pardoning sin, to the salvation of poor sinners, there is good reason to magnify him to the highest. Since we have dishonored God very much by our sin, it is important that we now adore him for his grace. . . . Thankfulness is pleasing to God, not only in good days, but in bad. This is the best sacrifice and gift we can offer to God. Mr. Bradford, a martyr, speaking of Queen Mary, at whose mercy he lay said, ‘If she releases, imprisons, or burns me, I will thank her. Let God do with me as he wills, I will be thankful.'”

William Cooper

Claims to Extreme Fasting in Roman Catholicism

Claims to Extreme Fasting in Roman Catholicism

Breatharianism is the belief that humans can survive without eating or drinking by getting energy from the sun and the air they breathe. By definition, Roman Catholics cannot be breatharians because they must eat the bread of the Eucharist every Mass. But there have been many Catholic mystics who claimed to practice what I call “eucharistarianism” or the belief that a person can miraculously survive without eating anything except for the daily bread of the Eucharist.

The most extraordinary claim to extreme fasting in Catholicism is that of Therese Neumann who claimed to not have consumed any water or food except for the bread of the Eucharist from 1926 to her death in 1962. She also claimed to suffer from the stigmata of blood coming from her eyes (which looks more like bad Halloween makeup) because everyone knows that having blood coming out of your eyes is a sure sign of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Another popular example is that of Alexandrina da Costa who claimed to have survived while eating nothing but the Eucharist for thirteen years. I believe that there was a lengthy period in her life where she did eat nothing but the Eucharist because she died of starvation! At her death, she only weighed 73 pounds because she was so malnourished from only eating the bread of the Eucharist. If the Eucharist was miraculously sustaining her, why was she so malnourished? In contrast, when Daniel and his friends ate only vegetables, God miraculously caused them to be in better shape than those who ate from the king’s table (Dan 1:15). Her life is a sad example of how false religion kills people. We see the same thing today with faith healers who tell parents not to take their sick children to the doctor and they end up dying. If Alexandria had chosen to eat real food, she would not have died from starvation.

But these saints have nothing on Prahlad Jani. Jani is a Hindu mystic who claims to have never eaten any food or drunk any water for over 70 years. He claims that the Hindu goddess Amba appeared to him when he was 11 years old and promised him that he would never need to eat food again. In 2003, he was tested at Ahmedabad’s Sterling Hospital to see if his claims could be verified. He was locked in a room with no food or water for ten days straight and was constantly monitored by video camera. He was tested again in 2010 while in a room for 15 days straight without any food or water with even more people monitoring him. You can watch the following videos for yourself:

There are four possible ways to interpret this evidence:

  1. Hinduism is true and therefore Christianity is false.
  2. People can survive without any food or water for 15 days and still be in great health.
  3. There was cheating going on in these experiments.
  4. Jani’s body is being sustained by demonic forces.

It is very possible that there was cheating going on in these experiments, but I cannot prove this. I know that Satan is using Jani as a tool to deceive people into embracing Hinduism, but the question is whether or not any demon has given him a supernatural ability to survive without food or water. If his story about the goddess Amba visiting him is true, then this was a demonic apparition imitating the pagan beliefs of Hinduism. The Bible says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and has the ability to transform himself as he did in the garden (2 Cor 11:14). We may never know on this side of eternity exactly how Jani was able to survive a 15-day experiment where it was never observed that he drank any water which is medically impossible.

The point of bringing him up is to show that even if the claims of the Catholic mystics are true, it would no more prove Catholicism than it would prove Hinduism. If Catholics believe in Catholicism because certain saints claim to have gone for extraordinary amounts of time without food or water, they should likewise embrace Hinduism or religious pluralism because the evidence for Jani living without food or water is vastly superior.

If Therese Neumann truly did not drink any water for over 30 years (which I seriously doubt), I would explain her survival the same way I would explain that of Jani if there was no cheating going on in these experiments: demonic deception. Besides, Protestants have their own fasting miracle in the example of Brother Yun who fasted for 74 days while in prison for his faith. That is a miracle I can believe in because the gospel he preaches corresponds to the one in Scripture.

Sunday Meditation – Thankfulness

Sunday Meditation – Thankfulness

“The Spirit of God teaches the souls of believers this lesson of thankfulness. David’s heart was tuned to the praises of God, and it is important that thankfulness is encouraged and practiced under the gospel also. Thanksgiving demonstrates a spiritual and noble frame of the soul in the highest pitch of grace. The Lord Jesus taught us thankfulness both by pattern and precept, and He thanked God frequently and fervently. Even when He was to eat common bread, He gave thanks (Mark 8:6). The nine lepers were reproved for their unthankfulness (Luke 17:17-18). Thankfulness is the worship we owe God for all that we have and are (1 Cor 15:10). We live precariously, and are always at God’s mercy. God in His sovereignty might have never made us; or, He could have crushed us into nothing as soon as we were made, for, ‘has the potter no right over the clay?’ (Rom 9:21). Every moment we depend upon Him, and all we have are gifts from Him (Acts 17:25). His power over us is absolute and infinite. To this Sovereign we owe all, and therefore we owe Him our thanks. ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen’ (Rom 11:36).”

William Cooper

Does the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe Prove Roman Catholicism?

Does the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe Prove Roman Catholicism?

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most common arguments used in favor of Roman Catholicism based on the urban legend that the drawing could not possibly have come about by natural means. This was the main argument a Catholic priest used to try to convert our practical theology class in college to Catholicism when he came to visit us. It is also the main argument that Hispanic Catholics use to keep others in the church and reach out to those who have walked away from it. It is plastered everywhere in Catholic homes and businesses as a constant reminder of their ultimate argument. If you are a Catholic, this article will be difficult for you to read, but you need to know the truth.

According to legend, Juan Diego was visited by the Virgin Mary who transformed his tilma or coat into a painting of herself. This incident is supposed to have taken place in 1531, but the first recorded instance of the event only dates back to the 1648 account of Miguel Sanchez. He was followed by Luis Laso de la Vega who published another account of the story in 1649. This means that there is a 117-year gap between the events of Guadalupe and the first written record of them. All historians up until 1648 are silent about any Marian apparition to Juan Diego. Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, the person to whom Juan Diego was alleged to have shown the image to, never mentions him or this miracle in any of his writings or letters. Bernardino de Sahagún, who spent 50 years living in Mexico and compiled a 2,400 page history of New Spain in 1576 with 2,500 illustrations, makes no mention of Juan Diego, this miracle, or a Marian apparition which is rather odd considering that Catholics claim that this miracle is responsible for the conversion of nine million Native Americans.

The story of the miracle involving Juan Diego is a fictional account created to bolster devotion to the image and to be used as an evangelistic tool. The creators of this story justified themselves by rationalizing that it was better to use deception to win Native Americans to Catholicism than to let them go to hell. The deception was worth it because the ends justified the means. Remember, this was before Roman Catholicism redefined what “No Salvation Outside the Church” means. The Catholics who worked to evangelize the Native Americans believed that these people were going to hell apart from embracing Catholicism.

But this conspiracy is no isolated incident. The Catholic Church has a long history of using forgeries to prove their legitimacy and this story is no different. If Sanchez was not the inventor of the story, he was getting his information from those who did. The real reason so many Native Americans converted to Catholicism was not because of the image of Guadalupe, but because of force and syncretism by replacing the goddess Tonantzin with Mary.

But if the image of Guadalupe is not a miracle, then where did it come from? The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe existed before the myth did. The pre-existing image was used to promote the myth and the myth served to promote devotion to the image. The artist who drew the image had no idea that his painting, an evolution of the earlier Banner of Cortés, would be used to promote this myth.

The artist behind the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is Marcos de Aquino. Devotion to the image was given approval by Archbishop of Mexico Alonso de Montúfar who succeeded Zumárraga. But he was opposed by Fray Francisco de Bustamante who preached against devotion to the image as a form of idolatrous syncretism and claimed that the image was “recent” and “painted by an Indian.” As recorded by Montúfar, Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros claimed that Bustamante stated in his sermon against the image:

“With this new devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe it seems that it was an occasion [for the Indians to backslide into idolatry], because it was a painting that Marcos, an Indian painter, had made, and that for that devotion to be approved and held as good it was necessary to have verified the miracles and confirmed them with many witnesses.”

The other witnesses affirm that Bustamante claimed that the image was painted by an Indian. Neither Montúfar or Bustamante make any reference to a Marian apparition or Juan Diego. This thesis is also supported by the research of Leoncio Garza-Valdés who discovered that there are two previous paintings under the current one that have been painted over. The image is anything but a miracle and was done using ingredients that were well-known at the time. According to José Sol Rosales, the canvas is made of flax and hemp or cactus fibers prepared with white primer. The paint is made using cochineal, calcium sulfate, and pine soot. The image was restored in 1947 and 1973 by D. José Antonio Flores Gómez because, like any painting, it fades and cracks with time.