from Prophet of the People, by Dorothy M. Gaudiose, pp. 191-2
Women received especially rough treatment from Padre Pio because of current fashions. He had always been a merciless enemy of feminine vanity. "Vanity," he said, "is the son of pride, and is even more malignant than its mother. Have you ever seen a field of ripe corn? Some ears are tall; others are bent to the ground. Try taking the tallest, the proudest ones, and you will see that they are empty; but it you take the smallest, the humblest ones, they are laden with seeds. From this you can see that vanity is empty."
Padre Pio wouldn't tolerate low-necked dresses or short, tight skirts, and he forbade his spiritual daughters to wear transparent stockings. Each year his severity increased. He stubbornly dismissed them from his confessional, even before they set foot inside, if he judged them to be improperly dressed. On some mornings he drove away one after another, until he ended up hearing very few confessions.
His brothers observed these drastic purges with a certain uneasiness and decided to fasten a sign on the church door: "By Padre Pio's explicit wish, women must enter his confessional wearing skirts at least eight inches below the knees. It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them for the confessional."
The last warning was not without effect. There was a furtive exchange of skirts, blouses, and raincoats, that took place at the last moment in the half-lit church to remedy any failings.
The women made their adjustments, but perhaps not exactly enough. Padre Pio continued to send some away before giving them a chance to confess. He would glower at them, and grumble, "Go and get dressed." And sometimes he added, "Clowns!" He spared no one... persons he saw for the first time, or his long-time spiritual daughters. Often the skirts were decidedly many inches below the knees, but not sufficiently long for his moral severity.
As the years began to weigh on Padre Pio, his daily hours in the confessional were limited to four, equally divided between men and women. In addition to being dressed properly, they had to know the Italian language, even though he could somehow understand people speaking another language. But he knew Italian, Latin, and very little French, consistently refusing to hear confessions except in Italian or Latin.
Sometimes when Padre Pio refused to absolve his penitents and closed the small confessional door in their faces, the people would reproach him asking why he acted this way. "Don't you know," he asked, "what pain it costs me to shut the door on anyone? The Lord has forced me to do so. I do not call anyone, nor do I refuse anyone either. There is Someone else Who calls and refuses them. I am His useless tool."
Even the men had rules to follow. They were not permitted to enter the church with three-quarter length sleeves. Boys as well as men had to wear long trousers at church, if they didn't want to be shown out of the church, that is. But women in short skirts were his prime targets. Padre Pio's citadel was perhaps the only place in the world where the fashions of the 1930s still ruled in the 1960s
(Do you recall what Our Lady of Fatima said about "certain fashions"?)
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