Pope Deceived by “Shroud”

May 10, 2010

Proof (should any more be needed) that the Pope is not infallible comes from the comments of Pope Benedict XVI on visiting the "Shroud" of Turin on Sunday, May 2, 2010. Among other things he stated: "This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus."

Now, it seems the pontiff is not very well informed about the notorious cloth. Is he not aware that it lacks provenance until the mid-fourteenth century? That its earliest record is a bishop's report to Pope Clement that it had been used as part of a faith-healing scam? That an artist confessed it was his handiwork? That the body's elongated appearance is consistent with medieval Gothic art? That there are anatomical flaws? That the hair hangs on either side of the face as for a standing rather than recumbent figure?

Is he not aware that the rivulets of "blood" are unnaturally "picturelike"? Or that the stains are suspiciously still bright red after thirteen centuries? That they failed forensic serological tests that were specific for blood? That the "blood" was found (by world-famous microanalyst Walter McCrone) to be red ocher and vermilion tempera paint? That the image -- but not non-image areas -- were covered with red ocher pigment.

Has the pontiff gotten the news that the cloth was radiocarbon dated, by three laboratories, to the very time of the forger's confession -- i.e., 1260-1390? And that the accuracy of the carbon dating was underscored by correct dates obtained from a variety of control swatches of ancient cloth? Does he comprehend that for the imagined "contamination" to have altered the radiocarbon date by thirteen centuries, there would have to be twice as much contamination by weight, as the cloth itself?

And, may I politely inquire whether the Holy Father has recently read the Gospel of John, chapters 19 and 20? To refresh his memory, John refers not to a single long cloth placed under and then over the body; instead he describes "the linen clothes" in which Jesus' body was "wound." He specifies a separate cloth -- "the napkin" -- which was placed over the face. And he mentions "about a hundred pound weight" of the burial spices, myrrh and aloes -- not a speck of which has been discovered on the Turin cloth.

I would respectfully suggest that His Holiness look further into these issues and not be misled by the devout shroudologists who have stood science on its head: starting with the desired answer rather than the clear evidence.