Fascinating news about the Shroud of Turin. WDTPRS POLL

For your Just Too Cool file.

From Vatican Insider

Pollen is evidence that the Holy Shroud is indeed a winding sheet

According to university researchers the pollen found in the Turin Shroud corresponds to that of flowers used for funerals in Asia Minor 2000 years ago

In a recent conference held in Valencia, on the Holy Shroud, the work of one Marzia Boi, a university researcher at the University of the Balearic Islands stood out in particular. Boi is an expert in Palynology, which is the science that studies pollen.

As history lovers may already know, the fabric of the Holy Shroud is covered in pollen and Boi’s report clearly highlights that the pollen is proof that the shroud, which is kept in Turin, was a winding-sheet and was used according to rituals common in the Middle East over a thousand years ago. We have therefore taken the liberty of drawing the following conclusion (which we would like to point out was never made by the researcher herself): this discovery is strong proof against the theory of the shroud being a medieval fake. It seems somewhat incredible (and it would be a true scientific miracle) that a medieval forger would have known what ointments and oils were used in Jewish funeral rites in I century AD and that this same forger would have put together aromas and ointments in the knowledge that a few centuries later tools that had not yet been invented might reveal his work.

Marzia Boi wrote in her report in Valencia: “ The pollen traces on the Holy Shroud which have so far been linked to the geographic origin of the relic reveal what oils and ointments were put both on the body and on the sheet. These discoveries have an ethno-cultural meaning linked to ancient funeral practices. These non-perishable particles capture the image of a 2000-year-old funeral rite and thanks to them it was possible to discover what plants were used in the preparation of the body that was kept in the sheet. The oils allowed the pollens, as fortuitous ingredients, to be absorbed and hidden in the shroud’s fabric like invisible evidence of an extraordinary historical event.” According to Jewish custom the dead bodies and the winding sheets were treated with oils and perfumed ointments following a meticulous ritual.


Read the rest there.

Let’s have a little poll.

Feel free to give your reasons in the combox.

Do you think the Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud of the Lord with His miraculous image?

View Results

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. off2 says:

    My “yes” vote is really a strong “probably.” That based on years of following the publish research.

  2. asperges says:

    I voted “yes” and I think it probably is genuine, but what I think was a fundamental mistake was ever to have submitted it to scientific tests – which rightly or wrongly came out negatively. Matters of Faith should not be subject to Science as though the one could only exist with the permission of the other.

  3. Jim of Bowie says:

    I voted “I don’t know” even though I’m moving closer to a Yes. The evidence is becoming compelling. It is clearly a first century burial cloth from the holy land with an image of a crucified man consistent in every detail to the biblical description of the torture and execution of Jesus. Scientists have been unable to figure out how it could have been faked. The only negative scientific evidence was the flawed carbon dating.

  4. If its good enough for the saints, its good enough for me! What contemporary generations have considered scientific certainty has changed innumerable times, and yet the Shroud remains, just like the faith of countless devout souls.

  5. John Scott says:

    Sorry – this may be long, but I care a great deal about this subject. Thank you, Fr. Z. for posting!

    I have followed the research on the Shroud since picking up Ian Wilson’s first book as a student at Oxford in 1979. The reasons I think this may well be the burial shroud of Christ (or of some other crucified 1st-century Jew miraculously resurrected – and how many of those were there?) are far too many to list here. They are ample, startling and worth looking into in detail.

    What most people don’t realize, as the media have never revisited this, is that the much-heralded radiocarbon dating results from 1988 have been fairly convincingly repudiated as having been based on contaminated sampling. The most fascinating aspect of that story having been the role of individual personalities and human arrogance, hubris, authority, eagerness for funding – most notably of a single influential Italian scientist and the sympathetic Catholic hierarch “in charge”, who entirely ignored the sampling protocols developed by the scientific teams, and flexed their precious authority muscles by doing their own thing. A story traceable all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

    Following the slender historical traces of the Shroud’s likely history also makes for instructive reading. I tend toward believing the evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ looted by French Crusaders from the Church of St. Mary at Blachernae in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 – the most precious relic of the Church.

    Very curious is the reluctance of believing Protestants to pay any attention to this – deciding from scripture or whatever reason that God wouldn’t resort to such cheap tricks and grandstanding. If there is any chance that God may have chosen to leave a physical sign of His resurrection, why would one not be interested in examining the evidence? Because it’s a “Catholic” thing? No, we don’t “need” the Shroud for our faith, but why would God leave a sign for us if He wasn’t interested in having us read it?

    And finally, events subsequent to my conversion from an overly-intellectualized Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy shocked me into a visceral realization of the absolute fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed “everywhere and in all things”, and that the Holy Eucharist is exactly what the Church says it is. Quite simply, the miraculous is concrete, all around us. We no longer have eyes to see it. The ridiculous contortions required to explain the physical facts of the Turin Shroud have become much less believable to me than the possibility that it is what it has always been claimed to be.

  6. Burke says:

    My ‘yes’ has to count as an ‘almost certainly.’ There are just too many things that only make sense if it is. Short personal story – when I was a teenager & suffering a crisis of faith I found comfort in reading a book on the Shroud. Not quite a miracle, but very important to me at the time!

  7. MPSchneiderLC says:

    Too bad you didn’t have a “probably” category. At least two previous commentors and I would pick it. The evidence seems to point that direction but I have more faith in the Eucharist than in these scientific studies.

  8. poohbear says:

    Yes. We cannot replicate it with all our scientific and technological knowledge, how could it have been forged in the past? I have no doubts.

  9. Dan says:

    I voted yes- according to the scientists who were granted permission to study the shroud in the 70’s, the only thing you can say conclusively is that it is NOT a drawing, painting, etc. There is no pigment anywhere on the shroud. The only possible way to explain it, as the leader of the team (Joe Jackson, I think?) has said, is that the image came from a strong radioactive burst from the object whose image is now on the face of the shroud (the body of Christ). Also, the image on the shroud is a 3-D negative…hardly something you could forge in the 1400’s. Not to mention the fact that the blood thereon is real human blood, type AB. This is the same blood type that has been found on samples taken from authenticated eucharistic miracles, like the one at Lanciano (sp?).

    The carbon dating stuff is always misreported. What is NOT mentioned by the media is that the shroud was involved in a pretty serious fire that occured at the church in which it was housed during the 16th or 17th centuries. That is why you see the obvious scorth marks on the sides. The sample they took for the carbon dating was from a singed edge of the shroud, and because it had already been burned the carbon count was off significantly.

    As far as subjecting faith to scientific scrutiny goes, I say have at it. Science explains the physical processes through which God exercises His creative hand in the universe. True faith and true science cannot contradict each other. If you think that science is going to harm your faith, then you’re faith probably isn’t too strong to begin with.

    Although it has some questionable theological content, the history channel made a good (from the scientific standpoint) documentary about the shround a few years ago…it’s called The Real Face of Jesus. They interview the members of the team who studied the shroud with church permission in the 70’s, and basically come to the conclusion that it is authentic. If you’re looking for a good overview of the science, that is a good place to start.

  10. bvb says:

    asperges: We combine matters of faith and science all the time—take, for example, the correlations between the Big Bang and Creation. Given that both faith and reason are gifts from God, they’ll affirm each other when done/understood correctly. So, if this really is the Holy Shroud, then the scientific tests (correctly done, of course) will confirm the historical aspects of it, although of course they’ll never confirm something like the Resurrection, which cannot really be addressed by the scientific method. I hope you and Fr Lemaître (and me, for that matter…) meet up in Heaven :)

  11. Aegidius says:

    Bvb, I am with you. I never found those Turin creationists more credible or rational than Area 52 UFO believers, given that EVERY credible scientific evidence produced from the Sindone fully complies (supports) with its being our Lord’s funeral cloth.

  12. albizzi says:

    Frankly speaking, there are tens of clues heading towards the Shroud’s authenticity while there is only one, the C14 dating test that heads towards a forgery.
    The pundits in carbondating themselves are cautious with these tests because many conditions must be fulfilled for a test to be reliable. There are many cases where the carbondating was contradicted by the dendrochonology which itself is almost infallible.
    Indeed those who are mainly clinging to the carbondting to assert that the Shroud is a medieval fake are not the scientists but the fanatic atheists.

  13. inara says:

    Yes. I am absolutely convinced. We have a reproduction of the Holy Face from the Shroud on our mantel (which, incidentally, looks a whole lot like the face of Jesus in the only Divine Mercy image approved by St. Faustina).

    Here’s a great list of interesting facts about the Shroud: http://www.holytrinityparish.net/RCIA/Jesus%20Christ.pdf

    There’s also a CD available from Lighthouse Catholic Media by Fr. Francis Peffley that goes into all the cool details (including how, as Dan said, the carbon dating was thrown off significantly by prolonged intense heat).

  14. I voted “yes” and I think it probably is genuine, but what I think was a fundamental mistake was ever to have submitted it to scientific tests – which rightly or wrongly came out negatively. Matters of Faith should not be subject to Science as though the one could only exist with the permission of the other.

    Not only does authentic science not contradict faith, but scientific inquiry is itself a by-product of the Catholic faith, which strives after Truth and affirms that what God created is good. It is not a coincidence that a number of pioneering scientists (Albertus Magnus, Carolus Linnaeus, Nicholas Copernicus) have been churchmen. Besides: our faith does not depend on the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. The Resurrection would be true even if the Shroud turned out to be fake (and I for one don’t think it is).

  15. Whoops, scratch Carolus Linnaeus above. I was thinking of Gregor Mendel, who was an Augustinian monk.

  16. Sissy says:

    I said “yes”….I do believe that the Shroud is authentic. Dan, the blood type and many of the stains also match the Sudarium of Orviedo. I have read that the best explanation of the image on the Shroud is that it is a “photograph”. The image was apparently created by a great burst of intense light, just as Dan describes.

  17. Grabski says:

    IS there any correspondence between the Shroud and Veronic’s veil?

  18. pelerin says:

    Good to read about the evidence of the pollen. I ticked ‘yes’ as well – there are so many unanswered questions about it but the most extraordinary fact is that it was only at the invention of photography when the negative was examined that the reality of the image appeared – the negative had become the positive. If it were definitely to be revealed as a fake then of course I would accept that result but so far there have been many facts which seem to point to it being a genuine cloth from the time of Christ and thus possibly of Christ Himself.

    However it is a pity this evidence did not reach the ‘Daily Mail’ today who have a headline on their website that the Holy shroud is a Fake from yet another ‘expert.’

  19. I said yes, and I am pretty thoroughly convinced. I don’t have any problem subjecting it to scientific study – who would want to venerate something that important if it is a fraud? The thing that sends shivers up my spine is that it is possible that this shroud literally is stained with the Blood that redeemed us, the Blood of which one drop, one fleck, is of infinite value. If I were a religious scientist I would be righteously afraid to touch that shroud.

  20. ContraMundum says:


    Yes. See Sacred Blood Sacred Image: The Sudarium of Oviedo: New Evidence for the Authenticity of the Shroud of Turin by Janice Bennett.

  21. Grabski says:

    ContraMundum Thanks!

  22. John Scott says:

    I have followed the research on the Shroud since picking up Ian Wilson’s first book as a student at Oxford in 1979. The reasons I think this may well be the burial shroud of Christ (or of some other crucified 1st-century Jew miraculously resurrected – and how many of those were there?) are far too many to list here. They are ample, startling and worth looking into in detail. What most people don’t realize, as the media have never revisited this, is that the much-heralded radiocarbon dating results from 1988 have been fairly convincingly repudiated as having been based on contaminated sampling.

    Following the slender historical traces of the Shroud’s likely history also makes for fascinating reading. I tend toward believing the evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ taken by French Crusaders from the Church of St. Mary at Blachernae in the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

    The ridiculous contortions required to explain the physical facts of the Turin Shroud have become much less believable to me than the likelihood that it is what it has always been claimed to be.

  23. mike cliffson says:

    I voted yes, but “think ” is the right word.What I BELIEVE is outlined in the creed.
    Should it eventually be proven impossible to have been our Lord’s very shroud, there would remain the SIGN of a negative image existing most certainly centuries before photography. Such souls as have been drawn, or drawn back, to the church through the initial Wow! factor , which we do know of, and those putatively thence saved from the fires of hell, are like the fruits of other miracles and signs. I mean, there are things like plaster statues of zilch historic provenance and low artistic value which have miraculously bled.Not to get on the nineoclock news, but for souls to be saved.
    Still , it all looks the more probable.
    BTW the Oviedo cloth results ARE cognate with the shroud, and people never suggest that’s a fake – who’d fake a dirty old rag with no images on?- the lads who treasured it into safety ahead of the tide of invading islam 1300 years ago may have been mistaken about what they had- I don’t think they were – but again, how come they match up?

  24. Mike Morrow says:

    I vote NO. It has always amazed me the bizarre obscurities that SoT believers attempt to cite to counter the preponderance of rational evidence for the SoT’s medieval provenance. It’s very similar to the nonsense that is used by creationists to deny evolution.

    There is no element of faith that is aided by belief in the authenticity of the SoT fable. It has become just another pious fraud.

  25. ContraMundum says:

    @Mike Morrow

    What “preponderance of evidence” do you mean? The only real evidence against the Shroud of which I am aware is the radiocarbon dating, and there are issues with the method used for collecting the sample that was tested.

    I strongly suspect that the Shroud is real, but it is by no means an article of faith for me. I am only convinced that it is real to about the same level I am convinced the moon landings were real. If it were a fake, I would be fascinated at the quality of the fake; it would in many ways be one of the great art treasures of the world.

  26. @Mike Morrow

    Fair enough, if that’s your assessment.

    My assessment of your comment is that it is verbose sophistry and hardcore skepticism. In fact, your skepticism is so hardcore as to be blind if you honestly believe that actual type AB Blood, photographic negative imagery which is most explainable by Light radiation many tens of thousands of watts in strength, no trace of pigmentation, the exact same dimensions and inflicted wounds as are reported in the Gospels (including wrist wounds, which goes against the typical medieval representation of Christ with hand wounds), pollen evidence local to the Middle East that are consistent with burial customs in the first century are “bizarre obscurities.” Scoffing and disregarding such a mountain of evidence as obscurities strikes me as simply bizarre in and of itself.

  27. By the way, Father, I see that your Apple fund is getting very near your goal :) will Father finallllyyyy be buying a Mac sometime soon?

  28. Centristian says:

    I voted “I don’t know” although I could just have easily voted “I don’t care” had that been an option. If it were proved to be the authentic burial shroud of Jesus Christ beyond any doubt I would not suddenly react, “wow…it really did happen!” I know it happened. Whether or not there remain any material relics of the event makes no difference to me.

    If it ever turns out that the Shroud of Turin is proven absolutely to be a fraud, it should be tossed in the waste basket or sold to a museum as a curiosity, and no longer venerated. The same goes for the tilma in Guadelupe. It is odd, one might justly note, that the bishop to whom Juan Diego reportedly presented the tilma never recorded the event in his extensive diaries. It is also odd that the very existence of Juan Diego can not be undeniably proven. If it ever turned out that all of it never happened and it became undeniably fraudulent, then it ought to be revealed as a fraud right away rather than left for the veneration of the Masses simply on the pretext that it might damage our credibility. Same goes for the Shroud of Turin. Lying for Jesus is the worst kind of lying there is.

    Just as we may never be able to prove 100 % the authenticity of the Shroud or the Tilma, however, it is also very unlikely that the inauthenticity of such articles could ever be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. In the meantime, these famous relics with lingering question marks hovering about them remain unnecessary crutches for believers and unnecessary targets for scoffers.

  29. Lori Pieper says:

    I voted “yes” as in I think there’s a very strong probability it’s genuine.
    I’ve been hooked on the Shroud since I was around 13 and read A Doctor at Calvary by Dr. Pierre Barbet. Since I grew up to become a medieval historian who has studied medieval art, I can say with certainty that it could not have been faked in the 14th century. I’ve followed all the scientific debates pretty closely and even blogged about them. (You can get to my blog by clicking on my name).
    I think it’s been pretty definitely proven that the sample taken for the C-14 dating was actually from a section that had undergone re-weaving to repair it in the Middle Ages – a re-weaving so skillfully done that no one noticed it in 1988! There were cotton threads and medieval dye in that area.
    There was a huge amount of discussion of this at the 2008 Shroud Conferenc at Ohio State. In particular, the papers by Joe Marino discuss the Carbon 14 dating and the re-weaving, if I remember right, but there are also others.


    Some of the original STURP team were also there – they are the American scientists who examined the Shroud in 1978. This is fascinating stuff and you can listen to a lot of it on mp3 download.

  30. Trad Dad says:

    All things fall within the designs of Providence . Often they are revealed when mankind is both ready & in need of them .
    From Our Lady`s Land of the Southern Cross .
    Pax et bonum.

  31. ContraMundum says:


    You could say the same thing for any and all relics.

  32. dans0622 says:

    @Centristian, I guess you have no interest in visiting the Holy Land and think that those who do, and find meaning in it as well as incentives for more fervent belief are relying on unnecessary crutches. I, for one, need all the help I can get in overcoming my unbelief and am thankful whenever the Lord gives me a crutch or two…or a wheelchair.

  33. mike cliffson says:

    Mike morrow,
    Second Jonathancatholic and contramundum.
    Incidentally, I think you may be confusing technical and other meanings of provenance.The “papertrail” – one meaning of provenance -of the shroud is medieval to now.That the paper trail WE HAVE NOW goes back to date X does not logically mean the shroud or any other manmade object whatsover was made at the very time .
    The thatched cottage I helped restore in an English village in the sixties only had a paper trail – or, if you prefer, provenance – back to the nineteenth century. It is in the continuously occupied centre of the Anglosaxon village , the site will have had buildings for 1500 years,( and there is debatable evidence of Roman occupation in the immediate vicinity in the Roman period).The timbers were reliably dated to Samuel Pepys’ responsability for the navy- second half of the seventeenth century- he set up schemes to encorage timber for ships by trading old ships’ timbers inland , for building,in exchange for fresh timber . The cottage may have first been built on a different site , and been moved at times – they dismantled the frame and did do this. The ground beams rested on blocks of sandstone totally cognate-quarry, methods of squaring etc, an expert mason’s opinion , no further tests, with the 12th century church opposite – the obvious surmise is that reformation vandalization of part of the church made them available, and they were reused yet again in the 17th century. But that IS surmise.
    A lot of people include more tentative data for any object similar to the above direct observations in “provenance”.
    Hence, for the shroud. pollen studies, which are pretty definitive as to where something has been, etc.Always refinable and open to debate.
    (Incidentally, the cottage’s timbers are most definitely those of a ship broken up a few years either side of 1670 – in many places their carbon12-14 content ratio would not indicate anything anywhere near this. I know. I restored them.)
    BTW I don’t actually KNOW, outside the “provenance” , in a very wide sense, of protestant polemics and secular encyclopedias, of any “pious frauds” for this to be “just another” of – the only phenomenons that come close are later claims of originality for what were originally copies touched to the original and blessed,or even touched to a copy which had been touched to a copy, which remained, as objects, after the papertrail thereto had been lost , typically through civil upheavel looting and burning by louts like the Tudors or the revolutionary French.

  34. LisaP. says:


    We hang around a lot of Bible Christians who home school, and while I have always felt there is nothing about currently accepted theories of geological times and Darwinian evolution that necessarily contradicted Catholicism, the fact that so many of these folks taught creation science because they believed the *science* supported it has had me looking into the field. It’s really not what you’d think if you only listen to the news (just like you’d never get a proper feel for what the Church teaches if you listen to the media on that). For example, creation science is not “anti-evolution” — it acknowledges change is everywhere, evolution within species — it simply denies the theory of evolution from one species to another, which if you study the subject from any POV you’ll find is credible based on the evidence.

    I bring this up because in looking for info on the subject one of the first things I ran into was a compilation of articles based on a symposium on evolution called by — wait for it — Pope Benedict. I also picked up the go-to textbook by Apologia, a Christian-based company that likely has no great love for the Catholic Church — and the beginning chapter is a litany of Christian scientists that the author fully acknowledges were Catholics — his premise is that Christianity (meaning the Church) is what developed true science in the first place. Given that dating methods are what much of the controversy about creation science hinges on, I would find it really fascinating if it turns out the shroud becomes accepted as authentic and that casts doubt on the blind faith so many people put into any kind of carbon dating. . . .

  35. Elizabeth D says:

    I voted “I don’t know”. It seems unprovable even if there was an unambiguous carbon date from the 1st century, and my faith doesn’t depend on it and doesn’t require credulity in regards to claims of things like this. However I love the Shroud of Turin, because regardless of what it is, it is for us an icon of the crucified, died and buried, and bodily risen Lord. As a Christian, I think you have to believe that it’s possible for an actual relic like that to exist. And not to want it to be the real thing, a tangible link to His earthly sojourn and icon not made by hands of the very Face of the Risen Lord, wouldn’t make sense.

  36. ContraMundum says:


    I grew up as one of those “Bible Christians”. They have a pretty schizophrenic attitude toward science: on the one hand, they think that as a scientist I should have “extra” reasons to believe in God, and on the other hand, they think practically all scientists are a part of some diabolical conspiracy to conceal the “truth” that the world is only a few thousand years old.

    They’re wrong on both points. Science has remarkably little overlap with the Faith, neither confirming nor denying it, and most scientists would find it hard to maintain a conspiracy even if they wanted to. In fact, the nature of science is such that although frauds may last for decades, they eventually are uncovered when further experiments fail to reproduce past results. Meanwhile, they provide a nice caricature of Christianity that anyone who wants to reject Christianity without thinking about it can point to.

    In most cases these are good people, but they are seriously wrong. It’s best to leave “Creation Science” alone.

  37. xsosdid says:

    It has been shown that there is a coin on each eye on the shroud, that this coin is a Lepta dating from 29 AD, struck by Potius Pilate. The research is fascinating and extremely detailed, done by Dr. Alan D. Whanger, and, of course, is entirely unreported by the media.
    If you are a geek, like me, about this subject do some googling, it’s fascinating stuff.

  38. Centristian says:


    “You could say the same thing for any and all relics.”

    No, not really. You couldn’t say that, for example, about the known extant physical remains of various saints and their personal effects. No one denies that their corpses are truly their corpses (or fragments thereof) or that their belongings were really their belongings. You couldn’t say that about ancient sacred places that undeniably exist because there they stand for all to see. Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, for example, could be regarded as a relic of the Church’s golden years and of the sacred actions that were once alive in that edifice. And there are plenty of other examples. Such things, known to be genuine, are trustworthy relics that Christians may venerate without having to wonder whether or not they truly are what they are presented as. The same cannot be said of the Shroud of Turin, however.

    In any event, the point of my post wasn’t to question the authenticity of the Shroud but simply to say that it hardly matters if it’s real or isn’t. If it’s real, great. It stands as a testament to something we believe in regardless. If it turns out to be a fake, Christ still rose from the dead. But if it should be a proven a fake, then it’s worthless and worse than worthless; it’s a lie and should be discarded.

  39. Legisperitus says:


    I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but how would you perform an experiment to verify or falsify the origin and diversification of all life on earth?

  40. ContraMundum says:


    That’s a fair question, but let me point out it’s the same problem with, for instance, proving that any given defendant committed a specific crime.

    What you would need to do is to show that key steps are plausible. The actual *origin* of life is still very much a mystery and a point of debate.

    The other thing you can do is see if the theory continues to hold up well as new evidence is collected. So, for example, evolutionary biology said that there *should* be an animal intermediate between birds and more familiar reptiles, and fossils like that have been found. Evolutionary biology said that there *should* be animals intermediate between modern whales and quadrupedal, land-living mammals, and fossils like that have been found. Evolutionary biology says that there *should not* be animals like centaurs or mermaids, and they are not found. Evolutionary biology says that there should be consistent genetic and biochemical relationships between species, and this is what is found.

    In contrast, according to “Creation Science” every species was a separate, independent creation. There might be an Archeopteryx, or there might not; it is impossible to know. There might be Pakicetus, or there might not; it is impossible to know. There might be centaurs and mermaids, or there might not; it is impossible to know. There might be genetic and biochemical similarities between different species, or there might not; it is impossible to know.

  41. ContraMundum says:


    What you say is probably true of most relics that are less than 500 years old. A relic of Mother Theresa has a good chance of being historically verifiable. That is not true though, of relics of the True Cross, or the bones of the Three Kings. One could question the Holy Sepulcher, the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem, or the Cenacle in Jerusalem. And you’re right: none of those have to be correct identifications for the sake of our Faith.

    In that sense, it’s not just the Tilma of Juan Diego you can doubt; you are free to doubt the whole bit about Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a private revelation, and the Church deems it worthy of credence, but there is no compulsion to accept it. The same is true of Lourdes and Fatima.

    It is possible to keep the Faith with an unusually skeptical attitude, but in my opinion such an attitude can cause a Catholic to miss out on many blessings.

  42. LisaP. says:


    I have no doubt there are some that ascribe to creation science that do so for problematic reasons or in problematic ways, and I recognize that the Noah’s Ark crowd is easy to ridicule and then use as a brush to tar all who believe in anything.

    I’m the first to cry heretic, for example, at the person I know who insists upon one King James Bible as the only one that is the true Bible (as a Catholic, that one threw me for a huge loop), that believes that sick people are only sick because they don’t have enough faith — she believes in “creation science” with the quotes only because it gives her cover for her Biblical literalism that isn’t actually literalism, that’s actually what some guy from some seminary says the Bible means about creation.

    But there’s a group of folks I’ve met that are very religious and also very rational, and I find their explanations to date excessively credible. That doesn’t mean I believe they are correct, or that I ever will believe they are correct, it means they make as much logical and scientific sense to me as the theories on geology and biological development that I was taught previously do. In many ways, they make more sense to me. I could certainly be convinced that they are unfounded, but no argument I’ve seen yet has done so. So I’ve previously taken the position that while social Darwinism is in error and evil, Darwinian evolution theory is not incompatible with my sene of reason or my Catholic faith. All that’s really changed now is that I now find creation science not to be incompatible with my sense of reason or my Catholic faith.

    My only point in going there on this topic is that all my previous education had treated things like species evolution, geological timelines, and dating processes as being facts known with as much certainty as a round earth and a heliocentric solar system, and I’m finding that I now believe they are not in the same category at all. So if a Catholic relic serves to provide scientific evidence concerning the efficacy carbon dating, which addresses some cultural preconceptions about science and faith overall, that would be very fun, to me.

    The book from the conference was called “Creation and Evolution” — really interesting stuff, and interesting that it was addressed in that way. I found it surprising that the pope would “take” a topic normally addressed by Protestants, it seems now in light of the “Pope of Christian Unity” thing maybe it’s not that surprising. I’ve seen many Catholic statements trying to reassure secularists that they can believe in evolution and still convert to Catholicism, maybe inquiries like this would make it clear to Protestants that they can believe in creation science and still convert to Catholicism!

  43. Clemente says:

    Of course “Yes!” Our Lord didn’t need to leave any evidence of His Resurrection for us to believe, it just so happened that something that brought about His rising from the dead (radioactivity or whatever mysterious from the supernatural) left a vivid imprint of His image on the cloth. We have the imprint of His face on Veronica’s veil and there was no blast of radiation that could have caused it. I supposed we will get to know when we get to Heaven all about the divine plan and design that God has in mind when He brought about the Creation.

  44. PostCatholic says:

    You say this is news, but I seem to remember hearing about this pollen thing decades ago. Am I wrong?

  45. ContraMundum says:


    My problems with Creation Science are that I am convinced that, at its core, it is dishonest, and it can cause a completely unnecessary crisis of faith for those who have been raised in it and come discover its problems. Remember why St. Augustine rejected the Manichees.

  46. ContraMundum says:


    I’ve definitely heard something about pollen a decade or more ago. I’m not sure if this is something really new or what.

  47. LisaP. says:

    Contra, I can see how a religion that equates belief in a specific scientific theory with belief in God could lead to the problem you are describing. I come from such an entirely secular world view that I tend to see the value of being able to see science through the lens of faith as part of seeing everything through the lens of faith, because seeing anything through the lens of faith is relatively newer to me! I’ll have to look at the Augustine/Manichean thing, I knew he ascribed to and then rejected the heresy, but don’t know much else about it, thanks for the reference.

  48. ContraMundum says:


    I first encountered St. Augustine shortly after going through such a crisis myself.

    Here is one of the passages that struck me.

    6. Yet I remembered many a true saying of the philosophers about the creation, and I saw the confirmation of their calculations in the orderly sequence of seasons and in the visible evidence of the stars. And I compared this with the doctrines of Mani, who in his voluminous folly wrote many books on these subjects. But I could not discover there any account, of either the solstices or the equinoxes, or the eclipses of the sun and moon, or anything of the sort that I had learned in the books of secular philosophy. But still I was ordered to believe, even where the ideas did not correspond with — even when they contradicted — the rational theories established by mathematics and my own eyes, but were very different.

  49. ContraMundum says:

    Also this:

    When I hear of a Christian brother, ignorant of these things, or in error concerning them, I can tolerate his uninformed opinion; and I do not see that any lack of knowledge as to the form or nature of this material creation can do him much harm, as long as he does not hold a belief in anything which is unworthy of thee, O Lord, the Creator of all. But if he thinks that his secular knowledge pertains to the essence of the doctrine of piety, or ventures to assert dogmatic opinions in matters in which he is ignorant — there lies the injury. And yet even a weakness such as this, in the infancy of our faith, is tolerated by our Mother Charity until the new man can grow up “unto a perfect man,” and not be “carried away with every wind of doctrine.”

    But Mani had presumed to be at once the teacher, author, guide, and leader of all whom he could persuade to believe this, so that all who followed him believed that they were following not an ordinary man but thy Holy Spirit. And who would not judge that such great madness, when it once stood convicted of false teaching, should then be abhorred and utterly rejected? But I had not yet clearly decided whether the alternation of day and night, and of longer and shorter days and nights, and the eclipses of sun and moon, and whatever else I read about in other books could be explained consistently with his theories. If they could have been so explained, there would still have remained a doubt in my mind whether the theories were right or wrong. Yet I was prepared, on the strength of his reputed godliness, to rest my faith on his authority.

  50. Lynn Diane says:

    Of course the Shroud is that of Christ. When I was fallen away from the Church, a confused agnostic working on my doctorate in science, I reasoned that if there is a good God, he would show me a path to find Him. Within a few weeks I happened upon a copy of Ian Wilson’s book. As I read it, I knew that God had answered my prayer and that I should return to the Church ASAP. Ian Wilson described the Shroud as “a love letter to the twentieth century” and so it is.

  51. AnnAsher says:

    Yes, Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief.

  52. Spaniard says:

    I strongly recommend, for those who doubt, the conferences of Father Jorge Loring, 93 year old spanish jesuit, who gives conferences all around the world ( he was recently in the US). Greatest expert in the matter. We in Spain don’t doubt the Shroud, as the Lord gave us most of his relics: The Holy Grial in Valencia, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Veil of Veronica, the biggest Lignum Crucis…

  53. NoraLee9 says:

    Se amo Espana!

    I believe the Shroud is the Shroud. When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

  54. LisaP. says:

    Thanks for those quotes, Contra, they are helpful to me in several directions.

  55. Skeinster says:

    Like many of the commenters, I see the Shroud as an object of contemplation and devotion, but not necessary to my faith.
    I’ve always felt that the reports of flowers and pollen and imprints of coins on the Shroud were a little too much like special pleading or wishful thinking, for two reasons. One is the hasty burial of Jesus- would they have had time to do anything rather than simply wrap Him in a shroud? Remember why the women were going to the tomb on Easter Sunday. The second is wondering what the mega-volts of energy supposedly given off by the Resurrection would have done to two metal coins. Wouldn’t they have melted, without leaving an imprint?
    I think the Shroud can stand alone, without these extra ‘evidences’.

  56. Skeinster says:

    I should say that I’m referring to the reports of actual flower imprints on the Shroud- not just the pollen any fabric can pick up in any environment with flowering plants.

  57. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Skeinster — Re: most of the pollen people talk about (not the new interp), that’s just like your local pollen, mold, and particulate report on the weather. It didn’t get there on purpose; it got there because there’s a lot of stuff in the air if you go outside in the spring, and it gets on everything.

    Re: coins, putting coins on the eyes is certainly something you want to do with a dead body if you possibly can. Closed, weighted-down lids would make dealing with a body a lot less messy when you come back the next day, not to mention less freaky. A lot of these ladies had probably dealt with bodies before (since washing the dead is a Jewish woman’s task, even today).

    Now, when it comes to having oils and ointments on the Shroud, that does seem a bit like over-achieving, especially since we know they planned to come back. However, it’s possible that as the tomb was donated, the donor or somebody else may have given them nice ointment to pour on the body for a quick-fix, to keep it from stinking too much when they came back after waiting a whole day. (It wouldn’t have done much for internal decay processes, but it would have kept air from getting to the corpse, and a powerful perfume would have kept you from smelling deadness as much.) That’s maybe not the kind of thing you’d put into the story, but it would certainly go along with the drastic, quick solutions favored by Mary of Bethany and the woman who poured ointment on Jesus, and with the way that expensive donations showed up a lot.

  58. dans0622 says:

    The body of the Lord was fully anointed and prepared for burial according to the Gospel of John, 19:38-40 (as opposed to the Synoptics).

  59. Charlotte Allen says:

    As a medievalist, I have a lot of problems with the Shroud of Turin. For one thing, the image looks way too medieval for me: the elongation of the limbs and, especially, the face, which is very characteristic of Gothic art; and the forked beard. You never see a forked beard on Christ in early iconography, but it becomes very common starting in the thirteenth century, especially in Northern Europe. Furthermore, there are late-medieval paintings of Christ being taken down from the cross in which he is shown naked with his hands folded in front of him and lying on a large piece of cloth–all pictorial features of the Shroud of Turin.

    Second, the later Middle Ages, starting at the end of the eleventh century, were marked by a huge surge in devotion to the passion of Christ. There was a huge amount of very beautiful devotional literature focusing on Christ’s sufferings–poems, hymns, and prose meditations–aimed at both religious and lay audiences. During this period many relics of the passion suddenly appeared: the Holy Coat of Trier (Christ’s seamless garment) in 1196, and the Holy Blood of Hailes in 1270. The Shroud of Turin fits in well with this timeline, since it doesn’t seem to be mentioned earlier than the fifteenth century (although there’s some record of a shroud site in Lirey, France, during the fourteenth century, it might have been a different shroud). This time frame fits well with the carbon-dating results for the Shroud, which tend to place it as an artifact of the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries. The proliferation of fake relics of the passion during that time doesn’t mean that a genuine one could have existed alongside them, but it doesn’t help the cause for the Shroud’s authenticity.

    Third, it is hard to square the Shroud with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s burial. The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) mention the body of Jesus being placed in a “sindon,” a large piece of fine cloth that we translate as “shroud.” All well and good, but John mentions only “othonia,” a plural diminutive meaning “linen cloths” and suggesting more than one piece of fabric, and also a “soudarion” or napkin for wrapping Christ’s head. (The Sudarium of Oviedo became a focus of Christian devotion during the eighth century.) It makes sense that Christ’s body was first laid in a shroud and then wrapped with more grave-cloths–but the Shroud of Turin doesn’t contain any signs that such secondary wrapping ever occurred. there’s no “wrinkling” of the image of either the body or the head.

    This leads to a third problem: the lack of any documentary witness to the existence of the Shroud of Turin before the fifteenth century. Ian Wilson made a valiant attempt in 1998 to identify the Shroud with the Holy Mandylion, said to be a first-century portrait of Christ on cloth that was revered at Edessa and Constantinople until the Fourth Crusade (1204) when it disappeared, presumably destroyed or stolen by one of the Venetians who desecrated many of Constantinople’s holy places. The problem here: the Mandylion in traditional iconography is merely a representation of Christ’s face, not his entire body, and it is often identified with the image of Christ on Veronica’s veil. The lack of a provenance for the Shroud before its appearance in Western Europe late in the fourteenth century doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inauthentic, but it doesn’t help.

    Finally, the scientific evidence. Carbon-dating tests during the late 1980s placed the Shroud’s production at around the very time it appeared as an object of veneration. Now, some say that the carbon-daters used a “bad” fragment of cloth that had been mended during the Middle Ages. Others insist that there was nothing un-representative about the Shroud sample that was used. Some researchers claim to have seen first-century coins closing Christ’s eyes–or writing in Greek or Aramaic on the shroud. Others say that either no such evidence exists, or that it is highly ambiguous (google “Shroud of Turin coins” to see what I mean). The same goes for pollens, bloodstains, fabric weaves, and so forth.

    I don’t have a clue about how the Shroud of Turin was produced. I’ve read some theories: paint, primitive camera obscura photography, and the caramelization of the sugars remaining atop the linen fibers as starches were washed out of the fabric after it was woven. Whoever made it, whether intentionally or accidentally, might have used a human body–or a sculpted image of a human figure. It might have been a victim of crucifixion, whether during the first century or the thirteenth century. The body might have been Christ’s. But that’s a long shot.

  60. Johnno says:

    There is more than enough ample evidence to show that regardless of whether this belonged to Christ, what we have here on its own merits is something that is IMPOSSIBLE to replicate even with all the current scientific methods at our disposal. I firmly believe it is Christ’s shroud. Even the light required to reproduce such an image requires the detonation of millions of atomic bombs. Billions upon billions of watts. That should be no surprise coming from He that is the Light of the World, and who posesses the Shekinah Glory of God! That light which first was there at the beginning of Creation!

    But what does it matter? The sun can spin in the sky, and God can write out His name using the stars in the night sky in perfect grammatical English, and people will still reject what is obvious. Existence itself is a miracle. Who stops to think that the mere fact they exist and think and ponder this very question is itself supernatural and defies science? The birth of every child is an impossible miraculous process that we still don’t comprehend today when a tiny sperm amongst billions overcomes great odds. Greater mathematical odds than even what evolutionary scientists pin on their universe origins fairy tales. It’s enough to prove that every child is sent here by a purposeful and powerful motive, enough to overcome the entire odds of the universe. And we murder them! Mankind is stupid.

  61. Michelle F says:

    I voted “yes” because science has not been able to demonstrate that it is or could be a forgery by replicating it. My faith does not depend on its authenticity, but I will believe that it is what it appears to be until someone can replicate it.

  62. Parasum says:

    I voted “Don’t know”. Because I don’t.

  63. McCall1981 says:

    If the radio carbon tests done in 1988 could have been incorrect (because of the fire), why don’t they simply test it again, making sure to take a “representative” sample that wasn’t effected by the fire?

    Or is the problem that the whole shroud was affected by the fire, so that no sample could be reliable?

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