Tag Archives: Catholics

Turin Shroud ‘is not a medieval forgery’


Turin Shroud ‘is not a medieval forgery’

By Nick Squires, Rome correspondent

Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy have dated the shroud to ancient times, a few centuries before and after the life of Christ.

Many Catholics believe that the 14ft-long linen cloth, which bears the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, was used to bury Christ’s body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified 2,000 years ago.

The analysis is published in a new book, “Il Mistero della Sindone” or The Mystery of the Shroud, by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist.

The tests will revive the debate about the true origins of one of Christianity’s most prized but mysterious relics and are likely to be hotly contested by sceptics.

Scientists, including Prof Fanti, used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud, which is kept in a special climate-controlled case in Turin.

The tests dated the age of the shroud to between 300 BC and 400AD.

The experiments were carried out on fibres taken from the Shroud during a previous study, in 1988, when they were subjected to carbon-14 dating.

Those tests, conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, appeared to back up the theory that the shroud was a clever medieval fake, suggesting that it dated from 1260 to 1390.

But those results were in turn disputed on the basis that they may have been skewed by contamination by fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.

The mystery of the shroud has baffled people for centuries and has spawned not only religious devotion but also books, documentaries and conspiracy theories.

The linen cloth appears to show the imprint of a man with long hair and a beard whose body bears wounds consistent with having been crucified.

Each year it lures hundreds of thousands of faithful to Turin Cathedral, where it is kept in a specially designed, climate-controlled case.

Scientists have never been able to explain how the image of a man’s body, complete with nail wounds to his wrists and feet, pinpricks from thorns around his forehead and a spear wound to his chest, could have formed on the cloth.

The Vatican has never said whether it believes the shroud to be authentic or not, although Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering.

His newly-elected successor, Pope Francis, will provide an introduction when images of the shroud appear on television on Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection.

The Pope has recorded a voice-over introduction for the broadcast on RAI, the state television channel.

“It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help (people) never to lose hope,” said Cesare Nosiglia, the Archbishop of Turin, who also has the title “pontifical custodian of the shroud”.

“The display of the shroud on a day as special as Holy Saturday means that it represents a very important testimony to the Passion and the resurrection of the Lord,” he said.

For the first time, an app has been created to enable people to explore the holy relic in detail on their smart phones and tablets.

The app, sanctioned by the Catholic Church and called “Shroud 2.0”, features high definition photographs of the cloth and enables users to see details that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

“For the first time in history the most detailed image of the shroud ever achieved becomes available to the whole world, thanks to a streaming system which allows a close-up view of the cloth. Each detail of the cloth can be magnified and visualised in a way which would otherwise not be possible,” Haltadefinizione, the makers of the app, said.
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Catholics, contraceptives and John Locke


Catholics, contraceptives and John Locke

By Michael Gerson

It is extraordinary how far some will go to knit the random scraps and patches of events into the quilt of a narrative. So the Susan B. Komen controversy, resistance to the administration’s contraceptive mandate, a stag-party joke by Foster Friess and a cruel epithet from Rush Limbaugh somehow add up to a Republican war on women, sure to provoke the political backlash of an entire gender.

American women haven’t behaved as predicted or demanded. President Obama’s job approval has risen or, more recently, fallen independently of the chromosomal status of voters. Men and women, it turns out, resent dipping into their retirement savings to drive to work.

Recent opinion surveys on the contraceptive mandate, in particular, have shown women to be an independent-minded lot. In coverage of its own recent poll, the New York Times conceded that the views of women on this topic are “split.” By a plurality of 46 percent to 44 percent, women believe that employers should be able to “opt out” of providing birth-control coverage for religious reasons. But opinion is not really “split” on the question of whether “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital and university” should be able to opt out of offering coverage. Women support this proposition by 53 percent to 38 percent.

How is this possible? Americans overwhelmingly endorse contraception and regularly practice what they preach. Most believe — myself included — that child spacing and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases are public goods. Why not impose this social consensus on all private institutions?

The answer depends on your view, not of contraception, but of pluralism and religious freedom.

One tradition of religious liberty contends that freedom of conscience is protected and advanced by the autonomy of religious groups. In this view, government should honor an institutional pluralism — the ability of people to associate, live and act in accordance with their religious beliefs, limited only by the clear requirements of public order. So Roger Williams welcomed Catholics and Quakers to the Rhode Island colony, arguing that a “Church or company of worshippers (whether true or false) .?.?. may dissent, divide, breake into Schismes and Factions, sue and implead each other at the Law, yea wholly breake up and dissolve into pieces and nothing, and yet the peace of the Citie not be in the least measure impaired or disturbed.”

There is another form of modern liberalism that defines freedom of conscience in purely personal terms. Only the individual and the state are real, at least when it comes to the law. And the state must often intervene to protect the individual from the oppression of illiberal social institutions, particularly religious ones.

This is the guiding philosophy of the American Civil Liberties Union. But as Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, pointed out to me, this approach has roots in the Anglo American tradition of political philosophy. John Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration” urges legal respect for individual conscience because “everyone is orthodox to himself.” But Locke offered no tolerance for the institution of the Catholic Church: “That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince.” In Locke’s view, Catholics can worship as they wish as individuals, but their institution is a danger to the liberal order.

In American history, the treatment of the Catholic Church has often been the measure of institutional religious tolerance. It is amazing how Lockean (unconsciously, one assumes) recent actions by the Obama administration have been. Catholics individuals are free to worship. Catholic institutions must be forced to reflect liberal ideals and values.

On a variety of issues, balancing individual and institutional rights isn’t easy. But the contraceptive mandate is a particularly revealing test case. One side of the controversy argues that the autonomy of religious institutions is essential to the expression of individual conscience and important to the common good. The other side believes that the moral and health choices of individuals need to be protected by government against oppressive religious groups such as the Catholic bishops. So it is not enough for contraceptives to be legal and generally available; they must be provided (directly or indirectly) by Catholic institutions to their employees.

This is the real debate on the contraceptive mandate — and the administration has not won it.
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