Add Chemist Luigi Garlaschetti to the growing list of skeptics who argue the Shroud of Turin is a fake. But is what shroud represents more important than its authenticity? Pope John Paul II thought so.
In 2004, a 10-year-old cheese sandwich with a likeness of the Virgin Mary reportedly sold for $28,000 on eBay. And on slow news days, local TV stations report Virgin Mary sightings on fogged windows and in cloud formations.
Many like me discount such fantasies as ridiculous, but what counts is the meaning of the cheese sandwich in the eyes of the beholder. Quite frankly, the site of a freshly grilled cheese sandwich makes me hungry.
That brings us to the Shroud of Turin, which was in the news again last week. I don't pay a huge amount of attention to such things, but if someone asked me if the shroud was really Christ's burial garb, I'd say "nonsense."
Last week, Italian chemist and professor Luigi Garlaschelli also said "nonsense" after he recreated a shroud using the image of one of his students.
"Luigi Garlaschelli created a copy of the shroud by wrapping a specially woven cloth over one of his students, painting it with pigment, baking it in an oven (which he called a "shroud machine") for several hours, then washing it," according to a CNN story (see pic). "Then for the sake of completeness I have added the bloodstains, the burns, the scorching because there was a fire in 1532," Garlaschelli said.
He claims his tests prove that some of the unique characteristics of the shroud such as the absence of paint or pigment can be replicated by an artist or his case, a scientist. Shroud defenders have long argued the shroud cannot be recreated.
Garlaschelli, also a professor at the University of Pavia, is not the first to debunk the shroud. In 1988, three universities conducted carbon dating tests and concluded it was created between 1260 and 1380. That, of course, set off a firestorm. And some like RomanCathlicbog.com have rushed to discredit Garlaschelli's findings, claiming he was funded by an "Italian association of atheists and agnostics."
Actually, the official Vatican position on the shroud is quite rationale, focusing more on what the it means to believers rather than defending its authenticity.
"For the believer, what counts above all is that the shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. We cannot escape the idea that the image it presents has such a profound relationship with what the Gospels tell of Jesus' passion and death, that every sensitive person feels inwardly touched and moved beholding it," Pope John Paul II wrote of his 1998 visit to the Turin Cathedral where it is housed.
John Paul II also said that proving or disproving its authenticity should be left to scientists. Who can argue with that?
I have no problem with people believing what they want and I know faith has served powerfully in the lives of many. What the shroud represents is more important than whether it's real on not. Unless someone invents a time machine so we can get a `film at 11' eyewitness account, it will never be definitively proven one way or the other although the carbon tests seem pretty convincing.
I also think that heathen Garlaschelli who confesses to being a non-believer is onto something. As for the cheese sandwich, I have a hard time swallowing it, but someone willing to pay 28 grand didn't.