Mark Shea wrote a nice article on the subject for the National Catholic Register. I particularly appreciated the quote from Chesterton, which was illustrated perfectly in the comment boxes on NCR and on Mark’s blog entry. As usual, comments from believers are reasonable and articulate, since relics and private revelations, no matter how potent and convincing, are never articles of faith, while comments from unbelievers are often heated and sadly misinformed. The Wicked Paedia — to borrow an expression from David Warren — article invoked by a commenter is not bad, but it is too short for so large a subject and misses one important point among others: the perfect three-dimensional image as revealed by the VP8 Analyzer.

To find reliable information on the Shroud of Turin, there is no other place to go but Barrie Schwortz’s outstanding website (now maintained by STERA Inc., a nonprofit organization). I studied the question a good bit and translated in French a couple of articles from this website twelve years ago.  I never doubted that the Shroud is in fact the burial cloth of Jesus and that the image was formed at the precise moment of his resurrection by some kind of heating that made the superficial fibers of the cloth dry and agglomerate. The fact that the back and front images portray the subject at an equal distance from the cloth suggests the body was ‘floating’. The perfect three-dimensionality exposed by the VP8 Analyzer and the X-Ray quality silhouetting the bones (of the hands most of all)  suggest the light came from the interior of the subject.

It seems that the wealth of details revealed on this extraordinary cloth were meant for us, ‘postmodern’ people. Photography revealed how perfect the negative image was at the dawn of the 20th Century; forensic medicine described the torture inflicted to Jesus with almost unbearable precision; other tests in all sorts of science demonstrated that the cloth is in all probability of the 1st Century Middle East. The carbon dating alone cannot overrule all other tests AND history: the Shroud image with the holes in the cloth was reproduced in a manuscript from the 12th Century, and other mysterious cloths that could very well be the Shroud itself crop here and there as far in the past as the 6th Century (the image of Edessa). Thus the carbon dating appears to be far from infallible. Some reasonable hypotheses were advanced by physicists (if the image was produced by radiation) or archaeologists-biologists (bioplastic dirt coating) as to why carbon dating is not valid in this case, whether or not the dating was made on an area of the cloth more contaminated or more recent than the rest.

But if ever carbon dating is proved accurate and the Shroud origin is medieval, it would just render it more mysterious still, more miraculous in fact. Like André Frossard said about naturalist explanations of the Red Sea passage bordering to fantasy, there are explanations of miracles more miraculous than miracles. It would take much more serious objections to bother anyone who knows, by direct or indirect witness, that miracles do happen.