Image from Shroud of Turin

A new book says the controversial Shroud of Turin – said to bear the image of the crucified Jesus Christ – has been wrongly condemned as a fraud and desecrated due to serious errors in its study and conservation.

The Rape of the Turin Shroud – how Christianity’s most precious relic was wrongly condemned, and violated,” by William Meacham, contends the shroud was dismissed as a medieval fake by the general public after poorly planned Carbon-14 dating in 1988.

The linen also suffered major damage in 2002 through what Meacham calls an ill-advised and secretly executed restoration “conducted for cosmetic and misguided conservation purposes.”

The author points out that in the early 1980s, the shroud was at the pinnacle of its prestige, as a considerable number of academics and scientists thought it could be the burial cloth of Christ.

But that perception changed almost overnight with the announcement in 1988 that Carbon-14 dating had placed the origin of the cloth at about A.D. 1260-1390.

Meacham insists, however, the relic was wrongly condemned, because the dating methodology was poorly planned, marred by petty rivalries and scientifically flawed.

He finds it remarkable that a second sample was never run to confirm the dating. From studies done in the last 10 years, the author asserts, it appears very likely the dating is invalid and the shroud is much older.

It could actually be Christ’s burial cloth after all, the author says, but for unknown reasons, authorities at Turin and with the Catholic Church have refused requests for a new Carbon-14 measurement.

As WorldNetDaily reported in 2000, in the decade after the measurement, additional evidence called into question the process of carbon dating on certain materials – textiles in particular.

And a relic known as the Sudarium of Oviedo, believed to be the other linen cloth found in the tomb of Christ, also has been used as evidence of the shroud’s authenticity.

The author Meacham says the “restoration” in 2002 resulted in the loss of valuable scientific data as materials were taken from the cloth without stringent controls.

Repairs dating from 1534 that constituted part of the shroud’s visual heritage were removed, he points out.

The attempt to restore the shroud was done in secret, without peer review, he added, and “engineered by an opportunistic clique around the archbishop of Turin.” The effort has been condemned by most shroud researchers as a conservation and scientific disaster, he said, as the relic and its study have been altered forever.

Fr. Peter Rinaldi of the Holy Shroud Guild said he found a paper Meacham did on his assertions to be “complete, lucid, cogent, one of the finest presentations I have ever read on the subject.”

Shroud researchers Joe Marino and Sue Benford of Dublin, Ohio, said the new book shows how politics is playing a “significant role in Jesus’ putative burial cloth.”

Los Angeles-based photographer and webmaster of Barrie Schwortz, who believes the shroud is authentic, said Meacham gives a “frank and often critical accounting of what he calls the ‘desecration’ of the Shroud of Turin. … From its provocative title to its stinging criticisms of the shroud’s custodians, this book was sure to spark controversy … it also reveals a side of [shroud research] seldom seen by the general public.”

Examine the Shroud of Turin online

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