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Preface: Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud

In this book we will cover the scientific assault on the Shroud that resulted in its fall from grace. This will be done historically starting with the work of the first Italian Scientific Commission’s examination in 1969 and continuing through a second Italian study in 1973 in which several non-Italian scientists were included. Following this, we will cover the 1978 U.S. Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). Then we will discuss our experiments leading to the conclusion the Shroud is a medieval painting. Throughout, we will include Church reaction to the results of these projects as included in many letters to me during the period (1974-1989) from the late Father Peter M. Rinaldi, S.D.B. regarded by many as “Mr. Shroud” himself (see Frontispiece). As its most vocal supporter, he has won respect and admiration from everyone who knew him.

A remarkable man and author of several fine books on the Shroud (Rinaldi, 1972, 1974, 1981); Father Rinaldi died in 1993. He was an effective ambassador for the Shroud and for the Church. He was immensely helpful to the scientists by reacting to their wishes and by representing those wishes in Turin. Without Father Peter Rinaldi as guide, counselor, moderator and friend, we would not have had the opportunity for a scientific study of the Shroud. Neither the Church nor Father Rinaldi expected to be repaid by having scientists find it to be a fine painting but not the Shroud of Christ. He fought hard for an opportunity for the scientists to study the Shroud. He fought even harder, like a tigress defending her young, to protect the Sanctity of the Shroud from the scientific attacks, first by members of the Italian Commission in 1973 and later by one lone member of STURP who found paint pigments and paint media but no blood and who concluded that the “Shroud” is a beautiful painting produced by an inspired artist in 1355 (McCrone, 1980, 1981, 1987/88, 1990). Finally, Father Rinaldi had to endure the pain of having three top carbon-dating laboratories date the “Shroud” to 1325.

This, then, is the story of the scientific assault on the Shroud. As a scientific exercise, it doesn’t deserve very much attention. It is no great problem to carbon-date cloth or to determine the composition of colored substances on that cloth. But when that cloth is thought by the Church and most of the faithful to be the Shroud of Christ then both become tremendous problems. By all odds, the Shroud is one of the most precious relics of the Church. It is so regarded not only by Catholics but many from other religions – most of the people in the world regard the Shroud as a final document in the life of one of the world’s greatest teachers.

Any scientist working in the glare of such attention, feels immensely honored but under great pressure to reach a correct final conclusion. He can expect that any finding on the side of an authentic shroud would be accepted and acclaimed. He should also expect (this I say more in retrospect) that any suggestion the Shroud is not authentic, will result in bitter denunciation from the millions of believers in the Shroud. He soon realizes that not too many generations ago, he might have faced “burning at the stake.” Today, he is only disbelieved, dishonored, vilified or, if lucky, ignored. Even a few pious scientists, all of whom are expected to be objective, become no different from the most pious in their feelings and actions toward anyone who doesn’t share their belief in the reality of the Shroud.

Far more serious than any of the above, is the feeling among some scientists that because they are convinced the Shroud is real, anything said or done on behalf of the Shroud is justified and must be true because they know the Shroud is the burial Shroud of Christ. Anything propounded to the contrary must then be wrong and the person propounding such blasphemous lies should be censured. Very unfortunately, this has happened with some of the Shroud scientists. Without mentioning any names, some things were said and some results were obtained because the “Shroud is real.” Some felt so certain the Shroud had to be real they were willing to make statements and report results that would have been true only if the Shroud were real. This is a very sad result of the Shroud project. I like to feel that it says more for the power of religious faith and the Shroud, its ambassador, than it does for the weakness of a few scientists.

On rereading some parts of this manuscript, I may seem less than charitable toward STURP and others who differ with my views. It is not normal for me to behave in this manner. I plead circumstances. I have spent far more time on the Shroud project than it warranted scientifically. I was forced to spend 10 times the time I needed scientifically to prove my case. I have been rewarded by fan-mail calling me an “incompetent senile old fart who fudges and misrepresents data.” STURP reviewed my first Shroud papers (McCrone, 1980, 1980, 1981) submitted as part of the agreement I signed. Eric Jumper responded with – and I quote – “In short, your data is [sic] misrepresented, your observations are highly questionable, and your conclusions are pontifications rather than scientific logic, I cannot permit this paper to carry the Shroud of Turin Research Project seal of approval.” Since then I’ve been insulted, vilified and (when I was lucky, ignored), in innumerable books, articles, interviews, and television presentations. In January 1980, Jackson, Jumper, and Rogers came to my lab saying I’d given them an inferior set of the two identical sets I had prepared from Ray Rogers original Shroud sticky tapes. I, Mr. nice guy, played right into their hands by offering to trade sets (see p. 78). They left with my set and, of course, I never got the other set. That made it impossible to do some experiments.

I have rarely heard anyone agree with me or comment charitably. So, I plead guilty to intemperance in referring to STURP especially and to others in this book. The sad thing is – I don’t feel any better for doing it.

Finally, I am pleased to acknowledge major assistance from McCrone Associate’s personnel both on the Vinland Map and the Turin Shroud; particularly Mark Andersen, Mike Bayard, John Brown, John Gavrilovic, Gene Grieger, Ralph Hinsch, Howard Humecki, Betty Majewski, Bob Muggli, Deborah Piper, and Anna Teetsov. David Baynes-Cope, Helen Wallis of the British Museum (Helen of the BM Map Library), and Kenneth Towe of the Smithsonian Institution were of considerable help with suggestions and critical evaluations.

I am especially grateful to a group of scientists who carefully evaluated the publications of the Shroud, both STURP’s and my own and wrote to me with their considered conclusions regarding my conclusion that the Shroud is a fine medieval painting; the personnel of the University of Arizona, Oxford, and the Zurich Technological Institute who did such a fine job of carbon-dating the Shroud and, incidentally, agreeing on a date only 30 years different from mine (1325 versus 1355). I thank David Roife of Screen-Pro, London, for permission to quote from his translation of the Report of the Italian Commission appointed by Archbishop Michele Pellegrino of Turin in 1976. I am indebted to the Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester, New York for the photograph of “Mr. Shroud,” the Rev. Peter M. Rinaldi, S.D.B. (see Frontispiece Dedication).

The Very Reverend Father Timothy M. Ploch, S.D.B. of the Salesian Provincial House in New Rochelle, NY kindly approved the inclusion of Father Rinaldi’s letters. Figure 7.b. (my Figure 66, p. 164) from Morris et al. 1980 and Figure 12, p. 1925 (my Figure 67, p. 165) from Accetta et al. 1980 are included with the kind permission of the Editors of X-ray Spectrometry and Applied Optics, respectively. The Editor of Analytica Chimica Acta has approved use of material quoted directly from the paper “Physics and Chemistry of the Shroud of Turin” by Schwalbe and Rogers (1982). The Doctors Thom Kubic and Steven Shafersman kindly granted permission to include their letters. Leica, Inc., approved inclusion of Henry Baker’s “Cautions in Viewing Objects” on my page 80. Finally, the Director of Palais des Papes in Avignon, France approved the inclusion of two figures 50 and 51 (my pages 125 and 145) showing two 1341 paintings of Simone Martini. Debra Gilliand deserves my deepest thanks for suffering through nearly endless revisions and many “final” drafts; thank the Lord for desktop publishing. Dave Stoney, Executive Director of the McCrone Research Institute, spent many man-day’s on careful and substantive reviews of the final document. Finally, Lucy McCrone worked long hours especially on the Vinland Map but acting as a critical sounding board over a period of more than 20 years helped me keep my feet on the ground and maintain my sanity in spite of STURP and the Church.

Walter C. McCrone
November 1996
(Thanksgiving Day)