Wayne Phillips: Hopes to create a small “Shroud Army”

The Shroud in the papers this Easter Sunday

imageThe Tampa Tribune is up with an Easter Sunday story:

CLEARWATER — In the mid-1970s, Wayne Phillips saw a television program telling the story of the Shroud of Turin, a centuries-old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man.

At first, he was miffed. Years of Catholic schooling — Jesuit High School in Tampa and Notre Dame University — and he had never known about this artifact? (He would later learn that it was a delicate subject at the Vatican.)

A doctor, he has a curious mind. A mind shaped by logic and by science. But as a Catholic, he understands some beliefs are still a mystery.

He yearned to reconcile both and know the truth in his mind and in his heart. So Phillips began his own decades-long investigation to determine the shroud’s authenticity.

There have been many ups and downs in this journey. But today, Phillips says without hesitation: “I believe it is real.”

Now he wants to share his knowledge with others.

A skeptical point of view for balance:

The shroud’s iconic image is venerated by many Christians, specifically Roman Catholics.

Conversely, it has been mocked by disbelievers, landing on the cover of tabloids such as the National Enquirer and satirized on an episode of “South Park.”

Pat Linse, co-founder of The Skeptics Society, calls the shroud “a highly stylized, somewhat amateur rubbing. It’s like Big Foot. Every time someone comes up with a new theory or whatnot, it’s gets a big flurry of attention.”

Linse has no problem with believers who hold the shroud sacred as an article of faith.

But when people claim they have scientific proof that it’s real, they had better be prepared to stand their ground against the critics. For the 100 facts in the shroud’s defense, Linse says, “we can counter with 1 million that show it’s a fake.


“The church keeps it alive because humanity can’t prove it’s real,” Phillips says. “It can’t prove it’s not, either.”

He understands the doubters.

His lifelong friend, Ralph Ruso, a retired Hillsborough County educator and school administrator, is one of them.

Phillips and Ruso grew up together in Seminole Heights and Davis Islands and served as best man at each other’s weddings. Ruso has been to three of Phillips’ presentations, learning something new every time.

But does he believe?

“It’s still a mystery to me,” Ruso says. “I can’t say it’s real. What I do like is that there’s this ongoing process of studying it and trying to figure it out. I love Wayne’s passion for it. He says there’s hope for me yet, but I’m not there.”

Phillips says even his wife of 44 years, Bridget, a devoted Catholic, thinks he’s “insane” (she really doesn’t), and only one of their four grown children has come to one of his talks. He’s fine with that, because the shroud is his obsession, not theirs.

STURP mentioned:

In 1978, two years after Phillips saw the documentary, a team of American scientists banded together for the Shroud of Turin Research Project.

They were not predisposed to putting their stamp of approval on it; according to Phillips, most were in the group were agnostic, and only two were Catholics.

After five days of repeated tests, sample taking, photographs and X-rays using state-of-the-art equipment, they eventually determined the shroud “showed no evidence of the hand of an artist” and that its image was of a “real human form of a scourged, crucified man.”

And the carbon dating:

But in 1988, laboratories in Zurich, Oxford and Arizona performed carbon-14 dating on a small corner of the linen. All three came back with a date range of 1260 to 1390, declaring the cloth to only be 600 to 700 years old.

A story in The New York Times called the shroud a fake.

“I was completed destroyed,” Phillips says. “Just devastated. A dozen years into this, and I felt like I had been duped.”

Still, a small part in him wouldn’t let go. As much as he relied on science, what if the testing proved flawed?

The debate continued, though the naysayers felt the case was closed.

Then, in 2005, a scientific paper concluded that the sample used to test the shroud’s age in 1988 was taken from a rewoven area, rather than an original swatch of the linen. Therefore, the radiocarbon date was not valid for determining the shroud’s true age.

9 thoughts on “Wayne Phillips: Hopes to create a small “Shroud Army””

  1. >> they had better be prepared to stand their ground against the critics. For the 100 facts in the shroud’s defense, Linse says, “we can counter with 1 million that show it’s a fake.<<

    I'd like to know what those million facts are that show it to be a fake. I know of two: The D'Arcis Memorandum, and the 1988 C-14 test. Both are very problematic(the C-14 more than the memorandum), but I would think that the rest of the evidence is in favor of authenticity, or at least that it's not a work of art in any conventional sense.

  2. Dr. Phillips, I appreciate your work and hope to hear more about it in the future. In the 70’s I saw a mock-up of the man whose image is on the shroud. The art piece was standing to the side of the entrance to the Chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I stood next to it and felt as though this was a true human form in perfect dimensions. I’ve been curious ever since. I want to believe it is real, but also being a scientist (Regis University a Jesuit school), I need that proof to substantiate my belief. I do have a question of you that I’ve never seen discussed probably because it might seem indelicate to the general public. My question is what is on the back side of the cloth? All we ever see in photos are the front view but I know the 14′ length of cloth was used with the body laying on it then folded up and over the front. My thoughts are that the backside should reveal pooling of blood and other materials as the man was dying and after he had died. Is this the case? Do these findings further substantiate the validity of the cloth? Did the shroud fold over the man’s feet or the man’s head? Why is only 1/2 of the cloth ever discussed? I guess I had more than one question, ha! Thanks for your time, Ali

    1. Hi Ali. I’m sorry I’m not Dr Phillips, but I guess I can answer your question as well as any. By the “back” side, do you mean the side that wasn’t touching the body? Or the side that was touching the body, but lay underneath it so that the image of the back appeared on it?
      A quick Google search will give you the images of both halves of the cloth, with the front (face and arms) and the back (buttocks and footprints) sides. To find a picture of the outside of the cloth, which bears no image and less blood, try http://shroud.wikispaces.com/PROPERTIES.

      This side, without the images, has very rarely been seen, so it is difficult to discuss. Since 1534 it has been hidden by backing cloths, and was only exposed briefly in 2002 when they were changed. Even so, some people have tried to analyse the photos that were taken and think they see a faint image of at least the face. More controversially, some people think the two images of the face (on opposite sides of the same area of cloth) show two slightly different positions of the features. It might be supposed that the half of this cloth that was in contact with the surface of the tomb would have stains or stone dust from the tomb on it, but this has not been confirmed.

      As for the folding, if it covered a body, the sheet was folded over the head, which is why the two images of the heads are close together. It looks as if the body was laid on the cloth with a short distance over at the foot end, which was folded up over the toes, and a body’s length at the head end, which was draped back over the head and laid against the insteps, possibly even overlapping the bottom bit of cloth by an inch or two.

      I assure you that although the face and front half of the image is most discussed, the rest of the Shroud has been far from neglected!

    2. Hi Ali, please check out this clip From Dr. John Jackson from the US Airforce academy. It gives more insight about how the shroud wrapped the body specially with emphasis on the blood stains

  3. Fact? Really? “according to Phillips, most were in the group were agnostic, and only two were Catholics.” Really?

    1. Actually, there were 3 or 4 Catholics, 3 Jews, 1 Mormon, 1 Evangelical, some Protestants of various denominations in addition to some agnostics (and perhaps even some atheists). Since declaring one’s religious affiliation was never a prerequisite for membership in the STURP team, we don’t have an accurate list. Members were asked to join the team based solely on their scientific or technical skills and what they could contribute to the scientific examination of the Shroud.

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