Ye shall know them by their photographs


An old friend who just discovered this blog writes:

We keep reading that the Catholic church does not have a position on the shroud. Like they can?  That’s BS!  Look at the picture on their website. It’s a big case of watch what I do and ignore what I say. Do you think all those bishops and priests are ( What’s the word? Venerating? ) what might be a medieval forgery? Give me a break. Ye shall know them by their fruits.

Ouch. Not good context. Matthew 7:15&16 (NRSV) reads, “15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.”

Not good context at all.

The above picture that my friend included in his email is in rotation on the official exposition website,, and is currently the masthead for the Archdiocese’s official exposition Facebook and Twitter pages.

I get the point but is it valid?  Stephen Jones is saying similar things in his blog, absent the photograph:

As I have stated before, it is duplicitous (i.e. two-faced), of the Vatican to refuse to confirm or deny that the Shroud is authentic. By its actions of spending the equivalent of tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars preserving the Shroud and exhibiting it to millions of people as though it is authentic, the Vatican clearly does believe that the Shroud is authentic, so it should say so. Shroud anti-authenticists cite the Vatican’s refusal to state that the Shroud is authentic as evidence that it is not. I am not being anti-Catholic in this, I am being pro-truth! (italic emphasis is Steven’s)

For what it’s worth, I think the church is saying the right thing and showing the shroud in the right way.

5 thoughts on “Ye shall know them by their photographs”

  1. Anyone can see clearly by the Church’s statements they have no stated an official position in verbiage. Yet this reader clearly sees that this is not the only way to express the Church’s beliefs. Hence this observation is consistent with all Catholic teaching. Belief and prayer go hand-in-hand. Yet the Shroud is unnecessary for the faith of the Church, but it is a supplement. In the Shroud we see the gospels in the image itself, a kind of visual gospel.

  2. Not exactly true, Andy, about an official position. Who cares that some Vatican bureaucrats have not stated a position, when the Popes have in fact been clear:

    Pope Pius XI (1922-1939): “… certainly not the work of any human hand.”

    Pope Pius XII (1939-1958): “The linen in which Joseph of Arimathea enveloped the sacred remains of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Pope John XXIII (1958-63): “This can only be the Lord’s own doing.”

    Pope Paul VI (1963-78): “…The image from the Holy Shroud reveals to us the human and divine personality of Christ.”

    Pope John Paul II (1978-2005): “The Holy Shroud is the most splendid relic of the Passion and Resurrection.”

    Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013): “… a photographic document of the darkest mystery of faith — that of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.”

    Pope Francis I (2013- ): “By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us”

  3. I don’t think that if you don’t know whether the Shroud is authentic or not, it is duplicitous or two-faced to say so. Even if the Catholic church were convinced that the Shroud was a fake, she would surely still recognise it as a remarkable artefact, and well worth the respect shown to it. It might not be quite so surrounded by candles and incense, but, as it stands, not knowing one way or the other, it is best to be on the more respectful side. If I had a painting I thought might be a Picasso but might not, I wouldn’t relegate it to a dusty corner, I’d look after it carefully, just in case. Stephen Jones’s “the Vatican clearly does believe that the Shroud is authentic, so it should say so” is a personal opinion, not a fact. Many people have the opposite opinion. I think the church says what it means.

    1. I think the Popes say what they mean. “The Vatican” says all kinds of things, some of which it retracts a few weeks later….

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