In defense of the Shroud of Turin

Years ago, the scientists who conducted carbon-14 dating tests on the Shroud of Turin met at Manhattan’s Columbia University in an open forum, which I attended (“Shroud of Evidence,” Dec. 13). They revealed that samples for the tests were taken exclusively from the fringes and admitted these were insufficient to draw conclusions.

As an archeological artifact — rather than a religious relic — the shroud offers formidable forensic and circumstantial evidence of the crucified Jewish man whose body left a photographic-like imprint on the burial cloth by some unexplained phenomena. A good detective would easily conclude beyond a shadow of a doubt that the slain man was Jesus as described in the Gospels.

— Robert Bonsignore,  Brooklyn, N.Y.

The last judgment

Father Robert Barron certainly started his new column with a bang (“Choosing Hell,” Dec. 6). He reminds me of the priest who began his Lenten mission with the words, “Let us begin with hell, so that we may not end there!”

However, his statement that God does not send anyone to hell, but that “it is always our perverse freedom, and not the divine choice, that locks us away from God,” does not square with the teachings of Jesus — even though he quotes C.S. Lewis in support: “The door to hell is always locked from the inside.”

Certainly God does not desire anyone’s damnation, nor does he predestine anyone to sin or to hell. Hell is the result of our definitive choice in this life to say “No” to the grace and new life God offers us in Christ. Yet Jesus also made clear that at the final judgment, it is God — not the sinner — who does the excluding.

In the parable of the 10 virgins, the five foolish virgins are left standing outside the locked door of the wedding feast begging, “Lord, Lord, open up for us,” but they hear only, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:10-13).

Again, Jesus warns, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ ... There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out” (Lk 13:24-25,28).

Our time to choose is now. At the last judgment, God will choose for us the fitting — and final — consequence of the choices we have made.

— Margret Meyer, Jacksonville, Fla.

Clericalism's dangers

Clericalism has been a problem in the Catholic Church for many years and will continue to be in the future (“Symposium sheds light on pastoral difficulties,” Dec. 6). In a Church that was set up in a manner that is based on multi-layered authority and rank among the clergy, similar to a military organization, one can expect nothing else.

Sooner or later, most pious and good-hearted laypersons will become frustrated in dealing with the clergy when they realize that their opinions are neither sought nor valued. After a while, and perhaps after some attempts to become truly participating members of the Church, laypersons realize that any attempt to make positive changes in the Church will be in vain, as the Church’s rules are chiseled in stone.

Eventually, most Catholics resign themselves to the fact that they are members of a Church that has a multi-tiered membership without significant interaction between the clergy and the laity, and just stop even thinking that they could participate in any positive changes. Although this organization within the Catholic Church has been more or less accepted since at least the Middle Ages, one wonders about it’s future survivability in a democratic and well-educated society.

— Richard B. Luthin, Jacksonville, Fla.

'Pro-choice' polls

In “Bishop revives debate over pro-choice politicians” (News Analysis, Dec. 20), Russell Shaw opens by recalling how John F. Kennedy assured Protestant clergy in 1960, that he would be immune from the influence of the Catholic Church were he elected. Shaw briefly touches upon then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame, while fast-forwarding to our current day and Kennedy’s nephew Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s defiance of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life.

As it is often cited as the intellectual linchpin of the “Catholic” politicians’ “I’m personally opposed, but” approach, it’s unfortunate that more attention is not given to Cuomo’s speech. Throughout, Cuomo ignored the natural law and intimated that issues of human life and marriage/family were mere Catholic peccadillos. He also showed utter ignorance of fetology by referring to preborn children as “potentially human.” He mixes concern for the absolute sanctity of human life with strategies for promoting the common good on which Catholics may rightfully differ.

Kudos to Shaw for hitting the nail squarely on the head in his final two sentences, regarding the reception of holy Communion by so-called pro-choice Catholic politicians: “What’s at stake is preserving the integrity of the Church by making clear who is and who isn’t within its fold. Bishops who say — as some do — that it’s wrong to embroil the Eucharist in a political dispute about abortion are confusing the issue, not shedding light on it.”

— Joseph Tevington, Morrisville, Pa .