Icon Update

MM can not resist the jaw-dropping Pope story of the day.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, Pope Benedict has affirmed the authenticity of the much-maligned Shroud of Turin. The cloth, which has been scientifically dated to about 800 years ago, says the embattled head of the Catholic church, was nonetheless the actual garment of an actual Christ.  Why is this a surprise, you ask?  Shouldn’t the head of the Catholic church be a stickler for the authenticity of the Church-owned relics?  Well, John Paul II had a more nuanced view. According to Reuters, the previous Pope said the Shroud was “more a powerful reminder of Jesus’ suffering than a matter of faith.” I agree. People like their Shroud story one-sided: it’s Real or it’s Not. See author Peter Manseau’s story on his experience being interviewed for a History Center documentary about the Shroud. But as usual, it’s more complicated than that. The sacredness of icons does not come from their authenticity, it comes from the generations of human veneration the object has received. Recently the MM predicted, here, that Pope Benedict would never reinstate relics the way he reinstated the Latin Mass, because idolatry is actually an inherently liberal pursuit, and Benedict is an ideological conservative. But MM had no clue how far in the conservative interpretation Benedict was really willing to go. To claim that the religious icon is scientifically valid, is a depressingly narrow-minded and literalist sentiment, one which, as The Revealer commentary implied, is bound to alienate sensible Catholics.



One Response to Icon Update

  1. RPS says:

    ”…idolatry is actually an inherently liberal pursuit, and Benedict is an ideological conservative. But MM had no clue how far in the conservative interpretation Benedict was really willing to go.”

    As Eric Hoffer pointed out in The True Believer (1951), if you go far enough to the right, you’ll soon be at the left. I suppose the Catholic Church could be included under “those destructive (and sometimes creative) fanatical causes which have wreaked such havoc in our time.”

    From http://www.erichoffer.net/ : “the book probes into the psychology of the frustrated and dissatisfied, those who would eagerly sacrifice themselves for any cause that might give their meaningless lives some sense of significance. The alienated seek to lose themselves in these movements by adopting those fanatical attitudes that are, according to Hoffer, fundamentally ‘a flight from the self.’”

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