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GUADULUPE HOLY OR HOAX?

 http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4201

 

The apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe in Mexico are unique in the annals of Marian apparitions because this Lady allegedly left physical evidence behind her.  The evidence is the painting of the vision made by herself in an instant of time on the cloak of the only witness, Juan Diego.  This image is called the Tilma.  If she did this then apparitions without this or similar evidence have to be dubious. Why give stronger proof for the Lady of Guadalupe and not the Lady of Lourdes or Pontmain or Fatima? 

 

The first vision took place on the site of the pagan mother God in 1531.  The bishop was informed that a beautiful Lady had appeared saying she was the Virgin Mother of God.  The bishop asked for a sign before he would believe. 

 

In other apparitions, the Virgin gives no sign but the conviction and normalcy and rapid spiritual progress of the witness so one wonders why that did not suffice here.  Please do not think that spiritual progress is a great sign for anybody would pretend to be good when the eyes of their fans are on them.  The Church will shout that we must not be so cynical and why not just believe?  I have two things to say.  Realistically people do often pretend to be better than what they are.  All we are doing is acknowledging that fact.  And as for the why not just believe advice we can ask why just not believe?  The Church cannot complain if we don’t believe for it is our right not to.  Yet it does complain.  There is no way I can stand the Church complaining – its just a sign of its intolerance.  If you have an equal choice between believing a strange claim and not believing in it, evidently if you are rational you will not believe. 

 

Jesus said that asking for signs before being willing to believe was tempting God.  God does signs when he wishes and not for people who urge him to do a sign before they will believe.  Here, the Virgin evidently disagrees with Jesus and the Bible and God panders to the bishop’s wish for a sign.  She gives him a miracle picture and roses that bloomed out of season to boot.  She must be better than God.  Theologically, the visions must be ascribed to Satan which implies that Satan wants Mary to be prayed to and believed to be mother of God and ever-Virgin.  They really refute Christendom and Catholicism.  The perpetual Virginity and the Virgin birth are unbiblical legends.  And the deity of Christ appears nowhere in the New Testament.  The whole story is too similar to a Spanish legend that is much older.  The place name, Guadalupe, even appears in both stories (page 31, Looking for a Miracle). 

 

The miracle that most believers associate with the image is that the cloth should have decayed centuries ago.  This claim is untrue. 

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M. put the following on the internet when he wished to publish a scientific perspective on the tilma.  "Those who subscribed to the European origin theory said the tilma could not be a local Mexican product because it has lasted so long.  Local cloth made from woven cactus fibers lasts about a decade at most.  The tilma is almost five hundred years old, and has been on display in public daily.  People behind this theory said the tilma must be woven from European linen or cotton.  Two fibers of the tilma were lent to Professor Chiment for testing.  These fibers had been removed from the outer edge of the tilma when it was stored during the Mexican Revolution.  The test results showed that the fibers did not come from native cactus plants, nor did they come from cotton, wool, or linen -- fibers that might have been used in Europe.  Rather, the tilma seems to have been woven from hemp, a plant native to Mexico.  Hemp is one of the strongest fibers known, and hempen cloth can last hundreds of years.  This could explain the tilma's remarkable state of preservation." 

The image fits the tradition of forged self-portraits of the Virgin Mary and there is a picture of the Merciful Virgin that was painted in Spain that is several decades older than the Guadalupe image that looks too similar to it for the latter to have been of divine origin (page 32, ibid).  It is striking that the Virgin called herself the Virgin and Mother of Mercy in her first appearance.  The Catholic missionary magazine, Far East (May/June 2003), candidly confessed the following things.  The angel bearing the body of the Virgin in the picture has nearly the same wings as the wings of an Aztec god who was worshipped locally.  The colour of the mantle the lady was wearing matched the blue colour worn by Aztec nobility.  The picture confirmed the Aztec astrological prediction of the times that there would be a imminent new age and the lady’s hands indicate that this new age was indeed nigh.  The picture then is definitely occult.  It backs astrology which is clearly censured in the Bible and by the Church.  The Church will say the picture is not sanctioning astrology but using it to get people’s attention.  But the Church is only assuming that.  We don’t want assumptions here.  It is most likely that the lady is sanctioning astrology for we would not say the Virgin would use soft porn to get attention though she disapproves of soft porn.  The image is occult and therefore stands condemned by the strict teaching given by God in the Law of Moses to avoid any semblance of paganism.  When God comes first as the Law states it is clear that keeping anything that might lead to the worship of something else is forbidden and keeping it in the name of art is no excuse.  The image is of man or of Satan or of a pagan god.  Did Juan lie about the apparition really being Mary?

 

Science and its instruments have shown that there is evidence that the Lady was sketched before she was painted and the fingers have been shortened and the irises are outlined.  This tells against the idea that the picture appeared as a result of an instant miracle by the Virgin Mary.  The images of the people in the room are supposed to appear reflected in the right eye.  But these images are so vague that they could be anything.  Such delusions show what tone that books that defend the miracle take.

 

The evidence is that this image was naturally painted. 

 

 

The Virgin’s mantle is off-centre on the head and it hugs the sides of the face and the top floats above the top of the head.  These errors betray a human origin.  There is also the flaking that has taken place along the fold in the middle.  A real miracle would not flake.  The Lady stands on the moon which comes from the Book of Revelation which symbolises the Church as a woman on the moon.  The Virgin is misidentified as the woman of Revelation which indicates forgery.  Her crown was painted out.  She is too short and broad.  Her arms would stretch out to below her knees like a monkey if she laid them by her sides.  There is an unnatural fold in the mantle next her left thigh where it bends one way and then the opposite way for no reason.  And why does the angel hold her by the robes and not by the moon on which she stands?  The robe even bunches up a bit under her where he holds her.  But even then the bunching takes a rectangular shape which is unnatural and can’t be explained by her feet and the bunching should fit the shape of the crescent moon but it does not. 

 

The face of the Lady is in shadow which is strange when she is so luminous that she gives of a burst of light.  The pro-Guadalupe book, The Wonder of Guadalupe (page 51) states that this is because no Lady likes being stared at!  But it is only a picture and moreover the Virgin appears to people to be stared at in an ecstatic state.  The shadowing shows a bad choice of colouring which refutes those who say the face is a miracle painting. 

 

The allegedly miraculous three-dimensional quality that mainly surrounds the mouth which is due to roughness in the fabric (page 132, The Wonder of Guadalupe) could just be coincidence.  It does not appear on the whole face or image which it would do if it were a true miracle. 

 

The Lady does not look very Jewish so she is not Mary’s self-portrait.  Her face does not resemble the supposed face of Jesus her son on the Turin Shroud so the two miracles are in conflict.  The two would have been nearly identical if Jesus inherited all his genes from Mary and had no father.  The Turin Shroud is more convincing than the image of Mary so it should be taken to refute it even if it is a fake itself. 

 

The Wonder of Guadalupe, admits on page 76 that the hands were shortened and the image was painted over to hide cracks.  The sunburst surrounding the painting was repainted as were the tassels and the moon and the stars on the mantle and the brooch and the border on the mantle.  Still, the book unconvincingly boasts about the ability of the image to survive damp and exposure to the smoke of burning candles and frequent kissing and handling through the years.  When the forged parts of the picture are so durable why can’t the original parts naturally be the same – the argument for miraculous preservation of the picture is unacceptable.  There are horizontal lines showing fading and cracks on the image.  Two of them can be seen on photographs even in The Wonder of Guadalupe which run along between the hands and the sash round the waist. 

 

Perhaps the image has been replaced a few times like the Turin Shroud was.  The replacement would be intended to defeat the countless objections to authenticity by artists and researchers who examined it so the image would be improved with every new forgery.  The Church could not let the original image alone so why could and would it not forge a new image when the old deteriorates?  It must have been replaced if it was able to withstand so much carelessness.  In 1753, the image was subjected to rapid and frantic touching, kissing and rubbing five hundred times in two hours (page 118, The Wonder of Guadalupe).  Could it be that a duplicate passed of as the original was used when the public were allowed to handle the cloth so that the original would be safe? 

 

It is interesting that the roses which the Virgin made have rotted away.  They were Castilian roses from Spain.  They were unavailable in Mexico but they could have been there for the Spanish would have liked to plant the things they enjoyed in Spain in their new home.  They were uncommon enough to be thought non-existent in Mexico.  To nearly all simple Spaniards they would just have been roses and if Diego planned the hoax he could have managed to grow the roses out of season.  Did the Bishop simply think that the roses were Castilian?  They could have been the ones in anybody’s garden that look like Castilian roses.  Perhaps one rose looked by chance like a Castilian rose and the rest did not but when the bishop examined that one he assumed the rest were Castilian too.  It was when Diego emptied the flowers from his cloak before the bishop that it was learned that there was an image on his cloak.  Perhaps the flowers were the excuse for why he had to walk about taking care not to wrinkle his cloak in case he would damage the image? 

 

Diego claimed that his uncle who was cured by the Virgin had cocolixtle which was a fever that proved fatal to all who caught it.  But was it really?  Juan knew that it could not proved that it was the fever and still he paraded the cure as a miracle.  The fact that he went for a priest for his uncle instead of appealing to the apparition for help has disturbed many students of the vision (page 22, The Wonder of Guadalupe).  It is psychological evidence that there never had been a vision. 

 

Sceptical priests testified in 1556 that an Indian or Aztec had painted the image.  Fr de Maseques named the forger as Marcos Cipac and it has been proved that there was such a painter.  There was a severe persecution of Christians in the area at the time the image appeared so it could have been intended to bring in plenty of quick converts for persecutors soon give up when the intended victims become too numerous.  With the bizarre errors of the image their verdict must be correct.

 

In December 1999, an abbot called Gullermo Shulenburg who was once associated with the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe despatched a five-page report to the Vatican stating that there was no evidence apart from legend for the existence of Juan Diego.  The Vatican was enraged for it planned to canonise Diego.  The abbot’s discovery has damning implications for the holy picture of the Virgin.  It would mean it could be a miracle image of the Mother Goddess who was adored on the hill of Guadalupe before the Virgin allegedly appeared that has been retouched to make it look more like Mary if it is a miracle at all.  The Virgin has the facial features attributed to that pagan goddess which is as good a confirmation as any about who it is supposed to be.  Fr Raymond E Brown’s book, Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine, tells us that the image of Mary at Guadalupe is hard to examine scientifically and that the exact story about the apparitions is equally very elusive for the ancient documents contradict each other (page 98).

 

Read the following from www.philosophy-religion.org

 

Proof (or Not) of Saintly Existence

By PETER STEINFELS

On July 31, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to declare Juan Diego Cuauhtlahtoatzin, a humble Aztec better known simply as Juan Diego, to be a saint.

It is Juan Diego to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have appeared in December 1531, and, when the local Spanish bishop demanded proof of the apparition, it was on Juan Diego's rough cloak that the heavenly lady miraculously imprinted her image, an image still displayed and revered in its basilica in Mexico City and now reproduced almost everywhere.

One might expect that the Rev. Stafford Poole, an American priest and author of "Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol" (University of Arizona Press, 1995), would be looking forward to July 31. He is not.

He is one of a number of scholars who do not question Juan Diego's holiness. They question whether he ever existed. Juan Diego, Father Poole says, is a "pious fiction."

David A. Brading, a Cambridge professor, author of "Mexican Phoenix" (Cambridge, 2001), a highly sympathetic study of the Guadalupe devotion, has said, "There's no historical evidence whatsoever that such a person actually existed."

……………..

The problem for historians like Father Poole or Professor Brading is that though the Guadalupe portrait and devotions surrounding it clearly date to the mid-1500's, it was not until 1648 that Miguel Sanchez, a creole priest, published the elaborate account of apparitions, Juan Diego and his miraculously transformed cloak. The same story, told more simply and movingly in Nahuatl, the native tongue, appeared a year later in a book produced by a friend of Sanchez.

Ever since then, Mexican churchmen have been trying fill this gap in the record. If these 1648-49 accounts were based, as some claimed, on oral traditions, why had not a single trace of them showed up in the huge mass of religious material, both in Spanish and in native languages, that had appeared in the intervening century? Missing documents, especially earlier versions of the Nahuatl text, were hypothesized; various explanations were offered for their absence. In 1666, depositions were taken from elderly Indians and Spaniards. (The ages of four Indian witnesses were given as 100, 100, 110, and between 112 and 115.)

Many people argued that the image, which unlike the Shroud of Turin has never been scientifically examined, could not have been created by human hands - and therefore was itself proof of the 1648 account.

Still, the questions and the controversies have persisted. Writing in Commonweal, a biweekly edited by Catholic laity, Father Poole stated, "More than forty documents are said to attest to the reality of Juan Diego, yet not one of them can withstand serious historical criticism."

Obviously the Vatican officials conducting investigations for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints do not agree. But Father Poole considers their procedures "one-sided, slanted and bordering on the dishonest." No recognized scholars questioning the traditional accounts about Juan Diego were consulted, he wrote; he found out that his own book had been criticized but he was not given a chance to reply.

Other critics have been "demonized," he said in an interview, and accused of racism or heresy. In a book he is completing he calls the canonization "a sad and tawdry spectacle that does little service to the Church's mission and credibility."

Professor Brading is on a somewhat different wavelength. In "Mexican Phoenix," he praises Father Poole and declares that the American priest with two other scholars has demonstrated that the 1649 Nahuatl account was based on Sanchez's 1648 Spanish text - "a devastating criticism," Professor Brading writes, of all theories about some earlier Indian-language source.

Still, Professor Brading is ambivalent about the battle over historicity. He is enamored of the theological creativity of thinkers like Sanchez, who conceived of Juan Diego "as another Moses and the image of Guadalupe as the Mexican Ark of the Covenant," showing that God's own mother had founded Christian Mexico.

The Guadalupe tradition has a theological truth, he says, that cannot be discerned by "ill-judged questions about historicity," but only by thinking of the image the way Eastern Orthodox Christians think of icons and thinking of the story the way that Catholic theologians now regard many of the miraculous Gospel stories about Jesus' birth.

So Professor Brading, in a letter to the London Tablet, a Catholic weekly, ended up, on the one hand, calling the story of the Virgin and Juan Diego "a sublime parable" and, on the other hand, concluding, "To canonize Juan Diego makes as much sense, and as little, as to canonize the Good Samaritan."

That leaves some important questions. First, can what Father Poole calls "a pious fiction" be transmuted by centuries of devotion into what Professor Brading calls "a sublime parable"? Second, can the church really sidestep the problem of historical fact? Christianity, after all, is notorious for considering itself a history-based religion.


 

 

Conclusion

 

The vision and miracle and of Guadalupe is nonsense.

 

BOOKS CONSULTED  

 

 

Believing in God, PJ McGrath, Millington Books in Association with Wolfhound, Dublin, 1995

Bernadette of Lourdes, Rev CC Martindale, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1970

Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993 

Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM, London, 1969 

Miracles, Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937 

Spiritual Healing, Martin Daulby and Caroline Mathison, Geddes & Grosset, New Lanark, Scotland, 1998  

St Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal, Fr Joseph I Dirvin C.M., Tan, Illinois, 1984

The Incorruptibles, Joan Carroll Cruz, Tan, Illinois, 1977  

The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994  

The Supernatural A-Z, James Randi, Headline Books, London, 1995

The Wonder of Guadalupe, Francis Johnson, Augustine, Devon, 1981  

 

 

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