Professor Announces Plans for Sacrilege

Sacrilege is a potent word.  The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it as "a violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object."  Now P.Z. Myers, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota in Morris, has decided that Catholic reverence for the Eucharist is a throwback to "Dark Ages superstition."  

Plenty of folks think that.  But Professor Myers is doing something about it.  He’s inviting people to mail him consecrated hosts so that he can publicly perform a sacrilege.  Here’s his invitation, under his post, "It’s just a Frackin’ Cracker."

"Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage..but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address."

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Not a lot of ink needs to be spilled on this.  Nor does this blogpost require too many keystrokes.  "Res ipsa loquitur," as the saying goes: The thing speaks for itself.  His plans are similar to other sacrileges: the desecration of the Koran in Abu Ghraib, or the overturning of tombstones in Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe, or the burning of African-American churches in the South during the Civil Rights era.  The expression of contempt for a tradition not your own, and contempt for those who espouse those traditions, is common.  And contempt is as old as the story of Cain and Abel.

For me the most fascinating part of his offer is something else entirely: the original name of his post: "It’s a Frackin’ Cracker." 

The "F-word" he’s using is "Frackin’," slang that was popularized by the SciFi Channel’s hit television series "Battlestar Gallactica."  But why use "Frackin’"?  The most likely explanation is that Prof. Myers is concerned about offending others by using the actual "F-bomb" in his post.  That would be offensive to many people, and so in respect for their sensitivities he, rightfully, refrains from doing something offensive. 

It is an indication that he takes other people’s feelings seriously.  

But only some people.  Catholic sensibilities, it would seem, are not as important.  Or perhaps not important at all.  It’s a small indication of how, as Msgr.  John Tracy Ellis once wrote, "Anti-Catholicism is the most deeply held prejudice in American history."  Or, as others have said, "Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals."  Or, "The Last Acceptable Prejudice."

At the end of his post, Prof. Myers writes, "Now there’ll be a team of Jesuits assigned to rifle through my mail every day."  

I believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are made fully and really present in the Eucharist through the action of the Mass.  I believe in transsubstantiation.  Were I nearby and knew the location of those consecrated hosts I probably would try to retrieve them.   Just think of the scene in the movie "Romero" which depicts Oscar Romero, the soon-to-be-martyred archbishop of El Salvador, braving machine-gun fire to retrieve the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle of a desecrated church.  Or think of Walter Ciszek, S.J., the Jesuit priest captured by the Soviets during the Cold War, celebrating Mass in the forests of Siberia, and risking his life doing so.  (Ciszek distributed the Eucharist to fellow prisoners in the labor camps--who risked their lives too.)  Or simply think of the early Christians celebrating Mass at great personal risk.

I don’t expect Prof. Myers to believe what I believe.  It’s an article of faith, and a complicated theological concept.  But isn’t it possible to offer people from other religious traditions something simpler: respect and charity?  Why is that so frackin’ difficult?

James Martin, SJ 

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10 years ago
Why? If you read through the comments at his blog, and are familiar with the thinking found all over the Internet and in the pop-atheist tomes, it's because they really do believe that Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, has been and is a destructive force - perhaps the most destructive force in human history. They believe that Christianity is opposed to human flourishing and that the world would be better off without it. (Of course, they would say that of all religions and religious thinking, but tend to see Christianity as the worst.) Myers' intent is to demystify - to show that there is really nothing to this, that the words mean nothing, the bread is nothing, and that therefore people shouldn't believe in it,and perhaps, with time, they won't, and we're all be better off. He can't respect it because he sees it as something the world needs to get rid of.
10 years ago
Thank you very much, Fr. Martin, for your excellent commentary on the recent 'It's a Frackin' Cracker' ruckus. I couldn't have said it better my self.
10 years ago
Yet another reason for distributing Communion on the tongue.
10 years ago
I think you frackin' nailed it.
10 years ago
You can tell that the Professor's post originally had a different title, by examining the URL: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/its_a_goddamned_cracker.php So apparently the Professor had second thoughts about that title... I tried to enter the fray in the follow-up post here (see comments 812-853): http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/fresh_crackers.php However, things continued to degenerate (see comment 915). You can't have a serious discussion when one party doesn't take the other seriously.
10 years ago
The Croxton 'Play of the Sacrament,' a medieval conversion play written around 1460 and supposedly based on actual events, depicts a plot by a cadre of Jews who, colluding with a corrupt Christian merchant, obtain a consecrated Host for the purpose of 'testing' the veracity of Christians' claims about the Real Presence. They stab the wafer with their daggars, and it bleeds; and when they attempt to incinerate it, the oven splits open, blood spills forth, and Christ Himself appears to the blaphemers, bleeding from all five of His wounds. The Jews immediately repent and convert. It is an obscure play and unperformable for a lot of reasons. The representation of the Jews in the play is for me (but not for other scholars) beside the point, as the 'Christian' merchant and those he conspires with are all of a piece with those who for whatever reason are compelled to denigrate either Christians' belief in the Real Presence or Christ Himself, in which they case they affirm the doctrine. I think that somewhere in Prof. Myers there lingers the childlike (or childish) hope that the Host will bleed; because then, O then, he could be restored to the time and place when Santa really did put presents under the tree, and the Easter Bunny hid the eggs, and the Tooth Fairy left a quarter under your pillow--you know, Eden. People like Myers are perpetually resentful of having been kicked out of Eden, so they take it out on God by either denying him or blaspeming against him; or they try to ruin it for the rest of us by exposing our beliefs, and us by extension, as absurd, naive, irrational. Such as he never learn that while faith is simple, it is never simple-minded, at least not in a thoughtful and mature individual. The history of Christianity records the thoughts of scores of brilliant men (and yes, women, though far fewer) whose articulation and defense of who Christ is and what his Church is all about stand as intellectual and artistic monuments. Paul, Augustine, Hildegarde, Aquinas, Dante, and Chesterton will endure. Myers will not. "Credo quia ineptum est." --Tertullian
10 years ago
One of the major problems with the new atheists is that they do not simply disagree with religion, but instead HATE religion. P.Z. Myers clearly falls into that category, which makes his position as a professor very harmful indeed.
10 years ago
This is one of those stories that I don't share with the Middle Eastern Christians who live around here. They're still under the impression that, unlike their countries of origin, the United States is a place in which they needn't worry about unbelievers attending their rituals in order to spy on and later abuse them for their beliefs. BTW the verification refuses to believe that my URL is real: jmbalconi.stblogs.com
10 years ago
The Professor actually appears to be an equal-opportunity offender. Consider his lack of respect for the Koran here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/07/desecration_its_a_fun_hobby.php
10 years ago
The fundamental issue here is, as several previous commenters have noted, a lack of respect for religious beliefs. Most of us are raised in the religious traditions of our parents, and their parents before them, and few ever find it necessary to change. The problem comes when deeply held religious beliefs cause one to become at best disrespectful toward and, at worst, violently opposed to other forms of worship. One sees this in the harshly and violently intolerant Wahhabi strain of Islam today. One may not believe in transubstantiation (a complicated theological concept, as Father Martin states), but one can always respect the deeply held beliefs of those who do. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, nowadays we don't give no respect. And that's something Jesus would probably have frowned on, too.
10 years ago
Is what he's doing legal?
10 years ago
Or <a href="http://catholidoxy.blogspot.com/2008/07/st-tarsicius.html">St Tarsicius </a>as another example of one who died for the Eucharist.
10 years ago
What a silly fellow. Reflective of the current level of "thought" in the academy and elsewhere. Compare this with the hue and cry over the "Politics of Fear" New Yorker cover and noodle out what this might say of our brave new world.
10 years ago
Do you think this is really the case?
9 years 11 months ago
To: James Martin, SJ. I am a nonreligious person working at a Jesuit university. I would encourage you to revisit this story in greater depth. I think some sort of forgiveness of the original "offender" Webster Cook will go along way. What they are all worked up about is that a students pursuit of education and now, even his life, have been threatened. No doubt this is a serious sacrilege to Catholics. However, the reaction has been profoundly unreasonable by the Catholic League. In the original incident, 1) The Eucharist was held after an altercation as protest. 2) It was returned within a couple of days. It seems to me that the overreaction from the Catholic league is causing more harm than good in resolving this conflict.

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