"Desecration" of the Eucharist

The events of this link:
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/the_great_desecration.php (to summarize, atheist blogger PZ Myers obtained a consecrated Catholic Eucharist and then pierced it with a rusty nail and discarded it, along with copies of a Richard Dawkins book and pages ripped from the Quran) happened years ago, I know, but I came across it recently. His self-stated purpose was to show that nothing should be held sacred, and everything should be questioned.

I’m most interested in the reaction from Catholics and other Christians: most seemed to be horrified (for example http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2008/07/pz-myers-desecrates-the-euchar.html and http://www.catholicleague.org/release.php?id=1465).

The great anger is not surprising; after all, it is a sacred object to many. But isn’t it hypocritical for Catholics to express such shock and outrage at this, yet they venerate the Biblical Abraham (who destroyed his fathers idols), and numerous Saints who destroyed false idols and graven images in the name of their religion (like Saint Abraham of Rostov and Saint Christina of Bolsena)? Isn’t it obvious that their outrage is at someone daring to desecrate THEIR sacred object, not the desecration of sacred and venerated objects in general?

I think it’s probably because they don’t regard their sacred things to be in the same category as ‘idols’, at all.

So your saying a troublemaker wanted to cause trouble and your are wondering why some people are troubled by it all?

That’s a reasonable point, but did you have any examples of Christians desecrating idols in, say, the last hundred years or so?

And ISTM that Bill Donahue has a valid point -

So it seems that either [list=A][li]The definition of bias incident as used by the University of Minnesota is not a worthwhile policy, or this is a bias incident, just as if Meyers had dressed in blackface and reenacted a lynching or something.[/list] [/li]
In my opinion, it’s A.


UM probably gives itself an out with the phrase “can be” (a form of discrimination). In other words, they’ll decide if it’s actionable on the basis of less than clear-cut guidelines.

In this case, I believe they took down a link to PZ’s blog on their own website, after Donahue went ballistic over the “cracker incident”.

Shodan, it doesn’t seem to me to be a “bias incident”, any more than a Hindu claiming outrage because a butcher slaughtered a cow.

With regards to any incidents more recent, none spring to mind. This calls for some google-fu.

The incident certainly seems to fit the U of M’s definition. He is certainly hostile, it was disrespectful, based on a group’s religion(s), and clearly caused anger and resentment. The U of M disagrees, but I would doubt they could come up with a clear rationale for the distinction between this, and re-enactments of a minstrel show to protest blacks voting for Obama (for instance).

These kinds of policies strike me as similar to the definition of pornography as given by Justice Potter Stewart - “I know it when I see it”. That’s too vague, and too open to abuse, to be useful.


There are plenty of areligious reasons to slaughter a cow. For meat, for example. If someone slaughtered a cow on the street in front of a Hindu temple it would be interpreted differently.

Puncturing a cracker with a nail absent any context should not be considered a “bias incident” but in this particular incident, the guy was clearly targeting members of a certain faith with a deliberately provocative act.

He put a nail in a piece of bread, dude. He did nothing to anybody and insulted nobody. He did not harrass or discriminate. Not having a belief in magical bread is not “disrespectful.” He’s not responsible for the irrational responses of morons to what he does in private. Trying to characterize this as a “bias incident” is retarded beyond words and completely typical of that buffoon, Donohue.

Targeting them for what? What did he actually do to them? How were they harrassed or discriminated against? How were they injured or insulted?

This is like saying that eating a BLT is antisemitic. It’s completely moronic.

When my oldest daughter as getting ready for First Communion, I had to take her to some kind of little class about it where they told parents and kids the details of what was going to happen, the theological significance, etc. One lady started talking about how Satanists sometimes would go to Mass and steal a host, then take it back to their lairs for desecration rituals. She talked about how they would curse it and spit on it in this tone like she was talking about the Holocaust. I was amused not just at how seriously she took this - like stomping on a cracker was the same as stomping a baby - but at the image of a bunch of sullen,“Satanist” losers actually doing that stuff and thinking they were really performing some kind of terribly transgressive act. It would just be such an impotent and silly thing to do. It shouldn’t bother Catholics at all.

Yes, that is obvious.

He was trying to provoke exactly those responses. That was the whole point. It wasn’t a private act.

The fact that I too find Catholic transubstantiation absurd doesn’t mean I find any value in this exercise. It’s of a piece with Pastor Terry Jones announcing he’s going to burn copies of the Qur’an in Florida.

Yes, it’s just a cracker. Just a book. But deliberately making insulting, provocative public gestures with someone else’s symbols is the opposite of principled and rational debate.


He said he was trying to make a point about the irrationality of sacred objects. He also included the Qu’ran (the descration of which doesn’t seem to bother any of those Catholics) and The God Delusion as part of his exercise. He did not do anything to any of those complainers, and if he had only trashed a Qu’ran, none of them would care. It’s none of their business what he does with his own cracker, and actually trying to claim some sort of injury from it is absurd.

Insulting others has an objective and subjective component to it. The fact that we think a particular act should not bother others isn’t really relevant, if we know that it in fact does bother others - and do that act anyway just to spite them.

It is the insulting intention that matters, not the fact that the act itself is of trifling significance.

Nobody has a right not be insulted. I disagree that they’re being insulted anyway.

I would agree that the person doing the insulting ought not to suffer legal consequences. Free speech and all that.

But by the same token - they reveal themselves, essentially, as being jerks, for insulting people just to get attention for whatever point they are attempting to make.

Clearly, religious Catholics are insulted by desecration of their holy symbols. I’m not a Catholic, but why should I disbelieve them when they say they are insulted by this?

To Catholics it’s not just a cracker, just like to Muslims, the Koran isn’t just a book, to a lot of Americans, the American flag isn’t just a piece of cloth, and to me, my nephew’s picture isn’t just a piece of paper. Just because something doesn’t have an emotional value to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an emotional value to others, or that they won’t be upset if you do something bad to it.

That’s not what Myers was doing. He was making a larger point, not singling out Catholics. He was making a point about investing mere objects with magical powere, not insulting anybody.

That’s their choice.

Right, because in the real world, obviously no anti-Christian would ever really take a Eucharist host just for the sake of deliberately desecrating it. Oh, wait.

You can certainly debate whether this act harmed anyone, but it was certainly and without question an insult and harassment. I imagine that even the dude who did it would agree with that: Insult and harassment was, after all, the entire point of the exercise.

My point is that I don’t believe others are obliged to feel the same way about anything as I do, and they’re not insulktring me if they don’t.

Myers didn’t vandalize a churchm, did not damage anyone else’s property, do anybody any injury, harrass anybody or discriminate anybody. All he did was fail to share a belief in magic bread.