Creating a climate of fear: Does host desecration really demand a terroristic response?

Father Joe took issue with P. Z. Myers’s complaints about the Central Florida University incident at a Catholic mass held on campus. That’s fair. Anyone can see why a Catholic priest would find Myers’ complaints to be at least a sharp rebuke, if not offensive.

But Father Joe is off the track, following others. He insists that the church has no reason to call for calm, that the church is absolutely blameless if others, like Bill Donohue, either advocate violence or otherwise carry things beyond the pale.

In comments, the entire discussion grows very disturbing. Father Joe now claims that Myers encouraged acts of violence against the Catholic Church — a patently false claim — and he and others now list any act of vandalism against a Catholic Church, and blame it on Myers (see also here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). (Nor will Father Joe allow me to comment on that thread any more — the old fingers-in-ears defense against reason and criticism. Censorship is one of the first signs of totalitarian idiocy.)

Casting blame falsely — there’s a commandment against such action. Do you think these guys know about it?

The acts of vandalism, burglary and destruction noted at Father Joe’s blog, especially those in churches, are grotesque demonstrations of depravity. The culprits should be caught and punished. They aren’t the fault of science, they aren’t the fault of a guy who asks Catholics to back off of terroristic threats. From the use of religious symbols, we can be quite certain that few if any are committed by atheists.

Ironic, no? Asked to renounce terrorism, Father Joe claims to be a victim. Then he stirs up a mob with tales to cast blame on those who asked for calm and reason. If it’s true, as Father Joe claims, that “Dr. P.Z. Myers’ crusade against religion illustrates defects in civility, empathy and imagination,” then it is equally true that a Father Joe-led jihad against civility, empathy and imagination illustrates defects in religion.

Nuts. We can’t get these people to stop venting and pounding their breasts, let alone talk. Dare we let them alone in a room with one another?

We’ve seen it before. Beirut. Sarajevo. Berlin. Berlitz. Brussels. Segovia. On St. Bartholomew’s Day. In the Cultural Revolution. Madness creeps in, and soon is epidemic.

We wish worship services could proceed without interruption, without insult, with joy and encouragement of good deeds. We wish religionists would demonstrate the love they claim to seek, and that others would show it to them.

Some people are too busy nailing delinquents to crosses to stop and do the right thing. Can we at least lock up their hammers?

I wish Myers would apologize for unnecessary offense he may have made. He won’t. I wish the crazies calling for his scalp would apologize for the unnecessary offenses they may have made by insisting others grant their faith privileges it should not have, and especially for the unnecessary offenses from the threats by their fellow travelers. They won’t. ‘We were insulted. Death threats should be expected. If I didn’t personally make the threat, I’m not responsible.’ No one is a keeper of anyone’s brother. Claims of not being part of the mob are offered as reasons for why nothing was done to stop the mob.

If I had an answer for how to stop stupid bellicosity, I’d be on my way to Moscow and Tbilisi right now. Any suggestions out there?

_ _.

Update: Father Joe responded: “Urging people to steal hosts and to desecrate them is the sort of thing once reserved to crazy people and dabblers in the occult. It can escalate into all sorts of other crimes.”

Coming from anyone else other than a priest, that could easily be construed as a threat. Unfortunately, Father Joe gives us little ground to argue it should not be so considered in this case.

Suddenly Christian offers a cool, pleasant rebuttal and diversion from the whole affair; seriously, go read it.

12 Responses to Creating a climate of fear: Does host desecration really demand a terroristic response?

  1. Father Joe says:

    Between July 15 and the present, there were eight posts on my Blog. The first got 9 comments, the second got 62 comments, the third got 39 comments, the fourth got 6 comments, the fifth got 6 comments, the sixth got 10 comments, the seventh got 80 comments, and the eighth received 60 comments. You talk about me censoring material, and yet except for vulgarity, it is all pretty much there. You made general charges, but I suspect you only read one or two posts.

    Speaking to the man who stole the host sent to Dr. Myers, I wrote:

    “There is no such thing as a morality isolated from the community, no matter whether it be secular or religious. We try to find our own way, but no one walks absolutely alone. What happens is that we decide with whom we will walk. Placing myself in your shoes for a moment, I would contend that stealing hosts from a church or desecrating them is wrong— even if I thought the whole business was silly and that the hosts were still merely pieces of unleavened bread. Here is an instance where I question your moral reflection and activity. We should not become anarchists, doing what we want no matter how offensive to others. What you do in your bedroom might upset me (he is a homosexual upset with the Church’s opposition to condoms) but I have no right to enter your bedroom and invade your privacy. The Mass is the love story for Catholics, and you defiled the object of our love. You can ridicule or debate against the real presence, but defiling the sacrament goes too far.”

    Toward the end of this message, I wrote:

    “I must still insist that while I can respect the honest reflection of an atheist, regarding both the scientific and philosophical questions regarding existence and absolute meaning; you show little sign of acknowledgment that people with comparable intelligence might come to very different conclusions. It seems to me that atheism has regressed since the days of Bertrand Russell and the civility with which he debated the Jesuit Copleston.”

    You seemed to defend Cook’s actions and I wrote my view of things:

    “…an ex-Catholic deliberately decides to play games with the Blessed Sacrament. Although the prohibitions and requirements are clearly noted in the Missalette which he uses at Mass, he decides to come up and take communion although it is forbidden for him to do so. Non-Catholics, ex-Catholics and those in mortal sin are not invited to the “closed-table” or altar. He fails to consume the host and is asked to return the host. As an irate thief, he refuses to do so and despite the pleading of good Catholics and a few upset souls who tried to block him, he runs away with the Holy of Holies.”

    “No, not the Church and not one priest or bishop threatened this man. I have not read even one name of a Catholic lay person who threatened him or did him any bodily harm. Indeed, the diocese said again and again that violence was not the answer… even though his dispicable act had done violence to the Catholic student community. His was an act of terrorism!”

    When you defended Myers, I wrote:

    “No, P. Z. Myers was looking for a stage to continue his war upon organized religion. He relished the opportunity that Cook gave him and urged others to steal consecrated hosts and to send them to him for desecration. He poured gasoline upon the fire with his rhetoric of hate. He desecrates a host even though the Eucharist is the central mystery of the Catholic faith. Many of us would have traded our lives to have prevented the desecration. That is how serious we felt. We were not prepared to hurt anyone. However, we were prepared to be martyrs for Christ and to witness our faith, no matter if deemed foolishness by others or not.”

    I later told you:

    “We pleaded that the host would be returned and Catholic sensibilities be respected. But no, we were further mocked and the host compromised and destroyed. We have done nothing to anyone except to ask that the madness, which we did not start, should come to an end. We have hurt no one. We have killed no one. We have stolen nothing.”

    You insist that I advocate violence, but I wrote you on my Blog:

    “If you look at my half dozen or so posts on this topic, again and again, I stress dialogue and how Catholics must truly be witnesses of the Prince of Peace in this whole ugly business. Violence is not the answer and Catholic moral teaching holds that the value of human life is incommensurate, something that you atheists refuse to accept. Catholicism is not the religion that places warrants on the heads of others. There are no lines of protesting Catholics with signs that say kill Cook or off with Myers’ head.”

    It is true that I an increasingly fearful of further sacrilege against the sacraments or vandalism of churches or even attacks upon the persons of priests. There are too many crazy people in our world, so-called believers and non-believers, who run around with short fuses, just waiting for a spark.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Alas, you also never came out against the threats against the fellow in Florida, and you all but endorsed the threats against Myers, Father Joe. It’s not enough to fail to make the threats yourself. We are called to be peacemakers. I’ve linked to your words so you won’t be misquoted. On the few words of yours I’ve quoted, they are quoted completely, without editing.

    I believe in dialog with civility, too. You won’t be censored here as I am on your board. Come on and discuss. Explain why you won’t condemn the threats — or better, condemn them. Comments are open. Dialog away.


  3. Father Joe says:

    Someone must has misrepresented me, I have never advocated violence or threats of bodily harm. I do believe in mutual dialogue within a climate of civility and human respect. Peace!


  4. mpb says:

    demolition65 I admit that it is once again fashionable for people in polite society to use the expression “off the reservation”.

    However, I find it deeply offensive and in fact a dis-service to history. How about using some other term for behavior that you find offensive but without offending others?


  5. Ediacaran says:

    dcmattozzi writes: “We should all pray that Dr. Meyers will convert and cease desecrating the body and blood of Christ.”

    Dr. Myers put a rusty nail through a wafer, and threw it away on trash day, along with a page from an English translation of the qu’ran, a page from Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, some coffee grounds and a banana peel, if I recall correctly. No body, no blood, no Christ. It’s a frackin’ cracker, as P.Z. Myers put it.

    Myers did’t burn anyone at the stake, ala Bruno at the Campo dei Fiori. He didn’t issue death threats to anyone. He didn’t molest any young altar boys, or cover up any such acts by his minions. He didn’t place anyone under house arrest for disagreeing with him. He didn’t celebrate Hitler’s birthday. He didn’t use instruments of torture and death to make others to make dissenters conform to his will.

    But then, P.Z. Myers isn’t a leader of the Catholic Church.

    Let’s hope that the leaders of the church, from the Pope to Father Joe, start behaving more like Dr. Myers.


  6. Mike says:

    Requesting absolution requires the desire to change or it is not granted.

    I grew up Catholic. I know the rules.


  7. demolition65 says:

    SO, now you are more than 12, unforgiving, and expecting adults to be perfect. And until that happens, you will one-up others on being rude and unpleasant.

    Speaking of adolescent daydreams, you appear to still be living one.

    As for my calling Little Paul names. . .I too am imperfect. I never claimed to be any such thing, unlike Little Paul.

    Or you, it seems, for that matter.

    That’s my last comment on this to him, Tim. He apparently knows where to find me, and if he wants to continue the conversation it can happen there.


  8. Mike says:

    I don’t want to get Ed’s site mired in a flameware, but when you point the finger at PZ Myers, three are pointing back at yo, d65. PZ has no reason to apologize. He took a stand against an issue that was taken completely out of the bounds of decency in the way that the Catholic League called for sanctions against Webster Cook.

    I was raised a Catholic, and I’ll tell a little story about an incident in Loving Catholic Church that initiated me questioning my faith in that august institution. It’s not the only reason that I am now an atheist, but it was a major brick in the wall between me and the church.

    Our parish priest had moved to our town from Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. He had been in that parish for twenty years. Our parish had a tradition of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. For us, we went to Mass and came home to open our presents. But for the priest, well, he was older and was often too tired to say Mass late.

    One day at a Church Meeting the priest asked if the parish would be willing to change the time of Midnight Mass to 8:00 pm. The reason he gave was not his age and tiredness but that he was tired of people coming into Mass drunk after having been at the bar.

    One of the women in the parish couldn’t resist the straight line and said “But Father, you have to remember that was happening on the Reservation.”

    Nobody was shocked at the racism in that “joke.” In fact everyone laughed. The priest didn’t correct her, either. So, the Church was teaching us kids that God Loves Everyone, but when it came to erasing peoples racism and prejudices, it was ineffective. Those people had been Catholic all of their lives and hadn’t heard a word it said, and the priest who was supposed to set the example didn’t show any leadership.

    That was when I was twelve and forgiving and even then I didn’t expect everyone to be perfect, but I did expect people to at least have a clue of the difference between right and wrong, between love and hate. I expected the adults who thought it was racist to raise an objection.

    Nothing. So, when our friend demolition65 first calls my friend PZ an asshat and then Little Paul Myers, I see a disconnect between his “met with love” statement and his name-calling.

    Call me when the Catholics finally learn how to practice what they preach; call me when the Catholics learn how to “turn the other cheek.” Call me when they recognize that the “Canonically Correct” changes based on political expediency. Then I may suggest that PZ apologize for acting according to his beliefs, but not before.

    Ed, we can’t apologize for ever for what ever feelings we may have hurt, we would be forever saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” We wouldn’t have any breath left over for saying anything else. We should never apologize for doing what we think is right.

    And thanks for keeping us updated on Father Joe.


  9. demolition65 says:

    Little Paul Myers is an asshat, and will never apologize.

    However, “Father” Joe and any other Catholic advocating violence -no matter how satisfying it might feel to punch Little Paul in his fat face- is off the reservation. “Turn the other cheek” is the oft-quoted Scripture which applies here. Little Paul and his brainless minions are to be met with love, not violence. Any Catholic who says otherwise is canonically incorrect, at the bare minimum.


  10. Kate says:

    Honestly, I’m glad PZ took a less aggressive tone in his ‘desecration’ than a lot of his ‘minions’ would have liked. I thought he struck a pretty good compromise in showing disregard and pointing out the historical finger pointing and scapegoating relating to ‘host desecration’. I won’t pray that PZ is converted (even if I were religious). Even as a Christian I believed that God judged on the intent to harm, rather than by some arbitrary set of rules.

    And to “pray that Dr Myers will cease desecrating the body and blood of Christ”? I wasn’t aware that he was continuing to.

    There are two interesting points in all this from an atheist/agnostic point of view which haven’t been addressed. Although there is no reason for PZ to believe that Christ is present in the consecrated elements, he must also admit that there is a possibility (though totally without empirical truth). From the Catholic side, they must also realize that the only harm done was to their egos, not to God, whom is, after all, present in but not contained by the elements.

    If God exists, then he is a great deal bigger a being than to be harmed by PZ Myers.

    Oddly, the only individuals who have reason to fear harm, are those who have not professed faith in Christ. Instead we are seeing armed guards outside of churches and threats at atheist conventions. I’m unaware of anyone setting off bombs or shooting up meetings because they don’t believe in God. On the other hand, there’s been a great deal of corruption of scripture leading to individuals who engage in acts of violence, aggression, and even murder because they believe that God demands they take action.

    While we’ve coined the phrase “militant atheists” we don’t really see any groups of atheists taking up arms for some final conflict. Yet we do see militant Christians.

    I’m personally saddened that Catholics have fallen into the extremist and charismatic religious mind frame that allows them to to, en masse and with the approval (if not encouragement) of lay leaders in the church fired up by clergy, threaten violence against other members of society on the basis of their lack of belief in Catholic Canon.

    Again, we don’t hear about a slew of angry atheists organizing and threatening Myers for his destruction of The God Delusion … and surprisingly no Muslims have been offering violence for his desecration of The Qu’an

    Ed, I don’t see how Christians who profess that “God is love” can engage in the kind of radical and violent responses that many Catholics have over this issue. Of course, that’s one of the reasons why I stopped attending communities of faith and began questioning my central beliefs.

    Personally I think it’s well past time that we put this all behind us.


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    And God bless Dr. Myers. We should all pray that Father Joe will condemn the violence and bullying that tripped Dr. Myers’ anger, justly.

    I’m curious — do you think bearing false witness against Dr. Myers glorifies Christ in some way? I wish you’d explain how and why you can overlook that lapse. And then, if you would, explain why it is you think Catholic clergy do not need to call for peace and calm in times of threat.

    I think each of us has a responsibility to stand up for civility. No waiting for the the other guy to do it first. Human life should never be threatened or sacrificed, even for, especially for, a consecrated host.


  12. dcmattozzi says:

    God Bless Father Joe. We should all pray that Dr. Meyers will convert and cease desecrating the body and blood of Christ.


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