A student at the University of Central Florida apparently violated Catholic doctrine by smuggling a piece of Eucharist out of a Mass. For those not in the know, our Roman friends believe that after a priest blesses the wafer and it is consumed by the parishioner, it somehow transmogrifies, literally, into the body of Christ (likewise, the same thing happens to the wine, which becomes Christ’s blood of course).
Some Catholics the world over have gone buggy nuts over this, up to and including making death threats against said student. Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, Catholicism’s number one ambulance-chaser, has called for the student’s expulsion.
But that’s not all. Outspoken atheist P.Z. Myers, of the science blog Pharyngula, responded by asking for his readers to score him a piece of Eucharist and mail it to him so that he could somehow abuse it or treat with disdain, then post the fun on his blog (how he plans to violate the wafer I don’t know and don’t want to know). Of course, Donahue is now calling for Myers to be disciplined by his employer, the University of Minnesota at Morris, including censure or dismissal.
I can’t help but find all of this somewhat amusing. Donahue has always made me laugh, given his penchant for decrying every snide remark, every joke made at Catholicism’s expense, as the end of western civilization and an attack on Catholicism and Christianity in general blah, blah, blah. He also seems to take pride in using the mass (no pun intended) of Catholics in the U.S. to bully and intimidate everyone he has issue with. Truly the love of Christ being lived out in our troubled world.
On the other hand, Myers is equally amusing. A respected biology professor, he utilizes most of the space on his blog for ranting about faith in general and Christianity in particular. It’s the same old stuff that stinks up the internet…believers are nuts, stupid, cruel; believers hate science; religion is the source of all of the world’s problems, etc. His tone is dogmatic, condescending, and nasty. Many of the sycophants who frequent his blog and the few who actually know him say that in person he is warm, gentle, and gregarious. If it is true that he uses his blog to say things that he wouldn’t say in person, then he is a coward. Sorry kids, but in my mind that is the only word for using your blog (or commenting on other’s blogs) as an avenue to say things that you wouldn’t say to a person’s face. I resolved when I started blogging not to do that, and so far I have kept my word.
I grew up surrounded by Catholics, I have close friendships with Catholics, I have attended Mass, and I have read the works of some fine Catholic theologians. But I still have never really gotten Catholicism. I don’t understand how any Catholic can feel threatened by someone swiping a piece of communion bread or someone violating it. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that the wafer does become the literal body of Christ. If Myers were to get a hold of a wafer and do something to it, isn’t that really on Myers? Won’t God square all of this in His own right? Are the calls for expulsion and dismissal, the death threats, and the general carrying on really necessary?
I don’t intend to make light of the deep offense, even hurt, that Catholics may feel because of these actions. One facet of our faith that many non-believers don’t seem to get (or don’t care about) is that committing to Christ means integrating discipleship into our very being; it’s not just what we do (which is religion) but who we are. I know from more experience than I care to recall what it feels like when people ridicule your faith. But I have no sympathy for Donahue, his ilk, or for those making death threats against the UCF student or Myers. Nothing justifies associating faith in Christ with demanding a pound of flesh. Jesus taught a different way altogether.
And finally, the power and presence of God does not rest in material items. Our Lord is not some weak mystical entity that can be undone through some lame attempt at sacrilege. The created hold no power over the creator.