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Atheists, the Eucharist and a controversial 'cracker'

The Catholic League treads where no one needs to: the blogosphere

First there was non-Catholic Sally Quinn, co-editor of On Faith and wife of my hero, displaying incredible religious ignorance or insensitivity when she took communion at the funeral for her friend, Tim Russert. Here was her reaction:

I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started "On Faith" and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday I was determined to take it for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him.

Wow. Really missed the point there, unless Russert died for her sins (not to denigrate the saintly journalist or our Lord).

Then a University of Central Florida student claimed he was receiving death threats for "smuggling" the communion wafer out of church.

Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn't eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.

Catholics worldwide became furious.

"Would you believe this isn't hyperbole?" asked PZ Myers, the often-offensive atheist blogger.

Myers thought the reaction of many Catholics was ridiculous (I agree), and let his readers know it in a manner with which I don't agree: by trashing those who think Christ's body has taken the form of a "GOD–MNED CRACKER!"

"There are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so god–mned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid," he wrote. "And nothing makes them stupider than religion."

After receiving more than 1,000 comments, Myers, who changed the original headline to "FRACKIN' CRACKER," opened a new thread two hours ago that already has 250 comments. Certainly, Myers and many of his readers don't understand the meaning of the Eucharist, or the fact that different denominations treat holy communion differently. Yes, that wafer is not human flesh, but to Christians it represents the body of Christ, and to some Christians it, through the "miracle of transubstantiation," becomes the body. That is important to mention because to Myers, it really is only a cracker.

The Christian world could leave it at that. But the true humor here is that the Catholic League, never quite sure when to remain quiet, thought it was worth getting involved.

"The Myers blog can be accessed from the university's website. The university has a policy statement on this issue which says that the ?Contents of all electronic pages must be consistent with University of Minnesota policies, local, state and federal laws.' One of the school's policies, ?Code of Conduct,' says that ?When dealing with others,' faculty et al. must be ?respectful, fair and civil.' Accordingly, we are contacting the President and the Board of Regents to see what they are going to do about this matter. Because the university is a state institution, we are also contacting the Minnesota legislature.

"It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively."

Like when the Anti-Defamation League engaged Joe Klein over his claim of Jewish dual-loyalty a few weeks ago, this action has only fed the fire. Myers writes that he has received 39 pieces of hate mail since the Catholic League singled him out, four of which were death threats – "a personal one day record" – and asks fellow travelers to fight back. This counter-campaign against "the Dark Age fanatics at the Catholic League" would include letters of support to Myers' boss, University of Minnesota President {encode="bruin001@umn.edu" title="Robert Bruininks"}.

Seriously, sometimes I think Bill Donahue, who once gave my favorite observation of Hollywood – "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular" – has decided he will be a caricature of what a conservative Christian advocate should be. Please, Bill, stop embarrassing us.

This article also appears at The God Blog.

*Updated: This is why bloggers, at times, could use editors too. I previously neglected to mention Myers' promise to publicly desecrate a consecrated communion wafer if someone would just steal it for him. "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," he wrote.

Thanks for pointing this out Wonders.

Obviously, I find this disgusting and offensive. In fact, I often find Myers offensive. My point, specifically, was that Myers' desire to denigrate, disgusting and all, should not be the concern of a religious advocacy organization, even when they are singled out, as the Catholic League was. Myers is not likely to convert the masses with this rant or any other; he is preaching to his choir.

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