Apparently, Chad's dog has at least some of the issues surrounding the PZ Myers/Eucharist desecration issue figured out. I'm not sure, but I think she understands them much better than some of the folks who have been commenting here. And she expresses things with so much more grace and panache than I usually manage.
Archive for: July, 2008
I really had no plans on posting more about the whole PZ and the eucharist thing. I got my own views off my chest last night, and there haven't been any new developments in the case itself. The initial reactions to Paul's post are in, and the commenters have sorted themselves into three groups ("Rock on!", "Dude. Not cool.", and "Where's the firewood?"). It's unlikely that there's going to be a lot of movement from one group to another. Under the circumstances, writing another post on this issue has all the appeal of sticking my finger in a pencil sharpener.
But then there was the side issue. It was probably inevitable, but some of the discussion surrounding all of the lunacy has actually brought up a point that is worth discussing: what's the difference between what Paul said, and the publication of the infamous "Mohammed" cartoons a couple of years ago?
This point was raised by a couple of posts at Andrew Sullivan's blog. In the first, he condemned PZ's threat to desecrate the Eucharist. In the second, he responded to readers who wondered if he might be suffering from a double standard. Sullivan, after all, was a very vocal supporter of the Danish newspapers that received threats after publishing cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
Jason Rosenhouse was among those who weren't very thrilled with Sullivan. To a certain extent, this is understandable. It's very easy to get the impression, Jason points out, that the different reactions might have been sparked more by the fact that in only one of the two cases was Sullivan's own religion insulted. There's another point Jason makes, however, where I think he misses something very important:
Over the last couple of days, I've considered posting something on the controversy that's been sparked by PZ Myers' comments about the eucharist, and the reaction of Bill Donohue and the Catholic League to those comments. I've been putting it off because it's not an easy post for me to write. The entire incident has suffered from a lack of heroes. Instead, it's been a case where someone has behaved badly, but someone else has behaved worse.
I've interacted with Paul Myers on various internet forums for at least a decade now. In that time, he's done many things that I respect, and a few that I greatly admire. His recent post offering to publicly desecrate the Eucharist if someone would be so kind as to send him some does not fall into either of those categories.
To be fair to Paul, it's not like he pulled that idea out of the blue. A college student in Florida smuggled a consecrated host out of a Catholic Mass at the school. When this became widely known, a large number of Catholics became extremely outraged, and the student received a number of death threats. The college responded by supplying armed university police officers to stand guard - not over the student who received the death threats, but at Mass, to protect the eucharist from future kidnapping. The university police will apparently be receiving additional backup from a nun that the diocese is sending to help protect the Eucharist. (No, I'm not making any of that up.)
It's easy to understand why Paul - and, for that matter, any number of rational people - were outraged by that story. The kid removed something from the church that is, as far as anyone can tell from any measurements of any physical properties, a thin wafer made out of wheat. It's about the size of a quarter, costs a lot less, and has both the texture and flavor of glue. It is absolutely, completely, and utterly insane that there are people who are willing to threaten the life of another human being who failed to display proper reverence for an object that is, by all objective standards, nothing more than a Necco Wafer that's been subjected to a flavorectomy.
Regardless of what we believe about the Eucharist, we should all be able to get behind the idea that it's absolutely wrong to threaten to kill someone who treats it disrespectfuly.
Paul's offer to desecrate a host was made in that context. I'm not totally sure whether it was made in the spirit of standing in solidarity with the threatened student, to attempt to show the people making the threats that it won't work, to try to show everybody that there's no apparent difference between desecrating a host and mangling a cracker, some combination of the above, or for some reasons I've missed. To be honest, I don't think the reason really matters. Let's just say that it came in reaction to the absolutely outrageous behavior of others, and leave it at that.
Paul's response to the death threats was to turn around and threaten to do something that's guaranteed to offend (if not horrify) every Catholic who finds out about it, whether or not they were in the select group of pin-heads who wish they'd been born early enough to get an on-the-job anatomy lesson working for the Inquisition. He made it very clear that he has absolutely no respect for anyone who believes in something as irrational as transubstantiation, and absolutely no qualms about hurting their feelings.
I don't know what it is, but there's clearly something about the G8 conference that interferes with George Bush's ability to restrain his inner frat brat. At the G8 two years ago, you might recall, the Commander-in-Chief grabbed international headlines when he gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an impromptu (and uninvited and unwelcome) neck rub during a meeting. Apparently, disgracing his office and nation once at the G8 wasn't enough of a legacy for the man.
The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."
He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.
Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.
Isn't it nice to see that our President is still willing to show the rest of the world that he's got the maturity level you'd expect to find in a junior-varsity football locker room?