A University of Minnesota, Morris, associate professor, Paul Myers, put a rusty nail through the some pages of the Quran and a book by atheist Richard Dawkins. Professor Myers did the same to a consecrated Host, and chucked the whole mess in a trash can.
Myers had a reason for desecrating the Quran pages and the Host, and mistreating a book written by an atheist. Earlier this month, a University of Central Florida student took a consecrated Host from a Catholic church, and later returned it. Then, the student said, he got death threats.
So, the University of Minnesota, Morris, associate professor posted this response:
"There are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so goddamned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid. And nothing makes them stupider than religion...."My guess is that associate professor Paul Myers believes that sticking a rusty nail through some pages of the Quran and a book by atheist Richard Dawkins, doing the same to a consecrated Host, and throwing them away is a very reasonable response to what happened in Florida.
Religious Beliefs MatterIf professor Myers' system of belief is similar to what I encountered in my college days, he believes that the "cracker," as he puts it, and those sheets of paper with ink on them, are equivalent. And disposable.
I'm not sure what a follower of Islam would think of professor Myers' treatment of the Quran. As a Catholic, I do know that his treatment of the Eucharist is appalling.
That "cracker," since it has been consecrated, is the Body of Christ. You don't have to believe that. I'm not trying to force you to accept that. But that is what informed Catholics believe. (The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" has a somewhat technical discussion of the Eucharist: "Article 3 The Sacrament of the Eucharist" (1322-1419).)
Catholics see those "crackers," after they're consecrated, as the Body of Christ. That may help you understand why Catholics are not happy about associate professor Myers' treatment of the Eucharist.
About what he did to a Quran: I'd appreciate it, if a Muslim would leave a comment, saying whether removing a page from the Quran, piercing it with a rusty nail, and tossing it in the trash, is acceptable or not. And, why.
Tolerance and Academic FreedomI used to know what "academic freedom" meant. Now, I'm not so sure.
On July 25, 2008, Jacqueline Johnson, chancellor at Morris, made this statement (excerpt from Catholic Explorer (July 31, 2008):
- "I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible," Johnson wrote, adding that the University of Minnesota board of regents' "Code of Conduct" prohibits such behavior in the workplace.
- At the same time, she added, the university's policy on academic freedom and responsibility "affirms the freedom of a faculty member to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint, and the responsibility to make clear that he or she is not speaking for the institution in matters of public interest."
My Take on the Morris MessSome people, faced with ideas and behavior they don't like, call for prayer. Others, like Jim Adkisson, shoot up a church. Still others, like associate professor Myers, go out of their way to stir up emotional reactions.
A point that I think quite a few news articles and blogs miss is that Myers' actions were not anti-Catholic. They were anti-religion. By including pages from the Quran in his demonstration, associate professor Myers made it clear that he disdains Catholicism and Islam: and, since he describes himself as an atheist, probably all religions.
The Morris mess is another case where I've got more in common with faithful Muslims than with secular academics. (More at "I'm With the Devout Muslims on This One" (September 19, 2007). My reactions as a Catholic are at "Sacrilege Down the Road: A Very Serious Post" Through One Dad's Eye (August 4, 2008).)
I find his treatment of what people hold sacred despicable. Although I'm personally involved in this one, I hope I'd say the same, if Myers had limited his desecration to a Quran.
America, and the world, is in a very stressful period. It's time for all of us to act like grownups.
In the blogs:
- "READER ALERT: Update on Professor Paul Myers' hate attack"
InsomiMom (July 24, 2008)
- "Paul Zachary Myers, benighted professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris, looks to be having a great big giant fatwa opened up on his head with his latest hysterical rant that he will desercrate both the Eucharist and a copy of the Koran in a childish display of equal opportunity bigotry...."
- "University biology professor desecrates the Eucharist"
St. Michael's Cyber Parish (July 29, 2008)
- "For all the talk of tolerance and freedom in our society, I find the following story nothing less than unbelievable, from CNA:"
- "Saying 'Catholicism has been actively poisoning the minds of its practitioners' and characterizing religious instruction as 'a devastating crime against the whole of the human race,' University of Minnesota at Morris biology professor Dr. Paul Zachary Myers claims to have carried out his threat to desecrate the Eucharist.
- "Prof. Myers says that he pierced a Host with a rusty nail and then threw it in the trash alongside coffee grounds, banana peels, and pages torn respectively from the Koran and a book by the atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins...."
- "IT'S A FRACKIN' CRACKER!"
Pharyngula (July 8, 2008)
- "There are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so goddamned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid. And nothing makes them stupider than religion...."
- "...That's right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented f***wits. And Cook is not out of the fire yet — that Fox News story ends with an open incitement to cause him further misery...."
- "...So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? 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. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I'll send you my home address...."
- (I've Bowdlerized one word in the Pharyngula excerpt. Associate professor Myers was quite frank and candid in presenting his position.)
- "Clergy confraternity calls for prayer and fasting in reparation for Eucharistic desecration"
Catholic News Agency (July 29, 2008)
- "Baltimore, ... (CNA).- The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a national association of over 600 priests and deacons, has responded to the reported desecration of the Eucharist at the hands of a Minnesota biology professor and science blogger by asking for the Catholics of Minnesota and the entire nation to join in a day of prayer and fasting.
- " 'We find the actions of University of Minnesota (Morris) Professor Paul Myers reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional,' the group said in a statement. 'His flagrant display of irreverence by profaning a consecrated Host from a Catholic church goes beyond the limit of academic freedom and free speech.'
- "The confraternity argued that Myers' claim to have acquired and desecrated a consecrated Host is a violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
- " 'Lies and hate speech which incite contempt or violence are not protected under the law,' they further asserted, arguing that freedom of religion means 'no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership [in] or ascribe allegiance.'..."
- "Minnesota professor claims to have desecrated Eucharist"
Catholic News Agency (July 26, 2008)
- "Morris, MN, ... (CNA).- Saying 'Catholicism has been actively poisoning the minds of its practitioners' and characterizing religious instruction as 'a devastating crime against the whole of the human race,' University of Minnesota at Morris biology professor Dr. Paul Zachary Myers claims to have carried out his threat to desecrate the Eucharist.
- "Prof. Myers says that he pierced a Host with a rusty nail and then threw it in the trash alongside coffee grounds, banana peels, and pages torn respectively from the Koran and a book by the atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins.
- "In a rambling prelude to his announcement of the desecration, Myers tried to explain his actions in a Thursday post on his blog 'Pharyngula.' Referencing the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which he said codified Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist and established legal punishment for Jews, he said that accusations of Eucharistic desecration had been harmful to Jews in medieval Europe.
- " 'That is the true power of the cracker, this silly symbol of superstition. Fortunately, Catholicism has mellowed with age — the last time a Catholic nation rose up to slaughter its non-Christian citizenry was a whole 70 years ago, after all — but the sentiment still lingers,' he said, apparently making a reference to the Spanish Civil War...."
- "Communion wafer held 'hostage' raises holy heck"
Minneapolis Star Tribune (July 11, 2008)
- "A Minnesota university instructor and avowed atheist is jousting with a national Catholic watch dog group over a smuggled communion wafer, which the associate professor dismisses as a 'frackin' cracker.'
- "Paul Z. Myers, who teaches biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, on his blog this week expressed amazement that a Florida college student who briefly took a wafer 'hostage' from a church ceremony has been receiving death threats for an action that was characterized 'a hate crime' by the Catholic League.
- "Under the headline, 'It's a frackin' cracker!' Myers wrote in an at-times profane blog entry: 'Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane.'..."
- (Note: news reports have carefully stated that the University of Florida student has claimed to receive death threats. That's not quite the same as "Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker.")
- "Minnesota professor encourages theft and desecration of Eucharist"
Catholic News Agency (July 11, 2008)
- "Morris, MN, Jul 11, 2008 / 07:09 pm (CNA).- A Minnesota professor and science blogger has said he will personally desecrate the Eucharist and publish photos of the desecration on the internet if any of his readers acquire a consecrated Host and mail it to him. 'I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare,' he has written.
- "Paul Zachary Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota at Morris, made the threat while commenting on a University of Central Florida incident in which a student senator stole and held hostage a consecrated Host from a June 29 Mass.
- "In the Florida incident, student senator Webster Cook presented himself at Sunday Mass to receive the Eucharist. According to wftv.com, Cook said he intended to take the consecrated Host back to his seat to show a curious friend. After being stopped on his return to his seat, he put the Host in his mouth but removed it upon sitting down.
- "He said a church leader grabbed his hands and tried to retrieve the Eucharist, after which he left with the Host. Cook filed an official abuse complaint with the UCF student court, while Catholic students filed other complaints alleging Cook engaged in disruptive conduct.
- "Cook stored the Eucharist in a Ziploc bag for a week and then returned it last Sunday.
- " 'I want to thank the individuals who explained the emotional and spiritual pain my possession of the Eucharist caused them to experience,' Cook wrote in a letter to the church, according to wftv.com. 'They have demonstrated that the use [of] reason is more effective than the use of force.'
- "He said some people had threatened to break into his room to retrieve the Eucharist. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Orlando said the diocese does not condone the threats but is happy Cook returned the Host.
- "Professor Myers criticized the incident in a derisive July 8 post on his science blog Pharyngula, hosted at scienceblogs.com. He also solicited his readers to acquire consecrated Hosts...."
- "Student Who Took Religious Icon Getting Death Threats"
MyFox Orlando (July 7, 2008)
- " ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35, Orlando) --A University of Central Florida student claims that he is getting death threats for messing with something sacred.
- "Webster Cook says that, instead of eating a Eucharist wafer as he was expected to do during the Sacrament of Holy Communion, he smuggled the blessed piece of bread out of mass. Once blessed, the piece of bread is viewed by Catholics as the true Body of Christ...."
Reading associate professor Myers' blog brought back memories of the years I spent in college classrooms. The University of Minnesota, Morris, has removed their link to Myers' blog, but the biology professor is still posting:
("Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal")
The name of the blog, Pharyngula, is a technical term: "pharyngula: a developmental stage in vertebrate embryos, after fertilization, cleavage and gastrulation, in which the embryos are characterized by a notochord, a post-anal tail, and a series of paired folds in the neck region."
(From Explore Evolution.)
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