For those who may have missed it, P. Z. Myers, a washed-up academic at a third-tier school who takes out his bitterness on Christians and calls it "science blogging," claimed that some human toothache named Webster Cook had received death threats for stealing a Eucharist and threatening to desecrate it. Reader John Farrell repeatedly tried to get Myers to verify the "death threat" bit but was shouted down by the throngs of Myers’s cultists who took his claim on faith.
Myers, who seems to have been surprised by the response, has waffled between "I was just kidding" ("Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’," Prv 26:18-19) and promising that he shall indeed carry through on his threat. One gets the impression that both he and his followers, having nothing but contempt for Catholics, have no real grasp of the interior contours of Catholic faith and belief, and therefore no grasp whatever of the hierarchy of values at work in Catholic life. A host is a statue is a banner is a rosary is a Bible is a scapular, as far as they can tell. You get the feeling that they are genuinely surprised to find that Catholics attach far more importance to the desecration of the Eucharist than, say, the desecration of a rosary. They seem to have reeled a bit at the volcanic response. Now they are getting their footing and realizing this really ticks off Catholics — and so, like eight-year-olds, they are enjoying being in (they think) the position of saying, "Take one step closer and I’ll torture your cat!"
I won’t mince words: Myers is an evil man. And as evil men — particularly evil intellectuals — tend to be, he is also a madman, as are most of his acolytes and followers. One need only read Pharyngula to know this. Not all atheists are driven mad by their atheism. Many are quite respectable human beings. But those who make it their raison d’être tend to be made crazy by it. That’s the tragedy of sins of the intellect. They don’t just make you stupid; if you persist in them, and particularly if you persist in them to this degree, they make you crazy.
Now some forms of insanity are morally innocent due to organic troubles with the brain or body, or because of some sort of trauma. But others are chosen and willed. The choice to go out of one’s way to blaspheme Jesus Christ, purely for hate’s sake, is one of them. And, as with all sins, the sin itself is the punishment, because you then have to organize your life around defending the indefensible, and you become bricked round in the furnace of your own irrational hatred. The hatred breeds lies like, "I’m just exercising freedom of expression."
No. You are committing theft, vandalism, and incitement.
Or else you lie and say, "Unless Catholics can prove the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood of Christ and not a worthless cracker, I’m just guilty of being rude."
No. Catholics are under no obligation to prove that in order to show that you are guilty of theft, vandalism, and incitement. On my wall near my computer is a piece of paper with a crayon drawing on it. It’s a self-portrait of my son Sean with a little heart and a poem in which he informs us he hearts us and we are good parents. Any art dealer in the world would appraise the value of the art at approximately nothing. Any literature scholar would tell you that the poem is very poor poetry. Likewise, the value of the paper is zero.
To me, it’s priceless. And if you send one of your blog readers into my house to take it, I would be quite justified in calling you a thief who has stolen something precious. I would also be quite justified in defending it and my house from your naked act of aggression.
Yet another demented lie to cover up your naked act of aggression is to play the victim:
No, what Catholics are demanding is not that Myers and his cultish followers respect the Eucharist. We are demanding that they not invade our religious services, steal what does not belong to them, and incite others to vandalize what is ours and not theirs. We are pointing out that thugs who do this are of precisely the same caliber and guilty of exactly the same crime as somebody who paints swastikas on a synagogue. (Notably, people who do that sort of stuff also claim to be victims when caught.)
The most absurd thing about Myers’s attempt to transmogrify his naked act of aggression, theft, vandalism, and incitement into victim status are the words "I have to do this" and his ridiculous contention that if he and his minions don’t invade our sanctuaries and steal the Eucharist, they are "offering respect" to the Eucharist. He is basically saying that if we all are not going around the world desecrating whatever it is we don’t believe in, we are ipso facto honoring same. So my failure to desecrate a Quran or the Satanic Bible means I am somehow respecting and honoring them.
Crazy people talk that way.
The thirsty cruelty and cowardice of Myers is manifest in this: Regardless of your views of the deity of Christ, to make oneself into a creature who deliberately desecrates the memory of an innocent Man who died in torments, solely for the purpose of spite, is an utterly pathetic and deeply evil thing. As all acts of blasphemy do, they serve only to destroy the image of God in the blasphemer. They do nothing whatever to harm Jesus (except in the sense that this sin too becomes one of the billions He bears in His body and soul on the Cross). But they do immeasurable harm to the soul of the blasphemer.
The next thing to do is to fight. Forgiving and fighting not only may but must be done at the same time. If you doubt that, just look at Jesus: He forgave His impenitent killers at exactly the moment He was fighting (and winning) the most important battle ever fought against all the powers of hell. St. Paul likewise forgave his persecutors but was absolutely ingenious in making use of everything (including civil law) to fight them and advance the gospel.
I have absolutely no problem with appeals to Caesar where it is appropriate, but we have to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I think invocations of "hate crime" laws, for instance, are stupid, because I think the dumbest thing a Catholic can do is encourage the notion of ThoughtCrime or labor to make Caesar the arbiter of Allowable Speech. Canada is currently engaged in that social experiment, to catastrophic effect. So I think attempts to arraign Pharyngula as a "hate site" are deeply wrong-headed. Catholics need to cowboy up and face hatred like saints, not whine for Uncle Caesar to tell the Bad Man to stop saying mean things.
On the other hand, I have no problem with Catholics pointing out that many a Pharyngula post has been made on the taxpayer’s dime and that misuse of state monies should be punished. I likewise have no problem with Catholics lobbying the university to have this bigot canned as radically opposed to the university mission statement. I doubt it will happen, but they are welcome to try — because Catholics have free speech, too.
Similarly, just as St. Paul had no problem at all asking the civil power to protect him from persecution when some mob threatened him or one of his churches, I see nothing at all wrong — if Myers and Co. carry out their threat — with going to the civil authority and arraigning Myers et al. with theft, vandalism, destruction of property, and incitement, if the court system allows it. It is perfectly just to seek this, just as it is perfectly just for Jews to seek justice when some thug paints a swastika on a synagogue.
Catholics rightly have hope of Myers’s redemption. That’s as it should be. But I also am mindful of Jesus’ very solid counsel: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine" (Mt 7:6). Myers et al. are precisely the sort of people Jesus has in mind here. If they are insulted by that, our first duty is to pray that they will somehow receive the grace to grasp how dire it is to be insulted by the Son of God, whose insults are, like everything else about Him, without any sin whatever. In short, they are people who deserve to be called swine, because they have made themselves swine by their actions. Our orders as Catholics are clear: Don’t imagine that argument will do you any good when you are dealing with people who have lost the good of the intellect. Pray for them, certainly. But pray that they repent, not that they get clearer explanations of things they already know but refuse to admit — such as, "You don’t go around vandalizing what is not yours."
It is right and just to be angered by Myers et al.’s assault on the Eucharist. Not all anger is sinful. But the purpose of anger is action, not desire for vengeance. Myers and Co. threaten violence against Him we hold most sacred. Catholics who threaten violence against Myers in return disgrace our Lord who forgave His murderers and, just as surely, extends forgiveness to Myers even as He fights him with the same goads with which He fought Saul of Tarsus. Our task is to realize that our principal audience is not Myers and his vicious crew, but all the onlookers in our culture, who want to know if there is any real difference between Catholics and Myers.
Mark P. Shea is a senior editor at