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Richard Dawkins Rallies Support for Minnesota Prof

The University of Minnesota, Morris professor, P. Z. Myers, who has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist,
has secured the support of Richard Dawkins. Writes Dawkins:

PLEASE WRITE IN SUPPORT OF PZ MYERS. By Richard Dawkins

Readers of yesterday's thread "It's a Goddamned Cracker" will be aware of somebody called Bill Donohue, whose grasp of reality is so poor that he can't tell the difference between a wafer and Jesus. The shrieking hysteria of Donohue and other Roman Catholics over the temporary removal of a communion wafer from a church service epitomises all that is ridiculous in the religious mind.

Today's development is that Donohue is now inciting a witch-hunt against PZ, and is trying to whip up Roman Catholics to write to the President of the University of Minnesota, urging him to sack PZ. We need a massive counter flood of letters in support of PZ Myers. Please write, bearing in mind PZ's two requests:-

1. Please use your own name, not a pseudonym
2. Please take care to write in a good, literate, adult style, in order to increase the contrast between the letters of support and the incoherent, juvenile flaming that will doubtless characterise the letters from the Catholics.

For details of the address to write to, see Pharyngula, here (or PZ's post below)
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/07/fight_back_against_bill_donohu.php

Please rally round and show support for PZ, in the face of this hysterical latter-day Grand Inquisitor.

Thank you

Richard [emphasis added by FJB]

Apparently, Dawkins' instructions for a "literate, adult style" are not being followed by supportive commentators on Myers' blog. (Unless Dawkins meant by "adult style" what "adult" means in "adult bookstore.") Take a look for yourself here, here, and here. But make sure that you are over 18 and no children are looking over your shoulder.

UPDATE: Apparently, Professor Myers' website, Pharyngula, on which his pledge to desecrate the Eucharist is published, was accessible via his department's faculty page for several years, until it was taken down within the past 48 hours. Fortunately, it had been cached on July 6, 2008 by Google here. If one consults the Wayback Machine, it looks like the taxpayers of Minnesota have supported UMM's biology department's portal to Professor Myers' anti-religious screeds since at least November 9, 2006. (You can find all the archived pages here). Professor Morris has also had Pharyngula mirrored on the University of Minnesota Morris' server, here.

Comments (48)

It seems to be up still...? or am I missing something?

Whereas these acts are atrocious on the part of P.Z. Myers (who is infamous for his extreme atheism and rants against the faith), I also think this is an opportunity for us to reach out and share the love of Christ. Let's use this opportunity not to retaliate in anger, but to share just why the Eucharist means so much to us.

The difference between Jesus and the Eucharist...once again Dawkins proves right Terry Eagleton's assessment of him:

"Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be."

It's a shame to read the truly un-Christlike responses from proclaimed theists and Catholics in the comments of P.Z. Myers blog. They are every bit as filthy as those of the unbelieving. That's a shame and only encourages the atheistic fundamentalism evident from others in the comments.

"Why do the heathen rage."

I'm with Ranger on this. I've written to Myers, appealing to him to rescind his plan, without issuing any threats or trying to give him a taste of his own rhetorical medicine.

I would encourage people to consider the matter carefully before going all Donahue on this. Suppose you follow the way of Donahue, and help him win this battle, getting Myers fired amidst a flurry of nasty rhetoric from both sides. What then? I fear Donahue will then appear in triumphalist mode on various news interviews shows, and backers of Myers & Dawkins will strike back any way they can -- perhaps with a rash of wafer kidnappings all over the country. All in all, the "victory" in this battle will set back the greater cause of the war, I fear. Christ came to our fallen world in part to have his body desecrated. I just don't think the best reaction here is to be striking off people's ears. I'm sure Frank will recognize this perceptive (if perhaps literally false) description of Christ's work:

You didn't know it
You didn't think it
could be done
But in the final end he won the war
After losing every battle

A point that is perhaps too pedantic: outside of the mass, don't you all believe it is just a "Goddamned cracker"?

Yeah, I know that might miss the point. But it seems to indicate there is a fine line here: will you respond as if this is the schoolyard game it is - both sides trying to school cultural points off of each other, or will you respond as if you wish you could... know you, whip out the stake and kindling?

So much for a literate response. That last sentence fragment should be "... you know, whip out..."

Keith,

I think that it's far more likely that people will kidnap 'wafers' if this provocation goes unanswered. The people who do this sort of thing are not particularly courageous.

The bottom line is that Myers and Dawkins are asking people to do something that is illegal and an act of intimidation directed against a religious group. It is illegal and qualifies as a 'hate crime.' These crimes do get prosecuted when directed against catholics.

On this table you will see that rimes against property do qualify as hate crimes:

http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table2.html

On this chart you will see that crimes against Catholics do qualify as hate crimes.

It is really quite unbelievable that these two atheist minstrels think that they should be applauded for inciting others to commit a criminal act.

I neglected to include the second table, Here it is:

http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table1.html

Mike,

It does seem to demonstrate the misunderstanding of transubstantiation that Meyers has doesn't it? Outside of addressing his disrespectful attitude, I do think that a legitimate response is to question Meyer's sanity so to speak. "Why do you want to ruin some crackers that you stole and how will that defeat the Roman Catholic Church?"

"So much for a literate response."

Don't worry, Mike what your response lacked in coherence was more than compensated for by ignorance and irreverence.

Once consecrated, the Eucharist remains the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ until it is completely consumed. I think (subject to correction by someone who knows better) the theology is that as long as consecrated (former) bread and wine is recognizable by an ordinary person under the accidents of bread and wine, it remains the Eucharist.

There are perpetual adoration chapels where Catholics go to adore the Eucharist outside of Mass.

So the answer to the question "outside of Mass isn't it just a cracker?" is no. The Eucharist is consecrated in the Mass, but He does not cease to be the Eucharist when He is taken from where the Mass was celebrated to some other place.

Zippy,

But I thought that the consecration was preseved by the Church? So I assumed that if an outside party stole the consecrated bread and they left the preservation of the church that they would cease to be consecrated?

Jay

trp,
Is pursuing the hate crime route really the way to go on this? I rather see the local Bishop lead an Eucharistic procession across the campus, prayers of reparation offered at the site of the desecration and a return to Chapel for Benediction. We have spiritual weapons at our disposable that are far more potent than anything the state can offer. Our problem is we don't use them.

Instead of acting as another special interest group pleading for victim status within the post-modern circus, let's bear witness and educate others about the Eucharist.

Kevin,

Asking the police to protect us from theft and intimidation is not unreasonable. One can both educate and demand that the law be applied equally to all crimes, including crimes against Catholics. If they were calling for the Torah to be stolen from the local synagogue and desecrated, I would ask for the same.

trp,
Offended and disgusted? Yes, but intimidated by professional blasphemers lacking in vitality and virility? Please. Theft should be prosecuted, of course, but I have no idea what earthly punishment is appropriate for the theft of a consecrated Host and dread what awaits one who knowingly perpetrates such a crime.

This episode is but a precursor of what is to come if Catholics seek redress from Ceasar, instead of taking recourse to the sacraments. This battle will be won or lost on the supernatural level, not by reducing it to a simple case of gross bigotry.

Let's confront the demons that hold these dessicated, isolated scoffers in their sway, and show the world what reverence and Communion look like.

But I thought that the consecration was preseved by the Church? So I assumed that if an outside party stole the consecrated bread and they left the preservation of the church that they would cease to be consecrated?

No. Once a host has been truly consecrated and transubstantiation has taken place, the substance of our Lord's body, blood, soul and divinity remains as long as the accidents that veil its presence remain, just as an unconsecrated host would remain a host until it corrupted over time. It does not matter where it is, who possesses it or what anyone believes about it.

So no, if Myers actually obtained a host that had been consecrated, it would not just be some "frackin' cracker."

Keith DeRose writes: "Suppose you follow the way of Donahue, and help him win this battle, getting Myers fired amidst a flurry of nasty rhetoric from both sides."

Has Donohue called for Myers' firing? I haven't seen that, he's just cited codes of conduct.

Some disciplinary action for Myers is the most that can be hoped for, unless his encouragement of the disruption of a religious service rises to the level of a felony.

Thank you for correcting me on that point. I apologize then if my earlier comment seemed insensitive.

I am obviously not Catholic, so I can not feel the fullness of this offense as some of you do, but isn't the only party truly harmed in all of this Mr. Meyers himself? Whether or not one believes in transubstantiation, Mr. Meyers means this as an act of defiance against theistic beliefs. Since he considers himself desecrating what is taught to be the body of Christ by the Roman Catholic Church, it would seem that his offense would heap judgement upon himself whether the bread is literally the body of Christ or not. Then Christ would be hurt only in so much as He is so cruelly rejected by one He loves. The Roman Catholic Church would be hurt only in so much as she is so grossly disrespected in public and presumably the victim of disruptive thieves. But Mr. Meyers himself has insulted the very grace and body by which his only hope of salvation must come.

Or is there some concern that this new hostile atheism is the precursor to some greater persecution?

If they were calling for the Torah to be stolen from the local synagogue and desecrated, I would ask for the same.

Speaking of which, where are Abe Foxman and CAIR on this? Isn't this act intended as an affront to believers of all persuasions? (at least Meyers knows where the truth is!).

A bit of curiousity: is there "official" bread? I thought mass could be performed with any food, or I guess any bread, and that the "standardized" wafers were just the workings of the church bureaucracy.

A bit of curiousity: is there "official" bread? I thought mass could be performed with any food, or I guess any bread, and that the "standardized" wafers were just the workings of the church bureaucracy.


Mike,

Actually, the ancient Roman church had struck a deal with the Webers bread of the time so that they could profit off the royalties.

To ensure it became part of popular Christian myth, the Pope had inserted "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" in the Our Father (as it was not originally part of the Prayer) and made it a permanent fixture of Scripture.

/sarcasm off

Mike,

We get it: you don't buy Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. Yet you keep coming back. As your confidence in your sophomoric 'refutation' of this profound mystery becomes weaker, the postmodern gargoyle feeding on your cerebellum will tighten its grip. The weaker your confidence, the stronger the compulsion to come back--and the angrier and less coherent your posts will become. Pretty soon you will begin having your own Host desecration fantasies. It's a common disorder, though it usually afflicts failed biologists.

A bit of curiousity: is there "official" bread? I thought mass could be performed with any food, or I guess any bread, and that the "standardized" wafers were just the workings of the church bureaucracy.

I am, of course, assuming this is an honest question asked in good faith.

It has to be wheat bread. There are a number of theological and historical reasons for this, including the fact that wheat bread is most likely the kind of bread used at the first Passover, the fact that Jesus compared Himself and His Passion to wheat (John 12:24) &c.

There are different traditions in East and West over the whether the bread is leavened or unleavened. Both, as far as I know, have their origins in the early Church and have valid reasons behind them. Pope St. Gregory the Great said: "The Roman Church offers unleavened bread, because our Lord took flesh without union of sexes: but the Greek Churches offer leavened bread, because the Word of the Father was clothed with flesh; as leaven is mixed with the flour."

So, in short, you cannot have mass with pizza, or rice cakes, or even corn bread.

I am obviously not Catholic, so I can not feel the fullness of this offense as some of you do, but isn't the only party truly harmed in all of this Mr. Meyers himself?
Well, when we get to that the theological waters become deeper. Christ was of course terribly harmed on the cross; He permitted it to be so. But I don't presume to have a good answer to the question. Certainly Meyers is doing terrible damage to himself and taking a terrible risk; but proximity to the Eucharist at all can be risky in the direction of unexpected grace.

As for what we ought to do about it, I'm inclined to Kevin's answer.

Zippy:

...proximity to the Eucharist at all can be risky in the direction of unexpected grace.

Interesting. Can you provide some examples of the sorts of harm that unexpected grace has caused in the proximity to the Eucharist? And how dangerous is this stuff, and how close do I have to be to sustain harm? Does the intensity diminish with the square of the distance, or is there some other principle at work here? I am concerned as there is a church just a block from my house and I am sure that this stuff is trucked past our door without any special safeguards.

Barry

"I am obviously not Catholic, so I can not feel the fullness of this offense as some of you do, but isn't the only party truly harmed in all of this Mr. Meyers himself?"

Great question! The underlying issue is not what would-be desecrators do with our Consecrated Hosts, but how we respond to it, in other words, it is more a test of how much we love the Lord.

To try a thought experiment, imagine it were a picture of your daughter instead of a Consecrated Host. And your daughter is observing how far you will go to protect her picture. After all is said and done our response is what tells the world if we really believe it's the Body of our Lord or just a "fricken cracker".

Can you provide some examples of the sorts of harm that unexpected grace has caused in the proximity to the Eucharist?

(Shakes head.) I sometimes think some species of atheism are a form of personality disorder. Remarks like this only reinforce that impression. There's a curious affective retardation here: like the guy who offers an algorithm for measuring the greatness of a poem in "Dead Poet's Society". And the amazing thing is, Barry deeply believes he is being Bright and showing up Zippy for a fool. Pride is its own punishment and, of all sins, makes us the stupidest.

The guy's so far off he's not even wrong... You really can only pray for some sort of illumination from the Holy Spirit, if only of the "I think I just made a jackass of myself" variety of vague discomfort sophomores occasionally feel in the presence of adults.

Barry,
"...how dangerous is this stuff..."

Lives have been completely transformed. People have gone from egotistical hedonists to humble ascetics through reception of the Eucharist. But, serious self-emptying has to occur before Christ can enter. At fist blush, your caustic approach suggests your inn has little room for anyone else, but yourself.

Yet, visiting a Christian site indicates you may be open to greater possibilities. If so, feel free to fire away with your inquiries. Plenty of people here will be happy to help.

Oh, goodness. Do bear in mind that I was not the one who introduced the idea of the riskiness of proximity to the Eucharist. If taking people at their word is incompatible with faith, then I am incompatible with faith.

Really, now. Either insist on miracles, or don't. And if you insist on miracles, do expect that people will assume that you can somehow illuminate or explain the miraculous. And, of course, if you cannot show the Eucharist to be a miracle--if, at bottom, it is just a cracker--then the worst offense anyone can claim PZ has committed is to be rude. Everywhere I have turned to see the Catholic POV on this, I hear things that make it sound like the Eucharist can trigger something like the "opening-the-ark" scene in Indiana Jones. Not one sane rational voice saying, "you know, it is just a cracker, but I feel affronted."

Claims of the paranormal are like any other claim; they are worth very little without proof.

Barry

If taking people at their word is incompatible with faith, then I am incompatible with faith.

The first thing is to actually take Zippy at his word. In fact, you took him at your word, a common error for self-involved victims of personality disorders.

Exhibit A: "I hear things that make it sound like the Eucharist can trigger something like the "opening-the-ark" scene in Indiana Jones."

What you heard was largely determined by you. It has nothing much to do with what Zippy said.

And, of course, if you cannot show the Eucharist to be a miracle--if, at bottom, it is just a cracker--then the worst offense anyone can claim PZ has committed is to be rude.

Again, your personality disorder hinders you from fundamental relational facts that normal people (not theists, just normal people) understand. A Catholic need not show the Eucharist to be a miracle to say, "This is the most precious thing in the universe, to us if not to you. Nobody's demanding you believe it. But we are saying that if you steal and desecrate what is not yours, sheerly for spite's sake, you are no different than a vandal painting swastikas on a synagogue." That's not just rude. That harrassment, theft, vandalism and quite possibly incitement. That you cannot see this elementary point makes you an emotional defective just as surely as the person who shouts somebody for caring about some "worthless" heirloom he smashed. You're no better than a thug who burns some 500 year old Torah scroll on Kristallnacht and measures the loss solely in terms of the value of the paper.

It is not necessary, in such a case, to prove to your satisfaction that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. No mortal power could prove that to you because you have absolutely no intention of allowing it to be proven to you. All that is necessary is to show that Myers and people like you have no conception of how to behave like normal people capable of respect for others most cherished treasures. And that's also something I don't need to prove. The Pharyngula crowd do a spectacular job of reminding people why atheism in power has always been a poisonous disaster.

You guys need a shrink.

Can you provide some examples of the sorts of harm that unexpected grace has caused in the proximity to the Eucharist?

I think his worst problem might be that he can't read. Zippy did not imply that 'harm' might come from proximity, but its opposite.

Claims of the paranormal are like any other claim; they are worth very little without proof.


Barry,

These kind of words are like music to my ears. You're absolutely right.

If you're looking for proof, you can begin with a book called Eucharistic Miracles by Joan Carroll Cruz.

George R,

To be clear, my requests below are sincere, and not meant to be tendentious.

I am trying to find evidence that there was either a Professor Odoardo Linoli or Ruggero Bertelli (the spelling of their names varies in the Catholic sources I have checked), two modern verifiers (in 1970-71) of the Lanciano miracle reported in chapter one of Cruz's book. So far, I have met with no success. To date, I have seen them mentioned only in Catholic sources. Nor can I find the text of the actual document produced, only Catholic summations of them. Can you provide some independent verification for me, and perhaps the text itself?

I also note that the only copies of Linoli's report said to exist are in the hands of the Catholic church. His report is frequently alluded to, but I have never seen an actual quotation from it that cites both its exact wording and the page number from which the words come.

There is a Professor Ruggero Bertelli (an economist) in Siena, but he cannot have been the one who worked alongside Linoli in 1970 because he was born in 1959. Perhaps there was another Professor Ruggero Bertelli from Siena?

"the worst offense anyone can claim PZ has committed is to be rude"

To write rude things on his blog would be rude and nothing more. To ask people to go to a Catholic Church, steal a consecrated Host, and give it to him so that he can desecrate it is much more than rude. If he wants to make a symbolic point, let him desecrate an unconsecrated communion wafer. Why must he send out his wacko atheist minions to infiltrate Catholic parishes and steal things from them? I know that Kevin et al. don't like it when the the situation is put in these secular terms, and I understand their point, but there is a dimension of illegality here that must not be forgotten. Catholics should not have to put up with this sort of intimidation.

Michael,

I would say that to imply that Catholic sources are unreliable betrays two presuppositions: that the Catholic Church is herself a hoax and that individual Catholic professionals can regularly be relied upon to perpetuate individual hoaxes (miracles)in order to prop up the main (the Church herself).

I would further add that if such were the case, this grand hoax and the desire for educated Catholics to forfeit their self-respect and risk their reputations in order to promote what they know to be lies would surely indicate something more than a merely human dishonesty, but would clearly suggest that Catholicism itself is of preternatural, i.e., demonic, inspiration.

On the other hand, it could instead be supposed that the Catholic Church is the true Church and, therefore, the lies and hoaxes are to be found outside her precincts. In which case, it would not be surprising that only Catholics would have the integrity to testify to the evidence of miracles that confirm the Catholic Church as the true Church.

In either case, the atheistic position is undermined (and so is, by the way, the ecumenical position, I'm glad to say).

Since, however, you asked for non-Catholic verification, I'll see what I can come up with.

George R,
Thanks for your willingness to search out the details. Perhaps you'll have better luck than I have had to this point. I'd welcome the additional information.

For the record, I'm not trying to say that the Catholic church is unreliable on this point. I'm trying to ascertain the truth of a historical assertion. As a church historian, I'm interested to get back to foundational sources whenever possible. If Linoli has written a document, I want to read it, just as I would were the issue related to a protestant or a secular historical assertion rather than one concerning the church of Rome.

Michael,

According to a Zenit report, Linoli's report was published in "Quaderni Sclavo di Diagnostica Clinica e di Laboratori" in 1971.

Have you checked that periodical for that year?

I saw a report that the WHO confirmed the findings, which is an urban legend if I ever saw one.

It must also be kept in mind that any investigation of miracles commissioned by the Vatican since Vatican II will be beset with controversy, alas. More reliable will be the investigations of miracles before 1960, even though the observational tools are, of course, better since then.

From what I have seen thus far, scepticism of the actual existence Linoli's report is not completely unwarranted. If it is not found in that periodical, you may be on to something.

Thanks for your efforts, George R. I'll try to track it down.
Best to you.
MB

Michael,

I've run down some facts:

The source for the Catholic accounts you have read of the 1970 verification is a book by Professor Bruno Sammaciccia The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano. It is available in English translation.

Dr. Linoli exists and so does his report. I found it cited in an on-line French translation of Sammaciccia's book -- Linoli O., Ricerche istologiche, imrnunologiche e biochimiche sulla carne e sul sangue del Miracolo Eucaristico di Lanciano (VIII secolo) . Tiré à part des « Quaderni Sclavo di Diagnostica », vol. 7, fasc. 3, Sienne, 1971.

You being a professor you should have no problem obtaining this article. And if you know Italian you can tell us all what it says.

That's damned good work, George.

Thanks again, George. I echo William's comment above. I appreciate your efforts. I'll see if our library can obtain the Linoli original and the English translation of BS's volume. If so, I look forward to reading them.

Interestingly, after reading the French translation of BS's work online, I'm still in the same position as before: I'm reading affirmations from Catholic sources only, and they summarize Linoli rather than quote his words directly along with their corresponding source page numbers. This doesn't make the affirmations false, of course, only derivative (and at least possibly tendentious). I might have missed it, but while BS does cite the page numbers for some of his sources, he doesn't cite Linoli's words or article that way. But perhaps you have caught what I did not. I have been known to miss things (wink).

I'm having little luck tracking down personal information on either Linoli or Bertolli. But according to the Zenit article noted earlier, Linoli was apparently still alive in 2005, nearly 35 years later.

A chilling interview yesterday with Myers from Monday July 14;

"The response has done nothing but confirm it: I have to do something. I'm not going to just let this disappear. It's just so darned weird that they're demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me. Something will be done. It won't be gross. It won't be totally tasteless, but yeah, I'll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing."
http://minnesotaindependent.com/view/mnindy-interview

And a great response from Scott Richert;

"Eighteen centuries ago, in the streets of Rome, a 12-year-old boy gave his life to prevent what P.Z. Myers says he will do "joyfully and with laughter in my heart." Through his devotion to Christ, Saint Tarcisius proved himself a real man."
http://catholicism.about.com/b/2008/07/14/a-tale-of-two-children.htm

Demanding that he offer respect? Hello?

So if I don't fly about the world desecrating all the symbols of all the religions I don't believe, I'm "offering respect" to them?

Anyone would think from his phrasing that the Eucharist is being carried in procession through his office daily and he is being bonked on the head to make him genuflect.

He "has to do something." Strange obsession, there, PZ. Why do you _have to_ do something about something you don't believe. I don't wake up in the morning feeling this overwhelming compulsion to go out and tear up a copy of the Koran. Most normal people just, you know, get on with their lives without feeling that they "have to do something" about religions they do not accept. This fellow has a problem.

According to the Richert's piece, Myers is a former Lutheran. So he is doing this with his eyes wide-open. He's investing a lot of energy and time to make a statement about a mere "symbol". As Fannery O'Connor might say, he certainly is "Christ-haunted", but I fear he has made a frightful step in a diabolical direction.

Prediction; Myers will soon be recieving professional counseling, but true relief won't come until he undergoes an exorcism. Truly sad.

I'll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.

The irony is thick.

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