Five ways that a cathedral icon of the Virgin Mary and a communion wafer are similar:
- Both a Virgin Mary icon and a communion wafer are fashioned for a sacred purpose.
- Cathedral icons and communion wafers are used for purposes of ritual, symbol, and worship.
- Neither cathedral icons nor communion wafers are manufactured by the Catholic community of believers for any other purpose than ritual, symbol, and worship within the confines of their church property.
- To destroy or desecrate an object used for a distinct religious purpose, and against the will of the community of believers to which it belongs, is to engage in iconoclasm—and so both cathedral icons and communion wafers are subject to iconoclastic gestures by someone who might be wishing to engage in a hostile symbolic gesture toward Catholicism.
Two reasons this makes University of Minnesota biologist, PZ Myers, an advocate of iconoclasm:
- Myers asked his readers to enter Catholic churches, and under false pretenses obtain from priests communion wafers, then secret them from church property.
- Myers asked his readers to send him the communion wafers via mail for the purpose of his desecrating them, and posting their desecration on the Internet.
Here is Myers’s exact quote, posted on his blog site, last week:
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.
Please note that at the end of Myers’s quote, he explicitly recognizes that to obtain communion hosts from a Catholic service requires an act of “smuggling,” beneath the watchful eyes of “armed guards and grim nuns.” In other words, even though Myers knows that the act is a gross violation of the space of a religious community, he encourages it anyway.
Can a liberal individual, group, or society, secular or religious, condone such interference with the free and unharrassed practice of religion and still be liberal?
Would we tolerate an anti-Semitic group interfering with a Jewish synagogue service in a similar fashion?