Thursday, July 31, 2008

All rights are inalienable but none are absolute

I want to clarify my position for everyone. I did NOT mean nor intend to say that the First Ammendment did not allow us to freely criticize anyone or any institution, from the government to the church. I do believe in free speech. HOWEVER, it is never unrestricted free speech. There is no absolute freedom of speech just as there is no absolute freedom of assembly, of the press etc. The Bill of Rights does not designate one freedom as being more important than another and there is no hierarchy of rights EXCEPT the right to LIFE. The other rights, while not given by government but possessed by human nature, are protected insofar as they do not infringe on the rights of others or on other rights.

Therefore, I agree that Professor Myers is entitled to his opinions on religion and on Catholicism. He is entitled to speak them and print them. Where the limit is drawn is where his freedom of speech threatens the freedom of religion. Taking a Catholic Host and desecrating it is not free speech, it is hate inciting. In many places in the U.S. it is illegal (against state and federal law) to speak racial slurs and epithets since they are considered hate-biased and thus are not protected under the First Ammendment.

Likewise, provacative language which directly attacks, insults and offends a religion is just as biased and prejudiced.Criticizing priests, bishops or even the pope is protected free speech. Actions and words of the clergy are open for debate and opposition. What is not proper, though, are words and actions which go beyond a legitimate difference of opinion and now make a hateful, gross and offensive attack. Words and private deeds can hurt just as much as a rock thrown through a window or a slap on the face. Disagreement is protected by the First Ammendment but I do not think verbal assault is.

As a Catholic, I have theological disagreements on certain issues espoused by other religions but I RESPECT their right to hold them, teach them and defend them. My bottom line is that Professor Myers crossed the line between legitimate free speech and verbal assault on the Catholic Christian religion. It was more than expressing a private opinion when you ask others to bring you a consecrated Host, which can only done illegally since they must be stolen or taken by deceit. Then taking this religious item, considered sacrosanct by Catholic Christians, and showing public contempt by desecrating it, the hateful message being conveyed is evident. No non-Catholic has to believe in the Real Presence and they are free to disagree with any of our doctrines. When our entire religion is attacked, however, and our most sacred beliefs are horribly maligned, then that is an ATTACK and not an opinion any longer. Hate speech and actions, even when they do not directly harm another's person or property are nevertheless incendiary.

Neither I nor the Confraternity wish any harm whatsoever to befall Professor Myers. We pray for his safety and we condemn any and all acts and words of violence directed toward him. We only ask that he do likewise and refrain from hurling hateful, grossly offensive and repugnant attacks against our religion. I am not a Buddhist but I would never make a public display of smashing an idol of Buddha knowing it would greatly offend the members of that religion. For Catholics, desecrating the Host is more than vandalizing a church or burning a Bible. It is even more vile than desecrating a grave by digging up a coffin and destroying the body. For us, it is BLASPHEMY as well as SACRILEGE. Can we not pray that we can respectfully disagree without resorting to insult or attack?


Anonymous said...

We should be able to do that, Father.
I just wished some KofC or someone with candles had gone out side his house and waited, and asked for the host back so it could be properly disposed of.
"We aren't moving til you give us our percious Lord back"


Anonymous said...

Firing Myers would not impinge on his First Amendment Rights. Just as I have the right to go to my boss’s office and say something offensive. I have the right to do so, but my company also has the right to not employ someone who uses their rights in an unbecoming manner. Myers is bound by the ethics code of the Univ. of Minn., and with its violation, the company is fully free, if not morally obligated, to terminate him for what he did.

Upon a deeper look at this, I would argue that Free Speech doesn't enter into it. Theological views aside, this is theft and vandalism. Consecrated hosts are not handed out freely to the world. They are only to be received by believing, practicing Catholics in the state of grace. Ergo, if it received by anyone else it is theft in practice. The subsequent actions the prof did would also then be vandalism.

The question then arises of monetary value of the item stolen and vandalized. Appraisal is not purely a market value of the original item. Take a baseball used by the Major Leagues. The league pays very little for those, yet if a fan catches one as either a foul ball or homerun, its value increases dramatically because of the process done to it by a specific person. This value is then determined by how much the now legal owner of the ball is willing to sell it for.

The value of a communion host before consecration is negligible ($0.015 at one store). However, the value after consecration to those who may legally possess one is immeasurable. (We’ll leave the crime of simony aside for this discussion). Each consecrated host, in the eyes of the legal owners, is equal in value and being as if it were the only host ever consecrated, past, present and future. As such the vandalism of this ‘property’ is a crime on par with stealing and burning all of Babe Ruth’s baseballs.

I hope that helps for anyone that doesn’t understand why this is such a big deal to Catholics.

Unknown said...

I am so glad you made your comments. My point is exactly that the value of the item is measured not by the perceptions of the recipient but by the value ascribed by the source. Hence, an unbeliever takes a Host and considers it trivial but the offense and insult is measured by the victim (in this case the Church and her faithful members) and not by the culprits who stole and/or desecrated it. Secondly, while someone disagrees with our perception, to flagrantly violate it under our noses is a grave insult that wounds to the very core of one's faith. A Protestant Christian would cry were he or she to witness someone tearing out pages of the King James Bible and then spitting and stepping on them. Such contempt for the Written Word of God is a huge offense not because of who did it, but Who is being offended. Ultimately, the religious artifacts being desecrated point to the Almighty. When someone burns in effigy an image of Jesus, is not the insult hurled not only at Christianity at large but at Christ Himself?

radio45 said...

You are absolutely correct and it was stated very succintly. To me this is more than just an insult, it is a painful attack upon Jesus. While Jesus and His followers have always taken these attacks, and they are nothing new, still they, never the less, cut deeply in our hearts. For this reason we put our pain to prayer for this man and those who respect him.

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