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?
Christological well… not quite… Edulcorated Goldfinch Alert! - Long time readers here have seen my shots of Christological Goldfinches from Medieval and Renaissance paintings and statues snapped during my museum visits...
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