Calls for action, prayer follow professor’s desecration of host

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – The pastor of the Catholic parish in Morris and a spokeswoman for the Diocese of St. Cloud have urged Catholics to contact the University of Minnesota-Morris to express their anger about a professor who desecrated a host reported to be consecrated.

They also asked Catholics to pray for Paul Z. Myers, the professor, and for others who share his views.

Mr. Myers, in a blog posting in early July, vowed to desecrate a consecrated host and asked readers to send him “some consecrated Communion wafers.” On July 24 he posted a photo showing he had put a nail through a host he said he had received in response to his request.

Catholics should “share their outrage that the school continues to employ someone who so blatantly attacks the Catholic Church’s beliefs and what she holds to be most holy,” said Rebecca Kurowski, director of communications for the St. Cloud Diocese, which includes Morris.

“While we must condemn the attacks he makes, we must not condemn him, but pray for him out of love,” said Father Timothy Baltes, pastor of Assumption Parish in Morris. “Only God can touch such a heart, and that is what we pray for.”

Mr. Myers, who teaches biology at the school, announced on his personal blog July 24 that he pierced a Communion host – along with pages from the Quran – with a rusty nail and threw it in the trash. A picture of the act is posted along with the entry. He called the host “a cracker.”

The action came in the wake of an earlier blog entry in which Mr. Myers expressed amazement about a June 29 incident in Florida in which a student at a public university attending a Mass on campus took a consecrated Communion host “hostage” by putting it in his pocket and left with it – an act that some Catholics labeled a hate crime. The student reportedly received death threats. He later returned the host.

In a July 8 post Mr. Myers stated in part: “Can anyone out there score me some consecrated Communion wafers? … 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.”

He said Catholicism “has been actively poisoning the minds of its practitioners with the most amazing (expletive deleted) for years.”

The Catholic News Agency reported July 23 that Mr. Myers told the agency that several people had given him hosts in person and via the mail.

In the aftermath of Mr. Myers’ blog postings and the media attention it has garnered, Kurowski said she received “about a dozen e-mails and about as many voice mails” criticizing Mr. Myers’ action.

“The diocese is horrified about P.Z. Mr. Myers’ attacks against holy Communion,” she said. “We wholeheartedly condemn the attacks he makes. Yet, legally, there is nothing that we can do to stop this outrageousness.”

The views expressed by Mr. Myers on his blog do not reflect those of the university, Jacqueline Johnson, chancellor at Morris, said in a statement July 25.

She said the university has deactivated a link between the blog and the university Web site after determining that the link violated university policy regarding links to employee Web pages. No disciplinary action was taken against Mr. Myers.

“I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible,” Ms. Johnson wrote, adding that the University of Minnesota board of regents’ “Code of Conduct prohibits such behavior in the workplace.”

At the same time, she added, the university’s policy on academic freedom and responsibility “affirms the freedom of a faculty member to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint, and the responsibility to make clear that he or she is not speaking for the institution in matters of public interest.”

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said it has lodged a formal complaint against Mr. Myers, calling it a “bias incident” as defined by university policy. It is calling on the school to “take action and apply the appropriate sanction.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.