2008 sacred wafer scandal
the undisputed facts
The 2008 sacred wafer scandal began on 2008-06-29 when University of Central Florida undergraduate student government senator Webster Cook was attending communion at the University's Catholic Campus Ministries club service on the UCF campus in Orlando, Florida. As part of the communion ritual, he was given a ritually prepared wafer, known as a Eucharist and sometimes referred to as the "Body of Christ", to consume.
Wishing to show the wafer to a fellow student senator in order to explain more about the Catholic faith, he retained it and went to sit down, intending to eat it afterwards. Unfortunately, someone apparently objected to this, and attempted to wrestle the wafer from Mr. Cook's hands:
|From a WFTV report, 2008-07-05:|
"When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."
A church leader was watching, confronted Cook and tried to recover the sacred bread. Cook said she crossed the line and that's why he brought it home with him.
"She came up behind me, grabbed my wrist with her right hand, with her left hand grabbed my fingers and was trying to pry them open to get the Eucharist out of my hand," Cook said, adding she wouldn't immediately take her hands off him despite several requests.
It is apparently more or less at this point that Mr. Cook left the church, taking the wafer with him.
|from a Fox News Orlando report, 2008-07-07:|
“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cook's motivation was,” said Susan Fani, a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”
Mr. Cook subsequently received threats of death and other harm from those supporting the Catholic side of the disagreement. He also returned the wafer, apparently never having intended to keep the cracker indefinitely or harm it, though the death threats may have played a part in his decision.
On July 6, a post on the Creative Minority Report blog strongly condemned Cook's actions and many commenters on the posting were also supportive of further physical action against Mr. Cook. The blog moderator shut down commenting apparently due to a number of dissenting comments, however, which he claimed did not "follow the rules"; these comments were also removed.
On July 7, the Orlando Fox News affiliate reported that Cook was receiving death threats. This article and the July 5 WFTV article apparently came to the attention of PZ Myers, outspoken defender and advocate of atheism.
On July 8, PZ posted in Webb's support, decrying the responses of the Catholic community as "Dark Age superstition and malice, all thriving with the endorsement of secular institutions here in 21st century America" and "a culture of deluded lunatics" and sending out a call for further ritually-prepared crackers on which he planned to commit more "desecration".
At this point, PZ himself became the target of death threats and attempts by Catholic League president Bill Donohue to have PZ fired or otherwise censured for his conduct. Much debate ensued throughout the blogosphere, and the dust has not yet settled as of this writing.
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Some of these links have been filed, but not all
- 2008-07-08 IT'S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!: PZ asks for more samples of the Host upon which to commit sacrilege and thereby somehow threaten the Catholic faith with a fate worse than death; PZ shuts down the comments at #1007 in order to reduce load on the server, but posts "fresh crackers!" specifically for further comments.
- Fight back against Bill Donohue!: The president of the Catholic League is putting pressure on both the UMM and the State of Minnesota to "do something" about this horrible desecration, regarding which it is apparently "hard to think of anything more vile". o.0 Comments are shut down at #1227, and "Internet getting full" is opened for further comments.
- Fresh crackers!: 579 comments as of this writing
- Commentary: It Gets Me! "So Bill Donohue, bumbling idiot, decides to go after my favorite blogger, all-around nice guy (except to religion!), and professor PZ Myers... ...For a cracker." Author admits to having abducted not one but two communion wafers without eating them.
- Letters of support for PZ:
- Internet getting full, here's a new hole to dump comments into: only 156 comments as of this writing
- Can this possibly get more insane?: The Catholic League issues another press release disparaging evolution as the "King Kong Theory of Creation" and calling for increased safety at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, in view of their fear for the safety of attending Catholics so close to where Myers lives. Remember which side was issuing the death threats as you enter the Catholic annex of... The neocon reality inversion.
- I get email — special cracker edition!: a sampling of email PZ has received regarding this incident
- Interestingly, the link to Pharyngula has now (2008-07-11) disappeared from PZ's listing at UMM's biology faculty page. This would seem to be UMM's only link to it; is UMM responding to pressure?
- Commentary: It Gets Me! (Part II) "Bill Donohue continues on his anti-science, anti-PZ tirade with this new statement from the Catholic League. Of course, PZ, being awesome as he is, has already noted their response and torn it to shreds..."
- Commentary: Solidarity! by Tim Shortell, himself the past victim of anti-atheist sentiment
- 2008-07-13: Mail dump: PZ posts a couple of insanely vile hate emails he recieved, along with full headers. The Pharyngulites go to work and are able to track down substantial identifying information on both of them.
- 2008-07-14: Letter of support for PZ: En Tequila. Key point: people are more important than symbols.
Reference: Support PZ blog