No Disciplinary Action for Professor Who Threatened to Desecrate Eucharist


Morris, MN, Jul 23, 2008 / 04:53 am (CNA).- The University of Minnesota has told CNA that disciplinary action has not been taken against Professor Paul Zachary Myers, a biology professor at the school's Morris campus who threatened to acquire and desecrate a consecrated Host on his popular science blog Pharyngula. However, impeachment proceedings have begun against the University of Central Florida student senator who took a Host from a Catholic Mass in the incident which inspired Myers to make his threat.

Daniel Wolter, the News Service Director in the Office of University Relations at the University of Minnesota, reiterated in an e-mail to CNA that Professor Myers' views "do not reflect the views of the University of Minnesota."

"We appreciate the Catholic League's making us aware of the improper link to Myers' blog that was on the University website," Wolter wrote. "That link has been removed as it was a violation of University web policy."

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had criticized Myers' threat in a July 10 press release, calling for those who oversee Myers to "act quickly and decisively."

University's response

Wolter said in his e-mail that "no disciplinary action has been taken against Professor Myers."

He referred CNA to Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson's message to the University of Minnesota at Morris community for further comment.

In her statement, Chancellor Johnson said:

"I deeply regret that the postings have been so upsetting to so many people and that this has, in turn, caused some individuals to question the values of civility, respect, academic inquiry and critical thought that are the hallmark of this institution."

She said personal and intellectual engagement at the school is done in "in the framework of intellectual and critical inquiry, not from a platform of name-calling and derogation."

In her message, Chancellor Johnson voiced her expectation that faculty and staff "interact and engage in a civil and respectful way in the workplace, and it is my hope that this demeanor would extend beyond the boundaries of their University responsibilities and commitments."

The outcry surrounding Professor Myers stems from his threats to acquire and desecrate the Eucharist in a July 8 posting on his blog Pharyngula. In that post, in which he derisively called the consecrated Host a "cracker," Myers wrote:

"Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?" Myers wrote. "...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... but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web."

Subsequent to posting his request for Communion hosts on his blog, Myers told CNA that he had received hosts from a number of people, both in person and through the mail.

The case of Cook

Myers made the threat in response to an incident at the University of Central Florida (UCF) where student senator Webster Cook had taken a consecrated Host from a June 29 Mass and kept it in his possession for a week despite pleas for its return.

Cook claimed he had received death threats because of his action and filed an official abuse complaint with the UCF student court, alleging that a Catholic leader had forcibly tried to retrieve the Host which Cook had taken back to his seat. His complaint was dismissed.

Cook has also charged UCF Catholic Campus Ministries with violating campus anti-hazing rules governing the coerced consumption of food and has alleged the Catholic group has violated the school's underage drinking policy by serving communion wine to underage students.

Catholic students had filed a formal complaint against Cook for disrupting the Mass. Cook also faces charges that he represented himself as a student senator in the incident.

On Thursday night after fifteen minutes of deliberation 33 of the 35 UCF student senators voted to impeach Cook on the charge he represented himself as a student senator, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The vote does not remove Cook from office, but instead begins an investigation that could remove him from his Senate seat if he is found to have violated Senate ethics rules.

The impeachment was prompted by an affidavit filed by a student government official, which includes statements from those associated with the Catholic Campus Ministry who confronted Cook at the June 29 Mass.

Cook was not at Thursday night's Senate meeting, but was reported to have been on a planned family trip.

Myers: It's about being forced to show respect

This past Sunday, Professor Myers wrote on his blog that he would desecrate a Koran in addition to desecrating a consecrated Host, writing, "Thanks to all who have demanded that I treat that silly book [the Koran] with disrespect, I'll have to treat both equally."

Catholic League President Bill Donohue had recently noted that in 2006 Myers had criticized those who published inflammatory cartoons disparaging the Muslim prophet Mohammed. In a Tuesday statement, Donohue said:

"The latest threat by Myers only makes matters worse. Instead of treating Catholicism with the respect he has previously shown for Islam, he now pledges to disrespect Islam the way he pledges to disrespect Catholicism (once again!). This is his idea of equal treatment."

Donohue argued that Myers had an opportunity to either rebut or sustain claims that there is a "moral vacuity" in Darwinian visions of society, depending on whether or not he engaged in the threatened desecrations.

In an interview with Catholic Radio International, Professor Myers portrayed his threats as the result of what he perceives to be Bill Donohue's forceful tactics rather than any official actions by the Church.

Myers was asked by radio show host Jeff Gardner if any official representative of the Catholic Church had told him he had to believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. "Well, that's actually a very good point," said Myers. "There's been no official response from the Catholic Church and I would make a deal here, that I would return these wafers to the nearest Catholic church if the Church would come out and disavow the tactics of Bill Donohue and the people who have threatened my job and have threatened my life," Myers said.