The Corner

The Scope of Offense

From a reader:

Jonah –   You write:   

A professor who advocated desecrating the image of, say, Martin Luther King Jr. in a similar way (which would be idiotic and offensive, for the record) would lose his job and his career. But such repugnant disrespect for more traditional icons is routinely considered clever and insightful in our intellectual culture.

 

I understand that your heart is in the right place here, but the analogy is completely inadequate.  We Christians are quite accustomed to have our _images_ treated scornfully, in a way that the Academy would never tolerate for images of politically correct heroes.  But the Eucharist is not an image:  it is, in the teaching of the Church, the Body of Christ itself.  People have died rather than obey their captors’ command to desecrate the Eucharist.  To a believer, there is simply no analogy between the Eucharist and mere objects, any more than there is between a person and a photograph of a person. 

I don’t ask Meyers to accept or even respect the teaching — he can ridicule all he likes.  But when he undertakes actually to desecrate the Eucharist itself, not because it means anything to him, but solely because it means a great deal to Catholics and he wishes to outrage us, that’s just plain hate — or, at least, it’s well short of the minimal respect for other people’s viewpoints that one would expect from a faculty member at a state-supported university.  And when the university fails to act, as it probably will, we Catholics will learn once again that we are citizens of the lowest caste — that what is to us the holiest thing on earth deserves far less consideration than, in your example, a mere photograph of Martin Luther King.

Me: I understand the complaint.  I was merely trying to illustrate a point. Unfortunately, since we’re for the most part talking about people who do not believe — as an intellectual matter (I think emotions are a different matter) — in transcendence there’s really no adequate analogy. One could hypothesize, as several readers have suggested, that if a professor did something like this with the Koran, the Coalition of the Oppressed would certainly close ranks in outrage. 

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