Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Tuesday, April 19, 2005

E-Bay and the Eucharist

Faithful Catholics react with disgust to the news that some folks are apparently attempting to use eBay to sell consecrated Hosts (obtained at papal Masses, no less). A few thoughts might help focus our discussion.

1) The sale of consecrated Hosts is a grave moral evil. Even the "private" retention of the Eucharist (say, for personal adoration in the home) is illicit and exposes consecrated Hosts to risks of profanation.

2) The purchase of consecrated Hosts is morally neutral, the moral character of the act being determined more by such factors as the purchaser's intention (e.g., to possess it for the purpose of desecration, or to possess it to save it from desecration.)

3) EBay's role in this event, so far, is one of "cooperation in evil" and the standard rules for assessing such cooperation should be applied before deciding what action to take, if any, in regard to eBay.

4) We have only the seller's word that these wafers are consecrated Hosts. If someone is willing to sell consecrated Hosts, should we so easily assume that they wouldn't lie about the wafers being consecrated in the first place?

5) There is no general moral obligation on the part of Catholics to purchase (allegedly or actually) consecrated Hosts, even to save them from potential desecration. That the purchase of such objects encourages a "market" for them should be remembered.

6) This situation has virtually nothing to do with Communion in the hand. Hosts were being taken for sacrilegious purposes long before Communion in the hand, and were being sold for same long before eBay. Of much greater relevance here would be poor Eucharistic catechesis and the increased brazenness of sinners bent on hating Our Lord in the Sacred Species. The remedies include augmented education and personal penances offered in reparation for such offenses.

The above facts do not exempt us from taking the latest variation on a sad theme seriously, but they should help us keep it in perspective. +++

Fact updates:

More updates (25 April) this apparently from eBay:

Hello,We understand that you are upset at having seen certain Catholic items or items related to the Pope on eBay, including item #6169851381. Because eBay's community is a diverse, international group of more than 135 million users with varied backgrounds and beliefs, there are times when some items listed on eBay by sellers might be offensive to at least some of our users somewhere in the world. At times, members may see listings that they may consider morally wrong or objectionable. However, even though these listings may be offensive to some, please remember that most of the time the law does not prohibit the items.Due to the fact that eBay's focus is to have a free and diverse community, we are reluctant to interfere with listings that are not illegal. Regarding offensive items, there are many items that are considered sacred to many people of various religions, and we sometimes hear complaints about these items. Examples would be Catholic relics of saints, Mormon (LDS) garments, certain Buddhist tablets, etc. However, eBay has made the decision not to prohibit any item only on the basis of the item being endowed with sacred properties by certain religious groups. In general, eBay will remove items for a violation of our Offensive Materials policy only in extreme examples in which the listing explicitly promotes hatred, violence, or racial intolerance. However, we do not remove religious items that are otherwise legal for sale and do not violate any other eBay listing policy.Please keep in mind that many of us at eBay may also share your distaste with an item, and may not support the sale. In fact, eBay has many Catholic employees. However, we do our best to understand and tolerate the many viewpoints held by our worldwide community. The Eucharist is not illegal to sell, and is generally allowed on eBay as long as the seller does not otherwise include hateful text or images in the listing. Although we realize that you may not agree with this decision on eBay's part, we hope that you can respect the diverse and open nature of eBay's marketplace.Regards, eBay Community Watch

This would be a credible response and needs to be taken on its merits. The points it makes are consistent with my suggestion that eBay finds itself in a position of cooperation with evil (whether they quite realize that themselves), and thus those standards for behavior need to be applied to determine whether eBay is acting morally or immorally.

1) May I boycott eBay? Of course, if you want to call it that, since you are not required to do business with them in the first place nor are you in the position of patronizing them frequently for necessary goods or services.

2) May I encourage others to boycott eBay? One is free to share one's opinions with others, but your conclusions should be morally sound, i.e., you should be able to defend your determination that eBay itself is acting immorally in allowing allegedly consecrated Hosts to be sold. Moreover, you need to consider that boycotts often hurt innocent people (see eBay assertions above) and that a boycott failure can result in more brazen acts by offenders in the future (if only by suggesting impotence on the part of boycotters).

While these points are being sorted out, may I suggest that well-intentioned Catholics STOP BUYING allegedly consecrated Hosts on eBay or anywhere else, and that we make better known the possibility that a world which would sell the Eucharist in the first place would not scruple to claim falsely that such-and-such a wafer is the Eucharist precisely in order to sell it. Seriously folks, this is the Internet we're talking about here: why are so many people so easily believing such claims by people who, well, would claim to do this? What possible evidence could they offer for their claim, besides their "word"? Meanwhile, what motive would they have for lying? US $ 2,000 is a nice start. +++