We know that the Catholic church takes its consecrated wafers, which they believe have been transformed into the body of Jesus, very, very seriously, as PZ Myers (among many others) can attest when they treated it as just another wafer and triggered a massive outcry.
Well, another brouhaha is brouhahaing as the archbishop of Oklahoma City Paul S. Coakley has accused a Satanic group of stealing a consecrated wafer to carry out a black mass and is suing Adam Daniels and the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu Syndicate to stop them and get it back.
To Catholics, the consecrated host is the most sacred, respected and revered thing in the world,” the 7-page complaint states. “Because consecrated hosts are so precious, the Catholic Church has developed, over the course of 2,000 years, rules and institutions to ensure the integrity, protection of consecrated hosts.”
Coakley claims Daniels possesses a consecrated host without authorization and that it “must have been procured from the Catholic Church by theft, fraud, wrongful taking” by Daniels or a third party.
The archbishop says the defendants have scheduled a black mass at the Cityspace Theatre in Oklahoma City on Sept. 21, where they intend to “desecrate and destroy” the consecrated host.
The Satanist group did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.
It will make “slight changes” to the black mass “so that a public viewing can occur without breaking Oklahoma’s laws based on nudity, public urination, and other sex acts,” the group said on its website.
Apart from the religious angle, this raises an interesting legal point about ownership that the judge will have to struggle with. The church hands out these wafers to everyone who attends the mass and goes to the altar for communion. Once given to someone, does that person then ‘own’ the wafer to do with it as they like? Or is there an implicit contract that when they accept the wafer during communion, they will use it only in accordance with the dictates of the church? But since the church does not, during the service, make the terms of such a contract public, can someone be bound by them?
I don’t envy the judge in the case. I think that he will be hard pressed to find a legal justification to order the return of the wafer to the church. But ruling against the church may be hard for a religious judge and furthermore will result in being vilified.
The church is also upset with the city for allowing the black mass to take place on public property. Here they may have more luck and the city may revoke the permit on some made-up secular grounds, such as that it violates some obscure ordinance or fears of disturbing the peace.