The Polish Eucharist Was Actually a… What?!

This is just creepy.

A Catholic priest in Poland was doing the Holy Communion ritual recently. He accidentally dropped the cracker. So he put it in holy water (to “cleanse” it). The object turned red… and it turned out it’s not a cracker at all.

It’s a piece of human heart.

All of sudden, some Italians are proclaiming it’s a miracle! Not just a miracle, either. They think it’s the heart of Jesus.

Umm… that’s not a miracle. That’s murder! Or something equally as freaky. The church doesn’t seem to be exploring that option, though:

… The matter should be approached very carefully,” says priest Andrzej Debski. “So, for now let us talk of it as a paranormal phenomenon,” he added.

“This is a matter requiring restraint. And most of all an explanation. But I ask everyone to pray that this phenomenon was truly a miracle,” says Father Stanislaw Gniedziejko, pastor of the parish of St. Anthony in Sokolka in northeast Poland where the incident occurred.

Church authorities are now investigating whether the phenomenon will indeed turn out to be a Eucharistic miracle like the one that happened in Lanciano in Italy in the 8th century when a holy wafer turned to flesh and wine turned into blood.

Did anyone think to call the police…?

Thankfully, the Polish Rationalist Association is on the case.

According to reader Wojtek, they sent a letter to the “Prosecution Office” and, according to Polish law, “the prosecutor must now start an investigation or give a very good reason not to do so.”

What questions are they demanding the prosecution office answer? What would they like to know?

Here’s the list in English. The translation is very rough and I’m paraphrasing so please correct me if anything is wrong.

1) Did the Prosecutor’s Office initiate an investigation to determine the origin of the debris?

2) Did the Public Prosecutor’s Office question all those in contact with these remains?

3) Do we know the identity of the man whose remains were found? (“It seems unlikely that these fragments belong to the myocardium of the Jewish prophet, crucified two thousand years ago, [so] it is possible that they belong[ed] to a living person until recently.”)

4) If these are human remains, stolen from a medical facility, disease could be spread. Ditto if these are animal remains, consumed by parishioners. Has the wafer been analyzed for disease?

5) We have found no information that anyone has investigated this activity. We demand to know whether any of these institutions have committed a crime for not doing so.

They conclude their letter by writing (paraphrased):

We live in the 21st century and we understand the mechanisms governing the world. We have not yet observed any mechanism whose origins could be attributed to supernatural beings. At the same time, we have long known that the Earth revolves around the sun, women do not become pregnant without the participation of male sperm, and the wafer is baked with rice flour. Regardless of the myths of the religious authorities, we must build on the achievements of empirical science and prosecute the crimes listed in the criminal laws, regardless of religious affiliation for those involved. We demand an immediate answer to the question, which we will also publish.

Wojtek adds:

The [skeptics'] letter got a lot of attention in our media. The media’s spin was mostly, “A miracle has happened, so the rationalists don’t like it and they try to fight against it.” Nevertheless virtually all of Poland has heard our point of view. The Polish Rationalist Association has been really doing a great job lately (actually, they always have been, but they became very active and vocal recently).

Good for them for being the voice of reason.

Meanwhile, everyone else needs to get the hell out of that creepy church. And not just for the usual reasons.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Ahhhh, that’s the most brilliant way to dispose of a human body EVER.

  • http://www.youngwomanskeptic.blogspot.com Jaki

    This totally needs to be in a movie somehow!

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    The other, more probably explanation, is that the whole thing was staged for the benefit of the church. Catholic churches are not above a little hocus-pocus to fill the pews: bleeding statues, phony shrouds, “saints’ bones” in jars.

  • http://angelofharlots.blogspot.com N

    I assumed that either the doctors were lying or that someone desecrated a corpse and slipped it into the chalice. Either way, it is deplorable that they are so desperate to manufacture miracles.

  • Esteban

    If I drop a cracker on the floor, my first instinct would be to dip it in water to clean it.
    Ridiculous.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Whats next? Jesus’s penis? Or His gonad? Or maybe a gouged out eye for looking at Mary Magdalene. ;)

  • Tony Boling

    This will be the plot of Dan Brown’s next book I’m sure of it.

  • http://seangill-insidemyhead.blogspot.com/ SeanG

    I agree with Blue Frog. Sounds like some slight of hand. And if it were actual transubstantiation, did somebody eat it? If not, why not. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

  • Insignificant Speck

    This is the first time I have heard of a back in time prayer Maybe we can pray all those children were never molested

  • Richard Wade

    The article in The New Poland Express says:

    But rather than dissolving it turned red. He had it checked by two independent doctors, both of whom confirmed that it was piece of human heart.

    “Two independent doctors.” Independent of medical qualifications? Independent as in unemployed? So independent that they cannot be located?

    Hey we can map Jesus’ genome! (Have fun with that one.)

    One commenter at The Poland Express sheds some light on the true meaning of the incident:

    Hello,
    I am from that town and it is a lovely church and this is a true miracle and hopefully it will be soon confirmed and we will have a St. Anthony’s Sanctuary at our lovely town.

    Ahh. And thousands of tourists will flock to our lovely town and bring their cash. It’s a miracle!

    Whenever the economy in Scotland goes from bad to worse, the “Nessie” sightings go up.

  • unique.smile.within

    This is disturbing. Did they check the rest of the crackers? What if they were part of the heart too? Does that mean they were eaten?

    Side note : I hope there was no vegetarians in the congregation.

  • selfification
  • mikero

    Following up on Richard Wade’s comment, I think the most obvious and straight-forward way to verify these kinds of eucharistic miracles (there have been several in which the wafer purportedly became a piece of heart tissue) is to see if they all contain the same DNA. Bonus points if it’s the same *haploid* human DNA! ;)

    In all seriousness, this would be an honest opportunity to convince/convert me. Different eucharistic miracles from different continents and different centuries with the same DNA? Pity no one is willing to risk falsification.

  • Siamang

    Whats next? Jesus’s penis?

    Actually, that’s been done already.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Prepuce

  • mikespeir

    We need to get the DNA sequence on this thing. Then if we ever, you know, just happen to find some old bones in a cave outside Jerusalem that match….

  • Dave B.

    Don’t the Catholics claim that this sort of thing happens every time someone eats a consecrated wafer? Having the host transubstantiate outside of a human body like that should be an embarrassment, not a miracle.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Don’t the Catholics claim that this sort of thing happens every time someone eats a consecrated wafer?

    This does suggest a quandary for vegetarians who take the Eucharist seriously and literally. I wonder if Jesus meat tends to be hard to digest like red meat (beef)? I assume that the transubstantiation doesn’t occur until after you swallow it, but what happens if you are sick and throw up? Does a piece of Jesus meat come up? Or does it transubstantiate back into cracker pulp once it leaves the body?

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Victor

    This seems like a rather strange (and rather Catholic centric) “miracle” for the creator of the universe to perform. You would think something that couldn’t be so easily faked just to make sure he really got through to the skeptics. Oh, well, probably another one of those things we’ll have to “wait until we get to heaven” to understand.

  • Stephen P

    I’m completely with Blue Frog on this one.

    And to expand further on Richard’s comment: how would doctors be qualified to identify it as human heart anyway? Do medical courses really include classes where the students have to identify the species which random fragments of meat came from? Sounds more like work for a forensic laboratory to me.

  • mikero

    Dave B,

    I think the catholic doctrine is that the transubstantiation is mysterious and only a change in the “substance”, not the physical form. Here, “substance” is some nonsensical imaginary thing, similar to how the words “person” and “being” are used when trying to define/reconcile the trinitarian doctrine.

    Many catholics point to these eucharistic miracles as justification for transubstantiation — God saying “see, my little sheepies, the wafer indeed turns into Jesus/me”. I look at it more as a tacit admission that transubstantiation is a totally empty doctrine. The hoaxers are desparate to correlate a real-world observable event with the meaningless unfalsifiable “mystery” of transubstantiation.

    As Croc Dundee might say: “You call THAT transubstantiation? THIS is transubstantiation!”

  • mikero

    One weird thing I just noticed in the newpolandexpress.pl article is that everyone is “praying that the event was a true miracle.” Confusing. So supposing it was actually some weird hoax, they hope God will go back in time and make it a non-hoax?

    Praying to a being that exists outside of time, to influence events that happen in the future is weird enough. But praying to influence past events?

  • «bønez_brigade»

    JC as “debris” = lulz.

  • http://smackshack.livejournal.com Marvin

    Check out Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City.

    See, if atheists read more fiction we wouldn’t be shocked by this sort of thing.

    ;-P

  • thilina

    a priest dropped a piece of the wafer on the floor. He put it in to a dish with holy water, believing that this would cleanse and dissolve it.

    I’m sorry but is he trying to clean it to eat or get rid of is by dissolving it (if so why)?

    I really wish people would rule out the rational explanation (faked by the priest, Or a serious health & safety violation in the cracker industry) before yelling ‘miracle’.

    A miracle can only be considered an explanation if the alternative is more miraculous than the miracle.

  • Neil Robinson

    No, no, no, We need to go a step further back to debunk this nonsense – who says it was ‘a piece of heart’? The priests? (Like they would know). The congregation? (Even more credulous). C’mon, it was a soggy piece of bread or wafer, or whatever it was they were using, stained red by wine! Don’t give this story more credibility than it deserves!

  • Tonette

    I was reading this article out loud to my older child when my younger child waltzed in the room and asked did they call the cops? Totally cracked us up…lol.

  • Erp

    A pathologist using the proper tools might be able (a) to identify it as a piece of a heart and (b) identify it as human. My guess is that it is a piece of a pig’s heart (about the right size and easy to get) and someone faked the miracle (a place where a miracle took place can become very popular which is good for business).

  • Reginald Selkirk

    He accidentally dropped the cracker.

    Uh huh. The same way a stage magician “accidentally” drops something.

    Even if it is human heart tissue, corpse desecration is a more likely explanation than messiah materialization.

    Similar to: The Miracle of Lanciano

  • Jen

    Even though I am sure this was somehow faked by someone, I still cannot get over how freaking creepy that is. Let me just point out that while I would be impressed by a God who could turn baked goods into dead people, I would also be unable to worship him without going home afterward and showering. With brillo pads. Gross.

    (It would be impressive to have people who believed enough in transubstantiation to eat the heart cracker- but if there is a history of cannibalism to prove religious devotion, never, ever tell me)

  • Christophe Thill

    Well, a bit of ADN testing should show what animal it really belongs to.

    Also, did they check the rest of the stock of communion wafers?

  • Carroll

    So, a priest in Poland tries to ‘clean’ a soiled wafer by dipping it in water – odd.

    the wafer turns red when it emerges from the ‘water’ odder

    then, Italians think this is a miracle. odder still.

    Was this a podcast or something? What did the Poles think of the Italians stealing their miracle?

  • muggle

    Ewww, gross!!! That’s all I can think at this point — just… plain… freaking… gross…

    And, lucky me, I happened to read this right before lunch.

    But, yeah, my first thought was sleight of hand too. Should be investigated to make sure it’s a pig heart or something, not a human, but probably won’t be, or not adequately anyway.

  • QrazyQat

    I love how the priest’s “The matter should be approached very carefully” and “This is a matter requiring restraint” means for him “talk of it as a paranormal phenomenon”. That’s the restrained, careful apporach all right.

  • MH

    My gut reaction is this is a tacky gross con-game. I suspect they’re talking about restraint because they’ll look foolish if this is proved the con that it is. However, unlike a religious person I’m willing to state up front what it would take to get me to change my mind:

    First, this material must have human DNA that can be sequenced.

    Second, this DNA must have a Y chromosome and markers which indicate Jewish lineage.

    Third, this DNA can not indicate close relationship to any missing person who’s DNA (or a close relative) which can be sequenced.

    Fouth, the DNA can not indicate close relationship to any DNA currently in any of the databases.

    I doubt this would pass the first and second tests. The third and fourth tests are an attempt to guard against someone smart enough to steal a body part from a Jewish male before palming it off in this way. Given that so few people have their DNA in databases odds are they wouldn’t catch a clever enough fraud.

  • http://samizdat.woofkitty.co.uk Samizdat

    Clone Jesus Now. We have the Technology. We can rebuild him.

    (y)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Perhaps after 2000 years of remaining hidden, Jesus finally decided to perform this miracle to announce his physical presence to the world. Although in the interest of recognizing the importance of faith, Jesus probably decided to have the piece of heart tissue be genetically identical to pig heart. In doing it this way, Jesus can bolster the faith of true believers without having all sorts of opportunistic people jumping on the salvation bandwagon. That seems much more probable than someone simply slipping a bit of pig heart in the communion bowl. :roll:

  • Dave B.

    This cloning Jesus idea got me thinking. Christians will often speak of God working through doctors to save lives. What if God had planned to work through human cloning to bring Jesus back through exactly this kind of transubstantiation miracle? The Vatican should really start supporting research on cloning just in case.

  • Hells

    Awwwww come on guys, God took a coffee break from creating a few more galaxies and decided to do a bit of ju ju in Poland. Poland is very important to God his previous vicar was Polish. Ya know a bit of gratitue for all that scrifice….!

  • Doubting Thomas

    I firmly believe that IF a priest is claiming to have a piece of human heart tissue, then the whole thing was staged as another example of pious fraud. That is, fake a miracle in order to either reaffirm people’s faith or bring unbelievers to have faith. Just like all the “bleeding statues” where nobody ever happens to see them start bleeding, but numerous people witness the “miracle” afterward. And if this priest is claiming that a cracker turned into a piece of heart before his eyes, he must be on some serious drugs. And has anyone tested the tissue to confirm that it is A) heart tissue, and B) human?

  • http://keyboardtheologians.blogspot.com Dan Lower

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/6461051/Miracle-as-communion-wafer-becomes-heart-tissue.html

    According to the Telegraph, local police find no evidence of fraud. So apparently the cops have indeed been notified!

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/10/possible-eucharistic-miracle-in-poland/

    Fr. Z. who hosts thsi blog explains why the wafer is placed in water. Hopefully there will be some further testing on the matter; until there is I guess we won’t really know what’s up in any case. It is frankly rather uncharitable (dare I say unfriendly?) to assume fraud just because the alternative is supernatural, especially when there is currently less evidence of fraud than there is of something freaky having happened in the first place.

  • Dave B.

    there is currently less evidence of fraud than there is of something freaky having happened

    Suppose a man walked up to you on the street and produced a series of coins seemingly from nothing, then claimed it was a miracle. What evidence of fraud would you expect to find? Without a video of the event, it would be quite difficult to prove how he produced the coins, and I’d fully expect that the Catholic church and police would both be unable to find any evidence of fraud.

    You might argue that it would actually be quite easy to prove that the coins didn’t have a supernatural origin. Simply look at the coins to determine where they were minted. Analogously, we could analyze the DNA of the tissue produced by the priest and perhaps determine a natural origin. However, you haven’t demonstrated that this has even been tried, as the link supplied merely says that the tissue looks like human heart tissue under a microscope.

    The evidence presented is fully compatible with a fraud. When evaluating a claimed miracle, it is prudent to rule out natural explanations before assuming a miracle. You shouldn’t simply go straight to claiming a miracle because a natural cause is unproven. This is because, by definition, a miracle is less likely than a natural event.

  • http://keyboardtheologians.blogspot.com Dan Lower

    I was simply responding to the false and easily falsifiable assumption that nobody called the police. Am I inclined to beleive? Sure! Is the evidence compatible with a fraud? At least as it stands. And even though I may have accidentally implied it, when I said “something freaky” I actaully just meant the whole wafer-then-flesh deal, whether it was a naturalistic and horribly corrupt human switch, or a supernaturalistic and divine switch. It’s freaky either way, but I apologize if I came across as assuming it has happened. I mean to make no such assmption. But you don’t get to assume uncharitable things on the matter any more than I get to assume a miracle. You also don’t get (at least as far as I’m concerned) to assume a miracle is any less likely than a natural event; to me, the very fact that we’re here at all constitutes a miracle of a kind, so that sort of talk comes down to blatant presupposition. I’m not playing semantic games here. I’m refusing to found my philosophy on others’ grounds.

  • Dave B.

    I’m sorry too about the misunderstanding. I just don’t find it that freaky that someone would fake a miracle, as it seems to happen all the time.

    You also don’t get (at least as far as I’m concerned) to assume a miracle is any less likely than a natural event

    Countless communion wafers are used every week all around the world. Very few are ever even claimed to turn into literal human tissue like this. Even if we grant that this type of miracle is possible, it is an incredibly rare event. On the other hand, sleight-of-hand is used all the time all over the world to fake similar feats of magic.

    All I’m saying is that the extraordinarily rare event is less likely than the slight variation of an every day event. Any philosophy which prevents you from recognizing this seems dishonest to me. You’re don’t have to found your philosophy on my grounds, but the assumption of miracles does not require you to be credulous regarding particular miracle claims. It’s my understanding that even the bible warns against believing false claims of miracle and prophecy.

  • http://keyboardtheologians.blogspot.com KKairos

    I’m really delighted by your cordiality here…

    I really do mean that. I don’t say that because you believe differently (assuming I’ve read you correctly) so much as because this is the internet.

    That said I do appreciate your cautions to me: There is a truth that I don’t like to think about that miracles do sometimes excite me more than they ought. And I can be prone to credulity. I still think this one’s got a chance, but being in a religious tradition where miracles get reported all the time, it’s helpful to me to be reminded not to be credulous.

  • http://keyboardtheologians.blogspot.com KKairos

    I should add that I was not the most courteous of people in my entry into this conversation, either.

  • richm

    If an athiest and therefore one that requires explanation of all phenomenon, and one cannot be produced. (not speculated but produced) what then?

    Perhaps this is trickery, (that is speculation) we humans don’t have all the answers so in the past things we don’t understand are sometimes attributed to aliens, gods etc….

    How do we know when we have enough tools, skills and collective knowledge to definitively explain what currently has no explanation.

    I personally have no explanation for the true driving force for mangetism and electriciticy (and for the record neither does Stephen Hawking) so does it exist?

    It is not magic for sure, and we use it and understand it’s actions and reactions, but cannot explain its origin.

    So are “miracles” or events deemed miracles, just physics events beyond our current collective human intellect to comprehend?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MB2LRHLNNYKHJ4WHALC7NTDNCI Apocalypse

    Wow, this is so very sad indeed…I feel kinda sick now just reading it…

    True fact with the data to back it up…

    I videotaped an angelic being back in 1989…Big deal!!! Right? or No? Put the short video on You Tube and Myspace in 2004 … With a 40 word story of how i captured its super bright image… 

    Number of views on You Tube too this date = 17 most are mine 

    Number of views on Myspace too this date = 12 most are mine

    No comments…

    No nothing…

    God it seems like no one really cares when it comes to the real thing vs this kind of dumb nonsense…

    Now some Polish Catholics see this so-called miracle in a communion wafer and millions view it online and tens of millions comment about it too..

    That makes me the biggest loser in the short history of this planet…

    that’s how i feel!

  • Thrgenfgfxfcf

    Yes, very friendly indeed.

  • todd

    If you knew a little bit about the rituals at the Mass then you would understand that the “cracker”, which is actually called a host, was put in the water to dissolve so it could be disposed of properly and respectfully. It’s easy to look up a little bit about that on the internet before saying all sort of ridiculous things about cleaning it in water. (some of it was actually pretty funny though) And when it comes to something as big as this, it’s best to look at more then one article about it because if not you take out of context the wording in it. After dropping it, the priest placed it in the dish of water which was later locked in a safe so the host could dissolve. The fact that it didn’t completely dissolve in a couple days as it should have was the first sign that something was different. Seven days after it had been in there, the red spot on it was noticed. It was sent to be tested by two experts and they both came up with the same conclusion that it was a human heart. (the two scientists were not working together and their two separate, independent analyses were in complete agreement with each other.) It was a real human heart tissue. Now it’s worth mentioning that only a small portion of the host in the middle was flesh and the fibers of the two substances were so closely integrated that it was obvious there was no human intervention. This was also tested. Now most people assumed it was a murder, like you, and the police were called and an investigation was performed. But it was soon dismissed for lack of proof; nothing out of the ordinary was done by the priests and nuns there. I’m not saying it actually was a miracle but these are facts. Facts that have all been tested.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2011/10/04/roman-catholics-in-poland-claim-spot-on-communion-wafer-is-part-of-jesus-heart/

    http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=43101

    there was a really good paper I read with all the facts but I can’t find it to post here.


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