There’s Bacteria on the Cracker; Must Be a Miracle!

A Catholic priest molests a little boy and the Church sits on the issue for years. A communion wafer turns red and they’re on it faster than you can say “cracker.”

The story is that a consecrated wafer fell on the floor. They placed it in water. But it didn’t dissolve. Instead, it turned red.

The archdiocese, which now has the host, is taking a “very cautious stance on the matter,” spokesman Dennis McGrath said.

“I make no claims, and the archdiocese makes no claims, as to the likelihood of this being supernatural,” [St. Augustine Church Rev. John] Echert said. “But it is enough of a phenomenon, or unusual, that we will continue to examine this host.”

He added: “I’ve never in my 24 years as a priest seen or been aware of a phenomenon where a consecrated host placed in water turns to this bright-colored red and continues in what I would call the blood-red color.”

Word of the wondrous wafer eventually landed on several Catholic websites and blogs, sparking discussion and conjecture by some that it resembles the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

Oh. By the way. Some scientists have weighed in on this, too:

According to Microbe Zoo, a website developed by the Center for Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, the [Serratia marcescens] bacterium grows on bread and communion wafers that have been stored in a damp place.

The site goes so far as to cite Serratia marcescens as the probable cause of the bloodlike substance that a priest discovered on communion bread in 1263, referred to as “The Miracle of Bolsena.”

(SHHHHHH. You’re gonna ruin the magic trick! Why do you all hate Jesus so much?!)

Something similar happened back in 2006, and there were natural explanations then, too. Even Catholic officials admitted as much:

According to a report on Texas Catholic Online, the Dallas Diocese had the host analyzed by two University of Dallas biology professors who concluded it was anything but a miracle.

In a letter to the parish priest, Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann wrote “… the object is a combination of fungal mycelia and bacterial colonies that have been incubated within the aquatic environment of the glass during the four-week period in which it was stored in the open air.”

None of that will stop the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from investigating the claim, as if there might actually be a miracle at play.

And Catholics wonder why atheists don’t take their beliefs seriously…

Speaking of being taken seriously, why is the St. Paul Pioneer Press even bothering with this poll question?

Yeah, yeah, I know they have the poll up there just to get cheap hits on their website… and, dammit, they win. Go Pharyngulate the poll and make things right!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Pink

    Links are not working. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570186015 Keith Devereux
  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    Here’s the thing: I, and hopefully everyone reading this blog, know what actually happened.  We don’t have any sense that something supernatural could be in play because we realize that the supernatural is a foolish concept.  The Catholic Church doesn’t accept that reality and has instead substituted their own, one wherein supernatural explanations can be valid.  That is silly, yes, but at the very least they are showing some consistency.  They are saying, “yes, we accept that it could be supernatural, but we’re going to test it first.”  When it turns out to be bacteria they will, hopefully, say “hey, it’s bacteria.”

    As foolish as this is, at least they’re being internally consistent with this idiocy.  Not like the people who see a vague image on toast as evidence but disregard pages upon pages of carefully examined and reviewed science.

    • Anonymous

      I suppose the question we shouuld perhaps be asking is, “why did they put the cracker in water?”  I’m not Catholic and was not raised with any of their unusual mythology, but what would be the reason behind this act other than trying to grow these specific kinds of bacteria?

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Since they believe it to be the body & blood of Jesus H. Christ, they treat it with reverence. They dissolve it in water, along with any left over communion wine (usually not much, as the link between the priesthood and alcoholism is legendary) and then they dispose of it down a special drain which is not connected to the sanitary sewers. This is mentioned in the news report, search for “sacraium”

        • Reginald Selkirk

          I believe the correct spelling is “sacrarium.” See also “piscina.”

  • Annie

    I guess even the body of Christ isn’t immune to the 3 second rule. 

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It’s been a full week since the initial reports. Where is the scientific report and clarification by the church?

    I thought this bit was hilarious:
    And the Church has historically has been very, very careful about declaring an event to be a miracle.

    Har har. Your mileage may vary. For one of the miracles for the beatification of Mother Teresa, they accepted the cancer cure of an Indian woman – a woman who had undergone convential medical treatment. But the woman felt that the cure was due to her prayer to Mother Teresa, and that was good enough for the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

  • Drew M.

    I just spent the last hour watching Star Trek and resetting cookies.

    Why no, I do not have a life, why do you ask?

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

      I just left iMacros on to auto-vote while I watched Daily Show and Colbert Report.

      suck on that, nerd.

  • Jesus

    Pharyngulated.  Now at 72 percent over 2500 votes.

    • Steve DeHart

      Even better now:

      Total Votes = 3977Yes  11.39 %No  82.14 %I don’t know  6.462 %

    • Steve DeHart

      Even better now:

      Total Votes = 3977Yes  11.39 %No  82.14 %I don’t know  6.462 %

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    (SHHHHHH. You’re gonna ruin the magic trick! Why do you all hate Jesus so much?!)

    Because we love bacteria. We worship bacteria. Bacteria is our god. Bacteria gives us wine and bread and cheese. Without it, we could not digest our foods. There are many more bacteria in each of our guts than all the people who ever lived and died. This is the bacteria planet. Ton for ton, there is more bacteria on Earth than all the other life forms put together. All the elephants, whales, giant redwood trees, people, and gazillions of living things don’t come close to weighing as much as bacteria.  It turns dust into soil, which feeds all the food chain.  All of life depends on it. It’s high in the atmosphere and deep in the rocks. And at the end of our lives, we shall become one with bacteria.  All praise bacteria!

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      All praise bacteria!   

      The above should be on a t-shirt.

    • Trace

      :)

    • Anonymous

      Bacteria is the dominant life form on the planet.

  • Jonas

    This reminds me a of a magic trick I learned at the Museum of Science, long ago —
    Basically called ‘Water into wine’ where a clear liquid turns red, then back again.

  • http://profiles.google.com/sfjetland Serge Fjetland

    its a miracle all right, its a miracle no-one got sick from eating crackers that have bacteria on them like that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

    So this is about incompetent food handling.   Maybe they shouldn’t advertise it.

  • Anonymous

    Praise be to Jeebus! There’s new life in the back of my fridge! It’s a MIRACLE!!!11!eleven!!
    Joking aside, at least it’s good to see that some Xtians are getting a little culture finally… Of course it’s no surprise that a Catholic priest might be dumber than bacteria.

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ Benjamin Baxter

    You berate the Catholic Church for not immediately denouncing what has not yet been determined to be a fraud? Statements that bacteria are involved are not made by anyone having actually investigated firsthand that particular host. For all you know there is no such bacteria present.

  • bla

    Pheh. Some time later in Poland (2009 I guess) exactly the same thing happened. BUT, they’ve send the cracker to some ‘christian scientist’ which concluded that the red thing is a humans heart flesh. A lot was heard on the issue and then suddenly everything silenced.
    Try: ‘cud w sokółce’ and translate it for yourself.

  • Jeff

    Maybe we’re being too quick to criticize on this one.  After all, aren’t the Catholics doing exactly
    what we’d like them to do; examining the evidence for a mundane explanation
    before assuming the supernatural?  Yes,
    their list of hypotheses to test for includes “God did it” and that seems
    pretty absurd to an outside point of view, but given the worldview they are
    working from, we can’t expect them to stop attributing things to God because we
    tell them it’s a ridiculous notion; that carries no more weight than the “how
    can you not believe in God when his handywork is all around” argument does for
    an atheist.  The best thing an atheist
    can ask a theist to do is try to eliminate all possible mundane causes
    first.  As the theist realizes that more
    and more things do have rational explanation, the role of God (and therefore
    the influence of God in their thought patterns) grows smaller.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    It’s quite obvious. A bacterium has evolved to take advantage of discarded communion wafers


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