Why steal the blood of the Blessed Pope John Paul II?

YouTube Preview Image

So let’s talk about the theft of that relic containing the blood of the Blessed Pope John Paul II.

For starters, I admit that this whole subject is a little strange for people who are not members of the ancient Christian churches of the East and the West.

Also, there appears to be some confusion about what, precisely, was stolen. Some reports say that robbers stole a vial of the pope’s blood, while others — BBC for example — report that the object stolen was a “piece of gauze once soaked in the blood of the late pope.”

Either way, journalists trying to cover this story face the challenge of answering one crucial question: Why would someone want a vial of the blood of someone such as this beloved pope, who will be proclaimed a Catholic saint in April?

This Religion News Service report contains several logical answers to that question. For example:

The thief or thieves made off with a large crucifix and a gold reliquary containing the vial of the blood of John Paul, who will be proclaimed a saint in April.

Once John Paul is elevated to sainthood, artifacts from his life will increase in value.

It was not immediately clear whether the intentions are to ransom the vial, sell it, or keep it for religious purposes.

Yes, there is the chance that the thieves could hold this relic for ransom. Several news reports have, thus, noted that this crime feels more like a kidnapping than an ordinary robbery.

Of course, using that same logic, the relic could also be sold as a treasure and the market price would rise with the upcoming rites to declare the Blessed John Paul II a saint.

But that only begs the ultimate question, which is suggested in the RNS report’s statement that someone may want to “keep it for religious purposes.”

So what, precisely, does “religious purposes” mean? Is the suggestion here that the goal is to sell this to a traditional Catholic, the kind of person who believes that such relics are signs of God’s power in the material world, a power that is somehow displayed in the bodies and lives of the saints? Really?

Let me make a comparison. Years ago, I had a chance to interview the Rev. Billy Graham about the process he goes through when preparing to preach. I asked him if he had a special Bible that he used in the pulpit. He laughed and said, no, he kept a stack of new Bibles for that purpose. Why? He said people often stole his Bible when he went out in public.

Stop and think about this for a minute: If you stole Billy Graham’s Bible, to whom would you show it off? Who would be impressed, as opposed to appalled? Does a devout person steal that Bible?

The bottom line: Do you sell a stolen vial of a John Paul II blood to the kind of doctrinally conservative Catholic who would want to venerate it?

Thus, some news outlets are turning that “religious purposes” answer on its head.

Consider this slice of an NBC News report, which picks up on a theme being discussed more often on the other side of the Atlantic:

Italian authorities said they believe the theft was commissioned, as thieves stole only the relic and left many other valuables behind at the church.

Only three of John Paul II’s relics contain his blood and they are all considered of great religious value.

As the late pontiff’s blood would be difficult to sell, Italian police said it is possible the thieves may plan to use it for satanic rites.

Several news organizations have made similar references to police statements. It appears, however, that asking factual, logical, journalistic questions about this possibility pushes people over the line into “conservative” journalism.

Thus, the New York Post report (write your own headline) dares to Go There.

Vatican Radio denounced the “sacrilegious theft” of a framed cloth from the San Pietro della Ienca church in the Abruzzo region. The cloth was one of three known blood-soaked pieces of the robe the beloved pontiff was wearing when he was shot in an assassination attempted in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.

Since such a revered relic would be almost impossible to sell, speculation focused on the theft being carried off by a satanic cult. Satanists celebrate their “new year” on Feb. 1 and are believed to celebrate “black masses” using Catholic symbols to mock observant Christians.

“It’s possible that there could be satanic sects behind the theft of the reliquary, Giovanni Panunzio, national coordinator of an Italian anti-occult group called Osservatorio Antiplagio, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “This sort of sacrilege often takes place at this time of year.”

But you see the problem, right?

This alleged connection to Feb. 1 is sourced by an anti-occult leader — period — as opposed to a scholar who has studied the issue or even a leader in an open, public pagan network. In fact, if you do an online search for “Feb. 1″ and “Satanic New Year” and you get, for the most part, stories about the theft of the John Paul II relic. In other words, you get people going in circles, repeating the same sources with the same info.

For me, I think it is valid for journalists to ask questions about a link between this theft and Satanic rites. But at some point, don’t journalists need to talk to people who have studied the the ever-changing world of pagan and occult rites in this day and age? Why settle for speculation about Feb. 1 or whatever? Why leave this at the wink-wink level?

Ask some questions. Quote some logical, informed people. Print the results.

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Thinkling

    Good catch on calling out the anti-occult spokesman as the Feb 1 source.

    For the record, a good source, perhaps Torcelli [sp?], just suggested the idea of a traditional catholic group doing the pilfering isn’t far fetched at all. But did qualify that he was thinking of quasi schismatic groups not in full church communion and not just devout but orthodox groups. But he notes at this point it is all just speculation.

    • TJL

      Why would any of us “traditional” Catholics want his blood or any relic of his?
      So we could have the sin of theft?
      So we could sit and stare at it?
      Why would we want it?
      Keep in mind, us traditionalists think that its too early and too far fetched to be proclaiming John Paul II a saint, not just yet anyways, because there are too many disputable issues involving his life, and involving the supposed articles of canonization. More time is needed for his canonization.
      But that’s no reason for a Traditional Catholic to turn into a thief.
      So, even if traditionalists were so demented, as you modernist humanists try to make us out to be, WHY would we have a need for his relics?
      His relics are NOT holy to a traditionalist. And, they would not be validly venerated if they were holy but stolen.
      Your accusation makes no sense.
      And, as evil as you think were are, the truth is, we have great consciences. We could never steal something, or possess a stolen object without being overcome by guilt.
      Your comment, and the comment of the article writer, only proves ignorance of who traditional Catholics are. And, it proves ignorance of the traditional Catholic Faith.
      You make it sound as though Catholicism was made up of thieving, blood worshiping, monsters, before the modernists and humanists of Vatican II came along and changed our religion to match the Anglicans and the Lutherans.
      Now that Catholics are the same as Protestants, we are no longer beasts. Is that it? Good grief.
      I don’t know who took the late popes blood, but I do know who DIDN’T take it. Traditional Catholics DIDN’T and wouldn’t.
      So stop your uncharitable hate attacks toward us real Catholics. Thank you.

      • tmatt

        Who is making an accusation?

        • TJL

          The article itself suggests traditionalists may be responsible. And, “Thinkling” agreed and said such an idea wasn’t far fetched.
          They don’t know traditionalists.

          • Dominick

            I thank thee, God, that I am not like the rest of men, who steal and cheat and commit adultery, or like this publican here; for myself, I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess

          • TJL

            Your point is?
            Who’s being self righteous, the accused or the accuser?

            My point is simple: We don’t know who did it yet, or why it was done, so why are the only possible suspects Satanists, Traditionalists, Schismatic’s, or someone wanting ransom?

            There is some mention of person worship (someone who adores a person to the point where they want anything associated with that person).

            And then, there is the ignorant comments that people do things without reason. Whether you agree with a reason or not, the fact is that everything is done for a reason… unless you are a mental invalid, and even then there maybe a simple reason such as curiosity. But I assure you, this wasn’t done by an invalid.

            There is no mention of the possibilities of non traditionalists, Protestants, or other non Catholics, other than the mention of Satanists.

            There isn’t even mention of the possibility of governments being involved, including the Vatican government.
            In fact, the first logical question is ignored by this article, and that is: Who had access to the missing relics, both times?

            And, another question to be considered: Why are the 2 thefts involving dried blood? NOT wet blood, which is used for Satanic purposes.

            The first thought that came to my mind is that someone doesn’t want anyone to know that the pope had something in his blood, whether it be a poison, a drug, or a disease.

            The entire caper stinks of an inside job, and the article writer chooses to only focus on four ridiculous possibilities with no sound reason, or facts leading to such suggestions.

            As a traditionalist I have a rightful position to be indignant. How dare anyone include us in a list with Satanists and thieves in general.

            People should turn it around and ask themselves how they would like it.

            I say again: CHARITY is lacking here.

          • Becki

            I also picked up on the quantifier “traditionalist”. I was amused. I am not a traditionalist, but I am not opposed to the view either. My hang-up with it being a traditionalist is this: most traditionalists who would do something screwy would not have the ability to pull off such an elaborate scheme because they would be mentally ill and unable to think something through so well. I say this because traditional Catholics are VERY devout. This level of sin is way above the traditionalists ability. If a traditionalist did something bizarre (like keeping and collecting the consecrated host for example) then the person would believe that there is no sin involved. Robbery is a clear sin. To anyone. Definitely not a traditionalist. Besides, if a traditionalist were interested in a relic, it would NOT likely be a recent pope or one of the Vatican 2 times. Just sayin’

          • Dominick

            I think to suggest that any group of people is incapable of any particular sin is ridiculous maybe even to the point of heresy.
            The sacraments impart grace not magic.
            Have these ‘traditionalists’ transcended Satan’s diabolical, preternatural intelligence? He keeps many fiddles, one of which is undoubtably labeled “traditionalist”.

          • Dominick

            .

          • Dominick

            bb
            ffdd

          • TJL

            The point being made isn’t that traditionalists are spiritually superior and incapable of sin, and you know it, so cut out the pride game.
            You have read what I have said repeatedly, and if you are too dense to get it from those writings, then repeating myself will do no good.
            Good day.

          • Dominick

            Yes, I have read what you have said repeatedly. I think I can be forgiven for thinking that you suggest that “traditionalists” are just incapable of commiting certain sins:

            “Why would any of us “traditional” Catholics want his blood or any relic of his?
            So we could have the sin of theft?

            Why would we want it?
            Keep in mind, us traditionalists think that its too early and too far fetched to be proclaiming John Paul II a saint,”

            I understand that a “traditionalist” may not want to have anything to do with a JPII relic, yet. But why do you mention the sin of theft? Would any Catholic want to be guilty of the sin of theft?

            “I’ve never met a traditionalist who would think that collecting a consecrated host as anything less than a sacrilege. You must be confusing us with the new Catholics. The Novus Ordo bunch who receive Communion in their hands… while standing, at that.”

            Funny, because I don’t know any “Novus Ordo” Catholics who think collecting consecrated hosts as anything other than a sacrilege, either.

            “But that’s no reason for a Traditional Catholic to turn into a thief.”

            and

            “And, as evil as you think were are, the truth is, we have great consciences. We could never steal something, or possess a stolen object without being overcome by guilt.

            I understand this to mean that thievery was invented in 1962.

            “No. It is not even remotely possible.”
            In response to RayIngles’ “That does not mean that all or even most “traditionalists” would do such a thing. But it does at least argue that it’s possible.”
            Here we have it again: “No traditionalist would do such a thing.”

            You make it sound as though Catholicism was made up of thieving, blood worshiping, monsters, before the modernists and humanists of Vatican II came along and changed our religion to match the Anglicans and the Lutherans.
            Are you suggesting there were no such men in pre-Reformation Christendom?

            I don’t know who took the late popes blood, but I do know who DIDN’T take it. Traditional Catholics DIDN’T and wouldn’t.
            So stop your uncharitable hate attacks toward us real Catholics. Thank you.

            I now understand that there are certain sins from which “traditional” Catholics are categorically immune. I also understand that only “traditional” Catholics are “real” Catholics, although I remember a certain tradition about a sacrament that confers grace ex opere operanto and also imparts an indelible mark on one’s soul. Is this indelible mark not sufficient to qualify one as real Catholic? I will leave it to the “traditionalist” to explain that one to our Lord.

          • Dominick

            pride game indeed

          • TJL

            Wow! You are really one twisted dude.

            You did pretty good at twisting things around and taking things out of the context intended to try to prove a position that doesn’t exist.
            Many of my comments already concede the imperfection of us traditionalists.
            But your pride won’t let you drop it.

            And the time you spent doing it! Wow! Go see a priest man.

            I wasn’t going to respond anymore but I couldn’t resist applauding you for your ridiculous efforts. But, this will have to be my last visit. I don’t have the time to kill that you apparently do.

            Sorry you still missed the point about traditionalists being singled out wrongly, when they are no more likely to do such a thing than any other Catholic.
            You totally missed it because you are blinded with pride and hate toward a group of people you don’t even know. That’s twisted.

            Above, “Howard” said it best, “As far as any of us know, it’s POSSIBLE that TMatt stole the blood. It’s even more POSSIBLE that this church faked the theft for publicity, or that the priest accidentally destroyed the relic and is trying to cover up the fact. It’s POSSIBLE that the CIA stole the blood. I can come up with hundreds more of unlikely possibilities. If something is possible, but ridiculous, is it worth listing?”
            Thank you, Howard, for your words of wisdom.

            Take care.

          • Dominick

            You say to Thinkling: “So stop your uncharitable hate attacks toward us real Catholics. Thank you”

            By this statement you imply that somebody you probably know nothing about is not a “real Catholic”. On what authority do you make such a proclamation?

            Pride indeed.

          • Dominick

            Also, while we have been lectured about the sins to which “traditionalist” Catholics are categorically immune, we have yet to hear about sins to which they are categorically disposed. This categorical stuff does beg the question, after all.
            Not being a “traditionalist” Catholic, I appreciate any enlightenment on this matter. Should be an easy thing for any “traditionalist” to discuss, mea culpa being the proper disposition for all real Catholics.

          • Becki

            I most certainly wasn’t saying that any group is above sin. That was not my intention and I am sorry that my words alluded to that. I am simply saying that to bring attention to the Traditional group specifically is likely way off base. I didn’t see any need for it ther than to express a poor opinion of said group. Clearly the traditionalists have numerous sins as individuals since they frequent the confessionals as much or more than others. I just don’t think that Traditionalists, as a whole group, are morally capable of such an act nor would they have an interest in the articles that were stolen. Would individuals in said group be morally capable? Of course. But not BECAUSE of their view. I hope this clarifies my late night thoughts. If it still angers people, I am sorry that my words have that kind of an effect…but I do stick by them until my mind is changed by God through more experience.

          • Dominick

            Becki,
            I am confused over this whole thing. The word “tradition” appears exactly once in TMatt’s article. “Traditionalist” is not used a single time.
            The “traditional Catholic” is brought up as a potential buyer for the relic, not as the thief. TMatt asks a string of pondering questions based on a vague line in a news report about “religious purposes”.
            I just do not see how anybody can read an accusation into this article at all — but when self-described “traditionalists” scream bloody murder that ‘We would never do such a thing!!!’ in response to an imaginary accusation, I get intrigued about what makes these “traditionalist” Catholics tick.

          • Dominick

            I would like to add that all Catholics commit sins that they know are wrong. What then is the rationale for drawing fences around certain sins and pretending that they cannot be committed by certain men?

          • TJL

            Your comment is bizarre and full of contradictions. Not sure if you simply misspoke, or what.
            As a traditionalist from before Vatican II, I know many traditionalists and most of the traditional groups quite well.
            I’ve never met a traditionalist who would think that collecting a consecrated host as anything less than a sacrilege.
            You must be confusing us with the new Catholics. The Novus Ordo bunch who receive Communion in their hands… while standing, at that.
            If you ever know of such a thing happening, or any abuse of the Eucharist, weep for Jesus, and try to correct the sacrilege.
            Also, I’ve never met a traditionalist who did not know robbery or theft, of any kind, as sin.
            Once again, you are confusing us with the modernists and humanists that don’t believe in guilt, or the need for Confession and Reparation.
            Traditionalists are usually more brilliant minded and better educated in the Faith and in life than you give us credit for, so I find it hard to believe that you would know of a traditionalist lacking in aptitude to steal.
            However, I do believe that you have never met a traditionalist with the desire to steal.
            And, I’ll bet, if you’ve ever met a traditionalist, that person was kind to you, despite your bad attitude.
            We do agree on your final point, that a traditionalist would not likely steal relics of a pope who is post Vatican II. Of course, we have no history of stealing relics of any popes, before or after.
            I hope you get to know traditionalists more in your area. We are good friends to have. We aren’t saints, but we are trying, and we try to live in accordance with the old stricter ways which help the soul. You know, the way people were prior to the 1960′s mess up of humanity.
            God Bless.

          • Becki

            I admit to being vague. In a discussion group, the presiding Canon spoke of going to a woman’s house and finding the consecrated host pinned to and covering her walls. She would actually hold the host in her mouth and then later remove from her tongue. She did not understand the sin but simply believed that she was bringing our Lord into her home. Said Canon continued to counsel her and likely took care of the situation of the Hosts. The woman was, clearly, in need of prayer and counsel. If she were in the “right” frame of mind, she wouldn’t have committed such an act and if she knew of her sin, she wouldn’t have invited the Canon over to witness it. This illustrates an advantage to providing a very thin Host. My point is this: it is my experience that a Traditionalist Catholic is not a likely suspect since they seem to practice their faith daily and throughout the day. Part of that practice is keeping the commandments. I don’t find that experience to be as common among the Novus Ordo folk. I thought to say it could be the work of a Traditionalist Catholic was either a misunderstanding of the classification or misspeaks, or an unnecessary attack.

          • TJL

            Becki, thanks for the clarification. I figured that’s what you must have meant.
            Thanks for your kindness and your humility. God Bless.

          • Becki

            My post was confusing-probably because I was tired and trying to be concise. When I said “definitely not a traditionalist” I meant the act was committed by one whom was definitely not a traditionalist. I do know several traditionalists. You are correct, these women are some of my favorite people. In fact, I have never felt more comfortable around anyone else. I don’t feel judged…even though they know I still attend the Novus Ordo. I ask questions and receive patient answers. I give opinions and am listened to with my opinions considered. I cannot say that about any other group that I have experienced. In another response or post, you will see what I wrote about the collection of the Eucharist. May God Bless you, too, and I hope you find peace in your heart, knowing that you are following the Lord’s path. In Christ-Becki

          • wlinden

            Traditionalists never sin. What’s the reason?
            Why, if they sin, they are not traditionalists.

          • Dominick

            My point was to counter the argument that ‘no traditionalist would do such a thing’.

            While I am not sure what a “traditionalist” is, he is undoubtably a sinner like the rest of humanity.

            At any rate, I believe that Mr. Mattingly’s point is that the news article’s vague suggestion of “religious purposes” is confusing; while presumably only a “traditional Catholic” would care about using the relic for “religious purposes”, attempting to sell the relic to said “traditional Catholic” would be a nonstarter because he would understand the gravity of participating in such a crime.

            I mean, did I misread this paragraph?

            “So what, precisely, does “religious purposes” mean? Is the suggestion here that the goal is to sell this to a traditional Catholic, the kind of person who believes that such relics are signs of God’s power in the material world, a power that is somehow displayed in the bodies and lives of the saints? Really?”

          • TJL

            There is NOTHING exclusive to traditionalists in believing “that such relics are signs of God’s power in the material world, a power that is somehow displayed in the bodies and lives of the saints”.
            Good grief.
            That’s NOT a traditionalist view. That is a CATHOLIC view.
            That’s one of the reasons why, even modernist Catholics, still have relics in their alters, and why they venerate the lives of saints while standing or kneeling before relics of saints.
            ALL Catholics are supposed to believe this, NOT just Traditionalists.
            So, why isolate traditionalists? The writer should have differed severally with the other source, if he knew his Catholic Faith.
            And, all the other commenters should have differed with it as well, and objected to the singling out of one Catholic “group” without including ALL Catholics. Only one seems to have had the sense to do so. This is a sad thing.
            The more I think about it, and reread the article, the more I’m sorry I ever read it. The man really isn’t worth reading.

          • Dominick

            TJL,
            Not once did TMatt ever use “traditionalist”. He said “traditional Catholic”. I can’t read anything into this other than “Catholic who observes traditional practices”. This includes a large number of Catholics, not just self-described “traditionalists”.
            If we assume that the thief stole the relic for “religious purposes”, then it is perfectly reasonable to consider the likelihood that the culprit is a Catholic who actually observes such traditions as venerating saints —in other words a Catholic who has use for things for which Catholics traditionally have use. In other words: a “traditional Catholic”.
            Your indignation is confusing.
            Incidentally, I believe that TMatt is Orthodox.

      • RayIngles

        TJL – Tmatt’s story indicates that people sometimes do things that don’t make sense. That people will, in reality, steal a Bible from a famous preacher, and do it often enough that he has to plan for it.

        That does not mean that all or even most “traditionalists” would do such a thing. But it does at least argue that it’s possible.

        • TJL

          No. It is not even remotely possible.
          Perhaps, someone who adored and worshipped the late pope. Liberal minded “Catholic’s” may have some sort of interest in some sort of relic from the pope, but not traditionalists from any sect. But I don’t think it was even a liberal Catholic who loved the pope that did it.
          You don’t know traditionalists.
          It could actually be any person who just wanted something of his, whether they are Catholic or not. All popes have things they touch pilfered by people from many walks of like, as though they are scarfs from Elvis.
          It is a cruel spirit to point a finger at traditionalists and say its possible, without also saying that it is equally possible for non traditionalists as well.
          The spirit of charity should exist here, if we are indeed Catholic. Are we?

        • Howard

          As far as any of us know, it’s POSSIBLE that TMatt stole the blood. It’s even more POSSIBLE that this church faked the theft for publicity, or that the priest accidentally destroyed the relic and is trying to cover up the fact. It’s POSSIBLE that the CIA stole the blood. I can come up with hundreds more of unlikely possibilities. If something is possible, but ridiculous, is it worth listing?

          • TJL

            Well said. Bless you!

          • RayIngles

            If something is possible, but ridiculous, is it worth listing?

            Why is it ridiculous?

            Either the thieves believe the relic has a supernatural aspect, or else they want to ransom it to those who believe the relic has a supernatural aspect. But… no ransom demands so far.

            So, most likely, it’s people who believe that the relic has supernatural attributes. That falls into two groups – Satanists, or Catholics. Satanists might be more inclined to steal, but there aren’t many of them. Catholics in general would have less inclination to steal a relic, but there are a lot more Catholics – including “traditionalists”.

            I agree that the article’s phrasing could be improved – but claiming that “traditionalists” are eliminated simply because they are traditionalists is wrong.

          • Howard

            How about the possibility that TMatt himself stole the blood? Is that ridiculous? If so, why? Simply because he is TMatt? Because he runs a blog?

            Or how about the Jews? Yeah, maybe THE JEWS stole the blood. If this blog is about journalism, would it be responsible journalism to say, “Maybe the Jews did it” with not a shred of evidence pointing in that direction, just because it is “possible”? If not — if you are aghast that anyone could still harbour such an antisemitic fantasy — why is the same fantasy about traditionalists OK, and why is it OK to suggest that they had anything to do with it with no shred of supporting evidence?

          • RayIngles

            Howard – Have you noticed the distinction between ‘possible’ and ‘likely’?

            Thinkling suggested – or, at least, relayed – the notion that it’s possible a ‘traditionalist’ group carried out or arranged the theft. TJL didn’t respond that it was ‘unlikely’, though. He explicitly claimed that it was impossible, that traditionalists “could never steal something” [emphasis added].

            I was responding to the claim that it was impossible. I didn’t claim that it was likely.

            Do you agree with TJL that it’s “impossible”? What odds will you give me? :-)

          • Howard

            Yes, and I noticed that your assertion about likelihood was JUST MADE UP. (“So, most likely, it’s people who believe that the relic has supernatural attributes.”) You can imagine a fictional scenario. Therefore, it is likely. Yeah, right.

            Just to show how easy it is to make up scenarios, how about this: It could have been done on a dare by high-school age kids. Kids that age do a lot of stupid things just to show how “bold” they are. They vandalize cemeteries and they vandalize churches. Does that justify the assertion that this is “likely” what happened? How about we wait for actual evidence instead of just making stuff up?

            As for the rest … Do you think it is IMPOSSIBLE that THE JEWS stole the blood? Do you think that if it is NOT impossible, it is worth mentioning? Is it a good idea to toss out incendiary suggestions on no evidence just because they do not seem to be impossible?

          • RayIngles

            Howard – No, that was not ‘just made up’. There was a chain of logic there. Which part(s) do you disagree with?

            Is it a good idea to toss out incendiary suggestions on no evidence just because they do not seem to be impossible?

            No, but as Tmatt noted, accusations haven’t been leveled yet.

          • Howard

            The “chain of logic” consisted of this: a story was told in which the robbers were motivated by religious belief. Because they were motivated by religious belief in that story, it was simply asserted that it is likely that they were also motivated by religious belief in the real world. This might be your opinion or Thinkling’s opinion, but it is not actually logic — after all, I told a story in which their motives had nothing to do with religious belief, so the mere existence of a story does not imply likelihood. You would do a better job calling the suggestion a gut feeling.

            I take it you find the suggestion that Jews were complicit in this objectionable. That’s fine, because there is not an iota of evidence linking them to this crime, and it is my contention that it is irresponsible to make suggestions without substantial evidence. But if you really insist that a traditional Catholic (or a traditionalist Catholic, which is something different) must be considered a possibility and it is really quite wrong to rule them out, you must either just as strenuously assert that an Orthodox Jew must be considered a possibility and it is really quite wrong to rule them out, or else you are being inconsistent. After all, it is just as easy to make up a story in which a Jew might have motivations to make the veneration of Catholic relics seem ridiculous; such a story is no more outlandish than the idea of a Catholic wishing to set up a secret personal shrine to JPII. Is it just possible that you don’t think it is really quite as wrong to entertain insulting ideas about traditionalist Catholics as about Jews?

            Not that it matters, but I say all this as someone who is not a traditionalist Catholic. This isn’t about me being thin-skinned, just about insisting that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

          • RayIngles

            Okay, which step(s) do you object to:

            (1) Either the thieves believe the relic has a supernatural aspect, or else they want to ransom it to those who believe the relic has a supernatural aspect.

            [It is valuable only to the extent that it is believed to be the relic of a holy man, right?]

            (2) But… no ransom demands so far. [Still seems to be the case at last report.]

            (3) So, most likely, it’s people who believe that the relic has supernatural attributes. [Follows from (1) and (2).]

            (BTW, do you find the suggestion that Satanists were complicit in this objectionable?)

          • Howard

            It’s step (1). There is no justification for assuming that the either/or you present exhausts the possibilities.

            The suggestion that it has to do with Satanists is reported as a speculation of Italian police, not journalists or bloggers or mere readers of blogs. The fact that the police are floating that suggestion is perhaps newsworthy whether or not they have good reason to justify the suspicion, and they may or may not have more reasons than they have disclosed to the press.

          • RayIngles

            I’d be very curious to hear what other possibilities you have in mind…

          • Howard

            The full list of possibilities is undoubtedly longer than any we will put together, because human beings behave in unexpected ways. Here’s a start, though, beginning with your two possibilities. (I’m going to switch to the singular while leaving the number of thieves as an open question.)
            (a) The thief believes the relic has a supernatural aspect.
            (b) The thief wants to ransom the relic to those who believe the relic has a supernatural aspect.
            (c) The thief was motivated by the thrill of the theft, not by the value of that which was stolen.
            (d) The thief stole the relic to prove his daring, commitment, or obedience to a third party.
            (e) The thief stole the relic in order to inflict pain on one or more devotees of the relic, perhaps due to a personal grudge, perhaps “for laughs”.
            (f) The thief stole the relic in order to prove that it has no supernatural aspect.
            (g) No one stole the relic. (Google “Thomas C. Butler”.)

            That’s enough to show that the resulting chain of logic is faulty:
            (1) Either (a) or (b) or (c) or (d) or (e) or (f) or (g).
            (2) Not (b).
            (3) Therefore (a).

          • RayIngles

            B-g happen in fiction a lot. In reality… not so much. But if that’s the level of probability you want to work with, I don’t suppose anything I can say will convince you. You win.

          • Howard

            In reality, how often do traditional Catholics steal relics out of a Catholic church? If that’s the level of probability you want to work with, I don’t suppose anything I can say will convince you.

            Seriously, the leap you are making is to say:
            (1) Either (a) or (b-g).
            (2) (b-g) rarely happen.
            (3) Therefore (a) is likely.

            But that is quite a leap, because (a) also happens very rarely. The few cases in history of a Catholic stealing a relic tend to be from situations that are, like the sack of Constantinople in 1203, manifestly not relevant to the news item we are discussing. And while Satanists may steal holy items for their own purposes, I suppose they rarely do it in such an obvious way — it would be easier, and more to their purpose, to stand in line and receive the Body of Christ but not consume it. If we’re judging from history alone, the greatest destruction of relics probably happened as a part of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and the Bolshevik Revolution, none of which again have any obvious relationship with this news.

            Even the assertion that (b-g) rarely happen is suspect. Sure, the THEFT OF RELICS is rare, regardless of the motive. What about church burnings? They are certainly more often reported than the theft of relics. What about the vandalism of churches and cemeteries? That is not often reported because it is so commonplace. Both church burnings and the vandalism of churches and cemeteries have similarities to the theft of relics, but are they usually the result of a belief that the church or cemetery has a supernatural aspect? Aren’t they usually due to (c)-(f)?

          • Dominick

            Howard,
            I dont understand your hypothetical scenario involving the Jew. Assume for a minute that the relic was in fact stolen for “religious purposes”. Why would I even consider a Jew as the culprit or even as the potential buyer of the relic? What “religious purpose” does a Jew have for a Christian relic?
            Are we to seriously believe that faithful Catholics generally have no more use, and therefore no greater motive, to steal a relic for “religious purposes”? It is not in the nature of the Jew qua Jew to venerate Christian relics.
            If I put a lion, a zebra, and a wildebeast in the same enclosure and walk away, what am I to think when I come back and the wilebeast is half eaten? I can’t prove the lion did it – but really what use does a zebra have for wildebeast meat?

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    The WaPo attempted to answer this question here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/wondering-why-someone-would-steal-a-vial-of-papal-blood-heres-the-answer/2014/01/27/f7fe7b84-879c-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html Unfortunately, it wasn’t too well done: only one source (though not a bad one) and they got a couple things wrong: “In fact, body parts of saints, or near-saints…are frequently venerated, or prayed at.” “Prayed at”? “I’m praying at you.” Personally, I think “venerated” would have sufficed.

    And I have to question this quote: “‘Ever since God sent his own flesh, human flesh has mattered,’ he said.” Any Catholic priest, esp. a theologian at Catholic U, isn’t going to say, “Ever since God sent his own flesh…” Maybe he said, “Ever since God sent His Son to take up our flesh,” but I seriously doubt that the quote is correct.

    But here’s my question about the facts of the case — was it a vial of his blood, or was it a piece of his garments with his blood stained on it from one of the bullet wounds? (Which also brings me to wonder how many surgeons and other staff at the Gemelli Clinic kept relics from his different surgeries and other medical interventions for themselves.)

    I think it’s also rather easy to explain relics to this culture. I mean, how many people want something from a rock star, and if they get it, don’t they put it in some place of honor in their homes?

  • 1yRolandoOFS0

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult to explain cult of “relics.” One comment is, “I think it’s also rather easy to explain relics to this culture. I mean, how many people want something from a rock star, and if they get it, don’t they put it in some place of honor in their homes?” However it’s presented, the cult of “relics” is a bit gruesome.
    Paz y Bien, Rolando, OFS.

  • Howard

    “But at some point, don’t journalists need to talk to people who have studied the the ever-changing world of pagan and occult rites in this day and age?” I agree, if you mean “people” to be the plural of “person”, and the substance of your complaint is that a single source was used. If, on the other hand, it is an assumption that someone opposed to the occult can clearly not be someone who has “studied the the ever-changing world of pagan and occult rites in this day and age,” you need to justify that assumption. After all, you probably would not assume that the people who know the most about HIV must have a neutral attitude to virus and certainly would never present themselves as anti-HIV.

  • Howard

    By the way, you would probably get more hits if you searched not for “Feb. 1″ but for “Imbolc” with “New Year”.

    • HowardRichards

      I’m guessing the person who voted down on this thought I was promoting the occult. I’m not. I’m just pointing out that tmatt’s complaint that Google searches of “Feb. 1 pagan new year” mostly point back to this story is due to the wrong search terms. There really is an ancient and well-known pagan Celtic holiday that falls on or near Feb. 1, and if you look it up by name there are plenty of mentions. However suspect pagan or Satanic involvement might be, that one piece of information is not suspect, nor is it an unfounded or minority opinion of an opponent of the occult.

      • FW Ken

        It’s also possible that someone with fat fingers hit the wrong arrow and didn’t know you could take it back. :-)

  • Julia B

    I was just talking about relics with my daughter-in-law this afternoon. [cue spooky music] She told me that she had not known until a few years ago that altars in Catholic churches have a bone or some other physical relic of a saint. While visiting the catacombs in Rome some years back, I was told that it was the practice to say Mass using free-standing coffins as altars. That’s where the custom of having relics embedded in Catholic altars came from. Maybe that’s not true, but it makes sense. It connects the Mass of today with the Communion of Saints.
    SO – the writer should not only have asked what pagans would have done with the relic; the writer should also have asked what the Catholics might have wanted the relic for. There are lots of tales of relics being stolen centuries ago.
    This reminds me of all the relics I saw at Cooperstown – clothes that touched the revered sports figures as well as their bats, gloves, etc.

    • Howard

      That’s really a non-starter, for several reasons. For one, a relic can’t be used by just anybody to set up a Catholic altar, and the necessary ecclesiastic permission would not be granted to someone who had just robbed a Catholic church. For another, the earlier thefts of relics you mention tended to happen under very different circumstances — usually war, when the victors asserted that they had earned possession in battle, and usually the looted churches were at least believed to be under the control of heretics of schismatics. Finally, even under those circumstances the looting of churches was often viewed as a sacrilege, even by bishops who kept the looted relics.

      • Julia B

        I didn’t mean to imply that a church today would steal a relic. Just mentioning what happened in times gone by.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Okay, speaking as an Irishwoman, what the point of 1st February is, is that it is the Feast of St Bridget of Kildare. Neo-pagans associate her with the goddess Brigit, who may have been a daughter (or one of three daughters) of the father-god Dagda.
    1st February is Imbolc, the Celtic festival in the pre-Christian calendar. Again, for New Age and Neo-pagans, that is one of the ‘Sabbats’ or quarter days on the Wheel of the Year. It marks the start of Spring in Ireland (astronomical spring starts sometime in March around the Vernal Equinox).
    Now, Satanism is a different kettle of fish; some Satanic groups may celebrate a ‘new year’ on that particular sabbat, but I would have expected those kinds of groups to use Hallowe’en (if they’re going to use any specific calendar date) since that is the Celtic New Year.
    It sounds like a confusion between various New Age, Neo-pagan, Wiccan and genuine Satanic/occult groups going on. If this is ‘classical’ Satanism, they may indeed want the blood for a ‘Black Mass’, but really I think this was a theft for the reliquary rather than the relic, rather than an occult-inspired robbery.
    And if it was ‘theft to order’ of a relic for veneration, that’s simony which is a sin. Again, a genuinely devout Catholic wouldn’t do this, so it’s probably thieves going for (a) the valuable materials and (b) holding to ransom/for the insurance (if relics are insured, which I have no idea).

    • TJL

      One problem, the blood is dry, in both theft cases. So, it wouldn’t work for a Black Mass very well. It could be rehydrated, I suppose. But the amounts are incredibly small. So, I seriously doubt it.

      You are correct: “A devout Catholic wouldn’t do this”.
      In fact, there is no Catholic reason to do this. So it wasn’t even done by a Catholic who isn’t devout, for religious purposes, that is.

      I’m not saying that the thief couldn’t be a Catholic, because the thief probably is, rather, he/they didn’t steal for “Catholic religious purposes”.
      There is another motive.

      You raise an interesting point: Insurance. I wonder what the police know about that so far in their investigation?

      And, I wonder if the investigators have considered it an inside job… possibly to hide the eventual discovery of something in the blood of the pope that shouldn’t be there? Drugs, poison, disease?

      If the latter is the case, we will probably never learn the answer.
      It could even be a twisted DNA collector.

      One things for sure, the reason and the perpetrator are likely NOT associated with anything suspect listed by the writer of this article.

  • Dominick

    I don’t think ti is correct to rule out the possibility that a devout
    Christian would buy a knowingly stolen relic. We all share the same
    fallen and duplicitous nature. . . there are all kinds of characters out
    there.
    There is another possibility that I have not heard discussed;
    as I understand it, time was when destruction of Christian relics was a
    favorite past time of conquering Muhammedan armies.

    • TJL

      Your point about the destruction of Christian relics by Muslims is actually an interesting one. That is something they enjoy doing. In fact, a Muslim did some serious damage to the Pieta statue some years ago, right there in the Vatican. I forget the date. It was before it was encased in bullet proof glass.

      And, it could also work into the possibility of an upcoming ransom (Which should have happened by now if it was going to, but still might).

      • wlinden

        “From: The New
        York Times

        A Hammer For the Madonna

        The mutilation of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” last Sunday by a mentally
        disturbed young man shocked the world as an act of mayhem against one
        of the supreme masterpieces in the history of Western art. Laszlo Toth,
        33, a Hungarian-born Australian, had leaped over a guard rail in St Peter’s
        crying, “I’m Jesus Christ!” and attacked the statue with a hammer.
        The left arm of the Virgin was shattered and the nose, left eye and veil
        were chipped.”

        It does not seem credible that he was a nefarious “Muslim”.

        • TJL

          Very good. Thanks for the correction. I was thinking of something else.

  • Brett

    I know that the shortcomings of the Disqus system mean that moderating comments requires a time commitment that the GetReligionistas don’t have in their schedule of full-time jobs and family responsibilities. Do you have the option of turning comments off when they’ve become as irrelevant as this thread has?

  • Donalbain

    So, you want them to put more effort into the speculation rather than less?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X