ASK FATHER: Should we ransom Hosts that have been taken so they are not desecrated? At what cost?

From a reader…


My friend and I were discussing this thought experiment. Consider a host has been captured and is being held for ransom. What cost is too great for the church to bear (if any)? My friend and I both instinctually said the entire value of the church worth the single host not being desecrated, but if the church become insolvent, was it worth it? It feels extremely wrong to attach a monetary value to our Lord.

Yes, it does feel quite wrong to put a price on the Lord.  Judas did that and it didn’t work out so well for him.

To get my head into this question, I consulted with two bishops, whom I have “anonymized”.

Bishop 1:

Interesting and hopefully always theoretical question. The infinite value of the Eucharist obviously cannot be monetized. Would putting a parish in insolvency be the right response in such a case? On the one hand, the Host would be worth more than all that could be given. On the other hand, jeopardizing the work of the parish means the elimination of many sacraments for years to come. A difficult dilemma. Is allowing one stolen host to be desecrated permissible for the sake of the good of so many other sacraments? In the end, I would say that it isn’t.

Bishop 2:

Having considered this on the day we honor the first martyrs of the See of Rome, the only response that I possibly could offer would be my life. As our senses fail to fathom, there is no way to verify that the host is consecrated. Also, the writer indicates correctly that a validly consecrated Host has inestimable value. Therefore, the negotiation would need to be a witness, to offer one’s life in exchange for the safe return of the Host, without being desecrated. That kind of martyrdom would be truly saintly and would undoubtedly bear tremendous fruit in the life of the Church.

Fr. Z:

Both answers showing great reverence for Our Lord in the Eucharist.  One looks to future service to the flock.  The other considers martyrdom.  Both good points.

That was also a good point about knowing for sure or not that the Host was, in fact, consecrated.   Wasn’t there a moron a few years ago who make a big deal out of documenting his appropriation of Hosts and their desecration?  Perhaps in Minnesota?

The Lord underwent His Passion and rose to impassibility.  However, our sins crucified the Lord and He knew that those sins wouldn’t end.  He told us that we would be hated because they hated Him first.   We shouldn’t be surprised that people desecrate the Eucharist, as shocking as it is because of our Faith.

My inclination is not to attempt to ransom the Host with money.  I would respond with a Mass of reparation and a call for people to perform acts of penance and to pray for the soul of the person who, if culpable in such a sin, would surely go to Hell for it.

Also, as in the case of sale – and purchase – of relics on Ebay, etc., once people start paying, a market is created for this sort of sacrilege.   It seems to me that we shouldn’t contribute to the development of a market.

Moreover, if it is know where the Host was improperly obtained, I would at least attempt to get law enforcement involved … if there is any left!   We cannot say that from the religious perspective a Host is our “property”.  But we might be able to say that it is from a civil/legal perspective.  If someone committed an act of theft of a Host, clearly the most sacred thing we have, it would also arguably be a hate crime.  Reporting such a theft could help to reduce future occurrences.

As I muse on this: I wonder if an argument could be made that, if we distribute Hosts to people’s hands, and they can walk around or out with them, then they have been “alienated” and people are not “stealing” them when they walk out of church with one.

Another argument for Communion directly on the tongue?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JustaSinner says:

    Another what if thought experiment…
    What if Satanists steal a Host and are intending to use it in a black perversion of the Holy Mass…what can a Catholic in good conscience do? Assault, break and enter…?

  2. Chrisc says:

    Don’t negotiate with terrorists. Preach to them, convert them, but don’t negotiate.

  3. Joe says:

    I refuse to believe that Our Lord, who knows our thoughts, would allow.His body to be desecrated.
    The exact mechanism effecting this is unknown. Call it “instant deconfection.”

  4. Tom says:

    How would one know whether the host had been consecrated?

  5. Shonkin says:

    About 35 years ago I was an usher at a parish in California. We ushers were called to a meeting by our pastor, who told us hosts had been found outside the church after Masses. We were detailed to watch the exits after Mass to find out who was dropping them and try to prevent further sacrilege.
    Of course the first thing some people (but not the pastor) did was blame Communion in the hand.
    I was one of the ushers watching the main exits from the side the next Sunday. Immediately after the early-leavers were out, I checked the doorways. There I found a host. It was half-dissolved, which meant the offender had carried it out in his or her mouth and then spat it out.
    Communion on the tongue would not have prevented the sacrilege.

    [Rare. Of course someone might chime in and say, “I saw that happen once, too!” But for every example of that, there are many many many of people simply walking away after receiving on the hand. CotH must GO.]

  6. BCinAZ says:

    I never wish to see the Lord desecrated, but he is desecrated time and again in our society.
    “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” So, what would you pay to ransom him? The question isn’t just presented to us in hypothetical scenarios of purloined hosts. At the risk of sounding like a 90’s bracelet, what would Jesus do?

  7. TonyO says:

    I am with Fr. Z and Chrise: don’t give money to terrorists, and don’t create a market for them to do this over and over. While we should be ever careful and vigilant to prevent this from happening, our Lord is more than capable of dealing with the terrorists on His own terms if they would offend Him in His very body.

    Fr. Z also asks:

    then they have been “alienated” and people are not “stealing” them when they walk out of church with one.

    It may be a fine legal point, but it is entirely possible to give something over only on the basis of conditions and restrictions. If I rent a hotel room, I can’t do anything I want with it. If a pharmacy sells me some codeine pills, I cannot do anything I want with them (such as give them or sell them to a third party). Lots of transfers are made WITH CONDITIONS. Arguably, then, we could (should?) create a kind of “general” model in which it is granted that priest is giving me a host ONLY for me to consume it and for no other authorized use. This is, after all, exactly what is intended. So, can we change the “what’s intended” into “the terms of the contract” (even if the contract is – usually – only implicit rather than expressly stated each time).

  8. Danteewoo says:

    About thirty years ago a woman friend of ours, then in her mid-80s, stopped someone carrying a Host out of Holy Ghost Church in downtown Denver. The person said, “I can get $25 for this.” Elderly Florence responded, “Give it to me or I’ll scream.” The potential desecrator yielded the Host, and Florence became an instant personal lay minister at that moment. What a gal!

  9. Grant M says:

    So communion on the tongue is unambiguously FEEDING, whereas communion in the hand is a more ambiguous GIVING, with an implicit contract “given for immediate consumption ONLY” – a contract honoured by most but by no means all communicants.

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