This last week, in the Minnesota city of Lakeville a man came into a Catholic church and dumped a jar of urine on the altar in the middle of Mass. As he was being removed from the sanctuary by an off-duty police officer and a group of congregants he shouted, “I hate Christians!” a proclamation that would, if posted on the internet, barely warrant a raised eyebrow.
It became apparent fairly quickly that the perpetrator had a history of mental illness and whatever his motivations, that illness seems to have rendered him incapable of discerning the wrongness of his act. Unlike those on the secular left who tried to pin Jared Loughner’s actions on the rhetoric of certain parties on the Right, there is little need for sensible folk to ascribe this man’s actions to the rhetoric of any group in this case.
That being said, I am hard pressed to find a reason why the act itself, the desecration of a sacred symbol in the Catholic Church, was any worse than what PZ Myers did to another sacred Catholic object a few years ago.
Certainly in the latter case there would be no insanity defense, but it is not clear beyond that why someone would see one act as the result of a deranged mind and the other as an intellectual protest.