Stop selling saints relics, eBay told

Dozens of relics often purporting to be the bones of saints are on sale on the eBay auction website in contradiction of the site's own rules against the sale of body parts, US protesters say.

Catholic News Service reports that after a decade of unsuccessful protests a California group is advocating a boycott of eBay unless the online auction house enforces its own rules against selling body parts to prohibit the sale of saints' relics.

"They've had opportunities to stop the sales, and they don't even enforce their own regulations," said Tom Serafin, founder and president of the International Crusade for Holy Relics.

According to Serafin, even a "cursory search" of the popular online auction site will turn up dozens of relics "often purporting to be the bones of saints" for sale.

Serafin said he had tried over the years to convince eBay through its former general counsel and customer service representatives that relic auctions should be taken down from the auctioneer's pages but to no avail.

"In the beginning, I thought it would be easy" to get such auctions stopped, he told CNS in a telephone interview from Anaheim, California.

"When (online book and merchandise retailer) Amazon.com did it, we contacted Amazon and they didn't do it anymore. How they did it, I don't know."

Serafin said he had a team of as many as six people search eBay's pages for evidence of relic auctions and alert the company. "We send it in. Hours later they send a response: 'We'll look into it,'" he told CNS.

Even if eBay were to stop an auction, he added, "the sellers are savvy. They say 'Visit my store,' or 'Here's my e-mail address,'" giving buyers a way to contact them directly.

He said, "I'd be happy to participate in a review that would qualify whether a relic could be posted. But in proportion to the number of things sold daily, I don't know if it would even be worthwhile."

EBay says it sells millions of items each day around the world.

According to Serafin, relics are offered "every day, 24 hours a day." His group is no longer pursuing the halt of individual sales: "Right now we've stopped trying to do it. You throw your hands up in the air and say, 'My God, it's so big.'"

Relics purporting to be from Padre Pio and St Philomena are today available on eBay's Australian site.

But CNS says that "relics" from St Anne de Beaupre, St Alexander Sauli, St Vincent de Paul, St Rose of Viterbo, Blessed Mother Teresa and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha are among thousands of items under the category advertised for sale on the US eBay site.

Some relics are fraudulent - Serafin said he once saw an offer that included "a feather from the Holy Spirit" - but for verifiable relics there are "people who rescue them and bring them back to the church."

But eBay's own site says: "Humans, the human body or any human body parts are not permitted on eBay. Items that contain human hair - such as lockets - as well as skulls and skeletons that are used for medical purposes may be listed on eBay."

Group wants eBay to enforce ban that would prohibit sale of relics (NZ Catholic, 5/11/06)
Group wants eBay to enforce ban that would prohibit sale of relics (Catholic News Service, 5/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
eBay Australia
Relics for sale on eBay

7 Nov 2006