The internet auction site eBay is listing for sale the reputed relics of Catholic saints, Newsweek reports, though a layman has taken up the task of preventing the site’s sale of both sacred items and the bodily remains of holy men and women.
Recently, alleged strands of hair from the head of St. Therese of Liseux were put up for auction with bids starting at $40. Another auction opening at $49.99 purported to be a fragment of bone from St. Philomena, a 13-year-old girl who is said to have been flogged, drowned, and beheaded for refusing marriage to the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
A “splendid, rare, antique” reliquary containing bone fragments from six different saints from a dealer at Belgium was posted for auction at an opening price of $625.
If the relics are genuine, their sale would violate Catholic canon law, which states, "it is absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics."
These items also apparently violate eBay’s policies prohibiting the sale of human remains.
Tom Serafin, a Catholic layman who manages a Los Angeles photography studio, has often worked to remove relics from eBay auction lists. He records on his website items he believes violate eBay’s terms of sale.
"As a dad and a Catholic, I just wonder where the heck is the accountability?" he said to Newsweek.
An eBay spokeswoman responded to Newsweek about the items, saying, "We have a team of 2,000 people working around the clock to identify and remove prohibited items."
"With nearly 7 million new items being listed every day …we may not immediately identify infringing items, but if concerned individuals bring them to our attention we will promptly take action," she added.
Serafin himself collects relics, which he acquires not through purchases but through writing letters. Over 17 years he has collected 1,200 relics, keeping them in two large safes in his house and sometimes taking them on tour. Later this month he is taking to Manila eight reputed relics from the Passion, including a piece of the True Cross and a shard from the Crown of Thorns. The Archbishop of Manila expects 1.5 million people to come to venerate them.