Thursday, July 9, 2009

Holy Communion Batman. The PM Really Screwed Up This Time!

I was raised Catholic, back in the day when
the Mass was in Latin and not attending church on Sunday was considered a mortal sin.

I no longer practice the faith, but understand that many of the older customs and Church laws have been modernized. However, the receiving of Communion is still considered a sacred event.

Since it is deemed to be the body of Christ, the laws are very clear and memories of my days spent studying Catechism in Catholic Schools, are a reminder of just how solemn the occasion is to be.

We had to be in a state of grace, which meant going to Confession before hand to have our sins forgiven. Once penance was performed, usually the recitation of few Hail Marys and Our Fathers, we could join the procession to the altar.

We were instructed to allow the wafer to be placed on our tongues, then draw it into our mouths and let it dissolve. We weren't to touch it with our hands or our teeth. I remember the feeling of panic that I should accidentally bite it, certain that the skies would open and I'd be swallowed up, if that were to happen.

I understand that the cleric no longer places it on the tongue, but for sanitary reasons allows parishioners to do that themselves. However, other laws still exist, including the one that only Catholics can receive Communion.

At former Governor General , Romeo LeBlanc's funeral last week, Stephen Harper broke with protocol, accepted the Communion wafer, then apparently stuffed it into his pocket.

There are many things about this story that upset me.

First off, as Prime Minster it was his responsibility to find out how to act at a Catholic service. Ignorance is no excuse.

He should have remembered how revered Mr. Leblanc is in New Brunswick, and the fact that he was Liberal, and his son a Liberal MP, would have already made his appearance there not necessarily welcome by all. As Prime Minister he had an obligation to attend, but he also had an obligation to make sure that he remained part of the background as much as possible.

This was not about photo-ops, so he should have remained seated during the Communion. If he wasn't aware of that , his staff should have made him aware.

Romeo Leblanc's passing was a tragic event for the people of Memramcook, the Province of New Brunswick, and indeed all of Canada. That was the news of the day. Attend, sit back and at least pretend to care. The people in that Church were not there for Stephen Harper. They were there to pay their respects to Mr. LeBlanc and his family.

LeBlanc funeral puts Harper in communion controversy

Archbishop of Moncton says he is not looking for any apologies
CBC News
July 8, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper should not have accepted communion at Roméo LeBlanc's state funeral in Memramcook, N.B., the archbishop of Moncton said Wednesday.
(First off. A note to CBC News. 'Communion' should always be capitalized in the same way that 'Him' is when it refers to God)

Msgr. André Richard said the church law is clear, but he is not looking for any apologies or explanations from Harper or the Prime Minister's Office.

Cameras were rolling when communion hosts were offered to people attending the funeral for the former governor general on July 3.

Harper, who is a devout Protestant, accepted the host but appeared to put it in his program or his pocket, according to some onlookers.

However, a review of videotape shot at the event was inconclusive, and the Prime Minister's Office says Harper consumed the wafer, in accordance with Catholic law.

A PMO spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, said the camera didn't show the whole story.

"Unfortunately, the camera did not stop long enough on the prime minister, but, as I told you, the prime minister is a Christian, and when he was offered communion by the priest, he accepted it, and consumed it as well," Soudas said.

'The church law is the church law'

But Richard said that, according to Catholic law, Harper shouldn't have accepted it at all. "Only the Catholics can receive communion. The church law is the church law, and when you are attending a Catholic service, you go by the church service," he said.

Soudas said he doesn't see how Harper had a choice.

"I would simply say, 'Who is the prime minister to question a priest who offered him communion?'"

Catholic protocol says non-Catholics or people who do not want to receive communion can either keep their hands folded when they approach the altar as wafers are being distributed, or remain seated.

Richard said it wasn't up to him to brief the prime minister beforehand, but he doubts this was Harper's first Catholic mass.

Now given the fact that he shouldn't have taken the Communion wafer in the first place, why would he try to state that he had consumed it, when that was clearly against Church law?

Stephen Harper belongs to the East Gate Alliance Church. One of their hymns is 'America, the Beautiful', and during it's singing they raise their hands to the sky. What if I attended one of their services and kept my hands down while singing 'America the butt ugly'? I'd probably be lynched.

However, while the PM's spoke person, believing he had a reprieve since the video doesn't show what he did with the wafer after receiving it, another video surfaced that clearly shows he he did not consume it, within seconds as suggested by Harper's spokesperson. The camera is on him for a very long time.

So why say that he immediately ate it? How is a lie going to appease the people who feel horrible that this reverent event was sensationalized by a country's leader who doesn't respect their faith?

That brings me to the third thing that bothers me about this story.

Why is it a story at all? The Right Honourable Romeo Leblanc deserved better. A country should be allowed to grieve his passing, and not focus on the bumbling behaviour of a man who should not have been part of the story in the first place.

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