December 1, 2020

Things NOT To Do At A Catholic Mass: Lesson One

UPDATE: Wafergate seems to have been resolved.

If you are the PM of Canada, don’t appear to pocket the host.

More on this story at the Holy Post.

Comments

  1. The priest is not supposed to walk up to him in the pew to distribute Holy Communion.

    It’s very likely that Stephen Harper was ignorant of the proper protocol here and is not at fault.

    (And I say this as a pro-lifer who has been thrown under the bus by him on more than one occasion now.)

  2. Stephen Harper probably did not know. He isn’t catholic. I’m trying to remember what church he was a member of when I was living in Canada. Right now I’m drawing a blank. Dang it.

  3. I wouldn’t take the host either if offered to me when visiting at an RCC mass. Maybe he didn’t feel comfortable in out right refusing to take it from the priest, so he took it and pocketed it to discard it later.

  4. Did he even pocket it? It looks like he just kept it in his hand. Assuming his trousers have pockets that align with the side-seams I see no part of this video with his hand anywhere but outside of his pockets, possibly obscured by the program in his hand.

  5. aaron arledge says

    where did he put the wine?

  6. PatrickW says

    BillyHW, I do not know if it is addressed in canon law, but in my parish it is normal for the priest (or an EMHC) to walk to the back of the church to take communion to elderly/disabled people sitting there. This saves them from having to go down the aisle. Probably simpler for everyone and the risk of profanation is low – unless the communicant isn’t Catholic and pockets the Host!

  7. But Stephen Harper is not disabled.

  8. I agree that it doesn’t look like he pocketed it. My wife is Catholic and Lithuanian and I am evangelical Protestant (and don’t speak Lithuanian very well), and sometimes I’m asked to participate in the local Lithuanian Catholic masses without any “cheat notes” or anything. I don’t take communion (I ask for the blessing), but I’ve probably made bigger flubs than the Canadian PM.

  9. Stephen Harper belongs to the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), an evangelical denomination.

    The priest should not have offered the wafer to the PM — or at the very least, he should have asked the PM what his preference was. RC priests do not usually serve communion to non-Catholics, and RC adherents will not take communion from non-Catholic clergy.

    Most evangelicals will not take communion at a Mass because they have issues with the doctrine of transubstantiation. The right thing for an evangelical to do then is to tactfully refuse the wafer. To accept it and then dispose of it would be to disrespect the Catholics, because to them the wafer represents the Real Presence.

    At any rate, the PM’s office issued a statement today saying that he actually consumed the wafer.

    I guess both the PM and the priest were ignorant of the right protocol. It’s no big deal. The Canadian media is making this out to be a bigger story than it really is.

  10. Putting aside the issue of a non-Catholic taking communion at a Catholic service, I really don’t see Harper pocketing the host in the video. In my protestant church we first receive the host and then dip it into the chalice. It appears to me on the video that maybe Harper was looking for the chalice and got a little confused.

    I think its a leap to think he was being disrespectful based on this short clip.

    Maybe we should say “let he who would allow everything they ever did in church be shown on Youtube, cast the first stone” 🙂

  11. PatrickW says

    Just a guess:

    Maybe other members of the PM’s party were Catholic. The security detail was jumpy about them lining up with a bunch of strangers then returning to sit by the PM with something acquired while they were out of sight. Security types are hypercautious in this way. They thus asked in advance to have a priest bring Communion to them. In the course of this both PM and priest got confused and you saw the rest. That is the most charitable explanation I can imagine.

    OTOH, one would think that a Canadian priest would be well aware that his own Prime Minister is not Catholic – and that the PM’s staff would brief him on the proper protocol for the situation.

  12. Maybe we should say “let he who would allow everything they ever did in church be shown on Youtube, cast the first stone” 🙂

    Please dear God no! 🙂

  13. Scott Eaton says

    I’m sure I will get in trouble over this, but it seems like much ado about nothing. With all due respect, doesn’t this really reveal the serious absurdity to believe that someone could actually “pocket Jesus”?

    I believe in respecting other people’s religious faith and I would never intentionally disrespect someone’s church or religious views. But don’t we also need to respect those who are unfamiliar with our beliefs and practices and cut them a little slack.

    I’m not Orthodox, but I think they handle this better than Catholics. I believe that the Orthodox treat guests to “unconsecrated” bread during communion to be both gracious and hospitable and to avoid this kind of thing. If you hold this view of the “host,” this seems like a reasonable thing to do. (I’d love to hear Father Ernesto chime in on this.)

    If protecting this little styrofoam wafer is such a big deal, why was the priest handing them out like candy? None of this makes much sense to me.

  14. I think the bottom line is that if you don’t present yourself for Communion, there’s no foul, whether he pocketed it and later returned it, respectfully disposed of it or ate it.

    And it would seem that it is the priest who needs to learn “what not to do at Mass” in this case.

  15. The Canadian media is generally very supportive of the faith of public figures as long as said figure makes it clear he doesn’t actually believe anything. The media’s real problem with Harper is that it seems like he is a man of true faith, which is unacceptable.
    DSY

  16. There’s no story here but the story itself. The PM looks like an uninformed Protestant in a Catholic church, not knowing what to do with the wafer. And who says he pocketed it? All I see is that it stayed in his hand, obscured by the church bulletin, for the few seconds remaining in the video.

    In our Baptist church, we hold the bread (matzah crumb) and take it corporately after all have been served. Why would he know any better than that?

    Should we burn him at the stake now or after impeachment?

  17. Tim Van Haitsma says

    in the words of PZ, “It’s just a fracking cracker.”

  18. The media’s real problem with Harper is that it seems like he is a man of true faith,

    It doesn’t seem at all like that.

  19. in the words of PZ, “It’s just a fracking cracker.”

    I think those were the words of J.I., or at least his thoughts, anyways.

  20. ….in a series of strange coincidences this past week i’ve been confronted several times with the subject of Transubstantiation….i actually read some interesting stuff on wikipedia just today concerning the early churchs beliefs on this subject…it was a little unnerving to read that some of the earliest church writings confirm this doctrine…im now contemplating this subject with renewed curiousity…in fact..i may give the Catholic Church an unbiased second look..just out of curiosity of course………….

  21. Mike, read “Sacramental Union” too.

  22. funny stuff

    I’m going to assume that they wouldn’t really care at a Baptist Communion.

    But would this be a big deal at, oh say, a Lutheran Mas- I mean Eucharist?

  23. “I’m sure I will get in trouble over this, but it seems like much ado about nothing. With all due respect, doesn’t this really reveal the serious absurdity to believe that someone could actually “pocket Jesus”?

    I believe in respecting other people’s religious faith and I would never intentionally disrespect someone’s church or religious views. But don’t we also need to respect those who are unfamiliar with our beliefs and practices and cut them a little slack.

    I’m not Orthodox, but I think they handle this better than Catholics. I believe that the Orthodox treat guests to “unconsecrated” bread during communion to be both gracious and hospitable and to avoid this kind of thing. If you hold this view of the “host,” this seems like a reasonable thing to do. (I’d love to hear Father Ernesto chime in on this.)

    If protecting this little styrofoam wafer is such a big deal, why was the priest handing them out like candy? None of this makes much sense to me.”

    Scott, no offense, but this is one of those cases that demonstrate the principle that when somebody says “with all due respect”, what follows is going to be massively disrespectful.

    The presiding priest, who happens to be the Most Rev. Andre Richard, CSC, Archbishop of Moncton, is the one at fault here, if there is fault. The poor PM looked confused and unsure what to do, and as a C&MA member he cannot be expected to understand the nature of the Real Presence in the Host, let alone treat it with reverence. The Archbishop surely knew who the PM was, and shouldn’t have defiled the Eucharist by giving it to him. Harper, on the other hand, as PM should have been better briefed by staffers before going to Mass and giving the national media in Canada rope with which to hang him. Huge missteps all around, even if he did indeed consume the Host.

  24. Looks to me as if he was expecting a handshake.

    If he’d known, he could have offered the host to the man next to him for immediate consumption.

    Why would a C&MA Christian decline the host in a RCC?

  25. It is rather very embarrassing. If the gentleman is not Catholic, then he has no fault. It is hard to imagine the depth of damage done to the Church by VII. The man giving out Communion happens to be an archbishop (of some sort). I can’t imagine this sort of thing and the many other anomalies one could observe from the video, happening in a traditional Catholic Mass.

  26. I agree with Scott, it is also an absurdity for wise men to worship a baby, or to think that people spit at and cursed God to His face.They even were given the power to take his natural life. Wake up Scott our religion is ridiculous and one last thing, it’s all true. If this whole God in your pocket thing is absurd a multitude of us have become fools. And if your wrong what absurdity will you speak to the King of Kings

  27. I’ve never seen a suit with a pocket located where he held his hand. Will this be the new Northern Ireland?

  28. Isn’t the real crime here how poorly that beautiful Dan Schutte hymn is done? (ha-ha)

  29. Scott Eaton says

    Steve,

    Faith alone in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing and the power of salvation to those who believe.

    Believing that a styrofoam wafer is Jesus is just plain silly. Worrying that the wafer went into the pocket is silly too.

    Sam Urfer,

    I agree the priest is probably the one at fault (if there is really a need to say anyone is actually at fault – this whole thing is silly). The PM was placed in an awkward position. Not his fault. But again, much ado about nothing.

  30. Most evangelicals will not take communion at a Mass because they have issues with the doctrine of transubstantiation.

    Speaking as an evangelical (or at least a Protestant, I’m sort of divorcing myself from evangelicalism, ‘tho not the evangel), I would have no problem partaking of the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic Church. Because Jesus said, “This is my body…this is my blood,” I long ago decided to be agnostic about the hows, whats and whys, that is — the metaphysics of it all. The only reason I don’t take Communion at the RC Church out of respect for its closed communion policy. That’s it.

    Tonight, we had communion at our church (regular Protestant style — the deacons serve it to the congregation which remains seated in the pews and we eat and drink in unison). My oldest son accidentally broke the (plastic) glass containing the wine (grape juice) and looked horrified. I hushed him and gave him mine when it was time to drink and then drank the dregs from my husband’s cup.

    When he broke the cup, my son was mortified. I wondered how much worse that would have been for him had he not been raised Protestant.

  31. sue kephart says

    I suppose this is why my tradition has resisted video taping worship services. Those that don’t understand can’t understand. Many left Him when he said you must eat my body and drink my blood. He didn’t go after them. He allowed them to reject Him. My apologies to my RC sisters and brothers for this unfortunate post.

  32. Scott your declaring that for the first 1500 years of church history that basically all that professed the Christian faith prostrated to a piece of bread as God. The cosmic bate and switch in all human history, all of Christendom got it wrong and none of the Reformers could come to any sort of unity on what was on that altar except that it wasn’t what Catholics and Orthodox Christians believed from the beginning. Does anybody else have a voice worth listening to besides your Christianity. This is central to the faith, to ignore it is to ignore the voice of scripture, history, and the witness of saints, mystics and monks through the centuries. If love drove Him to the cross love would feed us the bread of life, the resurrected flesh of the son of God. Are you amongst the crowd John 6:66
    The passage that I think your quoting is 1 cor 18, it says the message of the cross is foolishness….I think faith alone is in the scripture, I believe in the book of James 2:24 but it probably doesn’t go along with your train of thought.

  33. “Steve,

    Faith alone in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing and the power of salvation to those who believe.

    Believing that a styrofoam wafer is Jesus is just plain silly. Worrying that the wafer went into the pocket is silly too.

    Sam Urfer,

    I agree the priest is probably the one at fault (if there is really a need to say anyone is actually at fault – this whole thing is silly). The PM was placed in an awkward position. Not his fault. But again, much ado about nothing.”

    You said it best, “Faith alone in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing and the power of salvation to those who believe.” You might do well to be more humble about which side of that divide you are on (as would we all).

  34. Sam, I went to your website and read about your first time at Mass:
    http://samurfer.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/experiencing-the-real-presence/

    Very good writing! I will check out more of your blog later.

    I also went to the link Michael gave us to read more about this. It is possible that Harper consumed the host back at his seat the way they often do in some non-Catholic churches. I say we give the guy a break. Like some folks said, this Archbishop should have known the PM was not Catholic anyway.

    I have been reading Sara Miles’ book, “Take This Bread” and I have to say I am more comfortable with open communion, no matter what it is that I believe happens during communion. I think people can consume the bread or Eucharist and LATER understand all the ramifications. But, hey, that’s just me, and I don’t ask that all should believe that. I am happy receiving Eucharist in my little, local Catholic church and I am humbled during the experience.

    I hadn’t been able to attend church for a long time and having gone back since before this last Easter (some tiny morning Masses and three larger masses so far) I find myself crying when I attend the larger Mass. Once time I was very glad I was nearer the back, as I was very touched during a certain ceremony that was going on and could not keep the tears in my eyes. But, I am no longer going to be embarrassed by my tears.

    May we all be strengthened by prayer, by communion, by love, by God.

  35. This is arguably worse than Mr Harper’s offence:

    An excommunicated “female bishop” helped herself to the host which Bishop Ludwig Schwarz of Linz, Austria, denied her. This occurred during the Sunday mass on June 28 at St. Peter’s church in Linz.

    Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger came dressed as a bishop with a large pectoral cross and at communion got into the queue where Diocesan Bishop Ludwig Schwarz was administering the Eucharist.

    He signaled her that — according to canon law — he would not be able to give her the host, so she reached into the chalice and helped herself.

    Mayr-Lumetzberger incurred excommunication in 2002, when together with several other women she was “ordained” a “catholic priest” by an excommunicated Argentinian bishop on a ship on the Danube River. A year later she was “consecrated” as a bishop.

    Unlike the Harper incident, this one involves intentional provocation and rule-breaking.

  36. I keep threatening to tackle visitors to Mass who do inappropriate things with the Host, but PVM+ won’t let me. It’s a damned shame I signed those papers…

  37. Aliasmoi says

    Is it wrong that this made me laugh?

  38. Even the uber-Catholic websites are generally giving the PM a break on this one. The poor guy was clearly caught off-balance and doing the best he could in an impossible situation.

    The archbishop (you can tell by the pallium), however, is being rightfully raked over the coals of Catholic internet fury. Seldom does one see the Eucharist distributed with such hurried assembly-line disregard.

    Properly, and in most parishes, the priest/deacon/EM waits while the recipient performs a gesture of devotion (bows, crosses self, whatever); the distributor looks the recipient in the eye, holds up the Host, and says “The Body of Christ,” and waits for the recipient to answer “Amen”; the recipient opens his mouth or holds up his joined and cupped hands; the distributor carefully and firmly places the Host in the hands or on the tongue; the recipient takes the Host carefully and often crosses himself; and (in theory) the distributor stops watcing the recipient only when he has consumed the Host (and actually walks after him with a gentle reminder if it’s not seen to be consumed). All of this works to promote reverence, and to make the intentions of the recipient clear.

    The archbishop did none of this. It was a disaster. Well may the earlier commenter on this thread ask, “If protecting [the Host] is such a big deal, why was the priest handing them out like candy?” The Catholic internet contingent is asking the archbishop the same question.

    Though I find that commenter’s description of the Host, and some of the other comments on this thread, far more offensive than the poor PM’s actions.

  39. Michael,

    I was quite disturbed at the irresponsible Canadian reporting of this yesterday. The video clearly shows that Harper had the host between thumb and forefinger as he leaves the video. The other three fingers on top of his program. There is “NO” evidence, and “NO” claims from eyewitnesses that he slipped it into his pocket. Harper attends the church that I was married in, whose practice is to consume when seated, and according the the speaker of the Senate, an eyewitness, he did consume it.

    Whether or not he should have been offered it is another matter, but I know that in Canada on a few public occasions, like weddings, I have been offered communion in Catholic churches as well.

    One other unrelated thought. The National Post, prior having just an online version, was either the fifth or sixth most read paper in its market. I would not expect it to be around in any significant form for that much longer.

  40. Scott Eaton says

    It’s interesting that to some the assertion of a strong opinion indicates a lack of humility. I think we don’t really understand humility.

  41. sue kephart says

    Scott,

    I don’t think it has to do with humility but being disrespectful to someone elses’ tradition. You may not beleive in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist but most Christians in the world do. Calling it silly is disrespectful.

    Is it silly to believe Mary was a virgin who gave birth? That a very dead person (Jesus) rose from the dead? These seam impossible in our natural mind and those that believe them may be seen as silly.

  42. Therese Z says

    “I’m not Orthodox, but I think they handle this better than Catholics. I believe that the Orthodox treat guests to “unconsecrated” bread during communion to be both gracious and hospitable and to avoid this kind of thing.”

    Since Father Ernesto didn’t answer, I will. They do NOT treat guests to “unconsecrated bread” during communion. Instead, after Divine Service (I don’t think they say Mass), they treat ALL to the unconsecrated bread left over when they originally prepared communion.

    This blessed bread is both practical (uses up the bread), and ensures that the first food down the hatch after Jesus is blessed and therefore not profane (I have had second thoughts when I’ve been to Mass and then out for brunch and the next thing that goes in is a Mimosa…)

  43. Aliasmoi says

    Okay, while the video itself made me laugh – I agree with Sue that some people on here have been very disrespectful of Catholic beliefe in transubstantiation. I agree with the guy who said he’s basically an agnostic about the whole thing.

    When I saw it I wondered if the poor guy knew that Catholics aren’t supposed to take communion, didn’t know what to do with the Host, and stuck it in his pocket (or whatever he did with it) because he was trying to be respectful.

  44. Well Catholic friends, remember that it doesn’t make me all that happy when that Flannery O’Connor quote get tossed at us from the RC side 🙂

  45. “It’s interesting that to some the assertion of a strong opinion indicates a lack of humility. I think we don’t really understand humility.”

    Well, I was looking for a nice way of asking you to try to refrain from harming yourself by blaspheming God in the Eucharist. You might have a strong opinion, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

    Now there are two possibilities: The Catholic Church (and other Real Presence believing type Christians, i. e. almost everybody) is right, and when you disrespect the Eucharist you heap judgment on your head, which the wise man would avoid.

    On the other hand, 9 out of 10 Christians can be wrong, in which case your attitude isn’t going to change any hearts, and will only contribute to further problems. The only Christian way would be to gently, lovingly try to disprove the Real Presence from Scripture and Tradition (good luck with that).

    “Well Catholic friends, remember that it doesn’t make me all that happy when that Flannery O’Connor quote get tossed at us from the RC side.”

    I can appreciate that, but well…it’s true.

  46. sue kephart says

    We are never going to settle if Christ is really present in the Eucharist by debate. Those of us who know He is present know it. Those that don’t, don’t. I praise my God and Savior that I know He is present and can be preaent even in the grape juice and Crackers if He wants to be.

    There are many ways God can make us Jesus shaped. Receiving Him in communion is only one way. Those that can’t do that or won’t (It is a command of Christ) just need to find other ways.

  47. Michael, I don’t understand your point. You’re surely not saying “tit for tat–some of y’all’s team is disrespectful of my beliefs, so my team gets to be disrespectful of y’all’s.”

    Having grown up surrounded by Baptists, I’m very grateful for the education you’ve given me about Baptist views of communion (much more theologically nuanced than I imagined or had been explained to me!) and Baptist ecclesiology.

    You’ve often, with gentleness, pointed out where Catholics, and others, ignorantly or uncharitably misunderstand or even insult Baptist or Evangelical distinctives. I’m grateful for that, and have learned from that, sometimes with a pang of contrition in my heart from recognizing my own ignorance or lack of charity. And I hope that I would never have “tossed that quote” at you.

    But nobody brought up that quote in this thread. Can you give us who object to “styrofoam wafer” sorts of comments the benefit of the doubt–that we, individual brothers and sisters in Christ, and not part of an internet “team”–wish also to be respectful to your beliefs?

  48. Sue I disagree to some extent that it is a sort of secret knowledge. Jesus did say no man could come to Him in the Eucharist but by the Spirit, but our brothers and sisters in Christ have the Spirit yet some do not see. I think perhaps the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge toward Christ on the altar but it was the scripture and the historical record of the fathers that I could hang my hat on regarding this teaching. That being said I think just contemplating the beautiful leads us to the truth just the same, and we become what we eat, a mystical participation in the humanity of the second Adam. It must be true because it is beautiful. He holds nothing back that which He can give, Christ humanity is in my flesh as well as my spirit, total union with the divine, I love it! I agree this is not a debate, love is what beholds Him.

  49. My point was nothing more than a wink and a prod at those RCs who have enjoyed that famous Flannery quote and cited it as if it were our creed. We find it as inadequate as some of what RCs have read on here.

    As a Baptist, I recognize my own tradition has done a lot of damage to its own view of worship, the LS, etc by its rejection of confessionalism, etc.

    But it’s not just the “high view” of the sacraments team that feels unappreciated 🙂 Just a nod in the direction of fairness. No snark.

  50. sue kephart says

    Steve,

    I don’t mean to imply any secret knowledge. But like all of Christian belief if one refuses to accept it, it doesn’t make it secret. I am in agreement with you on your comment.