Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stephen Harper's actions were not a faux-pas, they were SACRILEGE

A report has emerged that while Stephen Harper was at a funeral service for Romeo LeBlanc, former governor general of Canada, in Memramcook, N.B., he was given the consecrated Eucharist at a Catholic Mass, but that he did not eat it! The video is somewhat ambiguous in that it is not completely clear what happens to the Host.

The mainstream media is reporting the incident with its usual Catholic ignorance. Somehow, even though 43% of Canadians are Catholic, by far the largest religion in the Country, the media acts like it's this rare religion that no one has any information about! They have no respect for the severity of this matter. They continually refer to the consecrated Eucharist, which is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, as a wafer! If all Stephen Harper had done was put a "wafer" in his pocket, no one would care. But it's much MUCH more than that. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life!

What's worse is that the media seems to be focusing more on another incident that happened with Stephen Harper. Apparently he was 1 minute and 40 seconds late for a photo op with the G8 leaders in Italy. This too was called a "faux pas". Apparently, committing blasphemy against Jesus Christ is the equivalent of being less than 2 minutes late for a photo.

Just how bad is blasphemy against the Eucharist? According to St. Thomas Aquinas:

In like manner the third species of sacrilege, which is committed against other sacred things, has various degrees, according to the differences of sacred things. Among these the highest place belongs to the sacraments whereby man is sanctified: chief of which is the sacrament of the Eucharist, for it contains Christ Himself. Wherefore the sacrilege that is committed against this sacrament is the gravest of all.

Therefore, sacrilege committed against the Eucharist is the gravest of all sacrilege. If Stephen Harper truly did put the host in his pocket, that would have been a worse sacrilege than spitting on a sacred statue or icon, or hitting the priest, or any other form of sacrilege. Of course, his personal culpability might be low or non-existant if he was unaware of his offense, assuming he committed one.

Another big problem with this whole scenario is that he should not have received the Eucharist in the first place, since he is not Catholic. Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada and as such has people around him constantly advising him on issues. They advise him on protocol, ways to behave, etiquette, rules of engagement. You would think that someone in his department would be Catholic, or that at least they would have researched Catholic beliefs about something so central. I remember a couple of years back, Stephen Harper was at the opening ceremony of a Sikh place of worship. He did everything "right", from wearing a temporary turban, to removing his shoes. Sikhs account for just 0.5% of the Canadian population. Compare this to Stephen Harper doing something that is not just an etiquette issue, but a violation of Catholic belief (i.e. receiving the Eucharist while not Catholic). It violates a Catholic belief at the center of our worship. According to Aquinas, this is the greatest sacrilege. And Catholics constitute 43% of the population! What Harper did would be the worse than going to a synagogue and feeding the guests pork!

The Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella didn't help matters with her comments which go against Catholic teaching. According to, Kinsella said the following:

"I would like to state that I personally witnessed Prime Minister Harper consume the host that was given to him by Archbishop André Richard," Kinsella said in a statement. "Sitting only a few seats behind him, I had a full view of the proceedings and clearly saw the Prime Minister accept the host after Archbishop Richard offered it. The Prime Minister consumed it.

"As a Catholic, I was therefore pleased to see the Prime Minister of Canada express his solidarity and communion with all those present in the sanctuary as we celebrated the life of the former governor general."

Stephen Harper would have shown more solidarity with Catholics by following the rules of the Catholic Church. How does violating the rules of the place you are visiting constitute "solidarity"? Secondly, Ms. Kinsella made an error in stating that they were celebrating the life of the former governor general in the sanctuary. Only the priest and altar servers are allowed in the sanctuary during the Mass. The congregation sits outside the sanctuary.

We are not 100% certain of what happened in this incident, and I think it's best to give Harper the benefit of the doubt and assume he consumed the Body and Blood of Christ. Obviously this is preferrable to desecrating the Eucharist. In any event, however, something wrong happened. That is disturbing enough, but what's also disturbing is how the media is reporting the incident. They are treating it very lightly, and sometimes even with comedy, as if it's funny. No one is treating it very seriously, perhaps except a few Catholic publications.

This just reconfirms the statement that anti-catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. People feel free to lash out at the Catholic Church anytime they feel like it. People are extra careful not to offend Jews or Muslims, but when it comes to Catholics, you can say pretty well anything and no one will so much as cough. There is something very wrong with this. How is that when it comes to groups that constitute less than 5% of our population, people are very concerned not to offend them, but when it comes to Catholics, who make up 43% of the populace, people don't care at all.

Imagine if someone had done something to desecrate or injure the sensibilities of another religion. Would there be newspaper articles making light of it? Even if it was done inadvertantly, you would never seem a comedic treatment? Try to invision an article which says the following: "Prime Minister Harper did faux pas today when he accidentally wore a swatstika shirt into a Jewish Synagogue." or "Prime Minister Harper made a funny gaffe when he stepped on a Koran today in a Mosque", or how about "The Prime Minister made a couple of misteps today. The biggest one was missing a meeting by almost 2 minutes, the other, less important incident, was that he accidentally spit right on a Sikh holy place." The Prime Minister in these cases would probably be charged with a hate crime, or at least people would be very angry. Yet, when he does something against the Catholic population, it goes in the humour section of the newspaper.

At least one good thing might come out of this. Many people, including many Catholics, are unaware that only Catholics should receive Catholic communion. As people read about this incident, they may learn about this rule, and we may take a general step closer to living by the rules.

No comments:

Post a Comment