Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The ABC of religious ignorance

Would somebody at ABC News please hire a Catholic to help edit their religious news. No, not that guy who claims he was Catholic when he was 7 before his parents divorced. Someone who still participates in their faith and at least knows the basics. That would prevent reports like this on Good Morning America:

Like many Catholic children, Haley Pelly-Waldman, 9, had looked forward to her first Holy Communion. It is a sacred rite of passage for all young Catholics, steeped in tradition and meaning.

Catholics believe the wine and the wafer symbolize the body and blood of Christ. ...

Catholics do not believe that the wine and the wafer symbolize Jesus Christ.

Catholics do believe that the unleavened bread and wine are in fact the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, brought to that state at the time of consecration by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is a vast difference between the actual belief and the ABC report, and unless a viewer knows the difference the rest of the story makes the Church look rather silly.

Which is probably the intent of ABC News. The young girl in the story has a rare eating disorder that precludes her from eating wheat. An attempt to give her a rice-based host at her First Communion was not valid (as the priest should have known. Sigh!).

Stunned by that ruling, Haley's mother, Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman, decided to challenge the church law by appealing to the Vatican.

"I am one woman questioning 2,000 years of church teaching," Pelly-Waldman said on "Good Morning America" today. "But I believe with some patience and persistence maybe perhaps we can be heard."

(More sighing.) The ignorance goes well beyond ABC News in this case. Perhaps the priest should go back to catechism class, along with the mother.

You see, communion for a Catholic is more than "steeped in tradition and meaning." Taking the words of Jesus for their face value (or literally) in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John, Matthew 26: 26-29, and the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-32, Catholics believe that sharing in the bread and blood of Christ is life itself. Spiritual life; eternal life.

Since communion (Eucharist) is Jesus Himself, the Church cannot change the elements (bread and wine) to rice cakes and grape juice. This refusal is not meant to be hard-hearted. Many people over the years have, for one reason or another, been unable to parttake of the communion host but have fully communicated with Christ through the communion wine. The Church teaches that each and every particle of the host and every droplet of His blood is 100% pure Jesus (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity). One need not take communion under both forms in order to get the full effect.

Short version: properly informed, the mother should realize that her daughter is receiving a full communion with a small sip, even a couple of drops, from the Cup.

Properly informed, this "one woman" challenging 2,000 years of Church teaching would acknowledge her error, apologize to the Church, the media and her daughter, and enrol herself in the nearest available RCIA course offered to those thinking of becoming Catholic.

Another thought: there are many instances in which people with Haley's problem have gone ahead, taken communion, and found no ill effects whatsoever. Amazing what the power of Jesus can do.

ABC claims to be a legitimate news outlet, but would they ever give you the information you have just read so that you could see both sides? Maybe it's not ignorance at work here after all.


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