À La Carte Devotions

Friday, March 16, 2012, 14:42


The Media on the Media is a trope present in several television shows – KYTV; Not the None O’clock News; Lou Grant; Murphy Brown…

Dan Quayle, in May, 1992, had used the latter to illustrate his belief that “the breakdown of the nuclear family was among the causes of recent riots in Los Angeles” [and that] “It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another ‘lifestyle choice.’”

Around the same time, I had received one of those long-shot telephone calls where someone, trying to pretend you are bosom friends, uses the first syllable of your name and speaks with false bonhomie.

I had only met this young lady a couple of time at In-Service courses, so I did not buy it for one moment when she told me she’d heard I was unwell and that she had called to see how I was. She soon cut to the chase, and asked whether so-and-so’s mother had a live-in boyfriend.

“How would I know?” I countered. Rudely, she insisted that since one of my kids hung out with hers, I would know. I am not in the habit of checking on the sleeping habits of my children’s friends’ parents, and I said so, making her increasingly exasperated with me. She told me that during the First Holy Communion Mass, the Parish Priest (name given) had “… actually waited until she had come up to communion, and then he told her to go to her place without allowing her to Receive.”

I forbore to comment – and not only because I had not been present. She wished me well – and slammed down the phone.

I later found out that she had been doing the Cat’s-paw Caper for her boyfriend, who was a reporter chasing the story. Alas, he went to press without speaking to the people involved. Relying on hearsay meant that he got the name of the Parish Priest and several other minor details, wrong.

Later, the woman herself told me that the Parish Priest had actually asked her politely not to present herself for communion – but so as not to embarrass or disappoint her child, she did so anyway.

I was reminded of this story when a similar story hit the foreign press.

The daughter of a devout Catholic woman was refused Communion by the priest celebrating the parent’s funeral Mass. She had walked into the sacristy and introduced a woman as her “lover”. So this cause is being touted as a barefaced act of anti-homosexuality. The priest was suspended – albeit it was stated that this decided well before this incident happened, because he was “arrogant” in his dealings with parishioners.

I wonder what would happen if all priests, lawyers, dentists, teachers, politicians, and doctors who are “arrogant” had to be ‘placed on administrative leave’ for their attitude problems.

Whereas I know that once you are baptised, it is for ever – no matter that you recant or self-excommunicate – I cannot understand why despite Barbara Johnson having declared herself a Buddhist several times, would want to receive Holy Communion, unless, like the aforementioned parent, it was for personal reasons.

There is also the tiny matter of how this story is being reported in certain sections of the press, where the phrase “the time came to hand out the bread (or wafers) and wine” is being bandied about. Either this is deliberate disrespect, or a pathetic lack of research, specifically of the word “transubstantiation”. In the event, Johnson did receive Holy Communion from a Eucharistic Minister – but the majority of reports did not state this. Reports in the secular press also stated that Johnson had already drunk from the chalice and that Fr Marcel later placed his hand on the ciborium, and gave her a public reprimand. In actual fact, the Eucharistic Minister standing a few paces away from Fr Marcel did not even realise what was happening. Talk about unfounded, false, and biased reporting!

Apparently, the funeral Mass did not get off to a good start because whereas in Malta no eulogies are permitted, this diocese permits one – but the Johnson family wanted two, and got them. Moreover, the fact that Fr Marcel is known to suffer from severe migraines, and one of them caused him to delegate the internment ceremony further “proved” ‘his intention’.

Canon 915 indicates “denying Holy Communion to anyone who has been excommunicated or is a manifest, persistent, obstinate sinner.” (liberal translation mine) i.e. inclusive of those who publically support gay marriage and abortion. There are some who expect exceptions to be made in Masses being celebrated for weddings, or during funerals. Since all Masses are of equal importance, this line of reason has no bearing.

Nobody decides who is in a state of grace, and therefore fit to receive the Eucharist, except a sui compos adult himself. The priest must assume good faith. And this is what opened the aforementioned two more cans of worms – think Robert Mugabe receiving Communion at John Paul II’s beatification Mass. To be fair, he was not in his ceremonial robes, in which he might have been recognised for whom he was.

Fr. Marcel said “If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either…” and more of the same.

There are two sides to every question – and then there is the truth.

The jury is still deciding what it is, in this case.


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