Sacrilege And Hate Crimes
The story has been rattling around the web for a few days now.
A student at the University of Central Florida claims his life — and afterlife — were threatened by enraged Catholics after he pocketed “the body of Christ” during a church ceremony, according to a report on myfoxorlando.com.
Webster Cook says he received death threats and eternal damnation after he removed a wafer of bread from his mouth during communion and smuggled it from the church in a Ziploc bag.
Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion pointed out immediately what an awful story that was – that is it was awful reporting.
It seems that if reporters don’t know much else about Roman Catholics, they should know something of what they believe about the Eucharist. Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has various supporting dogmas, including Transubstantiation and the Permanence of Presence and the Adorableness of the Eucharist.
But apparently the Catholic belief that the wafer and wine of Holy Communion become the body and blood of Christ and should be treated as such is unknown to reporters.
She goes on:
If the headline alleges that death threats were made, the story better cite those death threats — not unsubstantiated claims of death threats. More than that, though, what a hysterical way to treat this serious subject. The actual story is that a student government leader — angry over funding to religious groups on campus — pocketed the host and broadcast that fact to the campus. That fact is missing from this story.
Bad reporting indeed. We’ve come to expect no less, I suspect, when it comes to reporting matters of religion.
But still, the gist of the story is that in the face of sacrilege and blasphemy, someone, presumably Catholic, acted pretty badly.
If [the reporter] was capable of broadcasting a complete and accurate story, you would know that the other half is their use of physical force against me.
A member of the church grabbed me after I took a mere three steps from the altar. This physical aggression continued until I loudly asked them to “STOP TOUCHING ME” three times.
So this is the source of the “news” that was headlined as a “death threat”? – Webster Cook himself? Apparently so.
A few thoughts. I’ll note that the source for the claims of death threats was the student who disrespected the Eucharist. Many of us wondered whether people confused Biblical admonitions regarding the Eucharist with death threats. For instance, in the earlier comment thread, reader Michael noted:
Journalist or not, if someone tells you that they received death threats, how can you not be curious about what was actually said?
“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” 1 Cor 11:28-29
I wonder if someone just paraphrased that and he took it as a death threat.
Okay – put yourself in that Church, and in the position of the parish member who saw Webster Cook pocket the consecrated host. That’s rather easy for me to do, because I am a Eucharistic Minister at my Church. Although it is not our place to make a scene, we are supposed to pay attention to form and the details of the Liturgy. This was beyond simple errors of form, though. And everyone who is Confirmed in the Catholic Church knows what the word soldier means.
So what would I do? Assuming I had the presence of mind to do anything at all, I’m not sure I would do anything different, even including confrontation. I will be asking my Pastor what his thoughts are on the matter. What would you do?