U.S. Notes & Quotes

An Occasion to Teach about Communion

When a South African Catholic priest violated rules guarding the Blessed Sacrament in order to give President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Communion, the incident touched off a spate of confusing stories by reporters unfamiliar with Catholic doctrine. Misleading comments from the White House and from the responsible parish didn't help.

One consequence of the incident can be welcomed, however: secular newspapers are publishing articles about the Real Presence.

For example, The Washington Post (April 18) described that Catholics recognize that “when bread and wine are consecrated at Mass, they are actually transformed into the body and blood of Christ, even though their outward appearance does not change.”

It noted, “Catholics are required to fast for one hour before Communion … and to be in ‘a state of grace’” when receiving Communion, which “prohibits divorced Catholics who have remarried without obtaining an annulment from receiving Communion.”

Bishops also took the opportunity to teach their own flocks that it is Catholic beliefs about the Blessed Sacrament, not about other religions, that bar inter—communion.

Bishop Donald Wuerl published an op—ed article about the Eucharist (Pittsburgh Post—Gazette, April 18) that began by pointing out all the Catholic Church has done to work toward true ecumenical reform. Then, to critics, he said, “It is not particularly helpful … to frame the profoundly theological issue of the meaning of the Eucharist in the simplistic context of ‘mutual hospitality.’ If the issue were truly that clear, it would have been solved long ago.” Then, he carefully explained Church teaching on the Eucharist.

On the issue of Christian unity he added, “To give the impression that one is in full communion and shares the Catholic understanding of the nature of the Church, the Eucharist and the meaning of Holy Communion when one does not offers nothing to advance true and lasting unity.”

Rolling out the Carpet for Atlanta Latinos

A carpet company CEO has given $1 million to a northwest Georgia Catholic Church to help it accommodate a new wave of Mexican, Central, and South American immigrants, said an Associated Press article published April 18.

Carl Bouckaert, whose Dalton—based company Beaulieu of America claims to be the third—largest carpet company in the world, said that the Hispanic community is good for the Church—and good for the carpet business.

Both those principles are at play at St. Joseph's Catholic Church—whose mere 200 seats put many of its 1,700 parishioners onto its carpet. With Bouckaert's gift—and $2.5 million more it has raised—the Church is well on its way to building a bigger facility.

Hollywood Angels vs. the Real Thing

A New York Post article (April 20) listed some attributes of angels, asking “Who ya gonna believe: Hollywood, or Holy Scripture?”

Hollywood angels, according to the article: Make great boyfriends (City of Angels); guzzle beer and party hearty (Michael); are excellent marriage counselors (The Preacher's Wife); dress like Dieters and hang out in German libraries (Wings of Desire); dress like Ralph Kramden and save folks from suicide (It's a Wonderful Life).

Biblical angels are very different. Real angels: “[A]re not cute creatures that we incorporate into our fantasy life, but bearers of the truth to which our lives should conform,” Father Richard John Neuhaus told the paper.

Can be “terrifying,” often look like humans, but are “messengers” of God's will having “nothing to do with sweetie—pies who rearrange chairs so people don't stumble,” said Rabbi Jacob Neusner, of New York's Bard College.

Are misrepresented by Americans who “tend to see religion only as something to comfort us,” evangelical theologian Doug Groothuis told the paper.

Pro—family activist Rabbi Daniel Lapin's quotation seemed to sum up the article: “I think if America has to turn to Hollywood for spiritual direction, we're in worse shape than anyone knows.”