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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Non mittendus canibus

"Canadian priestess sorry for giving dog Holy Communion" was the heading of an email in my inbox today. (Actually the BBC report doesn't use the word "priestess" which I understand is considered disrespectful for some unfathomable reason.) According to the BBC report, the local Bishop said that her actions "had contravened church policy." The Toronto Star reports that Bishop Yu did indeed write to a complaining parishioner that,
"it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals."
If it is a matter of policy, I wonder whether it might change tomorrow after a debate in Synod or Council or Moot or something. Theologically, the BBC gets it right, perhaps unintentionally, by captioning a photo with the words:
"The dog took the biscuit but no wine was offered to the animal"
Episcopalian Church; woman priest; biscuit and wine. Correct.

The Toronto Star comes in with a bit of theological nuance, saying that the bread and wine are meant to represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ and are only to be given to those who have been baptized. Yes, probably a bit of representation going on there as far as some of the congregation are concerned, but not much if we are to believe the "deputy people’s warden"
“I think it was this natural reaction: here’s this dog, and he’s just looking up, and she’s giving the wafers to people and she just gave one to him,” ... “Anybody might have done that. It’s not like she’s trying to create a revolution.”
(An incidental problem for trendies wanting to give "the wafer" to dogs is that they are not likely to follow the more modern practice of receiving in the hand.)

Now of course we have to hope sincerely that this would not happen in a Catholic Church in, say, Austria or Belgium (with viral YouTube video.) If it were to do so, we would be thrown back to the Terrible Middle Ages, the debate on the real presence, and the brilliance of Lanfranc who contested the heresy of Berengarius. The dog would actually receive the res et sacramentum, the body and blood of Christ, but this would be a sacrilege because he would (through no fault of his own, just the circumstance of not having a spiritual soul) not be a fit subject to receive the res tantum, the grace of the sacrament.

It is worth reflecting that if we receive Holy Communion unworthily, we eat and drink judgement unto ourselves. Sometimes it is right to wait until we have received sacramental absolution.

Ecce Panis Angelorum,
Factus cibus viatorum
Vere panis filiorum,
Non mittendus canibus
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