Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Priest in the dog house for delivering Pooch-arist

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Breed pictured - not actual dog
I've been to a few church services in my time (I know - I'll tender my resignation in the morning), and it's often (well, occasionally) occurred to me that delivering the Holy Communion, or Eucharist, or Sacrament of the Table, or Blessed Sacrament, or The Lord's Supper – you know, the bit where they have some cardboard-like bread and wine, which to Catholics actually the body and blood of Christ, but to Anglicans only represents said body and blood – must be a bit of a minefield.

Think about it – how is the poor priest supposed to know who's eligible to take it? As I understand it, you have to be confirmed, but it's hardly like they make you prove that you have been when you reach the altar. Yet a cursory Google search tells me that this isn't always necessary. The Catholic Church, apparently, is much stricter, but even then I'd be interested to know how they would go about halting any would-be sacramental imposters. Anglican churches, in my experience the Church of England, have always struck me as representing something of a free-for-all – even I've knocked back a couple of Eucharists, and I've been a godless heathen for pretty much as long as I can remember.

But there must be some rules, even in the Anglican church. What is the priest supposed to do if a new face comes forward to take communion? What if a known atheist steps up? Or a teenager suspected of being too young? And what if a dog tries to take the Eucharist? It's a serious question, because it's what Reverend Marguerite Rea of St Peter's Anglican Church, Toronto had to deal with recently, when one of her parishioners, Donald Keith, arrived at the altar with his beloved German Shepherd, Trapper. Her answer was to give Trapper his bread and wine, in what she says was a "simple church act of reaching out" to Keith during his first service at the church.

Unfortunately for the Reverend, however, others didn't agree. One parishioner complained to the archdiocese, and Rea has since had to apologise, with her area bishop, Patrick Yu, saying "I can see why people would be offended. I have never heard of it happening before. I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming."

As I said – a minefield.

(PS - I love how even the BBC report struggles to take this one seriously. "Canine controversy", "Bone of contention" – great stuff)

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