So a radical, anti-Roman Catholic, gay activist group called, charmingly, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence gravely disrespected the church. Two men from the activist group -- dressed in white face, garish makeup and nuns' habits -- received the sacrament of Holy Communion a few weeks ago from San Francisco's top Catholic official. Julian Guthrie, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, wrote up the event in a somewhat flippant manner, highlighting their hilarious mottoes "go forth and sin some more" and "It is not wise to say no to free drinks, cheap jewelry, discount cosmetics or pretty boys." And let's not forget their hilarious names -- Sister Chastity Boner and Sister Constance Craving of the Holey Desire:
Sister Barbi Mitzvah, who serves as "Board Chairnun" and "Sexytary," said Tuesday that the group is "not offering a comment.
"These people are always after us," Sister Mitzvah said, referring to conservative pundits and Catholic leaders.
The group did not identify the two members who took the wafers. One of the men, however, sent an e-mail to the church after the Mass and gave the name "Sister Delta Goodhand."
Ha ha! So funny! Such a harmless group! Guthrie first mentioned notorious theological heavyweight Bill O'Reilly and his outrage before getting to more substantive criticism. Of course, he went on to quote a Jesuit professor and a parishioner at the church who thought the makeup and dress were all rather funny. Here's the substantive criticism:
Some local Catholics, however, said they were hurt by what they said was a mockery of their most holy ritual.
"It's been all the news in Catholic circles," said Bill May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good. "Catholics are hurt, frustrated and a bit angry because nobody is standing up and saying this is not right. This is a desecration of the Eucharist. They were there to make a statement and embarrass the archbishop and, in doing so, they desecrated what is most sacred and dear to every Catholic in the world."
So I'm glad that he mentioned how devout Catholics might feel about this stunt. Much better than reporter Meredith May's hard-hitting story published the same day in the same paper, headlined "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have history of charity, activism." My favorite line:
Easter Sunday is a high holy day for the Sisters, but their celebration, which includes a "Hunky Jesus Contest" in Dolores Park, has been called blasphemous by some Catholics.
Ya think? Way to ask the tough questions, Meredith! And the use of the phrase high holy day? Let's go to Frank Lockwood, the religion editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and proprietor of the fantastic Bible Belt Blogger blog (say that four times fast). Would the media laugh at a nude chocolate Mohammed?, he asks:
I'm also disappointed by U.S. news organizations that have a double standard when it comes to religion: They're more than happy to mock evangelical or Catholic Christianity, but they're somewhat leery of offending Judaism and they're down-right terrified of offending Islam. Muslims absolutely deserve respect as do Jews and people of all faiths -- even Christians.
Here's the lead of a story that moved on the AP wire today (along with a photo):
"Chocolate Jesus is resurrected.
'My Sweet Lord,' an anatomically correct milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ that infuriated Catholics before its April unveiling was canceled, returns Oct. 27 to a Chelsea [New York City] art gallery, its creator said Tuesday.
If the story sounds familiar to you, it's because the national media pounced on it during Easter week -- the first time Chocolate Jesus was unveiled. Now it's back for round two.
In the latest story, the sacred cornerstone of Christianity, the Resurrection, has been reduced to a journalistic punchline ["chocolate Jesus is resurrected ..."]. Isn't that witty and urbane? And people wonder why newspapers can't hold onto readers.
Artists with scant talent (and even less originality) have figured out that blasphemy is an easy (and safe) ticket to national notoriety -- as long as it's lowly Jesus of Nazareth who is ridiculed. Newspapers in this overwhelmingly Christian nation gobble it up. They shouldn't.
Can you imagine the national media laughing it up about an anatomically-correct chocolate Mohammed in Manhattan with his genitals on display? They'd be too afraid to print the pictures. [They don't have the nerve to print artistic renderings of the Prophet with his clothes on!
Frequently when this topic comes up, a few readers argue that the disparity between the way the mainstream media treat blasphemy of Jesus and blasphemy of Mohammed is okay because Jesus "can take it." Some argue that the disparity is okay because Christians don't kill people who blaspheme Jesus. I can't really imagine two worse justifications for a supposedly objective media.
But here is my favorite part of Guthrie's article:
Holy Communion is a centuries-old tradition in which the celebrant receives from a priest the consecrated bread and wine representing the "Body of Christ" and the "Blood of Christ."
Okay, exactly how many errors or problems are there in that sentence? The worst problem is confusing the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and real presence with the Zwinglian approach to communion. Zwingli (pictured) argued that Jesus meant "represents" when he said, "This is my body." Who doesn't know that Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ in Communion? Did this reporter graduate from college? And what in the world is up with the scare quotes? They wouldn't be so offensive if the Catholic belief weren't so horribly mangled. And what about the word celebrant? Is not the religious definition of that word "the officiating priest in the celebration of the Eucharist"? And in an article explaining Catholic outrage at a blasphemous act, is "centuries-old tradition" the best way to describe the sacredness and holiness of the sacrament of Communion? Centuries? Gosh, it's almost enough centuries that we could use a more precise word, say, millennia.
Photo of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence via Wikimedia.