Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Bad Metaphor Stretched Too Far Leaves Me Wordless

My ghast has been flabbered too, but not over anything quite this cute.

I am still trying to get my head around the implications in the following excerpt from Eugene Kennedy's latest post in the National Catholic Reporter.  These recorded thoughts of a new JPII priest seem to be taking the marriage metaphor between Jesus and the Church a step too far.  I'm not convinced this is the appropriate kind of imagery for the reception of communion.  In fact, I'm convinced it's not at all appropriate.  The excerpt takes up in the middle of Kennedy's post:

....I made notes as a quintessential set-decorator rambled through a Corpus Christi sermon, haranguing the parishioners about something they knew to be untrue: "You do not fulfill your Sunday obligation if you arrive after the Gospel or leave before the priest gives his last blessing. Remember what happened to the one who left the Last Supper early."

He then launched an attack as amazing as it was revealing, "We've been through an era where anything is good enough for Jesus so I want to remind you of some things. In the Eucharist Jesus is the bridegroom and you are members of the bride so that receiving the Eucharist is that moment at which the bridegroom and the bride complete their union. As members of the bride, how do you prepare? How do you dress? Do you arrive on time? Do you keep the fast? Do you chew gum? Do you take mints? Avoid these as penance for your sins." (Uhmmm, I can't say I've ever ever thought about the Eucharist as a sexual act. I was like, he couldn't have said this--could he?)

"Reverence over Preference every time ..."
"I want to remind you," he continued, "that it is a moral evil for non-Catholics to receive Communion. Don't violate their consciences by inviting them. Who can go to Communion? Baptized Catholics who have made their First Communion and who are in a state of grace. And the preferred way to receive Communion is on the tongue. Studies show that this is not only theologically correct but the most efficient way to receive. Receiving Communion in the hand is permitted only by a papal indult that the Holy Father could change at any time.

"You should bow when the person ahead of you bows. That is the fastest, most efficient way to do it. Bowing at the right time and receiving Communion on the tongue follows the principle of 'Reverence over Preference every time.'" He added more remarkable Mass etiquette, "You should only give the kiss of peace to the person next to you, not to anybody else and no moving around the church to give it to others."

He returned breathily to his extraordinary metaphor of the marital bed for receiving the Eucharist, "Communion defines who you are as spouses. The bridegroom has given himself to the bride. The priest receives first as the bridegroom in fulfillment of the wedding promises. So the bridegroom is within you. The priest then blesses the bride in the name of the Holy Trinity." 

Parishioners gazed around uneasily, does he really mean that, does he know what he's saying? Yes to the first, No to the second, but he had already shifted subjects. "You should not hold hands," he commanded, "during the Our Father because the priest has his hands separated at the time and because the Our Father isn't about us." He gazed down dismissively, "You can hold hands any time outside church."

The parishioners handled all this as healthy experienced Catholics always do, letting the rant run its course and, when the moment arrived, passing the kiss of peace to everybody within reach.......


In the interests of keeping my occasionally snarky self from getting out of control, I will refrain from any comment on the mind blowing images that are racing through my mind.  All I will say is this is definitely taking the bride/bridegroom image to heights it was hopefully never meant to go. 

Perhaps this is a good a place as any to drop the whole subject, but I encourage readers of this blog to check out Kennedy's entire post.  It's well worth the read, and unlike me, Kennedy did not muzzle his snarky side.


  1. Oh, where to begin...

    Keeping it simple. If the priest represents the church... then Jesus and the priest (a man) are getting it on. So now we know, gay sex is sacred. Or the priest represents Jesus then the priest is getting it on with ALL the people in the church. Or maybe there is a threeway going on... You know, one of the insults hurled at early Christians in the ancient world was the claim that orgies were going on during worship.

    As Dan Savage once said:"I am a gay sex advice columnist and I don't think about sex as often as these creepy people." (paraphased)

    Not all priests are creepy, or power hungry, or liturgical drama queens.

    But the ones who are (the Pope and most of the bishops included) are making themselves (and the Christian faith) look ridiculious. And are ticking off those of us who take Christ Jesus and the Gospel seriously.

    Kaptcha : Liestion, a question to which the answer MUST be a lie to keep your job. Such as, Can women be ordained? Do people of faith have the authority to make their own health decisions?

  2. Everyone now sees that the leadership actually believes they are more exhaulted than The People of God. This is not The Way of Jesus. This is Cult. Anyone that really wants to follow The Way of Jesus will need to drop the Adjetive Roman from the description of their church.

  3. Sue B started it. My captcha: kingues

    For some strange reason the article reminded me of hockey, old-time hockey.

    "Old Time Hockey, like Eddie Shore, Dit Clapper, & Toe Blake" "Those guys were the greats!"

    And then I thought these set decorators should get themselves an enforcer bear, well a bruin actually.

    Never Leave Early To Beat Traffic:

    Never Date within the Division: (My fave)

    Is the Pope Catholic? Do bears...


    * a little tangential humor

  4. Seriously though. This puts me in mind of the strange case of Fr. Ryan Erickson.

    "When Father Ryan Erickson celebrated Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, the show was on and he was the star.
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    As he put it in an e-mail to his congregants, he liked his rituals "rich and mysterious"--a stark change from the "orgy of handshaking and hugs" to which they had become accustomed. The way Erickson hoisted the host over his head and held it aloft for a minute or more made a vivid contrast to the perfunctory elevation that the senior priests favored. Tears rolled down his cheeks during the ceremony. The monk's cassock he affected billowed theatrically, hiding the bulge at his waist from the pistol he always packed there."

    See: The Sins of the Father, Minneapolis News

    The Rev. Ryan Erickson Case Study: A Case Study of Sexual Abuse and Murder by Leon J. Podles

    Doesn't this case embody every one the deepest darkest fears that Colleen and others here have written about the JP2 priest?


  5. Oops!

    Sorry about the "related content" I should have edited out in my previous comment.

    Since when is it appropriate to wear a gun under your vestments while saying Mass? Even in the USA? Not exactly in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, but I guess it could be overlooked because he was orthodox. /snark


  6. This sentence from Kennedy's article should should get the Vatican's attention, but probably won't. "Set-dresser clerics are the agents of a new, more subtle if no less perverse phase of the Sex Abuse Crisis." Makes you wonder what the church is in for next.

  7. Wild hair, I flagged on that too. I suspect Kenndy is prescient in his thinking.

    p2p I appreciate your links and now you have given me a ton of reading to do. The case of Fr. Ryan Erickson should raise red flags all over the Catholic world.

    Sue B, your take about getting it on was my first take. I left a comment at the NCR on Jamie Madson's latest offering after one hetero married man said that heterosexual marriage represented the relationship in the Trinity. I wrote something to the effect that I had a hard time seeing how three men in relationship represented marriage. I wonder if it will actually get printed.

  8. I noticed this:

    ...." he continued, "...[r]eceiving Communion in the hand is permitted only by a papal indult that the Holy Father could change at any time."

    That bothers me - and I don't know why. The fact is, that it is allowed, & there is nothing inherently irreverent in receiving by hand, & nothing about reception on the tongue that makes that more reverent. What matters is the attitude: it's entirely possible to receive the Eucharist on the tongue sacrilegiously at the Old Mass, & reverently in the hand at the New. Reverence matters, very definitely - but it does not consist primarily in externals: on the contrary, externals are results of its presence. And there is more than one way of being reverent, even at Mass.

    I agree with most of what the priest is saying - just not with how it is said. OTOH, this a report, at second-hand, & it mauy not be entirely fair to him. Not so long ago, most of what he says would not have seemed strange at all. Though this:

    "Communion defines who you are as spouses. The bridegroom has given himself to the bride. The priest receives first as the bridegroom in fulfillment of the wedding promises. So the bridegroom is within you. The priest then blesses the bride in the name of the Holy Trinity."

    - would have been better left out. I think it's inappropriate & distracting. And it is Christ Who is the Bridegroom - not the priest. I don't think the Church's use of such language is wise.

    IMO, the really challenging thing is to believe in the real presence of Christ in our neighbour; the Eucharistic Presence is easy to believe in. But to believe that He is Truly Present in those with whom one disagrees strongly - that is difficult; & yet it is true.

  9. Next he'll be teaching how to goose-step down the aisle and sermonizing that Hitler was a nice guy, just doing his job for the fatherland in tough times!!

    Maybe if you're caught chewing gum or taking mints he'll swat you with a ruler stick.... Ah, the good ole days of VI!!!! Yipeeee!


    oh dear, word verif is floctra
    as in, maybe, floctratized....

  10. So did this Priest just, metaphorically by Eucharistically, endorse oral sex?

  11. Like Rat-biter I would like to see more reverence. People are not socialized the way they once were. Yes, Butterfly I too was smacked by nuns with rulers because my feet were not positioned properly, or I was not sitting up straight.

    As a pre-Vatican2 altar boy I remember observing the congregation closely. There was one family, let's call them the Simpsons, where Homer was constantly scowling, arms crossed beligerently. Each and every member of his large family showed the same facial expression and body language. But they were well dressed.

    Personally I find the advertising and affiliation messages worn on clothing to distract from finding a reverent state of mind. Those "Dale Earnhart", and Boston Bruins jackets are often not appropriate, but they're not the worst. Some teens have blatantly anti-social messages. I won't elaborate, you know what I mean. How about those skull T-shirts? Misfit? Renegade? Put it back in the drawer.

    I believe there is value in symbolism and ritual. The priest in the article might have taken a different approach to this whole matter. Too often I see the sign of the "triangle" instead of the sign of the cross. Take a moment to move consciously and properly through the minor ritual of blessing, he might have said.

    I don't think that priest understood what participation in ritual is supposed to do for the participant. For example, the repetitive nature of praying the rosary is supposed to bring a meditative, contemplative state of mind. We pilgrims could use a reminder of the purpose of symbolism and ritual in our journey. Unfortunately, most of the retreat centers have closed in our part of the country.

    In addition to the awful metaphor, (I agree with anon @11:48's reaction.) I deeply resent the authoritarian bent of this priest. He would prefer something like the Saudi Mutaween, or religious police, to club us into submission. That's not "The Way".

  12. What I find so bad in this metaphor is the continued use of the metaphor of God as HE/HIM....God is NEITHER male nor female ie all the Old Testament images of God as mother. And if you have to 'sex' the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is female....again, ie Old Testament passages referring to she/her....

  13. I did not need that image in my head! Non-Catholic Christians already think we're cannibals, do we really need to use metaphors that make it look like we're fellating Jesus??

  14. It may be my warped sense of humor, but the funniest part of this is the bowing. The priest instructed, "You should bow when the person ahead of you bows."
    If everyone does that, you bow when the person in front of you bows, who bows when the person in front of him bows and on and on. I can see kind of a wave bow going around the church if everyone follows his direction. I'd love to see a u-tube of that!

  15. That would be funny. It would look like a long line of bobble head dolls.

  16. I'm surprised that the usual commenters haven't posted anything on Eugene Kennedy's article. The discussion here is great, and it shows how some presiders want to become the center of attention.

  17. Proclaiming how to take communion 'efficiently'... As if you can't get it over with fast enough. One presumes this priest has a similar view of marital intimacy... What a way to drive all sense of mystery and joy out of life.

    Then again, the use of breath mints before communion could be considered a requirement. ;)

    I would never want to be anyplace near such a priest.