From Australia’s CathNews site, a liturgy mess. A Melbourne priest presides at liturgy outside the auspices of his archbishop. The Age reports on this. And it happened that while their reporter was in attendance, a visitor gave part of his communion to his dog. Archbishop Hart protests through this press release.
Commentary, but where to begin?
A first-time visitor to a small breakaway “inclusive” community offers a portion of consecrated bread to his dog. That strikes me as less an “abomination” (the archbishop actually labels the person who did it as an “abomination,” not the act) and more a lack of an understanding, or at worst, stubbornness. There’s no theological intent behind the action. And the animal, obviously, is an innocent.
The Age is obviously reporting on a story of human interest. The incident with the visitor’s dog seemed to just get in the way. The reporter, Barney Zwartz, was likely on assignment from his boss. It’s far from likely that Mr Zwartz and his editor are going to pull an assigned story because of how people might react to what happened with the canine. It’s probably less a situation of ridicule and more one of curiosity: this twist will draw a little attention, and get a few more readers hooked.
Nobody, not even the archbishop, seems concerned enough to mention that this small congregation is something of a breakaway group, and not operating under official Catholic auspices. Archbishop Hart seems to accept the validity of what his former foil is confecting.
Other religions get treated better, says the prelate:
Your integrity in this matter can be judged by asking whether, if something sacred to Judaism or Islam had similarly been desecrated, you would have treated the matter with such flippancy.
My sense is that the archbishop is right, but way overstates his case. In so doing, the alternative Catholic community gets some press. People who wouldn’t dream of attending have another thing to criticize. People in the fringes might have something to check out. If newcomers start bringing their pets, then they have a serious situation on their hands.
As for the notion of animals participating in human sacraments, I can say this. I’m a pet owner and an animal lover. But animals are innocent companions to human beings and there is no need for their participation in the sacraments. When people insist on it, it really says more about their own needs than what benefit the pet might receive. When people protest, it often says more about their own emotional makeup than the rightness or wrongness of a particular act. Something liturgical might be wrong, but such things are not usually personal attacks on the institution. Ridicule? No. Abomination? No. Overstating the protest? Could do more harm in the long run.