It seems that if reporters don’t know much else about Roman Catholics, they should know something of what they believe about the Eucharist. Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has various supporting dogmas, including Transubstantiation and the Permanence of Presence and the Adorableness of the Eucharist.
But apparently the Catholic belief that the wafer and wine of Holy Communion become the body and blood of Christ and should be treated as such is unknown to reporters. Take this story from FoxNews.com. I’m actually going to begin with its closing paragraph:
The UCF student leader said he stole the communion bread, known by Catholics as the Eucharist and believed to symbolize the body of Christ, to show to his non-Catholic friend.
“Symbolize” the body of Christ? No. And what a rookie error. Anyway, the rest of the story is horrific as well:
College Student Gets Death Threats for Smuggling ‘Body of Christ’
A student at the University of Central Florida claims his life — and afterlife — were threatened by enraged Catholics after he pocketed “the body of Christ” during a church ceremony, according to a report on myfoxorlando.com.
Webster Cook says he received death threats and eternal damnation after he removed a wafer of bread from his mouth during communion and smuggled it from the church in a Ziploc bag.
Though Cook returned the wafer one week after the theft, outraged Catholics were unforgiving, according to WFTV.com.
“We don’t know 100 percent what Mr. Cook’s motivation was,” Susan Fani, a spokeswoman with the local Catholic diocese, told myfoxorlando.com. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”
If the headline alleges that death threats were made, the story better cite those death threats — not unsubstantiated claims of death threats. More than that, though, what a hysterical way to treat this serious subject. The actual story is that a student government leader — angry over funding to religious groups on campus — pocketed the host and broadcast that fact to the campus. That fact is missing from this story.
A few other things — rather than using square quotes around “body of Christ,” the reporter should just calmly explain Catholics believe the body of Christ is received in the Eucharist. Did Webster Cook really say he received eternal damnation or did the reporter mean to say that anonymous, unnamed people said his eternal life was in jeopardy? The whole story is so amateur that it’s not really worth parsing. How did other media outlets handle the doctrinal issues in this story? Let’s take a look:
Here’s Cheryl Getuiza from WOFL:
Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn’t eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.
A University of Central Florida student, upset religious groups hold church services on public campuses, is holding hostage the Eucharist, an object so sacred to Catholics they call it the Body of Christ.
Ugh. The rest of the WFTV story, however, is much better. Hopefully reporters can learn these basic beliefs about the Eucharist before their next breathless reports.