EW goes to catechism class

I am always amazed by the amount of information that we receive day after day, week after week, from faithful, and even faithless, GetReligion readers. We would be dead in the water if not for the many interesting URLs that people send us for “haunted” stories in their local media.

We also enjoy learn quite a bit from many, even most, of the comments that we receive that are linked to the journalism issues that are at the heart of what we do.

Often, we hear from journalists linked to the publications that we write about and, often, these journalists — for perfectly valid reasons — may not want their comments published or their names used. Still, we appreciate the the feedback and information that they share.

With all of this in mind, thank you to the friend of the blog who spotted an actual Entertainment Weekly response to a reader who was concerned (and less angry than moi) in response to that silly, sad or, yes, despicable item that ran the other day linked to coverage of the now omnipresent “Lost Supper” promotional photos from ABC.

Lost? To catch up on this mini-drama, click here. One more time, here’s the EW item itself:

FUN FACT! The Last Supper – Jesus’ final meal with his disciples before his crucifixion — is commemorated by Christians through the sacrament of Communion, the eating of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Some Christians believe that when you eat the bread and drink the wine, the stuff actually converts into the body and blood of Jesus during digestion, although their appearances remain the same. (Which explains the weird carpentry aftertaste.) This miraculous conversion is known by a fancy term: Transubstantiation, “the conversion of one substance into another.” Example sentence: “If Jack’s ‘Jughead’ plans works, he and the castaways will be transubstantiated into a new reality.”

As it turns out, a teacher in a Catholic high school wrote in to point out the error of writer Jeff Jensen’s theological ways.

As often happens in this day and age, this material comes to us via Facebook. Here is the whole exchange and I would urge readers to check out the comments linked to Jensen’s Facebook item:

A clarification on Transubstantiation

I received this gracious email from a reader and a More Knowledgeable Person About Transubstantiation Than I offering insight on my glib application of the concept in my recent EW.com analyzing the third and final Lost/Last Supper photo:

Jeff,

Have loved your Lost column for years. I have to correct you on this, though: “Some Christians believe that when you eat the bread and drink the wine, the stuff actually converts into the body and blood of Jesus during digestion, although their appearances remain the same. (Which explains the weird carpentry aftertaste.) This miraculous conversion is known by a fancy term: Transubstantiation.”

There isn’t any Christian denomination that believes the change in substance occurs during digestion. The teaching of the Catholic Church does indeed include transubstantiation, but we believe that the change in substance occurs during the Mass when the priest says the words of consecration. From that moment on, it is bread and wine only in appearance, and the body and blood of Christ in substance. This is why Catholics practice Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, wherein we spend time in prayer before the exposed Host, which is the Real Presence of Christ, remaining so even when unconsumed. This is also why any “leftover” hosts after Mass are reserved in the tabernacle behind the altar, and Catholic are always to genuflect when passing in front of the tabernacle.

Keep up the great work — looking forward to Totally Lost!

Regards,

Tom McDonald
Theology Dept.
McGill-Toolen Catholic High School
1501 Old Shell Road
Mobile, AL 36606

Yes, once again we see that words matter on the religion beat, even in the world weary pages of Entertainment Weekly.

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • LizBN

    I’m not sure if someone has already pointed this out, but it looks to me like the original “fun fact” was only online in Jeff Jensen’s column, not in the print version of the article on the same promo photos. (I’m a subscriber– there was a spread on the photos in this week’s magazine as well.)

    I wonder how the standards do (and/or should) differ between the two? I’d put Jensen’s column much more in the “blog” category than the “journalism” category here. Hmm. Not sure what the right terminology would be. It’s technically an online column, but it’s a lot more dishy and personality-driven than even, say, Stephen King’s column in the same magazine, which is more formal and runs in print. I think it’s definitely a different medium in certain ways. Yes? No?

    Of course I still think it was a bratty aside on Jensen’s part, but entertainment bloggers poke fun at lots of things (and people), so I don’t see it as particularly egregious for the genre.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Tom McDonald has the patience of Job.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Hmmm. Maybe EW was worried that “Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers and Anglo-Catholics would… blow up their building”?

    That line in the original GR story bugged me a lot, and I pointed it out at the time. It really smacked of “fatwa envy”.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Ray,
    A number of publishers have explicitly cited fears of violence as a reason why they have avoided publishing things that could be offensive to some Muslims. I say it’s fair game to ask publishers if the fear of violence shapes their editorial decisions, as well as to examine whether the “reward” for rejecting violent retribution is increased mockery. (As well it might be – nonviolent groups like the Amish or Unitarians seem to be large targets for jokes.)

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    I’d agree that “it’s fair game to ask publishers if the fear of violence shapes their editorial decisions”, and that it’s worthwile “to examine whether the “reward” for rejecting violent retribution is increased mockery.”

    But that’s not how it was presented in the original GR story. At the end, the story asked if the journalists involved had been “(a) Ignorant. (b) Unprofessional. (c) Silly and childish. (d) Intentionally setting out to blaspheme a doctrine of ancient Christianity and, thus, to insult millions of believers. (e) Counting on the fact that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers and Anglo-Catholics would not blow up their building. (f) All of the above.”

    Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that tmatt was suggesting that journalists should (a) be knowledgeable, (b) be professional, (c) be straightforward and adult, and (d) not intentionally insult millions of believers. (If you disagree, I’d appreciate knowing where and why.)

    But what about (e)? If we go by every other entry in that ‘poll’, I’d have to conclude that tmatt also thinks that “The entertainment-magazine journalists who wrote and edited this tidbit” should be worried that “Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers and Anglo-Catholics would… blow up their building.”

    Obviously I don’t seriously think tmatt actually believes that would be a good thing. (At least, I sure hope not!) But I think the ‘poll’ was very poorly worded, and I’ve tried to explain why.

  • Peter

    I say it’s fair game to ask publishers if the fear of violence shapes their editorial decisions, as well as to examine whether the “reward” for rejecting violent retribution is increased mockery.

    Given the small sample of actual violence for blasphemy against Islam, this is becoming one of those knee-jerk arguments that is almost meaningless. It ignores context and, well, common sense.

    Just as Muslms in the U.S. don’t threaten to burn down magazine offices, nor do Christians. But Christians, in the U.S., complain a lot more about their treatment despite them being members of the overwhelmingly dominant religion and culture than Muslims do. The Christian complaint culture is alive and thriving, while it is much more muted among U.S. Muslims, despite evidence of actual grievances.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X