What’s the black-market value of a Host in Ottawa right now?

When dealing with a crime, journalists (as well as police, of course) often ask question about what may or may not have been the motives behind the illegal act. That’s pretty logical, right?

With break-ins and common thefts, it is commonly assumed that the criminals want to sell valuable stolen goods on the black market. Diamonds are valuable, as are computers, etc. Money is money.

If that is the case, then the following story from The Ottawa Citizen — “Special mass held after theft of church’s tabernacle” — has a rather glaring hole, journalistically speaking.

First things first: Under Associated Press style, that reference in the headline — and later on in the story text — should be “Mass,” rather than the lower-case “mass.”

Second, the first question that jumped into my mind after reading the headline was this: Did the whole Harvard University “black Mass” story receive much coverage on wire services in Canada?

Why ask that question? Well, because of that logical crime-motive question I hinted at earlier.

So there is another question to ponder: What is the street price these days for a holy tabernacle stolen from a Catholic altar? And, yes, what is the going price on the fake-pagan market these days for containers of consecrated bread and wine? What is the price per Host? After all a “black Mass” with a consecrated Host is much more scandalous than one served with cookies, potato chips, ordinary bread or whatever banal or crude substance leaps to mind.

One key detail in this crime didn’t make it into the headline or the lede, but was briefly mentioned in an early quote. The first thing Catholic readers are going to want to know was whether the tabernacle’s contents were stolen. The golden box is valuable. The consecrated items inside are Sacraments.

As police began investigating the break-in, theft and graffiti as a possible hate crime, priests and parishioners from other local Catholic churches went to the St. Martin de Porres church in Bells Corners for a special “reparation” mass Friday.

“We have a long history of tradition and rituals and we have special masses and special prayers we can say when someone has done something like this, when they’ve desecrated a church, when they’ve stolen the blessed sacrament,” said Father Geoffrey Kerslake, episcopal vicar with the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

Kerslake, one of the leaders of Friday’s mass, said he found the parishioners’ response “striking.” He said the community wasn’t angry at whoever took the tabernacle and sprayed graffiti, which police said contained hateful words towards the Catholic church. “Although people were obviously shocked, and sad, I didn’t see any anger,” he said. “I didn’t see hatred. I didn’t see people screaming out for vengeance.”

Once again, Associated Press style is “Blessed Sacrament” rather than “blessed sacrament,” but it appears that the Ottawa Citizen copy desk disagrees with some doctrines in the omnipresent bible of daily journalism.

It’s clear that the material value question was asked, in this case. The spiritual question? Read on:

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News flash! AP ends the Great Schism of 1054!

Many moons ago — just under a quarter of a century — I covered a major ecumenical event in the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. I believe it was a festive Divine Eucharist marking the departure of Bishop William C. Frey, as he exited to serve as dean and president of the Trinity School for Ministry.

One of the honored participants in the service was Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, who was a national level figure in Catholic ecumenical efforts (and today is a cardinal serving at the Vatican). It was natural for Stafford to be there, in large part because he had a positive working relationship with the charismatic Frey, who was a traditionalist on key doctrinal issues that affected ecumenical work in public life.

Stafford took part in the first half of the service, but did not formally vest to take part in the Holy Eucharist itself. As the rite moved into the sacramental prayers of the Mass, the Catholic archbishop moved to the side of the auditorium — where a prie dieu had been placed, allowing him to respectfully kneel in solitary prayer.

The symbolism was important: Stafford was there in prayer, but because the Catholic and Anglican churches are not in Communion, with a large “C,” he could not take part in the celebration of the Mass (with female priests, for example) or receive Communion. Stafford was there as a show of unity, to the degree allowed by the doctrines of the two churches.

I thought of this scene in the past while reading the current Associated Press report about the Vatican announcement that Pope Francis would visit the Holy Land this coming May. Of course, AP interpreted this move in terms of politics, as well as in ecumenical terms:

(VATICAN CITY) – Pope Francis says his upcoming trip to the Holy Land aims to boost relations with Orthodox Christians. But the three-day visit in May also underscores Francis’ close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims and the Vatican’s longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The announcement was made Sunday just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new U.S. bid for peace.

Frankly, I will be shocked if the pope does not use this trip as an opportunity to spotlight the waves of persecution affecting Christians, and the faithful in other religious minorities, throughout the wider region — especially from Egypt to Pakistan.

But the mention of the Eastern Orthodox in the lede was significant. Then, later in the piece, there is this:

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Readers get hot and bothered about ‘Sin Burger’ reports

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GetReligion is almost a decade old and, from the very beginning, many readers have struggled to understand a very basic fact about this blog. To state the matter bluntly, many readers think this is a religion blog.

Sorry, but this isn’t a religion blog and it isn’t a religion-news blog, either. GetReligion is what it is. This is a blog about the mainstream news media’s efforts — good and bad — to cover religion news.

Because of this misunderstanding, readers often send us stories and they want to know what we think about the news event or trend described in the story. Most of the time, this happens when a news story describes something that readers find outrageous, heretical, stupid or all of the above.

Thus, it didn’t take long for your GetReligionistas to receive emails asking us to comment about a particular hamburger being served at an edgy or outrageous joint up in Chicago.

A news story about a hamburger?

Sigh. This Forbes story was one of the better examples of the coverage, and here is how it starts off:

In Chicago, Kuma’s Corner, a heavy metal-themed beers-and-burgers restaurant, has ignited a debate over a burger that unites beef and the Eucharist.

The hamburger of the month is the Ghost, named for a Swedish metal band known as Ghost or Ghost B.C., the lead singer of which wears a Roman Catholic cardinal’s robe on stage. The burger features a 10-ounce beef patty accompanied by slow-braised goat, a “Ghost chile aioli,” white cheddar cheese, a pretzel bun, a red wine reduction, and an unconsecrated communion wafer.

Yes, you read that right. And the management claims that this hamburger is some kind of act of devotion:

The restaurant’s Facebook announcement deems the burger in “the spirit of our undying reverence for the lord and all things holy” and “a fitting tribute to the supreme blasphemous activities carried out by the band itself,” describing the red wine reduction as “(the blood of christ)” and the communion wafer as “(the body of christ).” The call to action: “Come pay your respects!” The cost: $17.

Now, as you would imagine, some readers seemed anxious for your GetReligionistas to be outraged and to strongly condemn this rather stupid PR stunt.

The problem, of course, was that most of the coverage of this alleged news event was rather pedestrian. The MEDIA COVERAGE was rather ordinary — not too hot, not too cold. Reporters described the restaurant. Reporters described people being outraged by this product. It was pretty clear that this stunt was meant to outrageous. Surf around in this Google News search file and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, here is the journalistic key to this situation.

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Fox forces the Mass into Christmas

A friend put this picture up on Google+ (so I guess that answers the question of whether people still use Google+!). Around the same time, a reader submitted this story from Fox News, headlined:

Church devastated by super storm Sandy looks forward to Christmas mass 

At first I thought the reader submitted it because of the redundancy of calling worship on Christ’s Mass a “mass.” But that’s not why it was submitted, although it’s related to that issue.

For years The Oasis Christian Center had been a gathering place for the residents of Midland Beach, on the Eastern shore of Staten Island, New York.

“We’ve done our best,” Pastor Tim McIntyre said, “to reach our community with God’s love through food pantry and children’s programs, youth programs as well as our Sunday service.” …

McIntyre saw his church the day after the super storm. He says he didn’t think it would ever open its doors again, much less in time for Christmas mass.

Oasis Christian Center? Pastor Tim McIntyre? Mass?

The Mass is “the celebration of the Eucharist.” It is a term most commonly used by Roman Catholics, although other sacramental church bodies also use the term. Is Oasis Christian Center one of those?

I reviewed the quotes in the article and the church’s web site and I never found any mention of a Mass, Divine Service, Eucharist, Holy Communion, Communion, sacrament or the like.

Instead, there is information such as this:

What kind of church are we?

Oasis is a nondenominational church that is Biblical in practice and charismatic in expression. We are a Christ-centered community of faith that believes we have a mandate from heaven to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in our community.

We choose not be contentious about the non-essentials of the Christian faith, which version of the Bible we read, spiritual gifts, predestination, etc. There are a number of secondary beliefs that the leadership of Oasis is passionate about. Complete agreement is not required for those who choose to worship with us, but it should be known that we will preach, teach, and counsel in accordance with these theological convictions. It is important that we are all striving to diligently preserve unity and peace concerning these secondary beliefs.

It’s pretty clear that this is just a straight up error by the reporting. But it is somewhat funny, at least.


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