One Thin Wafer

Jim Slagle's got some thoughtful commentary about Haley Waldman, an eight year old Catholic girl from New Jersey whose first communion was declared invalid recently. Waldman has a medical condition that prohibits her from eating gluten, a substance found in wheat. She had a rice wafer at her first communion, something the archdiocese of Trenton says is a no-go.

Slage's not so sure the archdiocese made the right decision:

if there is a connection between the spiritual and the physical -- as Christianity asserts -- then the nature of the host may be inherently connected to its physical ingredients. In this case, to alter its ingredients would invalidate it regardless of the reasons behind it...unless there was a miracle. Which is in God's curriculum vitae. Not to mention the fact that the whole process of transubstantiation is already a miracle.

And since Christianity very strongly claims that God is a God of justice, it seems to me (and I'm wrong a lot) that it wouldn't be against his nature to allow the rice wafer to be transubstantiated.

There may be a way for Waldman to meet church law and care for her health. A few weeks back, the Detroit News reported on a new low gluten wafer developed by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri.

"The total gluten content of the communion hosts is .001 percent," reported the Detroit News, "such a small amount that it is considered safe for most celiac sufferers but sufficient to conform to the canons. The sisters’ wafers have the blessing of celiac researchers and and the Vatican and are the only product approved for use at Mass in the United States."

So what about Catholics in Asia, where wheat is not a staple--but rice is. For Protestants, the answer is easy--in my faith tradition, sticky rice and palm wine are substitute for bread and wine during services in Thailand. The rules for Catholics are not so flexible--but it's been interesting to know if rice communion wafers are used elsewhere in the world.


Hulk Blogs

The Incredible Hulk's got a new gig as a religion blogger over at the Revealer.org. It's very funny piece--inspired by some good natured ribbing that Ted Olsen of Christianity Today's Weblog gave Revealer editor Jeff Sharlett recently.

Sharlett's been ticked off that the news media has for the most part ignored the resignation of Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis magazine, and a key Bush campaign advisor and liason to conservative Catholics.

Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter discovered that Hudson lost his tenured job at Fordham University 10 years ago for alleged sexual misconduct with a female student.

Before the NCR could publish the story, Hudson, in a brilliant PR move, quit his job with the Bush campaign, and apologized in a piece in the National Review Online.

End of story.

A few news outlets picked Hudson's resignation up, but no major scandal story has appeared beyond the NCR piece, a fact that has disappointed and angered Sharlett.

Olsen, in a tongue in cheek post, suggest that reporters are out to get Sharlett.

Weblog thinks reporters are ignoring it just to see if The Revealer editor Jeff Sharlet merely starts walking the streets of New York in a sandwich board, or if he turns apoplectically into The Hulk, pummeling reporters who haven't followed up on the story.)

Jeff's probably going to have to let this go, unfortunately. Since Hudson's resigned his post, there's no story left to tell. If he was an embattled advisor clinging to his job, major newspapers would jump on the story. By resigning and apologizing, he's stolen the NCR thunder. Like I said, it's some brilliant pr--Hudson took control of the story and went out on his own terms.

There's some pragmatic reasons why the story died as well.

  • Crisis, despite its high profile, is an itty-bitty magazine, with about 30,000 subscribers. That's about half the size of the progressive US Catholic magazine's audience, for example. <

  • Hudson, unlike other fallen religious figures like Jimmy Swaggert or Jim Bakker, is a relative unknown

  • The charges are 10 years old. If he's was fooling around recently with, say, a college intern at Crisis or the White House, it'd be a much bigger deal. And the evidence to back them up is pretty slim--all coming from the young woman involved. Some of the alleged activity reportedly occured in a large group in a bar, but no one else is quoted to corroborate the details. (Hudson did lose his tenured job, which is unusual and settled a lawuit from the young woman for $30,000. )
  • And finally, this kind of sexual misconduct ranks pretty low on the outrage scale. If Hudson was a priest that had sex with preteen or teenaged boys, he'd be seen as a pervert and an abuser. A male college professor who has sex with a college student is seen as getting lucky. The young women involved was 18 at the time, and the alleged activities, while sordid, were not illegal or would not be considered unethical at some colleges.


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