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Call Me Catholic!

God has better things to do

by Michael McGirr

You can't call yourself a Catholic until you have felt respect and affection for other Christian groups. That is why it is sad to see the other denominations falling so far behind in the race to make the world's most silly utterance. Some of them were doing pretty well for a while, especially the Sydney Anglicans. But throughout history, the Vatican has proved equal to every challenge.

Conservatism is the ability to change so fast that nobody notices. Faced with the prospect of being accounted less foolish than some other mob, the Vatican has responded by banning gluten from the communion bread. Or making it compulsory. One or the other. It hardly matters which. The idea was a stroke of tactical genius. It has left the rest of the Christian world floundering as it looks for some way to match this crazy idea.

A few coeliacs may be disadvantaged about the gluten. I would offer them the same comfort which Fr Whiteley offered a classmate of mine who complained that the incense used during benediction at school would bring on an asthma attack. Fr Whiteley was keen on incense. Looking back, I can see that it helped to protect him from the smell of a chapel full of schoolboys who were herded into Benediction late in the day when whatever charm they may have had in the morning had well and truly worn off. Fr Whiteley was an older man, used to saying Mass the other way around, so the incense protected him from the sight of the boys as well. But the fluffy clouds of smog which Fr Whiteley sent off into the atmosphere were not easy for asthmatics. One of my friends ventured to ask if he could sit outside or maybe near an open window. Fr W was appalled. He informed my friend that asthma was for girls. He then offered the kindly reassurance that if the lad were, in fact, killed by incense he would go straight to heaven. On the other hand, if he was so ill prepared for death that he was ready to shirk his religious obligations, then Fr W could offer no such guarantee. Fr W got his way. The boy and his family were both incensed.

It is wonderful to see Fr W's spirit still alive in the church. Instead of complaining, coeliacs should thank God that, unlike most of us, they have the chance to die at the communion rail. Frankly, I would like to see a greater range of poisons and additives in the communion wafers so that we all had this opportunity. I don't see why communion should be lethal for some but not for others. It's not fair. Why should some of us be forced to leave the church and engage with the ambiguities and confusions of contemporary life when a lucky few are allowed to die before they even have to face the second collection.

My real concern, however, is more for those denominations which have resorted to the use of common sense in theology. There is no future in this. Some of them look longingly at the liturgical traditions of Catholicism and envy the way in which, over the years, strange behaviour has been so well nourished by them. From time to time, they see more in our traditions than we do ourselves. A Protestant friend of mine once asked me if the use of sweet communion wine at Mass was because Catholics believed that Jesus had high blood sugar levels and may have been diabetic. Catholicism has no such belief. We use sweet wine because Jesus was sweet natured.

Such people should look to their own traditions and make the most of those. If the other denominations want to treat with us as equals on the grounds of insanity, they could make more pronouncements about the Bible. Why not ban soft cover editions of scripture, for example. Soft covers are a scandalous abuse. The Word of God is not limp, for heaven's sake. Editions with soft spines are making the point that an invertebrate is as good as a vertebrate. Scripture is clear that vertebrates are higher in the order of creation. Humans are tops. The spines on our Bibles should reflect this.

Or better still, perhaps they should ban the use of recycled paper in any edition of the Bible. The Word of God is not recycled. It is not a rehash of any pre-existing primitive pagan new age dope smoking hippie stuff that was going around BC. It is ever new. Always fresh. It shines, not like that matt finished born again paper they print newspapers on. The word of God is alive. Not like some of the pronouncements that originate in the minds of people with precious little to worry about.

Previous Columns:

  • Issue 1: The Catholic Fold
  • Issue 3: The Fridge Door
  • Issue 5: A Call to the Faithful
  • Issue 7: Liturgy of the Story
  • Issue 9: God goes swimming in Winter
  • Issue 11: God drives slow
  • Issue 13: God runs in bare feet
  • Issue 15: God does not send spam

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