Monday, June 30, 2008

Sally Quinn on Tim Russert

Sally Quinn, a religion beat writer for the Washington Post wrote this recently about Tim Russert and communion at his funeral:
Last Wednesday at Tim's funeral mass at Trinity Church in Georgetown (Jack Kennedy's church), communion was offered. I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started "On Faith" and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday I was determined to take it for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him. And it was worth it just to imagine how he would have loved it. After I began "On Faith," Tim started calling me "Sister Sal" instead of "Miss Sal."
Big mistake.

The backlash has been quick. The Catholic League fired first. Then Slate. It isn't very often that Slate and the Catholic League agree on anything. Of course the blogs and other periodicals have been going crazy about it and the disrespect she showed Catholics, which is very true. But, her reaction to the controversy didn't help things. She had this to say in answer to the criticism:

I was really close to him, and I was grieving. And I thought me taking the Eucharist would be a thing that he would really enjoy. And all these things are what religion should be about. ... There's no sign out there that says you're not allowed to take Communion. [The Catholic Church is] like, "Everyone is welcome. This is God's house." God doesn't turn people away, supposedly.

I think it's really an important issue. The Pope doesn't want people who are pro-choice to take it. John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, even the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, and others were not allowed. ... Frankly, none of that was going through my mind. I was feeling absolutely destroyed. It felt right to do it as a tribute to him. I wasn't thinking politically at all.

I've become a champion of pluralism and a spirit of inclusiveness. Any religious people who purport to be Christians, or whatever faith you might be, would do everything they could to welcome others--in the case of Catholics, to welcome others the way Christ would welcome others. This is a perfect example of WWJD. Would Jesus have said, "No you don't, Sally Quinn. You're not going to get away with this one!"

That really doesn't help things. A religion writer for one of the major papers in the country should have known better. The Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist is not secret, in fact, I would hope that she would know something about our basic teachings. Catholics happen to be the largest group of believers in this country. Is is too much to ask for her to read a book on Catholic basics before she writes about us? Also, the pluralism and WWJD arguments just make things worse.

Some unsolicited advice for Sister Sally - Apologize and don't do it again. Fr. James Martin has a good summation of it all.

No comments: