Monday, 13 July 2009

Religious Sensibilities: Good Will Counts, But Unbelievers Sometimes Don't Understand the Subtleties

When in Rome do as the Romans: interesting that Stephen Harper had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI shortly after a small storm blew up over whether he’d taken communion at a funeral mass recently. How could he, as a Protestant? And if he didn’t swallow the host, did he just stick it in his pocket, which would be even worse?

It can be confusing for a non-Catholic to be presented with the host during a mass: Lukas, aged 12, found himself in that situation at a Christmas party organized by a priest at his nominally Catholic high school. It was a time when he was quite serious about religion (the year before he had decided to be baptized as an Anglican) and came home very upset because he hoped he’d done no wrong in taking the host when he hadn’t been confirmed a Catholic. No disrespect was intended, no harm was done, I assured him, and that is what Catholic officials have said in Harper’s case.

Harper should have been better briefed, though. Sensibilities are different among believers of different faiths—although sometimes in surprising ways. A friend recently sent me this link. She’s a serious Francophone Catholic, but thought this was very funny. As an Protestant-reared, thorough-going unbeliever, I would never have dared!

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