Wafergate? - Macleans.ca


(UPDATED) What happened to Stephen Harper’s communion host? The PMO responds.


That’s what a New Brunswick monsignor wants to know after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was captured on film accepting—but not consuming—the sacramental communion wafer at the funeral service for former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc last week. The Telegraph Journal reports that Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, is calling on the PM to issue a statement to clarify exactly what became of the wafer, which Catholics believe “once consecrated by a priest for the Eucharist—becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

As a non-Catholic, Harper is technically not eligible to take communion, but Rev. Arthur Bourgeois, who delivered the homily at LeBlanc’s funeral, told the TJ that at “major occasions,” exceptions can be made. “You’re not going to stop and ask everyone if they are Catholic,” he noted. “You say the Lord provides.” But Henneberry says that if the PM simply slipped it into a suit pocket, it would be “worse than a faux pas.”

“It’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” he told the TJ. He has called on the PM to issue a statement to clarify exactly what happened to the host. “I would hope the Prime Minister’s Office would have enough respect for the Catholic Church and for faith in general to make clear whatever happened.”

(UPDATE) The PMO responds: “It’s totally absurd,” the prime minister’s press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, told Canwest. “The priest offered the host to the prime minister, the prime minister accepted the host and he consumed it.”

(UPDATE) Noel Kinsella, speaker of the senate, comes to the Prime Minister’s defence: “I would like to state that I personally witnessed Prime Minister Harper consume the host that was given to him by Archbishop André Richard.  Sitting only a few seats behind him I had a full view of the proceedings and clearly saw the Prime Minister accept the host after Archbishop Richard offered it.  The Prime Minister consumed it.”

Telegraph Journal

Montreal Gazette



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  1. I can't imagine Harper passing up a free snack


    • I concur.

    • Hey, Sean, I'm sure you're a great guy (you have to be; we've got the same first name). But is the weight comment really necessary? I'm sure there must be some actual policy of his that you could criticize instead. Just saying.

      It really peeves me that while many of us criticize the level of dialogue that happens in the House of Commons, we (the voters) go on to perpetuate that same atmosphere on the message boards and in conversation with those whom we disagree with. I'm sure your comment was just a misstep, but in the future it would be a good idea to set a better tone for conversation and debate. The weight jokes are a little too easy, and a little too cheap.

      • I'm afraid it wasn't a misstep. I'm not that great a guy. Cheap and easy is what I do – particularly when the topic at hand is meaningless. I think if you've at all followed my comments over the last year or so, I've never been afraid to rip Harper a new one. Repeatedly. Or Iggy, Layton, Duceppe, May… I'm equal opportunity that way, so the above wasn't really an attack on Harper. It was a funny quip that came to mind, nothing more.

        But you know, the man's gone on record calling fellow MPs supporters of child porn, sympathetic to the Taliban, and of attempting to stage a coup. I think he's fairly opened the door to take as good as he gets, and a little joke about him being a bit pudgy isn't exactly hateful. I'm sure he's a big enough man to appreciate a little humour at his own expense (if the straining seams of his blue vest are any testament to such things…).

  2. Now here is a piece of investigative journalism – makes you proud of the Canadian media….

    • Yes. Reporting the comments of a senior official from a religion encompassing over 40% of Canadians, about the behaviour of their PM, is yet another example of the media pursuing their own trivial agenda.

    • Keep shooting the messenger

      • Media folks aren't really just simple messengers, dutifully carrying messages back and forth between parties. The media has the ability to make significant choices regarding which stories to cover and how to cover them. Because of that there is nothing wrong with providing some feedback to the 'messenger'.

  3. Was Harper unable to simply remain in his pew, as a non-Catholic, and patiently wait for communion?


  4. Your headline from the front page says "Wafergate? What happened to Stephen Harper's cracker?"

    Need I point out that referring what Catholics consider "the body and blood of Jesus Christ" as a "cracker" is at least as disrespectful as referring to a Muslim turban as a "towel". You wouldn't do that, so explain why you're willing to do this.

  5. I will be amused to see what the response in Quebec is. My expectation is that the average Quebecois won't care at all, while the chattering classes will make much of it and add it to the He Disrespects Us file.

    • Loved it. Thanks.

  6. I'm glad the Canadian Catholic community (or this particular segment) has nothing better to do than worry about this.

    Actually, I feel sympathy for Harper for the first time. Haven't all of us non-Catholics felt weird at a Catholic church before? Heck, I feel weird in most churches (you want me to EAT your God? I'm just here for the wedding…). Also, there is no evidence that Harper did not eat it. /end Harper defence.

    • Actually, no Catholic wants you to eat their God. They would be very happy, if you should find yourself a guest in their place of worship, if you would remain seated in your pew until the sacrament has been completed.

      • I was raised catholic and this is one of the million reasons why I don't believe in the church anymore, they just don't practice what they preach…

        • I'm afraid I don't really see how your repy relates to my comment.

  7. As a Roman Catholic, I find Macleans' poor (belittling) choice of words more offensive than the PM's lack of etiquette. As for the host/eucharist, if it can become the body of the Son of God, then I have no doubt that it can remain a wafer for those who do not believe. I would have wished that the PM had been briefed on what to expect and what his role would have been. From the video it is obvious that he did not consume the host when he received it, and denial by the PMO is probably the true story here. Why the need to lie? Be honest and straightforward, say that while he respects the belief of Roman Catholics, he is not one himself and thought it would be improper to consume the host and did not understand that he could have refused it. End of story.

    • How on earth could the PM not know? I mean, I get it that he didn't, but the guy is 50 years old. I'm not Catholic, and, sure, a young non-Catholic might well not know, but we are talking about Stephen Harper. I suppose it just speaks to his lack of curiosity.

      • He could have just turned to any Catholic sitting near him and asked what would be appropriate behaviour for a non-Catholic in the circumstances. As an infrequent guest at Catholic services, I find this works very well.

        • It certainly works better than trying to guess the responses.

  8. Macleans' belittling language here is truly insulting. As a Catholic the Eucharist is one of the things I literally 'hold sacred'. While I'm ready to accept this was a misunderstanding by the Rt. Hon. Mr. Harper, an apology to Catholics is certainly in order if he didn't consume the Eucharist. If he did, then he showed it all the respect he could and I bear him no ill will.

    He should know better in future, however. If you're gonna be seen at a Mass, be seen as someone who knows what they're doing there.

    • If you're gonna be seen at a Mass, be seen as someone who knows what they're doing there.

      I'm glad your religion is so inclusive.

    • I don't understand. What offensive language are you guys talking about?

  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94msCdMBGMY

    This is an extended version which clearly shows him not consuming it long after he received it. Unless he brought it home and ate the wafer, the PMOs explanation is total bull.

  10. This is a joke and apparently Macleans has nothing else to report in the summer. Besides stirring up a bunch of non sense!

    • And you have nothing else to read!

  11. Next week when he meets the Pope, he'll pull it out from behind his ear.

  12. Just pointing out that even in the extended video, Stephen Harper is clearly hidden from the camera when he goes to sit down. Perhaps he consumed it after taking his seat (it's the way a lot of Protestants take communion).

  13. I am so ashamed of our Prime Minister.
    As a catholic now, but every day regardless of this.

  14. P.S.

    After rightly pointing out many of the insensitivities of those on the Right towards various groups of people, it pains me to see that the Left descend so soon into making fat jokes (Skeebins wrote "The obese slab of flesh wanted to wait until he had a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi…"). This sort of thing has, of late, been widespread among Progressives/Liberals and has not been limited to just the Prime Minister. Seriously, I thought you guys were supposed to be better than that kind of self-important, judgemental remark.

    • well said Serioulsy : could you imagine the flames that we would get if we starting being very cruel to Iggy but if it's insulting harper its a free pass – typical of left wing nut hypocrisy. By the way watch the video and you don't see anything wrong so where is the story = there isn't any just another example of MSM looking for anything to complete it's narrative.

      • Although, complaining about the bias in the Main Stream Media is not going to get us anywhere either; it just makes us look bitter. The Left Wing is the current favourite position of the media, many academics, and many activists because it has learned how to change perceptions and influence people. It knows how to make other positions look ill-informed and biased (something you do help when you publically refer to someone as a "wing nut"). If our positions are really better than those of the Progressive wing, we need to intelligently explain how they're better and how they benefit people instead of just complaining that the MSM makes us look bad.

        I would recommend this book to all Conservatives, in government or on the ground: http://www.amazon.ca/Rescuing-Canadas-Right-Conse

        • Not so much bitter as somewhere between un-nuanced and just plain dumb.

          • Yes, that too.

    • Do you have the minutes of the meeting where we elected "Skeebins" leader of "the Left" or "Progressives/Liberals?" I tend to criticize those on the right who hold positions of influence, such as MPs. Not internet trolls.

      • Hey, nope. No minutes. I could pull of some specific examples of higher-up Progressives making fat jokes (Stephane Dion on… I think it was Rick Mercer's show…) or other lower-than-is-necessary, Fox News-ish comments, but I thought Skeebins' words could illustrate what is becoming a growing trend among many well known and average people who vote left of centre.

  15. Muslims do not generally wear turbans.

    • Muslim elders and Imams typically wear turbans. You are confusing the requirement of a head-covering for sikhs with the optional turbans worn as a mark of distinction in Muslim countries.

      • No, he's not. Muslims are not generally elders or Imams, thus do not generally wear turbans.

      • I guess it depends on what you call a turban. It's a Persian word, so I always thought it was limited to South Asia and Afghanistan . . . you know, the one where the cloth kind of parts above the forehead, I think that's a particular wrapping technique. Wikipedia tells me it is used (correctly, though?) to refer to any wrapped headdress, however. Anyway, as John D says, it's pretty limited, and I don't think it's a particularly religious thing, it's like the way you'd never see a minister without a hat on back in the day: imams, like ministers back in the day, aren't supposed to frolic.

        Anyway, I doubt Muslims would be that offended by a glib reference to wrapped headdresses; not comparable to the centrality of holy communion in Catholicism. Sikhs, though, might be, since their religious code mandates the turban.

        • I think justifiable offence might occur because towel-head is such a well known prejorative phrase.

  16. Enough with the friggin' whining. Take it to an HRC.

    • Only leftists try to prosecute those who insult them. Rational people prefer to use argument.
      I understand your confusion – it's hard to step outside your worldview.

    • Only statists try to prosecute those who insult them. Rational people prefer to use argument.
      I understand your confusion – it's hard to step outside your worldview.

    • That's the video? Whatever. Lots of Christian denominations *consume* the *wafer* after they're seated because they want to have a moment to, like, pray or something.

  17. Irony is not your forte, eh?

  18. Hey Skeebins, I know we will probably never see things eye to eye on a variety of issues; it appears as if you're pretty set in your ways. While I don't support everything the Harper Government has done (secretly, I don't think the Harper Government itself supports everything that it's done), I think there is a good rule of thumb for criticizing other economic and social ideologies: you can criticize positions (the ads on pedophilia or Ignatieff's remarks about Canada during his long absence… or Ignatieff's lack of policy ideas), but not the appearance of others (the weight of the Prime Minister, Elizabeth May's weight/teeth, Ignatieff's eyebrows, or even Jack Layton's moustache).

  19. Just to clarify though, I'm thankful for people like you who don't want to associate with that kind of thing. You're a "gentleman and a scholar."

  20. The only thing more sad than the press making an issue of this, is all of the people thinking it is worth comment.

  21. He was wise not to eat it.
    Remember what happened to Mr Creosote in "The Meaning of Life"

  22. A blog I just read said he has the RCMP..mainstream media and now he has Jesus Christ in his pocket.

  23. I also see nobody at Macleans wants to take credit for writing the piece.

    Ridiculous that it should even appear. I thought Macleans was all in a knot over the misapplication of journalistic talent and national attention.

    The internet is wonderful thing. It lowers the cost of reporting lots of stories, but of course that just highlights editorial choice.

    A bad one in this case.

    Is this the level that Macleans aspires to? If so then answer then is the next isuue on whether or not Michael Igantieff, an athiest, took the host, and why he didnt burst into flames if he did?

  24. Didn't we have a 150$ billion dollar deficit to worry about?

  25. Orthodox Christians don't eat the host right away. They take it to their seat, pray, and then consume.

    Besides, Harper clearly didn't know the proper protocol. Maybe he assumed it was proper not to consume it right in front of the priest.

  26. Even Catholics screw it up sometimes. One Christmas my mom went to a different church than usual, where they do communion the pre-Vatican II way (on the tongue). My mom asked the priest to put it in her hands, which she wasn't supposed to do at all.

    From the comments it seems like there are some protestant churches where they don't do communion – that is news to me. Outside of familiar settings there are a lot of ways for us to screw up. But I don't think screwing up shows disrespect for our hosts – only malicious intent does that. I am a bit disappointed that the PMO lied on this one, however.

    "I see that Macleans has fixed the headline on the front page to read "communion host" instead of "cracker".
    The piece itself still refers to the communion host as a "saltine", however."

    I don't think cracker, or saltine in particular, would be an appropriate appellation. Communion wafers taste like ice cream cones (not the sugary ones, but those cheap, generic ones).

  27. I think Harper was saving his wafer for the GG. Her greedy highness is not satisfied to eat a seal heart and one wafer, she must have a wafer sandwich. She must eat Christ twice. She must eat. And eat. Her wafer and Harper's wafer and all the extra crumbs of wafers from the floor, she must chow down on the body of Christ until we are all full of her royal goodness.

  28. Since Senator Kinsella now says the PM did consume the host, perhaps we can drop the more offensive commenting on this non-issue?

    It was a mistake for the priest to offer him the host. It was a mistake for the PM to take it. But such mistakes happen often, and there is no indication that the PM intended to do anything wrong. I'm sure he'll know better next time.

  29. I don't like the man, but who cares. It's his choice – I wouldn't put it in my mouth either … not very sanitary. But having said that – as someone who doesn't like him I'm enjoy his awkward moment in the spotlight, lol.

  30. Macleans set the tone with its extreme insensitivite words used in describing this very sad episode. The Catholic clergy involved deserve condemnation for their betrayal of their role in of safeguarding the most blessed sacrament. The ensuing mockery of those who know nothing and care nothing for the sacred is totally shocking. This is the new sophistication among the ignorant.
    A reading of St. Paul might surprise them: 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

  31. The Second Vatican Council declared that all who are baptized with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are members of the 'catholic church' This implies that all baptized Christians have the right to receive the holy sacrament in a Roman church (or any other Christian church) provided they are in a 'state of grace'. For decades after Vatican II many RC bishops in Canada authorized priests in their dioceses to administer Holy Communion to non-RC Christians. I am an Anglican, and have often found myself on a Sunday in some place (in Canada, the USA and Australia) where the only available eucharist was in a RC church. Upon presenting myself to the priest before mass and identifying myself I have invariably been admitted to communion. In Winnipeg in the 1970s I was actuallly admitted to the sacraments by the late Cardinal Flahiff himself.

    The reaction of the RC authorities to Mr Harper's entirely justifiable act is a sign of the reactionary tendencies of a hierarchy seemingly selected by the late John-Paul II for their willingness to undo or reverse the reforms of Vagtican II.

  32. Jus to add some facts to this discussion, many protestant churches consume communion at their seat. Some, like Anglican's consume it at the alter.

    But once again, why Macleans even deems to provide any oxygen to this is beyond me? Isnt this yet another case of abetting "gotchyaism" , if you assume the initial accusation was even plausible.

    Better to ask yourself why Monsignor Henneberry would be so public about his question on this. Especially at so solemn an occasion. Oh but that would be partisan wouldnt it?

    This story makes a mockery out of certain Macleans columnists, some senior and some in editors positions, who decry the the choices of coverage other publications make.

    I bet this story even makes it to a Hot or Not column.

  33. lol, I wasn't replying to your response, sorry…it was John D

  34. Does it matter? Nothing real to report on? Would you be doing this if he was a Catholic? Religious bias maybe?

  35. And so far as the tone or tenor of debate and discussion around here – I think you're looking at the wrong guy and the wrong comment. Now and then I can get a little trollish, but in general I maintain a fairly respectful approach to things.

    And if you have a better joke, please go ahead. ( You think it's easy to make cheap and easy jokes?!)

    • Fair enough, although I think it's far more legitimate to attack someone's position (the taliban, pedophile, and coup comments, even if they seem like unfair shots) than to attack someone's appearance. No matter how much I want to see a video of Layton speaking with a voice-over saying "Jack Layton… is bald. And he has a bad moustache. Take one good look at him: do you want him to be your Prime Minister? Vote for Michael Ignatieff… this message is approved by Stephen Harper.", it's not going to happen, and it shouldn't. And if it does, I'm moving to Australia.