The controversy over what happened nearly two weeks ago in a San Francisco church is continuing, with others now adding their two cents. The San Francisco Chronicle has the story, with some background:
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, founded in San Francisco in 1979, are known for their white face paint, outrageous costumes, theatrics and support of the gay community. They adopt names such as Sister Chastity Boner and Sister Constance Craving of the Holey Desire and have mottos such as, “It is not wise to say no to free drinks, cheap jewelry, discount cosmetics or pretty boys.”
Sister Barbi Mitzvah, who serves as “Board Chairnun” and “Sexytary,” said Tuesday that the group is “not offering a comment.
“These people are always after us,” Sister Mitzvah said, referring to conservative pundits and Catholic leaders.
The group did not identify the two members who took the wafers. One of the men, however, sent an e-mail to the church after the Mass and gave the name “Sister Delta Goodhand.”
Conservative Fox news commentator Bill O’Reilly, who has disparaged “San Francisco values,” called the latest flap another example of how the city is run by “far-left secular progressives who despise the military, traditional values and religion.”
On his Friday news show, O’Reilly called San Francisco “a disgrace on every level.”
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dismissed O’Reilly’s comments.
“This debate really is about San Francisco values. The Bill O’Reillys of the world are threatened by San Francisco because we value diversity, universal health care and civil rights for all. They will exploit any controversy to attack our values.”
Some local Catholics, however, said they were hurt by what they said was a mockery of their most holy ritual.
“It’s been all the news in Catholic circles,” said Bill May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good. “Catholics are hurt, frustrated and a bit angry because nobody is standing up and saying this is not right. This is a desecration of the Eucharist. They were there to make a statement and embarrass the archbishop and, in doing so, they desecrated what is most sacred and dear to every Catholic in the world.”
Holy Communion is a centuries-old tradition in which the celebrant receives from a priest the consecrated bread and wine representing the “Body of Christ” and the “Blood of Christ.” It is to be taken reverentially, as it is considered the source of Christian life.
“The general sacramental principle is that you don’t deny the sacrament to someone who requests it,” said the Rev. Jim Bretzke, professor of moral theology at University of San Francisco, a Jesuit Catholic university. “The second principle is that you cannot give communion to someone who has been excommunicated.”
He said such people are designated “manifest public sinners” in canon law.
“This is someone who violates in a serious way one of the Ten Commandments or one of the important laws of the Church,” he said. “While I can see Bill O’Reilly and others might be offended, the sisters do not meet the criteria the church has for denying Communion. Over-accessorizing and poor taste in makeup is not an excommunicable offense.”
Bretzke added, “Even if these people were bizarrely dressed, the archbishop was following clear pastoral and canonical principles in giving them Communion. The default is, you give Holy Communion to one who presents himself.”
I’ll overlook for now the all-too-predictable errors about Holy Communion contained in the article — though I do wish they’d run these things by a Catholic copy editor. (Of course, maybe they did, and this was the result, which is even sadder.)
Anyway: there’s much more, including comments from the archbishop and parishioners, at the link.
UPDATE: There’s more reaction from the CNS write-up right here:
Father Meriwether told Catholic San Francisco that parishioners have told him it did not appear the two “sisters” “were trying to grandstand at all.” Parishioners were, however, “upset by the people roaming around filming and taking pictures,” he said.
Members of the Most Holy Redeemer community stressed that the Oct. 7 Mass was prayerful and that the two “sisters” were respectful. People who were there said the “sisters” knelt in a back pew after receiving Communion.
To David Differding, co-chair of the parish liturgy council and master of ceremonies at the Oct. 7 liturgy, the critics “can’t get over the fact that God created gay people. That’s my impression. They want to put up every roadblock they can.”
Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey, one of the Mass concelebrants, said the way the two men were dressed was “disrespectful to religious sisters,” but he said he felt “it probably wasn’t their intention (to offend.) They knelt in all the right places. They stood in all the right places. Except for the way they were dressed, they weren’t doing anything disrespectful.”
“I thought it was disrespectful for somebody to go to another church with the intention of filming it,” he added, “without asking the pastor permission to do that and, second, with the intention of using that in a hostile way, without having a conversation first with the pastor. On the face of it, they were out to get the archbishop.”
Asked about reaction he had received, Archbishop Niederauer expressed concern about the impact of Web logs, or blogs.
“The blogosphere is a kind of dangerous, endless recess in a global schoolyard,” he said, “where the bullies with the biggest bullhorns can shout whatever they want.”