Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When a Wafer Becomes a Political Tsunami

Many have written about the PM's huge faux pas at the funeral mass of Romeo Leblanc, whereby said PM was rumoured to have "pocketed" the body of Christ. Some are outraged. Some are making political hay from it. And some are outraged by the outrage.

I have long held the opinion that the Liberal Party's fortunes have, for a great deal of decades, been tied to the Roman Catholic Church. Some have argued and debated with me that it's simply an east and west thing when it comes to political fortunes. Those of you that have known me for any length of time politically would know that one of my pet theories is that the Liberal Party has continually been successful in Ontario, Quebec and the east coast because of the presence of the Catholic Church in those regions.

Lately - and especially with the election of our latest Conservative pope - the Conservatives have been able to sway some of that Catholic vote with their anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage agenda that plays to the Pope Benedict/Rob Nicholson type Catholic.

Can't be, says you?

Let's have a look at some blatant material evidence. Canada's population is housed with 46% of the population that is identified as Catholic (2008). An additional 36% is protestant. Of the 72 diocese in Canada, only 13 can be found on the prairies. 8 of those are located in the cities of Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Edmonton.

My point? The strongholds of the Liberal Party are also the strongholds of the Catholic church. There's some wacky correlation attributed to it. So what's the big deal about his Royal Commander in Chief, Stephen Harper pocketing a little biscuit? The deal is 14,000,000 Canadians probably wouldn't believe it's right that he didn't eat the host. Moreover, the 1 billion Catholics worldwide would probably also be offended. It's not like it was a seal heart or something.

While I don't pretend to know the ceremonial do's and don'ts of every religion in the world, I would suggest to you that if I didn't know what the protocol was for a ceremony I was attending (especially as high a ranking one as this), I'd make damn sure I asked.

Thousands of non-catholics attend mass weekly (Notre Dame in Montreal to name one) at at least one of the almost 5,000 RC parishes across this country. Most would know to sit in their seats at the time of communion and let those in your pew pass by you to receive communion. Heck, as Catholics, some of us were taught as kids not even to receive communion without receiving confession prior to.

So yes, to 14,000,000 Canadians, it probably does matter whether or not the PM ate the host. And, yes it is a big deal. That's the thing about Harper. He doesn't care to learn about Canada or Canadians.



Constant Vigilance said...

Interesting notion about the tie between the RCC and the LPC. I think it has some merit.

RayK said...

I think it's worth noting that Harper didn't line up for communion. My guess is that he was simply caught off guard and--while knowing that non-Catholics don't generally take communion--was worried was that it may be offensive to refuse it.

I think this sort of thing is totally understandable and people should give Harper the benefit of doubt--even though I usually don't give him that benefit. I mean, does anyone really think it was Harper's intention to offend people?

Lizt. said...

If, say Harper didn't know what to do, he should have remained sitting. He obviously has seen things like this before, on TV or real life. If it was just for a photo op. It did not look good,... he has a Priest waiting for Harper to say he was wrong for what he did.
Harper should not follow the GG either.

James Curran said...

Not only did he stand, but he stuck his hand out for communion. He should have either sat it out or kept his hands by his side.

MERBOY said...

14 million Catholics are likely offended... really?

I assume at least some of the 14 million Catholics living in this country have a brain and can recognize a mistake when they see one.

Part of me almost wishes for a second wave of MJ press if only to rid us of this ridiculous non scandal.

James Curran said...

Yes. Really.

MERBOY said...

I have trouble believing that when only like 6 million Canadian Catholics bother to attend church on a regular basis.

There are so many other Conservative scandals that are begging for some of that outrage... sad.

James Curran said...

This isn't a scandal. It's a testament to Harper's inability to grasp the world around him. First the GG salute steal, and now this.

Come on. All Catholics show up for Palm Sunday, Easter and Christmas. All 14,000,000. Does not going to Church make one non-Catholic?

Peter Loewen said...

Three things. First, Blais' Presidential Address to the Canadian Political Science Association in 2005 makes a very convincing case of this Liberal-Catholic connection. He uses data from a lot of elections with quite nice models to demonstrate the truth of your intuition.

Second, this may offend a good number of Catholics and a good number won't care. I don't know the ratio. But I do know that this will hardly matter for any but the staunchest Catholics once you factor in all other issues.

Third, it is possible that he waited until the wine was brought to consume the wafer. This is quite common in non-Catholic denominations.

MERBOY said...

The GG salute steal wasn't an accident... this obviously was.

Right now on google news this story has more than 300 articles listed... meanwhile the Toronto PRIDE sponsorship that resulted in a cabinet minister being demoted only has like 100... almost an outrage in itself.

Of course not going to church doesn't make someone non Catholic... I just think it makes it highly unlikely that one would take any real offense at an obvious mistake like this.

James Curran said...

It won't play well in Quebec for the dictator. That's one thing for sure.

Second, only very high mass would ever pass the wine to the congregation in the Catholic Church, and I'm not certain if the cup was passed at this ceremony. The point still remains that he is not a Catholic and he had no business taking the eucharist in any event. Especially reaching his hand out for it.

James Curran said...

Oh, and where can I find this Blais work?

roblaw said...

I'm not Catholic.

My wife is a VERY strong Catholic.

She watched the video.

She said, "It's no big deal - no Catholic who supports Stephen Harper will think twice about it.."

And those who don't support Harper (see above) will make a lot of noise preaching to the converted.

Speaking of which, Ray K gets the post of the day.. candidly admitting he doesn't support Harper, but that, in his mind, it's a non issue.. though honorable mention goes to the other posters who, correctly, said, well, it's not that big a deal compared to other issues (manditory sentencing, removal if ISP privacy without court oversight, as two examples).

Sorry James, but I think your reaching in the style of Warren Kinsella on this point.

MERBOY said...

Yeah the fact this Conservative government exists at all... that offends me... the wafer thing... I don't get it... maybe I'll ask my friend who is actually becoming a priest what he thinks... don't recall him being offended by Kathy Griffin when she said suck it to Jesus whilst collecting her Emmy... but this obvious accident... maybe he'll be mad... who knows.

James Curran said...

I guess somehow it is lost in translation.

A head of state should act like a head of state. He shouldn't lie about shit and make it up on the fly as he goes. When he's out at a function, he should know what the function is all about.

This guy is a f#ckiHg embarrassment. There, that's the translation.

Oh, and the entire blog is that, as the Catholics go, so too do the Liberals.

lyrical said...

Which federal political leader recently spent the most time visiting the Papal leader?

Which provincial party just passed a controversial Bill that allows parents to pull their kids out of school when controversial subjects are being taught? (Hint: That provincial party's leader is Catholic.)

Which former party leader did not do so well at the polls due to his alleged linguistic disorientation of voters?

MississaugaPeter said...

The real offense is that if he had gone to a Temple or a Synagogue, Harper would have bothered to know proper protocol. But for the religion that almost half the electorate claims as theirs, Harper does not bother to know proper protocol.

As someone who has followed Cardinal Ratzinger since my days at Joe Clark's Catholic residence at the University of Alberta, I know that the Pope will not take this issue lightly. Harper better have his tail between his legs when he meets the Pope later this week.

James, your synopsis on religion and the Liberal Party is correct. However, a lot has to do with the immigration of Mediterranean Catholics during the long tenures of Liberal prime ministers.

Many, not all, first generation Canadians have a special place in their heart for the Prime Minister, and their respective Party that is in power, when their official papers are signed.

Old School Liberal said...

And if it was really just a simple, honest mistake to take the host... why not a simple, honest apology to clear the air?

That to me is the bigger issue that remains. Harper's arrogance and the arrogance of his PMO that he can do no wrong and that if something went wrong it is always someone else's fault.

In fact, you can almost see the Conservative's own protocol at work: say it is a non-story, if it doesn't go away blame the Liberals, if it doesn't go away blame the media, if it doesn't go away find someone else to blame like a staffer or in this case the priest. It is textbook.

Peter Loewen said...

Not to be a complete pedant, but Harper isn't a head of state.