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Wheat, Blogs, and Journalism

One of the advantages of blogging is the "human search engine": the fact that for any given issue that's blogged, multiple authors serve to cover it, and each generally provide hyperlinks to sources. An informed reader can then decide not only on the quality of the article, but the various authors who link to it--important for their credibility the next time. And of course, in trawling such an issue, it opens up further issues that inflame a curious mind: never a bad thing. Newspapers and news organizations, although always good for generating stories, ignore this fact at their peril.

Take, for instance, the story of Haley Waldman, an eight-year-old Catholic girl whose first communion has been declared invalid by the Church because it was performed with a rice-based wafer. The priest who gave the sacrament--not her regular parish priest, who refused--did so because the girl suffers from celiac sprue disease.

Now, I came across this first at Fool's News, who linked to the CNN article above and had this to say:

According to the article, some churches allow no-gluten hosts. Others do not. [Ed: Note that the Fool does not point out that those which do are doing so against Church doctrine.]

The church has similar rules for Communion wine. For alcoholics, the church allows a substitute for wine under some circumstances, however the drink must still be fermented from grapes and contain some alcohol. Grape juice is not a valid substitute.

Talk about form over substance!!

But of course, the question here seems to be substance (the nature of the host) over form (the fact of the ceremony). Besides this, he didn't mention the fact that the girl's family was offered the sacrement through the wine only, although this is mentioned in the CNN story. Which immediately brings up the question: are the two forms of sacrament the same? And does the Church really make so little accomodation for those suffering a malady?

Well, nothing more to be discovered from the Fool. However, via Professor Bainbridge, one quickly found a Mirror of Justice posting, that in turn linked to a Moteworthy article. (Bainbridge had a simpler post up this morning, but was moved to a more substantive response by this blogger, who characterized the story as follows: "The fact that my church thinks that her God-given lot in life makes her ineligible for communion causes me to doubt whether my church has any clue about the true path to God." Certainly that's a heavy charge to lay against the Church--that it considers her ineligible for Communion. As you'll see below, it's also uninformed.)

The Moteworthy article contains a link to that most valuable of resources for the researcher: the primary source. Specifically, it points to a page from the U.S. Catholic Bishops on The Use of Mustum and Low-Gluten Hosts at Mass. This page provides a significant number of clarifying points on Church doctrine:
a) Doctrinally, it made no difference if the girl had been offered only wine: "[T]he lay faithful who are not able to receive Holy Communion at all under the species of bread, even of low-gluten hosts, may indeed receive Holy Communion under the species of wine only. The Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy has earlier reminded pastors (BCL Newsletter, April-May,2000) of the right of the faithful under the law (CIC, canon 843) to receive Holy Communion, even if only the Precious Blood, and regardless of whether the Precious Blood is offered to the rest of the faithful present at a given celebration of Mass....As a final note, it is important to recall that through the doctrine of concomitance the Church teaches that under either species of bread or wine, the whole of Christ is received (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no.282; Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1390; Council of Trent, session 21, Doctrina de communione sub utraque specie et parvulorum, 16 July 1562, chapters 1-3: Denzinger �Schonmetzer, 1725-1729). "

So much for Lex Icon's thoughts that " my church thinks that her God-given lot in life makes her ineligible for communion."

An issue of authority, as well as doctrine, was involved: The girl was not the only individual involved. "The second regulation of note regards the granting of permission for the use of low-gluten hosts and mustum by priests, deacons or the lay faithful. In his previous letter, Cardinal Ratzinger had stated that only the Holy See itself, through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, could give permission for the lay faithful to use mustum. Permission for priests, deacons and the lay faithful to use low-gluten hosts was under the competence of the local Ordinary. However, in the July 24, 2003 letter, permission for priests, deacons or the lay faithful without distinction to use mustum or low-gluten hosts is now within the competence of the local Ordinary. The authority to permit the lay faithful to use mustum and low-gluten hosts in the reception of Holy Communion may be delegated to pastors under CIC (Codes Iuris Canonicis), canon 137.1." To translate from the liturgical to legalese, there is a process matter as well as a substantive issue here: the priest involved lacked "jurisdiction" over the matter.

(There's a few other facts in that page, including a variety of very low-gluten hosts being prepared by the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and that "Attention should be paid to medical advances in the area of celiac disease and alcoholism and encouragement given to the production of hosts with a minimal amount of gluten and of unaltered mustum." It's also worth noting that the Church's doctrine on mustum presented in this letter varies with CNN's reporting.)

This in turn opens up a whole host of questions. The Church's current doctrine on the matter seems to be stated above. However, this is based upon Cardinal Ratzinger's letter and his research. Is this simply a restatement or clarification of a pre-existing rule, or is it a new one? What were the historical, doctrinal, and theological reasons behind this rule? What is the history behind the change?

For these questions, I had to veer away from blogs, and start talking to friends. The subsequent conversations led to discussions on Thomas Aquinus, what he meant by "substance" and how that might relate to Platonic ideals, and the fact that the debate may have something to do with the ordination of women. This, in turn, led to an addition of books on my "need to read" list and a whole hour of thought distracted from Law Review.

But these are a discussion for another day. I mention this progression through the blogosphere merely because another hot item today has been an article in the New York Times criticized by that Leviathan of bloggers, Glenn Reynolds:

In fairness to Mr. Kerry, his aides were faced with a strategic dilemma that has become distressingly familiar to campaigns in this era when so much unsubstantiated or even false information can reach the public through so many different forums, be it blogs or talk-show radio.

Now, I'm not about to say that the blogosphere is full of the completely objective, always out to spin the story the in the direction of truth. Certainly it isn't: Instapundit is as right wing as Calpundit is left. But the glory of blogs from the very beginning has been not punditry but the obsessive use of hyperlinks, the deep-felt need to making your sources plain. [1] Look at either the AP article above, or the CNN article which elaborates upon it, and you'll find nothing approaching the level of detail, research, or depth that I've summarize in this post. (It's worth noting that I've done just that: summarized. This is only what I've found from others.) That lets readers judge your research in a manner that even law review articles, with their obsessive footnoting, cannot manage: the links are immediate, available, and their authority easily weighed.

The New York Times doesn't do this. The AP wire doesn't do this. Their websites do not typically link to sources and allow for speedy evaluation. And given the distortions, spin, and bias that can validly be laid at the feet of Fox News (for the right), or the New York Times (for the left), it's a bit rich for the New York Times to be complaining.

The advantage of blogs is that an authoritative post--such as Moteworthy's--is easy to see, while an off-hand bit of <ahem> "opinion" like the Fool's is also easily spotted. The Clerk's entire reputation has been based upon his citations. Because good bloggers don't tend to consider themselves authorities the way newspapers do, they're more careful--and most importantly, more open--with sources. In so doing, blogs often make it easier to learn more about an issue, more quickly, than one could possibly hope from a newspaper.

And in the end, that's the fun of reading blogs. Even if you start by reading a newspaper article, if you're really intrigued you should see who's blogging about it. In the process not only will you learn about the bias of the blogger--and the paper--but you'll probably find the primary sources the journalist used, and learn what he didn't tell you. That's the best reason of all: you read blogs, you learn something.

UPDATE: Added a link to the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, fixed a few sentences that I wrote when tired. It seems that when writing too late at night, I can't keep tenses straight.

UPDATE II: Mildly dishonest, but I've set the time for this entry back from 2 AM on Sunday morning to 11:59 on Saturday evening. I really consider this an August 21 entry, because it was during this time that I was thinking about it. Also, for aesthetic reasons, I'd prefer it to be filed on that day. But for those who are sticklers for this kind of detail, it didn't really hit the presses until 2AM the following morning.

UPDATE III: Fixed the Lex Icon link above.

[1]: Comments tend to keep one honest in this, which is one reason I support them. Even when I've come to great disagreement with my readers as to what a term I used should mean, or why I use it, their tendency to link to primary sources has proven invaluable, and a great learning experience for me.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Wheat, Blogs, and Journalism:

» Tony Doesn't Like Me, I Guess from Fool's Blog
It seems that Tony doesn�t much like what I have to say � at least in recent days. It�s good I don�t do this to appease Mr. Rickey. With regard to this post, he finds my entry �uninformed�. So be... [Read More]

» Tony Doesn't Like Me, I Guess from Fool's Blog
It seems that Tony doesn�t much like what I have to say � at least in recent days. It�s good I don�t do this to appease Mr. Rickey. With regard to this post, he finds my entry �uninformed�. So be... [Read More]

» very thoughtful and informed from Fructus Ventris
Wheat, Blogs, and Journalism Thanks to Katharine in the comments box for the link info.... [Read More]


Wow. I don't recall catching this analysis way back when it was posted. I commend your thorough research. I based my analysis solely upon published news reports, mainly because I didn't have time to do moreb (my post was written as I was leaving for vacation). However, after carefully considering the research, I remain unpersuaded. For this little girl to receive the sacrament, she must either consume alcohol or eat what is, to her body, poison. I find that absurd and contrary to the message I read in the Gospels. Although this is not the Catholic thing to do, I would turn to the scriptures before abiding by the Council of Trent or a series of catechisms and letters to bishops. This situation reminds me of how Christ rebuked the scribes and pharisees in Matthew 23:23-26: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." Do you know how we came to have the books of the Bible that we acknowledge today to be the word of God? (I'm sure you probably do, though your readers may not.) The books were put to a vote. Those voted in are still read today. Those voted out were labeled heretical and their adherents were cast out of the church, or worse. And how do we know the men who voted got it right? We trust in the unseen guidance of the Holy Spirit, who would never let God's true church be led astray. I believe that this guidance was not with us when the rice wafer communion was nullified by a 21st century scribe. And it still bothers me.
I've managed to save up roughly $70044 in my bank account, but I'm not sure if I should buy a house or not. Do you think the market is stable or do you think that home prices will decrease by a lot?

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