As Canadian troops continue to die in Afghanastan, the economy spirals its way into a deeper recession, and the world mourns the sudden death of a rather talented young man who produced one and a half good albums, the federal conservative party is confronting one of its worst scandals in decades.
Prime Minister Harper has been accused of pocketing the body of Christ and doing God-knows-what with it.
Last week, while attending the funeral mass of former governor-general Roméo Leblanc, Harper was offered the communion wafer by the presiding priest. The event was caught on video, but much like the footage of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the film fails to definitively clear up what happened next. Harper can be seen taking the wafer, holding it, then walking away. There is a short space of time in which he is blocked by the priest who gives the next wafer to New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor Herménégilde Chiasson — but all visual evidence indicates the prime minister merely palmed the morsel.
Speculation is that he put it in his pocket as he left the altar.
“It’s not a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, but is in fact the body and blood of Christ,” said Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. “The Communion wafer starts as a host and becomes the body of Christ.”
Communion wafers are small, hard disks composed of wheat flour and water, with no leavening or spices. It is possible that Harper, a Protestant, failed to notice the change in texture as it underwent its transformation.
In any event, it is almost impossible to deny that the prime minister did not eat it. Even during the brief moment he is mostly hidden from view, enough of him can be seen to determine that he makes no broad motion with his hands, such as reaching up to his mouth. Furthermore, when the priest moves aside a moment later, Harper’s arms are in exactly the same position in which they’d been less than a second earlier — hands still clasped in front of him at waist height.
The idea that he palmed the wafer and later stashed it in his pocket has understandably sent the Catholic church into an uproar. Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, calls it “worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” while MacCarthy insists that Catholics “never throw Jesus out,” and that even “to put Jesus in your pocket” is a serious breach.
But it is possible the prime minister meant no disrespect. He’s due to meet with the pope this coming Saturday, and perhaps he merely wanted to show His Holiness what a Canadian communion wafer looked like. Or give it to him as a present. Until his motives are made clear, however, speculation that he saved it for later use in some Conservative Party satanic ritual is premature at best.