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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  September 9, 2008
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Unapologetic Sally Quinn’s Holy Communion Abuse

It does not appear that Ms. Quinn treated the Russert funeral Mass as a photo op, but it does appear that she should have known that her reception of Communion at the Mass would be illicit and she should have refrained from receiving. Then she would not have embarrassed herself by her tasteless story about receiving and her subsequent silly self-justification trying to make a virtue of her disregard of the guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion by doing as she pleased.

Sally Quinn, Washington Post journalist, author, founder and co-moderator of “On Faith,” a blog from the Washington Post and Newsweek, as posted in “On Faith” on June 23, 2008 in “The Faith and Joy of Russert”: “Last Wednesday at Tim's funeral mass at Trinity Church in Georgetown (Jack Kennedy's church), communion was offered. I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started ‘On Faith’ and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday I was determined to take it for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him. And it was worth it just to imagine how he would have loved it.”

Ms. Quinn, then age 67, should have known better long before June 23, 2008!

Unfortunately, people who are ineligible to receive Communion in a Catholic Church nevertheless present themselves and receive.

Ms. Quinn is noteworthy for publicly writing about her reception of Communion apparently in ignorance of her ineligibility.

On June 25, 2008, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights charged Ms. Quinn with narcissism for her receipt of Communion in this press release:

“The funeral Mass for Tim Russert was held at Trinity Church in Georgetown a week ago today. Attending was Sally Quinn. She is a Washington Post journalist and founder and co-moderator of On Faith, a Washington Post and Newsweek blog.

“Quinn, who was an atheist most of her life, posted on Monday why she decided to go to Communion: ‘Last Wednesday I was determined to take it [the Eucharist] for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I’m so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him. And it was worth it just to imagine how he would have loved it.’

“Quinn also admitted the following: ‘I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started “On Faith” and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’

“Catholic League president Bill Donohue had this to say:

‘Just reading what Sally Quinn said is enough to give any Christian, especially Catholics, more than a “slightly nauseating sensation.” In her privileged world, life is all about experiences and feelings.

‘Moreover, Quinn’s statement not only reeks of narcissism, it shows a profound disrespect for Catholics and the beliefs they hold dear. If she really wanted to get close to Tim Russert, she should have found a way to do so without trampling on Catholic sensibilities. Like praying for him—that’s what Catholics do.’”

Was it narcissism, or simple ignorance, or culpable ignorance?

Only God and perhaps Ms. Quinn know for sure.

But with pro-abortion so-called Catholic politicians like Senator and 2004 Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi sacrilegiously and scandalously receiving Communion, it is conceivable that Ms. Quinn thought that anyone who attends a Mass is eligible to receive Holy Communion.

That’s not so.

Commenting to The New Republic on the Catholic League’s press release, Ms. Quinn was argumentative, not apologetic, asserting: “Any religious people who purport to be Christians, or whatever faith you might be, would do everything they could to welcome others--in the case of Catholics, to welcome others the way Christ would welcome others. This is a perfect example of WWJD. Would Jesus have said, ‘No you don't, Sally Quinn. You're not going to get away with this one!’”

Ms. Quinn may or may not be narcissistic, but that response was nonsensical.

Ms. Quinn was welcomed to attend the funeral mass for her friend Tim Russert.

But attendance at a Mass is not the test for eligibility to receive Communion at that Mass.

National Review Online’s Ramesh Ponnuru was more troubled by Ms. Quinn’s response than by her reception of Communion:

"Apparently, Sally Quinn has gotten some nasty voicemails after writing about her decision to receive communion at her friend Tim Russert's funeral Mass. That is too bad. So many people do not understand the Church's teaching that it is best to treat this sort of thing as a well-meaning act based on a misunderstanding. It is hard to believe that Quinn was deliberately trying to register her disagreement with the Church at the Mass. That said, if she does not understand the affront she gave then perhaps regularly blogging about religion for a major news outlet is not the right job for her.

“No doubt she has her back up. But her explanations and self-justifications compound rather than mitigate the problem. She says that Catholics should be inclusive rather than turning people down who present themselves for communion. Perhaps. She talks, quite a bit, about her feelings. But the Church does not view communion as primarily an opportunity to elicit warm feelings of community. The unity of communion is altogether deeper. The Church invites outsiders into that deeper unity by refusing a simulacrum of it.

“Quinn invokes the vulgar phrase, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ What Jesus would have us do is a question Christians should always ask. It is within the realm of possibility that the Church, and the current pope, whom she singles out for criticism, have given at least as much thought to the question as she has. While asking, quite rightly, for charity, she should consider extending it.”

Sound advice!

Writing for National Catholic Weekly, Father James S. Martin of the Society of Jesus criticized both Ms. Quinn and the Catholic League, offering this explanation and expectation:

”Catholics believe in the ‘real presence,’ the actual presence of Christ in the elements of the Eucharist: the bread and the wine. It is a central element of our faith, and reception of Communion is something that a Catholic does not do lightly. Which is something of an understatement. ‘First Holy Communion’ is an important passage to adulthood; and even afterwards adults are asked to approach Communion reverently and without being conscious of any grave sin. Catholics also know that the very word ‘Communion’ means that you are in ‘communion’ with the rest of the Catholic church, and accept its beliefs.

“Therefore, it is probably not too much to expect that the co-founder of a prestigious online blog about religion run by two of the nation's premier journals, would understand something about the most basic practices of the Catholic church. Most intelligent people know a few facts about the Catholic church: this is one of them. And even if one doesn't know this, one would know to act with great care when in the midst of a worshiping community not your own….”

Remnant columnist Mark Alessio was more exacting and less excusing than Father Martin: “The great journalist feels the need to tell us, regarding her illicit reception of Holy Communion, ‘I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’ Why would someone say that? Better yet, why would someone writing an appreciation of a deceased Catholic colleague say that? Quinn defended her statement by saying that she was ‘grieving’ and that Russert ‘would really enjoy’ her reception of Communion. She also invokes ‘pluralism’, ‘inclusiveness’ and the popular practice among political groupies of being able to read the mind of Jesus. All to defend the indefensible. Were Quinn unsure as to the guidelines for receiving Communion, she could have inquired about them. But, of course, that sort of diligence is best reserved for political primaries, not something as frivolous as ‘religion.’ And, even given a situation of grief and uncertainty as to the reception of the Sacrament, was there any cause for an educated individual to speak about it afterwards as something nauseating? Then again, what else can be expected from someone who brags about becoming an atheist at age 13?”

It is Ms. Quinn’s right to be an atheist, or not, but Ms. Alessio highlighted the two most important points that Ms. Quinn had continued to ignore: (1) Ms. Quinn’s reception of Communion was “illicit” and (2) there are guidelines that apply to everyone, including Ms. Quinn.

On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of communion. These guidelines are included in missalettes and other participation aids published in the United States to remind all those who may attend Catholic liturgies of the present discipline of the Church with regard to the sharing of eucharistic communion.

“For Catholics

“As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

“For our fellow Christians

“We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’ (Jn 17:21).

“Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).

“For those not receiving Holy Communion

“All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

“For non-Christians

“We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.”

Perhaps Ms. Quinn forgot the outrage when President Clinton, a non-Catholic, presented himself for Communion in a Catholic Church in Africa while he was lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

I remember it.

This letter of mine appeared in The New York Daily News on April 2, 1996.:

”President Clinton insulted Catholics throughout the world by receiving Communion during a Catholic Mass in South Africa. It was appropriate for him to attend the service (and perhaps he was moved by the sermon on adultery), but it was wrong for him—as a non-Catholic—to receive Communion, even if he was in a state of grace at that time.

“Clinton may have been forgiven by the people of Arkansas for breaking his promise not to run for President in 1992, he may have been forgiven by Hillary for his dalliance with Gennifer Flowers, and he may have been forgiven by the American people for breaking his promise to provide the most ethical administration in American history. But he truly will have to repent in order to receive the forgiveness he needs for treating a Mass as a photo op.”

It does not appear that Ms. Quinn treated the Russert funeral Mass as a photo op, but it does appear that she should have known that her reception of Communion at the Mass would be illicit and she should have refrained from receiving. Then she would not have embarrassed herself by her tasteless story about receiving and her subsequent silly self-justification trying to make a virtue of her disregard of the guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion by doing as she pleased.

Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.


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