Sunday, July 06, 2008

And then there are those who despise the Eucharist

Canon 1367 -- A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; moreover, a cleric can be punished with another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.

It is sad that, after discussing the great joy that is the Eucharist, we should read this alarming story --

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (July 5, 1008) -- A University of Central Florida student, upset religious groups hold church services on public campuses, is holding hostage the Eucharist, an object so sacred to Catholics they call it the Body of Christ.

Church officials say UCF Student Senator Webster Cook was disruptive and disrespectful when he attended Mass held on campus Sunday June 29. It was during that Mass where Cook admits he obtained the Eucharist. . . .

Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.

"When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."

A church leader was watching, confronted Cook and tried to recover the sacred bread. Cook said she crossed the line and that's why he brought it home with him.

"She came up behind me, grabbed my wrist with her right hand, with her left hand grabbed my fingers and was trying to pry them open to get the Eucharist out of my hand," Cook said, adding she wouldn't immediately take her hands off him despite several requests.

Diocese of Orlando spokeswoman Carol Brinati said she was not aware of anyone touching Cook. She released a statement Thursday: "... a Catholic Campus Ministry student representative filed a complaint with the Student Union regarding the behavior of the two young men. A Student Government Representative called Catholic Campus Ministry to apologize for this disruption."

Cook filed an official abuse complaint with UCF's student conduct court regarding the alleged physical force. Following that complaint, Brinati said church members filed their own official complaints of disruptive conduct. Punishment for either offense could result in suspension or expulsion. . . .

Cook is upset more than $40,000 in student fees have been allocated to support religious organizations on campus for the 2008-2009 school year, according to student government records. He denied he is holding the Eucharist hostage to protest that support.

Regardless of the reason, the Diocese says its main concern is to get the Eucharist back so it can be taken care of properly and with respect. Cook has been keeping the Eucharist stored in a plastic bag since last Sunday. . . .

Cook said he'd consider returning the Eucharist if he gets an apology and a meeting with the Bishop's office to discuss the Diocese's policy on physical force.
Bishop Thomas Wenski, Diocese of Orlando, definitely needs to have a meeting with this individual to fully explain to him the gravity of the situation. As is made clear by the canon law section set out above, he has more problems than merely the possibility of suspension or expulsion from school. Such desecration of the Host incurs automatic excommunication that is reserved to the Holy See, i.e. the Pope, to lift. To be sure, this is not a "punishment" that the Bishop should impose, excommunication is automatic. Rather, the Bishop needs to formally notify Mr. Cook of the consequence of his action, as well as to properly and zealously defend the Sacrament.

-- UPDATE --
Orange County, FL -- One week after a University of Central Florida student snatched something sacred from church, armed UCF police officers stood guard during Sunday Mass to protect what Catholics call "The Body of Christ."

Minutes before the Mass began, Student Senator Webster Cook returned the Holy Eucharist he was holding hostage in a Ziploc bag ever since smuggling the blessed wafer of bread out of the Catholic Mass service Sunday June 29.

Carol Brinati with the Diocese of Orlando said the Catholic community was "concerned about the possible desecration of the Eucharist," and pleaded for its safe return.

Cook, who was raised Catholic, said he decided to bring the Eucharist home after a church leader tried to physically pry it from his hand. Cook broke Church rules by failing to consume it immediately during communion and then removing it from his mouth once seated. . . .

"I am returning the Eucharist to you in response to the e-mails I have received from Catholics in the UCF community," Cook wrote in a letter to the church. "I still want the community to understand that the use physical force is wrong, especially when based on assumptions. However, I feel it is unnecessary to cause pain for those who are not at fault in this situation."

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