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Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's Not Her Place

by digby

Uh oh. Melinda Henneberger takes note of an important Village social leader making a major faux pas:

For years, Catholics have been arguing about who is and is not supposed to receive Communion. Until now, these were family fights, always over abortion, and nearly always involving elected officials. After pro-choice presidential candidate John Kerry received the Eucharist at my parish in 2004, for instance, the priest was so excited, he announced the big news at a subsequent Mass, and got a standing ovation. (I know, right? Oy.) While at the other end of the spectrum, some cowboy in vestments recently refused to serve the conservative pro-life jurist Doug Kmiec, for the supposed sin of having smiled at Barack Obama. (OK, he endorsed him, in Slate.)

But then non-Catholic Sally Quinn took Communion at Tim Russert's funeral—and blogged about the body and blood in the Washington Post-Newsweek religion site "On Faith."

Last Wednesday at Tim's funeral mass at [Holy]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. After I began "On Faith," Tim started calling me "Sister Sal" instead of "Miss Sal."

This reads a little too much like a restaurant review for my comfort; Christ Almighty: Tangy Yet Nauseating? And good as he was, we don't really take Communion to feel closer to Tim Russert.

This is a woman who writes a blog in the Washington Post on the subject of religion. You would think she'd know that communion is a fairly serious matter. But then, "Sister Sal" isn't a serious person. She's a Village socialite and trend follower. Right now, Catholicism is all the rage what with Monsignor Tim's untimely death and all. It's the hip clique of the moment and Quinn just wants to be a part of it.

Unfortunately for Quinn, that clique is a bit prickly about it's rituals:

Not surprisingly, Quinn inflamed conservative Catholics. William Donohue's Catholic League responded with the usual outrage: "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."

Well, yes, but she's also brought progressive and conservative Catholics together for a minute; as a left-leaning Catholic writer I know said in an e-mail this morning, "For the first time ever, I may agree with Bill Donohue!''

Oh my goodness. When normal people agree with Bill Donohue, you know that something has gone horribly wrong. Sadly, for the allegedly deeply religious Quinn, she didn't stop with her column. Evidently she really is so uninformed about religion that she defended herself by saying that Jesus wouldn't agree with their rules and restrictions. Oh lordy:

Alas, when the New Republic reached Quinn for comment, she made things worse for herself by asking What Would Jesus Do, lecturing that real Christians wouldn't turn anyone away and confusing her situation with that of Catholic pro-choice politicians. "Sally Quinn's comments on her decision to take communion was one of those moments that makes professionals on the religion beat cringe," said David Gibson, a longtime religion journalist and former member of the board of the Religion Newswriters Association, the organization for those covering religion in the secular media. "Her explanation displayed such ignorance of the most fundamental tenets of a major faith as well as the basic proprieties of how journalists—and other guests—should conduct themselves at the services of a faith not their own."

Quinn's never been much of a journalist, religious or otherwise. She's a trendy and a gossip, always at the forefront of whatever is the Village's prevailing social obsession of the moment. When loose, liberal morals were in, she was loose --- had an open affair with her married boss. When hypocritical conservative morals were in she was hypocritically conservative, looking down her nose at others' foibles. (Oh wait ... that's always in.) After 9/11, she turned herself into an "expert" on surviving a terrorist attack. She went around the DC area giving lectures on what people needed to do to keep themselves safe. When being an evangelical became all the rage in the capitol, she was there writing columns about Jesus in the Washington Post.

She never knows what she's talking about so there's nothing new about this. But it's interesting nonetheless because it illustrates that the Village is under some stress. Perhaps it's a generational changing of the guard or just simple confusion and nervousness around the idea of a different BMOC and attendant kewl kidz. But the unfortunate truth is that if Sally Quinn is replaced by the likes of her critic here, Melinda Henneberger, don't expect anything substantial to change. The new crowd is the same as the old crowd.

Still,you can't help but enjoy seeing Quinn hoist by her own petard on this. She's forever lecturing others about proper behavior and showing respect. And here she treats taking communion like it's a night out with Paris and Benji at Crown guzzling Missionary Downfalls. People who take their worship seriously don't care for that. She went to their church and trashed the place. And it's not her place.

H/T to GL