Action Alert!

Religious illiteracy

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 17, 2008

 A tabernacle has been stolen from a church in Hialeah, Florida. That story is frightening, particularly when one considers the possible motives of those responsible for the theft. Archbishop John Favalora is right to ask the faithful to pray for the return of the Blessed Sacrament, and we should all join in those prayers.

The press coverage of the sacrilege, however, shows a stunning ignorance about Catholicism. Keep in mind that these stories originated from southern Florida, where a substantial proportion of the population is Catholic. If the reporters assigned to the topic were uninformed about Church teaching, their editors could have corrected their errors. But they didn't. 

"Archbishop prays for return of sacred box," read the headline in the UPI story. Sacred box? Is the word "tabernacle" too sophisticated for Miami readers? 

Still, to its credit, the UPI story did-- after mentioning the appraised cash value of the "box"-- get to the crux of the matter, saying that the tabernacle "contains the body of Jesus Christ in the form of the eucharist, according to the Catholic faith." 

The AP story did use the word "tabernacle" in the headline, and seems to be headed in the right direction until it all comes apart with a crashing blunder: 

The custom-made, Spanish-imported jeweled box was stolen late last week. But it contains something  far more important than money: the Eucharist, a symbol of the body of Jesus Christ.

In the unforgettable words of Flannery O'Connor, "If it's a symbol, to hell with it."


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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