Religion journalist questions use of 'wafer' to describe Eucharist
August 14, 2009
Earlier this week the Boston Globe offered a front-page story on the revival of perpetual adoration of the Eucharist at a shrine in the city's fashionable Back Bay section. Reading that story, syndicated religion columnist Terry Mattingly was struck by the number of times that the Blessed Sacrament was described in the Globe story as a "wafer."
Mattingly is not Catholic, but he is educated enough to know the Catholic doctrine that this "wafer" is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although he evidently does not share that belief, he is sympathetic to the Catholic outlook, and curious about the dismissive term "wafer." Even a non-believer, he points out, can recognize that Catholics routinely refer to the "wafer" as a "host." That would seem to be a neutral term, allowing a secular journalist to tell the story without explicitly endorsing or rejecting the Catholic doctrine. Mattingly continues:
Now, how do you describe or define the host? Those seeking to be reverent tend to call it “consecrated bread.”
But the fascinating thing is that secular journalists do not write about the "host," but instead use the more dismissive term "wafer." And this is true not only in the latest Globe story but also in the spate of stories that appeared last year about the "wafer wars" involving the reception of Communion by pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The question that Mattingly raises about the Globe article could be applied to those stories as well:
What was gained by using the blunt “wafer” reference in the lede? Is the word “host” so strange in a heavily Catholic region? Why not open by saying that they are kneeling before the “consecrated bread” that they believe is the Body of Christ?
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