Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Poisoned chalice? Swine flu hits church wine' - Not Exactly

There's an item in the news that's got the potential to morph into an interesting rumor and/or conspiracy theory.

The background facts are these: Swine flu is
  • A pandemic
    • But not as generally lethal as the first few cases were
  • An infectious disease
  • Not something most people want to catch
The news item is about a recommended change in procedure for the Church of England that makes sense, under the circumstances.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York say that the practice of sharing a common chalice during communion should be replaced by dipping the bread in wine - along with some common-sense hygiene practices. (CNN)

The headline, "Poisoned chalice? Swine flu hits church wine" is an attention-grabber, and someone with a good imagination could come up with quite a number of stories. It helps, if you don't read, or studiously ignore, what's in the article itself.

So What?

This is a little off-topic, since the Church of England is the outfit that Henry VIII set up when he decided to be a sort of mini-pope. I can see his point: Henry VIII was facing an awkward political situation, and the Church rules about marriage weren't making his life any easier.

Now, a few centuries later, the Church of England is the second-largest group of Christians, after the Catholic Church. So, what happens with the Church of England may affect Christians in general, just because it's such a large and visible group.

Headlineitis and Facts

Although I acknowledge that it's important to get the reader's attention with a headline, I don't appreciate the rather imaginative nature of what will probably be the most-read part of this article.

The article isn't about a poisoned chalice, or a plot to poison a chalice, or the possibility that a chalice has been, is, or will be poisoned. It's about the possibility that a disease - swine flu - may be transmitted on a shared communion chalice: and common-sense steps that Church of England officials are taking to prevent that.

As for "Swine flu hits church wine" - that's simply misleading. The article is quite clear about the concerns for disease transmission focusing on, and being limited to, the chalice.

Wait For it - 'Evil White Scientists Poison Church Wine to Kill Africans'?!

No, I really DON'T think so. But, between the article's headline, some existing conspiracy theories, and the following sentence from the article, I think someone might come up with a weird story like that.
"...The archbishops note that this practice is widely observed in Anglican churches throughout Africa...."
If I let my imagination go, I'm pretty sure I could work in Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and space aliens for a more detailed, mildly entertaining, and utterly fictitious narrative. But, I've got other tasks pending this afternoon.

Besides, the main reason for this post is to
  1. Bring an interesting bit of common-sense review of procedure in a Christian church to your attention
  2. State the obvious: It's a good idea to read past the headline
Related posts: In the news:

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.