(UPDATED) What happened to Stephen Harper’s communion host? The PMO responds.

That’s what a New Brunswick monsignor wants to know after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was captured on film accepting—but not consuming—the sacramental communion wafer at the funeral service for former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc last week. The Telegraph Journal reports that Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, is calling on the PM to issue a statement to clarify exactly what became of the wafer, which Catholics believe “once consecrated by a priest for the Eucharist—becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

As a non-Catholic, Harper is technically not eligible to take communion, but Rev. Arthur Bourgeois, who delivered the homily at LeBlanc’s funeral, told the TJ that at “major occasions,” exceptions can be made. “You’re not going to stop and ask everyone if they are Catholic,” he noted. “You say the Lord provides.” But Henneberry says that if the PM simply slipped it into a suit pocket, it would be “worse than a faux pas.”

“It’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” he told the TJ. He has called on the PM to issue a statement to clarify exactly what happened to the host. “I would hope the Prime Minister’s Office would have enough respect for the Catholic Church and for faith in general to make clear whatever happened.”

(UPDATE) The PMO responds: “It’s totally absurd,” the prime minister’s press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, told Canwest. “The priest offered the host to the prime minister, the prime minister accepted the host and he consumed it.”

(UPDATE) Noel Kinsella, speaker of the senate, comes to the Prime Minister’s defence: “I would like to state that I personally witnessed Prime Minister Harper consume the host that was given to him by Archbishop André Richard.  Sitting only a few seats behind him I had a full view of the proceedings and clearly saw the Prime Minister accept the host after Archbishop Richard offered it.  The Prime Minister consumed it.”

Telegraph Journal

Montreal Gazette



Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.