AT: Religious illiteracy is alive and well at the New York Times.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold reports a doozy of a Times correction around a flowerily written story (reported as if it were witnessed firsthand) about the priest who rescued the “Body of Christ” from the burning Notre Dame cathedral in Paris Monday. To be fair, it was respectfully written. But it sure as heck got a big fact wrong. Griswold begins:
I was intrigued today by the mystery of a small Jesus statue that features prominently in a New York Times story on Father Jean-Marc Fournier, the Paris Fire Department chaplain who risked his life to save many of Notre Dame cathedral’s prized relics. “I had two priorities: to save the crown of thorns and a statue of Jesus,” Father Fournier supposedly said.
The statue continues to star in the story:
As the chaplain began removing a statue of Jesus, he said, his colleagues were fighting the fire from the cathedral’s towers. The flames had started to threaten the wooden structure around the belfry — putting the whole cathedral at even greater risk.
With the statue in hand, Father Fournier, alone in the nave, gave a benediction to the cathedral, he said.
After that, the Times made a correction stating that it had misstated the object the priest had recovered in the flames — the “Blessed Sacrament” rather than a statue of Jesus. It was a weird error, and unavoidably pointed to a problem of the reporter thinking the words “Body of Christ” had to mean “statue of Jesus,” something that would seem logical to someone who had never heard of Catholicism.
Hooooo boy. I figured this was common knowledge, but Christians do this thing once a week where, as one modern-day saint put it, we drink our little wine and eat our little cracker. We call the bread the “Body of Christ” and the wine the “Blood of Christ,” a ceremony that dates back to the example Jesus himself set the night before he was crucified. Catholics in particular assign more importance to communion than most Protestants do, teaching that the bread becomes the literal body of Jesus Christ.
There’s the possibility of some sort of translation error, but the Times reporter in question appears to be fluent in French. No, something was lost in translation alright, but I suspect that it was just a case of good-old fashioned religious illiteracy. The guy assigned to report on the biggest religion story of the day was really that ignorant of one of the most important ceremonies in the dominant religion on both sides of the Atlantic.