Just two weeks after Rosie O’Donnell made waves on ABC’s all-female chat show The View for proclaiming that "radical Christianity is just as dangerous as radical Islam," the Catholic League is protesting a conversation on Thursday’s show between O’Donnell and co-host Joy Behar about drunken priests and silly Eucharistic rules. (Don’t forget the obligatory Mel Gibson slam.) Sitting with glasses of red wine, the women were discussing a study showing drinking red wine helps preserve memory:
Behar: "Don’t you start losing your memory when you’re a drunk? I mean, that’s the first thing that goes."
O’Donnell: "Or you just start spouting anti-Semitic statements. [Crowd laughs, then oohs in shock] Mel Gibson! Mel Gibson! C’mon! Cause they say when you get drunk, the real person comes out. I don’t know about one glass of wine, though."
Behar: "In vino veritas, they call it."
O’Donnell: "Really. That's the real name of it?"
Behar: "Don’t you remember when you went to Communion? In vino veritas. The priests were all drunk, don’t you remember?"
This is the worst kind of lapsed-Catholic stereotyping, "the priests were all drunk." The amount of wine consumed by a priest during Mass is nowhere near intoxicating. I’m completely puzzled with how "in vino veritas" is associated with the Mass. (Unlike, say, ite missa est, the phrase that led to the service being called the Mass.) I’ve never heard the phrase uttered during the Mass. (The phrase was incredibly common among commentators after the Mel Gibson traffic stop, though.)
From there, O’Donnell gave a cutesy recollection of struggling with Communion as a Catholic kid:
O’Donnell: "No. I remember they would do ‘Body of Christ.’ You’d have to say ‘Amen’ and first it went on your tongue. Then sometime in the 70s there was a big congregation and you were allowed to get it in your hand. Do you remember this?"
Behar: "No I think I dropped out by then."
O’Donnell: "Oh, yeah, well it was big because my mom always used to say when you have that Host in your mouth don’t let it touch your teeth because it was against -- so you know, the pressure on the child getting it, you know the priest would put it right on your tongue and you’re not allowed to get it stuck on the roof of your mouth ‘cause you can’t touch it. So you spend the rest of Mass [makes noise with the tongue trying to clean the roof of the mouth]. Yeah, it was a lot. But anyways, cheers."
To my mind, this wasn't so much mocking the Eucharist as it was describing a very typical experience with the Host. It can get stuck on the roof of your mouth. Catholic children in particular can get nervous about adult expectations of their reverence on the matter. Some Catholics have been taught not to touch the Host with your teeth, but this is not a common or official teaching today. Catholics and their priests can also have lighter reflections on the proper human approach to receiving Communion. A little humility or light-heartedness about the human approach is okay. Mocking the idea that this bread has become the body of Christ would be more offensive to Catholics. But it should be quite obvious that lapsed Catholics or loosely affiliated Catholics often could use more instruction or persuasion on church doctrine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Their humor is more likely to be interpreted as knocking that silly religion their parents made them practice.