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The Catholic Church in Kansas City used the wrong wine... and broke the religion
The result of the error is that "all Masses celebrated were invalid," said the Archbishop of Kansas City
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Once again, the Catholic Church is embroiled in a (non-)scandal that has enormous implications all because of how seriously members take faith-based magic.
A few weeks ago, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City sent a message to clergy members under his Kansas umbrella letting them know there was a serious problem… with their communion wine.
The problem? They weren’t using the right kind, which technically nullified everything they did while using it.
Dear members of the Clergy:
Please find the enclosed decree I have issued to address the use of wines of dubious or altogether invalid matter intended for the celebration of the Eucharist in this Archdiocese. It has recently been reported by two priests, having served in three different parishes, that upon their appointment to these parishes they soon discovered the long-term use of wines that were in fact invalid matter for the confection of the Eucharist. The result of this long-term practice in these parishes is that for any number of years all Masses celebrated were invalid and therefore the intentions for which those Masses were offered were not satisfied, including the obligation pastors have to offer Mass for the people… This is a gravely serious situation for which we must now petition the Holy See for guidance on restorative measures.
Due to the grave nature of this situation, I must therefore forbid further use of any wines that are not specifically vinted for sacramental use in the Catholic Mass. Parishes must immediately discontinue use of all wines that have not been specifically produced to meet the requirements for sacramental usage. If upon checking the wine you currently use you find that it is invalid matter (contains additives such as elderberry extract, sugars, alcohol, etc.) you must notify Fr. John Riley by June 15 (your name will be kept confidential) so that the true scope of the situation in this archdiocese may be reported properly to the Holy See for its guidance.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this serious matter effecting the validity of the Eucharist…
That needs a bit of translation.
The Catholic Church requires all wine used for communion—which they claim is the literal blood of Christ after it has been consecrated—to be made from grapes without any additives. That means no additional flavoring or sugar or alcohol. There are literally lists of local wineries that produce acceptable wines that Catholic priests can use… as well as warning to priests that some brands might claim their wines are “sacramental” even though they’re not. (It’s a “marketing strategy” akin to labeling something “organic,” according to the Diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida.)
The wine that was discovered in the Kansas City Archdiocese was apparently the impure kind. It’s the difference between drinking freshly squeezed orange juice and a tastier product that’s made from “15% juice.”
In a saner world, this would be acknowledged as an unintentional mistake that doesn’t really matter because it’s all symbolic anyway.
But this is the Catholic Church we’re talking about, so this mistake is a grave error of the highest order. The Archbishop said the result of using that impure wine was that “all Masses celebrated [with it] were invalid.”
We have some idea of the slippery slope logic here because a similar mistake occurred a few years ago when Father Matthew Hood, a priest from Detroit, found video evidence that he was never truly baptized because his priest used the phrase “We baptize” instead of “I baptize” when performing the ritual on him, and therefore, it didn’t count.
In Hood’s mind, if he wasn’t baptized as a baby—and he technically wasn’t—then he wasn’t ever really a Christian, according to the superstitious rules of the Catholic Church.
And if he wasn’t a Christian, then he couldn’t really be a Catholic priest no matter what he did in seminary.
And if he was never a priest, then just about all the rituals he performed “pretending” to be a priest were also invalid.
That mistake, if you believe Catholic theology, meant a whole bunch of people were destined to go to Hell for eternity even if they believed all the Jesus nonsense. It also meant there was no recourse for people who had been fake-baptized by Hood and died before his discovery. (That included Hood’s own grandmother, whom he anointed just before she died.)
Just consider the confession booth. If someone confessed their sins to Hood, and he forgave them on behalf of God… no he didn’t! Those people were technically still unrepentant sinners because they didn’t confess to a real priest.
What about communion wafers? If this priest—or, should I say, “priest”—conducted a Catholic Mass, which he did, every week for years, and gave people the wafer and wine, which Catholics believe become the literal body and blood of Christ after a priest consecrates them, it turns out they were really just eating a crappy wafer and cheap wine. No Jesus parts. Because the “priest” never had the power to transform the Eucharist.
What about Last Rites? If he cleansed the sins of people on their deathbeds, supposedly preparing their souls for the afterlife, it was all for nothing since he didn’t cleanse them of anything.
It was like shooting blanks after having a vasectomy. You can go through the motions, and it might feel the same, but there’s nothing on the other side. At least in the mind of the Catholic Church.
(Last year, a different priest, Father Andres Arango, made the exact same mistake—saying “we baptize”—and it led to a kind of spiritual contact tracing, with the Church hoping to find all those people he fake-baptized so they could get real-baptized before it was too late.)
It’s that same militaristic devotion to the rules that’s now in play with the wine in Kansas City. Everything that wine was used for didn’t “count,” in a religious sense, but it’s all but impossible to know how often it was used and by whom.
Archbishop Naumann wrote that he would “petition the Holy See for guidance on restorative matters,” but he’s just stalling. We know exactly what the Vatican will say in response because the Church can’t have it both ways here. Either the Rules are the Rules, or Catholicism is built on a pillar of vibes.
By the Church’s own rulebook—in this case, the 2004 document Redemptionis Sacramentum released by the Congregation for Divine Worship— invalid wine, just like an invalid baptism, nullifies the liturgical act:
The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances… It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance, for the Church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments. Nor are other drinks of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter.
Whether anyone will care is a different question. Not just outside the Church, but among those who may have been affected. For many Catholics, the ritual of communion—just going through the motions—is far more important than the purity of it all. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that only 31% of U.S. Catholics believed that the bread and wine used in Communion was literally the body and blood of Christ. 69% said it was all symbolic… which means the majority of U.S. Catholics don’t believe one of the very foundations of their chosen religion.
If the Catholics in Kansas City don’t care about the invalid wine, then what does that say about their faith?
(Portions of this article were published earlier)
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