By Ron Csillag — TORONTO (RNS) — The Anglican Church in Canada is dealing with fallout following a published report that a priest gave Communion to a dog.
One congregant has quit St. Peter’s Anglican Church in downtown Toronto in protest over the June 27 incident, in which interim priest Rev. Marguerite Rea gave Communion to a man and his dog.
The Toronto Star reports that according to those in attendance, it was a spontaneous gesture intended to make both the dog and its owner — a first-timer at the church — feel welcome.
Peggy Needham, a lay official who was sitting near the altar, said that when it was when it was time for Communion, the man went up to receive the bread and the wine, with the dog.
“I am sure for (Rea) that was a surprise, like it was for all of us,” Needham told the Star. “But nobody felt like it was a big deal, because it wasn’t a big deal.”
Needham added that she doesn’t recall the man asking for the sacrament for his dog. Instead, she said the priest leaned over and placed the wafer on the canine’s wagging tongue. No wine was offered to the dog.
The congregant who quit the church has also filed a complaint with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, saying the sacred ritual had been desecrated.
Bishop Patrick Yu said he wrote to the parishioner that “it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give Communion to animals. I can see why people would be offended. It is a strange and shocking thing, and I have never heard of it happening before.
“I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming.”
Yu told the Star that Rea felt “embarrassed” by her action, but that the matter “is closed … we are after all, in the forgiveness and repair business.”