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Sally Quinn's Controversial Communion: WWJD?

Sally Quinn, co-founder of the Washington Post's On Faith website and pillar of the Georgetown community, recently wrote about taking Communion at Tim Russert's funeral Mass. The Catholic League took offense and put out this enraged press release:


The funeral Mass for Tim Russert was held at Trinity Church in Georgetown a week ago today. Attending was Sally Quinn. She is a Washington Post journalist and founder and co-moderator of On Faith, a Washington Post and Newsweek blog.

Quinn, who was an atheist most of her life, posted on Monday why she decided to go to Communion: "Last Wednesday I was determined to take it [the Eucharist] for Tim, transubstantiation notwithstanding. I'm so glad I did. It made me feel closer to him. And it was worth it just to imagine how he would have loved it."

Quinn also admitted the following: "I had only taken communion once in my life, at an evangelical church. It was soon after I had started 'On Faith' and I wanted to see what it was like. Oddly I had a slightly nauseated sensation after I took it, knowing that in some way it represented the body and blood of Jesus Christ."

Catholic League president Bill Donohue had this to say:

"Just reading what Sally Quinn said is enough to give any Christian, especially Catholics, more than a 'slightly nauseating sensation.' In her privileged world, life is all about experiences and feelings.

"Moreover, Quinn's statement not only reeks of narcissism, it shows a profound disrespect for Catholics and the beliefs they hold dear. If she really wanted to get close to Tim Russert, she should have found a way to do so without trampling on Catholic sensibilities. Like praying for him--that's what Catholics do."

When we reached Ms. Quinn for comment, she had just received an "appalling" two-minute long voicemail, criticizing her on this issue as well. "I'm baffled by the reaction, and completely blindsided," Quinn said. "I'm very pluralistic about religion, and I feel that everyone should respect everyone else's." Then she continued, talking about Russert: 

I was really close to him, and I was grieving. And I thought me taking the Eucharist would be a thing that he would really enjoy. And all these things are what religion should be about. ... There's no sign out there that says you're not allowed to take Communion. [The Catholic Church is] like, "Everyone is welcome. This is God's house." God doesn't turn people away, supposedly.

I think it's really an important issue. The Pope doesn't want people who are pro-choice to take it. John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, even the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, and others were not allowed. ... Frankly, none of that was going through my mind. I was feeling absolutely destroyed. It felt right to do it as a tribute to him. I wasn't thinking politically at all.

I've become a champion of pluralism and a spirit of inclusiveness. Any religious people who purport to be Christians, or whatever faith you might be, would do everything they could to welcome others--in the case of Catholics, to welcome others the way Christ would welcome others. This is a perfect example of WWJD. Would Jesus have said, "No you don't, Sally Quinn. You're not going to get away with this one!"

--Barron YoungSmith