Earlier this month, 15-year-old Maxine Arbelo went to a Spanish-language Mass at St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic church in Charlotte, North Carolina. When the time came to accept a communion wafer, the minister in charge wouldn’t give one to her.
Both sides have their own story about why they say Maxine wasn’t offered the literal body of Christ.
The Church says Maxine was chewing gum. That apparently makes the Baby Jesus cry since the Church has a Very Strict Rule against eating for one hour prior to receiving Communion… as if you were going swimming after lunch. (The rule has been in place since 1964 and allows for exceptions if you drink water, take medicine, happen to be a priest taking your second or third Communion of the day, are 60 or older, are disabled, or are caring for either of the previous two groups. But gum? Fuck gum.)
Maxine’s family has a simpler reason: She’s transgender.
Tim Funk of the Charlotte Observer reports:
[Lilliana] Redd, who lives with her daughter and son in Indian Land, S.C., said she was “surprised and upset” when Max [her nickname] was denied Communion at the Charlotte church. So much so that she went to see the priest and the Eucharistic minister after the Mass. Your daughter is living in sin, she said she was told.
“At first, they said it was because she was chewing gum,” said Redd, a lifelong Catholic who emigrated to the United States from Costa Rica 19 years ago. “But I know that is not the reason because (they) admitted that it was because they and everybody can see Max’s ‘sin’ on the outside … because of the way she dresses and everything.”
The Church denies saying any of that (very, very specific) stuff. Which, if you believe them, would mean the mother was telling one hell of a strange lie.
I guess we’re just supposed to believe that the priest noticed someone chewing gum in the middle of a large Mass and made sure to relay the information that Maxine didn’t deserve Communion… as if everyone else was perfectly worthy of it.
Is chewing gum really the hill the Catholic Church wants to die on…?
Also, does gum even count as “food” since you don’t technically eat it?
Remember that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published an open letter last December denying the fact that trans people even exist. So it’s not like Church leaders deserve any benefit of the doubt here. They have a long history of bigotry. The fact that most people would hear this story and think, “Yeah, it’s probably because she’s trans” tells you exactly why the Church’s excuse (HOW DARE SHE CHEW GUM BEFORE ACCEPTING JESUS?) is as hard to swallow as one of those wafers.