Priest bites woman's hand during altercation over Holy Communion, officials say

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(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- A priest in Florida bit a woman’s hand during a physical altercation while he was administering Communion to the congregants of his church, officials said.

The incident between the priest and a female parishioner began at approximately 10 a.m. on Sunday during Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Cloud, Florida, when a woman “came through Father Fidel Rodriguez’s Holy Communion line and appeared unaware of the proper procedure,” according to a statement released by the Diocese of Orlando.

“After a brief exchange with the woman, it was determined that she was neither prepared nor disposed to participate in Communion,” read the statement. “Father Rodriguez gave the woman a blessing and advised her to receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) before coming back to receive Holy Communion (Eucharist).”

The same woman is said to have arrived at 12 p.m. for Mass on Sunday and stood in Father Rodriguez’s Communion line when he asked her if she had been to the Sacrament of the Penance (Confession) to which she replied that “it was not his business,” according to the Diocese of Orlando.

“Father Rodriguez offered the woman Holy Communion on the tongue,” church officials said. “At that point, the woman forcefully placed her hand in the vessel and grabbed some sacred Communion hosts, crushing them. Having only one hand free, Father Rodriguez struggled to restrain the woman as she refused to let go of the hosts. When the woman pushed him and reacting to a perceived act of aggression, Father Rodriguez bit her hand so she would let go of the hosts she grabbed.”

The woman was immediately asked to leave, according to the Diocese of Orlando’s statement.

“It should be noted Father Rodriguez had no prior knowledge of the woman’s background,” officials said. “Further, while the Diocese of Orlando does not condone physical altercations such as this, in good faith, Father Rodriguez was simply attempting to prevent an act of desecration of the Holy Communion, which, as a priest, Father Rodriguez is bound by duty to protect.”

Authorities have not yet charged the priest with any crimes though it is possible he could be charged pending the investigation. Officials have not given any details on injuries the woman may have suffered during the altercation.

In the Catholic tradition, the Eucharist is considered “the source and summit” of worship and faith, said the Diocese of Orlando. “The act of participation in Holy Communion therefore calls for a proper understanding, reverence, and devotion.”

“The Diocese of Orlando believes all people of all faiths should be respected and that their religious ceremonies or services should never be disrupted,” officials said.

The Diocese of Orlando has said they will not comment any further on the incident and the investigation is currently ongoing.

Friday, May 24, 2024 at 11:17AM by Jon Haworth, ABC News Permalink