By Patrick B. Craine

July 28, 2009 ( – The Liberal Party of Canada is being blamed for clandestinely sparking the recent media controversy, spread throughout Canada and beyond, over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's alleged “pocketing” of Holy Communion at the Catholic funeral of former Governor General Romeo Leblanc in New Brunswick.

The St. John Telegraph-Journal, owned by the billionaire Irving family, broke the allegation in a report on July 8th, stating that “the prime minister slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call 'the host' into his jacket pocket.”  The paper issued an apology yesterday, not only to the PM, but also to the two reporters of the story.

“There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published,” the Telegraph-Journal states, “nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now.”

The story's reporters, they say, had nothing to do with the comments about the PM pocketing the host:  “In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them.”

While the PM blamed the large media uproar over the incident on those who want to create division between Catholics and Protestants, on CTV National News last night, Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife (see here, about 10 minutes into the first video), reported that he had heard that the Liberals were responsible for delivering the 'pocketing' story to the Telegraph-Journal's publisher, Jamie Irving. The Irvings are long-time supporters of the Liberal party.

Fife reported: “So what happened?  Well, I'm told that the Liberals passed the story to young Jamie Irving who was the publisher of the paper.  He passed it to the editor who put it in the paper without checking it out, and today the editor has been fired, and Jamie's father has suspended his son for thirty days, and I'm told the prime minister is pretty thrilled with that.”

The Liberals' leading political strategist, Warren Kinsella, has strongly pushed the story originally promulgated by the Telegraph-Journal on his blog.  In light of the paper's apology, he has continued to insist that the PM did indeed pocket the host.

Curiously, the time on Kinsella's blog post was changed earlier today to three hours later, a fact that could indicate an attempt to cover up the fact that he posted the Telegraph-Journal's July 8th story very early in the morning on the same date it was published.

Earlier today, Kinsella's blog indicated that he had posted the video of Harper receiving Communion and the Telegraph-Journal story to his blog at 6:53 a.m. on July 8th, the morning the Telegraph-Journal issued its report.  In the afternoon, however, the time for all posts had been moved ahead three hours, so that the post about the communion flap now appears to have been posted at 9:53 a.m.  A quick search of Google Cache, however, confirmed that the time had in fact been changed and that the post had previously been listed as 6:53 a.m.

It is uncertain, however, if the change in time on the blog is related to the Harper situation or not.

Kinsella, a former member of Jean Chrétien's election 'war room,' is infamous for his aggressive tactics, and is expected to lead Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's war room in the next election. He has been dogged about repeatedly posting the video of Harper's receiving Communion on his blog.  On July 9th, even after the video had been removed from YouTube due to copyright claims, Kinsella posted another version of the video, stating, “Here's the video again. I will keep posting it, over and over, until [the Conservatives] give up.”

Kinsella again posted the video yesterday afternoon, following the Telegraph-Journal's apology, stating: “The apology is fundamentally false. The Roman Catholic establishment were upset that (a) Harper took communion when he should not have done so, and (b) speedily deposited the relevant host in a place other than his mouth. That's a fact, and it's a documented fact – see for yourself. Apologies, when warranted, are the right thing to do; when forced, they're not.”

LSN repeatedly called the Liberal Party of Canada for comment, but they were not immediately available.

Conservative bloggers are suggesting that the Liberals may have pushed the story through the Telegraph-Journal for political advantage in order to cause division between the PM and Catholics.  Harper's success in drawing in the Catholic vote has contributed significantly to his election wins.  Some of these bloggers are calling for those responsible in the Liberal party to be called to account.

Notably, the report came five days after Leblanc's July 3rd funeral, while Prime Minister Harper was busy travelling to the G8 conference in Italy.  It came, further, only days before he was scheduled to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, a meeting which he was accused of arranging for political advantage. 

Despite the media frenzy, the PM's office denied the 'pocketing' allegation from the outset.  When the story broke, contacted the PM's office, and was assured by his spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, that the PM did indeed consume the host, albeit off camera.  “Any allegation that he put it in his pocket is absurd and ridiculous,” he said.

Prime Minister Harper said he was dismayed at the original report.  On July 10th, he called the accusation “a low moment in journalism.”  “It's just a terrible story and a ridiculous story,” he said.  The Prime Minister said he has accepted the Telegraph-Journal's apology.

See related coverage:

Canadian Non-Catholic PM Says he Did Consume Communion after Offered, Will Meet Pope Saturday


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