Florida priest accused of biting woman who was trying to take Communion

florida priest accused of biting woman who was trying to take communion

A Florida priest is accused of biting a woman during a dispute at Sunday Mass and could be charged with battery.

The woman attended a 10 a.m. service at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Cloud on Sunday and tried to take Communion, the Diocese of Orlando said.

She had a brief discussion with the Rev. Fidel Rodriguez, who told her she hadn't taken the proper steps to secure Communion and sent her away with a blessing, the diocese said in a statement.

The woman returned for a service two hours later and again tried to take Communion, and when Rodriguez asked her whether she had performed the prerequisite of Confession required by the Catholic Church toreceive the Eucharist, she told him “it was not his business,” according to the diocese.

Rodriguez, who didn't have any information or details about the woman's background, offered her Holy Communion, the church said.

"At that point, the woman forcefully placed her hand in the vessel and grabbed some sacred Communion hosts, crushing them," the diocese said. Rodriguez, who had only one free hand, struggled with the woman "as she refused to let go of the hosts."

The church said the woman then pushed Rodriguez, who "bit her hand so she would let go of the hosts she grabbed."

She was immediately asked to leave.

Police investigated the incident at the church in St. Cloud, which is about 30 miles south of Orlando, and a charging affidavit accused Rodriguez of battery.

The woman told police that Rodriguez tried to "ram" the wafer into her mouth after he became upset with her for not having completed the necessary steps to take Communion, according to a police report.

She accused him of grabbing and biting her arm as she tried to take a wafer he was holding, the report said.

Rodriguez told police that she attacked him first and that he was trying to protect the sanctity of Communion, according to the police report.

He told police that the woman pushed him and wouldn't let go of the tray and that "the only way he thought to extract her from it was to bite her arm," the police report said.

Police said witnesses provided video of the incident.

The Diocese of Orlando said Rodriguez responded in a way that was aimed "to protect the Holy Communion from this sacrilegious act."

"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," it said.

The Eucharist, the church said, "is considered 'the source and summit' of worship and faith."

"It is not something a person can arbitrarily demand and is certainly not a mere 'cookie' as the complainant called it," the diocese said.

Rebecca Cohen

Rebecca Cohen is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Courtney Brogle

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