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Florida priest accused of biting woman during dispute over Communion bread

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A Florida priest is accused of biting a woman while giving out Communion during a Mass in St. Cloud in an alleged “attempt to defend the Communion bread,” according to the charging affidavit in the case.

The priest, identified as Father Fidel Rodriguez, initially refused to give the woman Communion bread on May 19 and told her “she did not do the prior steps necessary” to receive the bread when he encountered her at a Mass held earlier that day at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, according to police.

A statement provided by the Diocese of Orlando states Rodriguez gave the woman a blessing at the 10 a.m. Mass and “advised her to receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) before coming back to receive Holy Communion (Eucharist).”

The woman told police she returned to the church for the noon Mass and informed the priest she had in fact done the necessary steps and “is now accepted by God, thus, granting her the ability to participate in communion,” the affidavit states.

The priest asked the woman if she “had been to the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), to which she stated it was not his business,” according to the statement from the Diocese.

The woman told police Rodriguez allegedly “became upset and tried to ram the ‘cookie’ in her mouth,” according to the affidavit. She said she then attempted to grab another Communion bread, which the priest was holding, when he grabbed and bit her arm, the affidavit states.

“Father Rodriguez offered the woman Holy Communion on the tongue. At that point, the woman forcefully placed her hand in the vessel and grabbed some sacred Communion hosts, crushing them,” according to the Diocese’s statement on the incident.

“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 statement continued.

The woman was asked to leave, according to the Diocese, which added the priest had not met her before.

When interviewed by police, the priest told the investigating officer the woman had pushed him and “would not let go of the communion tray and the only way he thought to extract her from it was to bite her arm,” according to the affidavit.

“In the Catholic Tradition, the Eucharist is considered ‘the source and summit’ of worship and faith. The act of participation in Holy Communion therefore calls for a proper understanding, reverence, and devotion,” the statement from the Diocese reads.

“It is not something a person can arbitrarily demand and is certainly not a mere ‘cookie’ as the complainant called it,” the statement adds.

The woman refused medical attention and police photographed the bite mark, according to the affidavit.

St. Cloud Police have forwarded the affidavit summary of events to the State Attorney’s Office for review.

The Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office told CNN in a statement on Friday, “We have received the case and it is currently under review to determine the appropriate course of action.”

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