[The dog's owner] had been invited to the service after an incident where police heckled him as he sat peacefully on the steps of the church early one morning during the G20 weekend.The most charitable response to this is to assume that Rev'd Rea was so distracted during the administration of Communion that she didn't realize what she was doing. Her subsequent embarrassment and refusal to speak to the media support this interpretation. After all, it should be obvious to anyone with a basic grasp of Christian theology that giving the consecrated Host to a dog is completely inappropriate.
Angry over the experience, he called the church to vent. They invited him to come to church, and he did, bringing his dog with him.
When it was time for communion, the man went up to receive the bread and the wine, with the dog. “I am sure for [Rev'd Marguerite Rea] that was a surprise, like it was for all of us,” said [Deputy People's Warden Peggy] Needham. “But nobody felt like it was a big deal, because it wasn’t a big deal.”
According to the account [Bishop] Yu heard, the man asked the reverend to give the dog a wafer. But Needham says she doesn’t recall the man making such a request. Instead, she said Rev. Rea instinctively leaned over and placed a wafer on the dog’s wagging tongue.
But apparently that's not obvious to Toronto Star reporters, or to the average St Peter's parishioner, or to the dozens of people who left vapid and ill-informed comments on the Star website.
The setup of the article uses the typical journalistic conceit of pitting two opposing sides against each other. On the one side, we have Bishop Patrick Yu, attesting that giving Communion to animals is impermissible, that the priest has been asked not to do it again, and that the matter is closed. On the other side, we have Deputy People's Warden Peggy Needham, who informs us that "it wasn't a big deal," that "Anyone might have done that," and that "Christ would have thought it was neat." (Needham is apparently confusing Christ with Dr Phil, a common mistake.) The question, in my mind, is why Needham would be asked for comment about a theological matter at all? A "deputy people's warden" is an elected position, one of four wardens responsible responsible for managing the temporal affairs of the parish; the position involves a lot of committee work and requires no theological training or expertise. She can offer a theological opinion if she wants, but a reporter should know better than to quote it as though it were authoritative.
The Star author, and most of the commenters, frame the question of animal Communion in terms of "inclusivity". Inclusivity is always a good thing, because if we exclude someone it always means that we hate them and wish them to be disempowered. There's a twisted logic to this point of view - after all, if we loved animals, why would we set them apart in a way that treats them as Other? Yet this view is too crude, as though there were no middle term between "God hates dogs and would like us to kill them" and "Dogs should receive Communion."
The point, though, is that humans are different from animals in important ways. Specifically, humans possess a highly developed rational intelligence. We have the capacity for abstract thought, and thus for language. While many animals have highly developed perceptual intelligence and can manipulate tools to perform advanced concrete tasks, they lack this additional level of conceptual abstraction. As humans, we value our intelligence and would never give it up - we can't even imagine existence without the capacity for speculative thought and linguistic invention. Yet there's also a sense in which self-awareness is a Faustian bargain, creating opportunities for wickedness and dissolution as well as virtue and growth. Animals may kill each other for food, or fight over scarce resources, but nothing they do can be properly considered "evil". Ostriches don't commit random acts of vandalism. Armadillos don't wipe each other out with atomic weapons. Iguanas don't build death camps to carry out the mass extermination of other iguanas.
The realization that self-awareness is a mixed blessing is at the heart of the Christian tradition. The Biblical narrative of the Fall tells us that something went wrong from the very beginning - that as soon as humans developed conscious awareness, they turned away from their natural end and toward their selfish desires. Because of this deliberate turn from the Good toward the self, humans require reunion with God, through a process of reconciliation which culminates in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Dogs and ostriches and sea urchins, on the other hand, don't require reunion with God because they are incapable of turning away from him. They don't need the medicine, because they're immune from the disease. Giving the consecrated Host to a dog is wrong not because it would hurt the dog, or because dogs are somehow evil, but because doing so is to pervert the entire message of the Christian faith, and to deeply misunderstand what it means to be human.
All of this would have been taken for granted eighty years ago, of course, but the basics of Christian theology are now so little understood that few churchgoers, and almost no non-Christians, would be able to formulate a good reason why a dog shouldn't receive Communion. And this is a great pity.
Suitable music for a canine-themed service would include choral works and the great G+ organ sonata of Edward Elgar, one of the great dog lovers of music history.