In September 2019, a number of social media users shared an article claiming two altar boys had been arrested for “putting weed in the censer-burner”:
What started as a joke ended with the future of two altar boys from Spain. They were detained overnight, after having surprised them putting weed in the censer-burner of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain … Following the Mass, these altar boys were arrested by the police, after confirming that the strange smell was correspond to marijuana. “It was a joke, the idea came during the Christmas Eve mass. We bought no more than half a kilo of weed and we drop it inside the censer-burner. We are sure that people has left of the Cathedral happier more than ever”. Finally, they were freed without charge but they will not be able to discharge their functions as altar boys any more.
That article was not new, bearing a date of June 11 2018. A censer burner, also called a thurible, is commonly seen in Catholic masses. It holds incense and can be carried while diffusing incense.
According to LeadStories.com, another version of the claim circulated in February 2018, with slightly different details:
Did you read the story about the two priests in Santiago de Compostela in Spain who were arrested after they put weed in the thurible? It is not true: it originated on a Spanish satire website. (If you didn’t know: a thurible is a vessel suspended by chains that is used to burn incense during various Christian worship services.)
The story got popular after an English version titled “2 Priests Arrested After Putting Weed Into A Thurible” appeared on a website named “8SHIT” on February 18th 2018[.]
The “priests” iteration of the claim was satirical, as noted in the above-quoted excerpt. It’s not uncommon for “satire” sites to cannibalize one another’s content, copying and republishing existing “satirical” content.
People on social media were clearly amused by the headline, and many likely shared it without opening the link. Had they done so, they may have noticed the name of the website (“There Is News”), and tagline directly under its header — “not real, but so funny.” At the bottom of the page under the short item, text read:
ADVICE: The content of There Is News is fiction, as you can read in our Legal Warning
Although the claim two “altar boys were arrested for putting weed in the censer-burner” was popular on social media platforms, it was neither a true story nor new in September 2019. Originally, the claim involved two priests (not altar boys), and sharers might not have seen the site’s two disclaimers noting the story was completely fabricated.