The Real Presence, For Real
Regarding “Wholly and Entirely Present” (Jan. 1- 7):
I was pleased to read that several readers are expressing their concern about language used regarding the Eucharist. When I was in a seminary class on the sacraments, I also said that referring to Our Lord as physically present was not appropriate. Then two classmates of mine (who are now holy priests) set me straight. I refer to what they brought to my attention.
Pope Pius XII wrote, in Mystici Corporis Christi: “And now, Venerable Brethren, We come to that part of Our explanation in which We desire to make clear why the Body of Christ, which is the Church, should be called mystical. ...There are several reasons why it should be used; for by it we may distinguish the Body of the Church, which is a Society whose Head and Ruler is Christ, from His physical Body, which, born of the Virgin Mother of God, now sits at the right hand of the Father and is hidden under the Eucharistic veils; and, that which is of greater importance in view of modern errors, this name enables us to distinguish it from any other body, whether in the physical or the moral order.”
Pope Paul VI wrote in Mysterium Fidei: “For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before, but something completely different. ... Nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species — beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical ‘reality,’ corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.”
Pope John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America: “My Predecessor Paul VI deemed it necessary to explain the uniqueness of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, which ‘is called real not to exclude the idea that the others are real too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial.’ … Under the species of bread and wine, ‘Christ is present, whole and entire in his physical reality, corporally present.’”
I would hope that most or all of what I have written could be published for the sake of the several who expressed concern and for the many who need to know about appropriate language that can be used for Our Lord in the Eucharist. Thank you for your Catholic newspaper!
Father David Phillipson
Holy Family, St. Joseph
and Santa Clara Parishes
Roy, New Mexico
For those who remain troubled or confused — or would simply would like to explore the Church’s Eucharistic teaching in more depth and, in the process, put their minds at ease concerning what is orthodox — I recommend a little gem of a book I just finished reading.
A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Abbot Vonier is available from Zaccheus Press (zaccheuspress.com) and from Ignatius Press (Ignatius.com). This is a reprint of an early 20th-century British work that draws on Scripture, the Council of Trent and Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae to explain in great detail the reasoning behind the Church’s doctrine. The book requires some patience and effort to understand, particularly for those with no background in Thomistic philosophy, but it is worth 10 times the effort you will put into it in terms of the understanding you will gain — not only of Eucharistic doctrine, but also of the meaning and significance of the Mass and our participation in it.
I think it is worth noting that an insistence on the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist would raise at least two problems for the faithful. First, if Christ were physically present in the Eucharist, then at the Last Supper, when the physical Christ instituted the Eucharist and shared it with the Apostles, there would have been two physical Christs present. Second, if Christ were physically present in the Eucharist, then the Protestant objection that we are sacrificing Christ again, contrary to Scripture, becomes difficult if not totally impossible to refute.
Among other things, Abbot Vonier’s little book explains how the Church’s doctrine resolves these difficulties. I recommend it highly.
I want to know the source for your statement about the word “physical” in relation to Christ in the Eucharist. Please advise all your readers in what document of the Church the word “physical” is “restricted to a particular meaning which the Church reserves for Christ’s bodily ascension into heaven, from whence he has promised to return.”
I am also interested in knowing in what language the bishop was speaking who made the original statement, “Christ is present sacramentally but not physically in the Eucharist.”
Union Mills, North Carolina
Editor’s note: See the commentary on this matter from Legionary of Christ Father Owen Kearns, the Register’s editor-in-chief, on the facing page.
Pray for Anne Rice
An encouraging Register article (“Literary Convert of the Year,” Jan. 1-7) reports on author Anne Rice’s recent return to the Catholic faith of her childhood. However, in a letter to the editor (“Interview with the Erstwhile Vampire Writer,” Jan. 15-21), a reader warns us that the author of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt does not yet hold a solidly Catholic perspective on important issues such as abortion, artificial birth control and homosexuality. Unfortunately, the reader goes on to attack Anne Rice on a personal level and to impugn her motives.
Anne Rice is certainly not the only Catholic who is having difficulty reaching a full understanding of these issues, as Christ would share it with us through his Church. We do little to help when we personally insult and belittle sincere but misguided fellow Catholics.
Conversion — metanoia — is more than a momentary, all-or-none event; it is an ongoing, lifetime process for us all. God is not finished yet with any one of us. Rather than demean one another, let’s try to be patient and persuasive. If we do contact Anne Rice through her website (annerice.com), let it be to congratulate her, not to berate her; to encourage her in her liberating faith journey “out of Egypt” and into the light; and to assure her of our prayers. Semper et adsidue oremus pro invicem. Always and in all ways, let us pray for one another.
Richard A. Watson, M.D.
Mountainside, New Jersey
Handling Snaky Movies
I wanted to respond to the Jan. 22-28 letter objecting to the fact that your paper reviewed Brokeback Mountain (“Why Give Offensive Movies Any Ink At All?”). While I appreciate her and her family’s commitment to the Catholic faith, I do not agree at all with her point.
Toward the end of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says that certain signs will accompany those who believe, signs that include an ability to “pick up serpents” and “drink any deadly thing” without being hurt (Mark 16:18). I don’t think we are meant to take such words literally; but, if not, then what do they mean?
They might mean that Christian believers are able to deal with the theological, philosophical and artistic challenges of those who do not share our beliefs, or are even hostile to them. Probably the best Catholic example of this is St. Thomas Aquinas, who was willing to deal, in depth and fairly, with any and every philosophical or theological challenge to the faith.
The Church does not hide in a fortress from her enemies. As Catholics, we should not be the least bit intimidated by any challenge to our beliefs or morals. We can withstand anything that any atheist scientist has to say, anything any rabid Nietzsche has to say, anything any anti-Catholic fundamentalist has to say and, finally, anything any immoral or amoral artist has to say.
Not only that, but in the spirit of Thomas Aquinas, we even acknowledge what is true and good in the statements or views of our opponents. Believe it or not, even the most vehement opponents of the Catholic Church are not absolutely false or evil on every point. That needs to be recognized.
I absolutely defend your paper for dealing with the likes of Brokeback Mountain. Doing so is an example of Thomistic cool-headedness — or “snake-handling.”
Media Bias Persists
Regarding “Tell Them What You Think” (Jan. 8-14):
At long last, it now seems timely to historically assess the mainstream media’s overall role on alleged patterns of deep-rooted abortion biases in both our electronic and printed news, when either reporting or editorializing on this emotionally laden issue.
In an attempt to bring clarity toward this controversy, the highly regarded Los Angeles Times reporter David Shaw (who died last year) did unquestionably the most comprehensive research on this subject, a research that lasted 18 months and concluded with a 12,000-word report. It’s worth noting that this undertaking was completed in the middle of 1990, the year David Shaw was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for journalism on an unrelated issue.
David Shaw initially cited his findings by way of stating that there were a number of journalists who held strong views in support of legal abortion, but had been able to put their belief on hold when reporting on it. Despite this conciliatory gesture, Shaw nevertheless concluded that the majority of our news media, both print and electronic, overwhelmingly supported the pro-abortion position in “content, tone, choice of language or prominence of play.”
Shaw further cited certain major areas to support his conclusions: The news media consistently uses language and images that favor supporters of abortion. Abortion supporters are quoted more frequently and characterized more favorably than are abortion opponents. Events and issues favorable to pro-lifers are sometimes ignored or given minimal attention. And the opinion sections of major newspapers publish columns favoring supporters of abortion by a 2-to-1 ratio over opponents of abortion.
Sadly, it is my considered opinion that, years later, our current secular news media continue to demonstrate ongoing biases against the pro-life view on abortion.
Thomas E. Dennelly
West Islip, New York
A news story in the Jan. 1-7 edition, “Pope Benedict Builds the Church With a Firm and Gentle Hand,” incorrectly identified the title of George Weigel’s book on Pope Benedict XVI. The correct title is God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church.