Tuesday, December 02, 2008

But What do We Mean by the "Real Presence?"

The following was submitted as a comment to the thread Transubstantiation and the Black Rubric. Frankly, an approximate 2,600 word essay seems a bit too long for the comments. But, having no need or desire to run from an argument, I promised to post this. However, some of it was answered in What is Receptionism? Furthermore, I am using my editorial privilege to answer point by point within the body of the essay with critique and responses, using different type for my remarks. After all, this is our blog, and the dissenting opinion is permitted as a courtesy. Also, we agree with much of it, even though the writer would appear to disbelieve that such a thing is possible.-Fr. Hart

By Dwight Longenecker

"But I believe in the Real Presence!" said Doug, my Bible Christian friend, "Why do you Catholics refuse to admit me to communion?" "Whoa!" I said, "I’m delighted to hear that you believe in the Real Presence, but what do you actually mean by this phrase?" "Well, I prefer to remain vague about the details," said Doug. "I would only want to go as far as the Scriptures do, and St. Paul says in I Corinthians that the communion is ‘the sharing in the body of Christ.’ I don’t think you have to go further than that."

Doug was happy to use the phrase to describe what he believed about the Lord’s Supper at his independent Bible Church. Most Anglo-Catholics use the phrase and even many Evangelical Anglicans seem fairly happy to use ‘real presence’ to describe their view of the Eucharist. Doug’s statement of belief, however, prompted in me more memories. I had come across Methodists, Reformed ministers and other free evangelicals using the phrase as well. When I became a Catholic I found lots of Catholics also using the phrase ‘real presence’ to refer to their Eucharistic beliefs.

What did everyone mean by this phrase? Could it be that God was using ‘real presence’ as a kind of ecumenical bridge? Was it becoming a universally accepted phrase which was bringing non-Catholics into the fold of the Catholic Church? I didn’t want to rule out this creative possibility, but I had my suspicions that ‘real presence’ was in fact, an elastic phrase which could mean almost anything, and was therefore the enemy of true ecumenism.

For instance, a Bible Christian might mean by ‘real presence’, "I feel closer to Jesus at the Lord’s Supper." At the same time a Methodist might mean, "When we gather together the presence of the Lord is real among us"—referring simply to our Lord’s promise that "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst." A Lutheran might mean Christ’s risen presence is ‘with’ or ‘beside’ the bread and wine. An Anglican evangelical might say, "There is a real sense in which Christ is present as the church gathers—for the Church too is the Body of Christ." An Anglo-Catholic would say there is a real, objective abiding spiritual presence of Christ when the Eucharist is celebrated.

One of the reasons the phrase ‘real presence’ has become a flexible friend is because it has been lifted from its full context. Historically, Catholic theologians spoke of "the Real Presence of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament of the altar." More recently this has been conveniently shortened to "the Real Presence" with, at least in Catholic circles (as in the articles in this Journal), the full meaning of Transubstantiation being presumed. Some confusion has arisen as a result, since for many people ‘real presence’ has come to mean simply ‘the idea of the risen Lord’ or ‘the Spirit of Christ’ or even just the ‘fellowship of the church.’ In fact, the phrase ‘the real presence’ could mean just about anything to anybody. Undoubtedly there are modern expressions of faith that speak of the ‘real presence of the Christ within.'

Another reason why this phrase is so vague is because ‘real presence’ in most usage focuses on the abstract noun ‘presence’ and not on the body and blood of Christ. This implies that the ‘presence’ is somehow separate from the Sacrament.

First of all, the phrase ought to be rendered "Real Presence," since this is the name of a doctrine. As such, it is far more clearly defined than Mr. Longenecker seems to be aware (Dr? Fr? We do not know, so the use of Mr. is all we know to use).

The widespread use of this phrase is a sign that many non-Catholics are coming around to a higher view of the Sacrament. For Catholics this is—on the one hand—a cause for rejoicing. On the other hand, it is a cause for concern because many non-Catholics—upon hearing Catholics use the phrase—quite innocently assume that Catholics believe the same thing they do. Thus, a Bible Baptist might use the phrase ‘real presence’ meaning he ‘feels closer to Jesus at communion,’ and hearing Catholics use the phrase, he might conclude that Catholics believe the same thing. They do, in fact, believe what he believes—Catholics DO feel closer to Jesus at Communion—but they also believe a whole lot more.

We assume that Mr. Longenecker uses the word "Catholics" in an exclusive sense that contradicts the policy of this blog, and the traditional usage of Anglicans for the past five centuries. We assume he means Roman Catholics, and Eastern Rite Catholics in that large Communion.

As a result—as with my friend Doug—the Bible Baptist cannot understand why he is not welcome to receive communion at a Catholic Mass. While the widespread use of the phrase ‘real presence’ seems encouraging, in reality it’s can be misleading. This ambiguous phraseology can encourage false ecumenism when the phrase ‘real presence’ becomes an artificial lowest common denominator.

Is it really about his Eucharistic theology alone, and not also about being in communion with the Pope?

I recently did a bit of research about the origins of the phrase ‘real presence’. I wanted to find out when the phrase was first used and why. I figured that finding out the background of the phrase might explain why and how it was being used today.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defined ‘real presence’ as an especially Anglican phrase which "emphasized the real presence of the body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist as contrasted with others that maintain that the Body and Blood are present only figuratively or symbolically." The first edition of the dictionary quoted the sixteenth century English reformer Latimer to show his use of the phrase, "this same presence may be called most fitly a real presence, that is, a presence not feigned, but a true and faithful presence."

That sounded pretty Catholic, but then it became a bit more complicated because the second edition of the same dictionary points out that the English Reformers only used the phrase with other expressions which made it a phrase for receptionism—the belief that the bread and wine only become the body and blood of Christ to those who receive it faithfully. Latimer is quoted in the second edition more fully, "that same presence may be called a real presence because to the faithful believer there is a real or spiritual body of Christ."

Since Hugh Latimer was addressing the material, or carnal, definition of "transubstantiation" that was commonly understood at the time, and contrasting it against a more reasonable, Patristic and Biblical understanding, this criticism is wide of the mark. Also, does Mr. Longenecker presume that a spiritual reality is less real than a material one? This entire confusion about some belief called Receptionism, however, is what I addressed in What is Receptionism?

But because Jesus said about the bread, ‘This is my body,’ Catholics believe in a corporeal, substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The whole Christ is present, body, blood, soul and divinity. It is not just a spiritual presence. Furthermore Catholics believe in an objective presence—not one which is only available to those who receive in faith. This, however, is not what the Anglican reformers meant when they used the phrase ‘real presence.’

The use of "corporeal" surprises me greatly. Does Mr. Longenecker believe that the sacrament actually does contain the DNA of Jesus of Nazareth? Once again I ask (not to be irreverant), if we placed the Blessed Sacrament under a microscope, would we find the physical properties of wheat and wine, or flesh and blood? Once again I refer you to the words of one Archbishop Ratzinger, later Cardinal and now Pope, posted elsewhere. Also, why does he now use the word "objective" as if it must be synonymous with "corporeal?" We believe that the spiritual reality of Christ's Body and Blood in the sacrament is most certainly objective.

Latimer’s colleague Ridley makes the Anglican position about the real presence most clear. Writing in the Oxford Disputations of 1554 he says, "The true Church doth acknowledge a presence of Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper to be communicated to the godly by grace…spiritually and by a sacramental signification, but not as a corporeal presence of the body of his flesh."

The grace of the sacrament, as we have noted very carefully in What is Receptionism? is given only to those who believe. The key words, the significance of which appear lost on Mr. Longenecker, are "grace" and "corporeal."

This seemed to be the root of the phrase. It was a construction of the English Reformation. Latimer and Ridley did their best to come up with a phrase for the Eucharist which would please their Catholic persecutors and yet not compromise their Protestant beliefs. But maybe there was more to it. What if the phrase ‘real presence’ actually originated before the sixteenth century?

In The History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist an Oxford scholar called Darwell Stone traces the Church’s beliefs about the Eucharist from New Testament times through the late nineteenth century. He shows that debates over the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament really blew up with the eleventh century French theologian Berengar of Tours. Berengar denied that there could be a material change at the consecration, and the controversy which raged for the next two hundred years ended in the definition of transubstantiation at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. It is interesting that during this controversy the orthodox phraseology is ‘real body and real blood of Christ.’ The phrase ‘real presence’ doesn’t occur.

New phrases must be coined, such as homoosious. The need of the time demanded clarification in both of these examples.

I found the first reference to the phrase ‘real presence’ in the writings of the fourteenth century theologian John of Paris. He wrote, "I intend to defend the real and actual presence of the body of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, and that it is not there only as by way of a sign..." But John of Paris was deprived of his professorship because his specific views on the Sacrament were contrary to that defined by the Fourth Lateran Council and were therefore considered unorthodox. It was in the same century that the pre-cursor of Latimer and Ridley—John Wycliffe—also used the phrase ‘real presence’. Like Ridley and Latimer he used ‘real presence’ as an alternative to transubstantiation. In other words, ‘real presence’ was a compromise phrase used to suggest a high view of the sacrament while allowing the theologian to tiptoe around the uncomfortable doctrine of transubstantiation.

The quotation from that Council, that was supposedly contradicted by John of Paris, who says this: "His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance (transsubstantiatio), by God's power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity we receive from God what he received from us." Frankly, it appears that John of Paris interpreted these words in a manner identical with the current pope's own teaching.

Ridley’s and Latimer’s use of the phrase ‘real presence’ stemmed from this search for a compromise phrase. They denied transubstantiation and held a merely symbolic and spiritual view of the Sacrament. In response to Catholic pressure and to avoid extreme Zwingli-ism they sought a way to express their beliefs in as high a way as possible. Thus Ridley and Latimer said they believed in the real presence; but this was simply their phrase for a kind of high receptionism.

The problem here is one of philosophy. Why does Mr. Longenecker now try to make two more words synonymous, namely "spiritual" and "symbolic"? This is very sloppy thinking.

The phrase ‘real presence’ then has—from the start—been used as an alternative to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Not only did Latimer and Ridley use ‘real presence’ to deny transubstantiation, but so did the seventeenth century ‘high church’ Anglican divine Jeremy Taylor who used the phrase ‘real presence’ as a contrast to transubstantiation in his treatise, The Real and Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament proved against the Doctrine of Transubstantiation.

The second volume of Darwell Stone shows how the great Victorian Anglican, E.B. Pusey, re-coined the phrase ‘real presence’ in the mid-nineteenth century and promoted it most strongly. It is thanks to Pusey that the phrase entered common usage within the Oxford movement and eventually made its way through the Anglican and other non-Catholic churches to be used so widely today.

But what did Pusey mean by ‘the real presence’? He was at pains to point out that he did not hold to any corporeal presence of Christ in the Eucharist. "In the communion there is a true, real actual though spiritual communication of the body and blood of Christ to the believer through the holy elements." In another place Pusey denies transubstantiation explicitly and argues for a "mystical, sacramental and spiritual presence of the body of our Lord." And most explicitly, in 1857 Pusey says, "there is no physical union of the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine."

Pusey in the Oxford of the mid-1850s was not at risk of being burned at the stake like Ridley and Latimer. But in that same university city he felt a similar pressure of trying to reconcile English reformation doctrines with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Pusey was under pressure because he sincerely wanted the Anglican Church to be as Catholic as possible, but as an Anglican clergyman he had to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and Article 28 specifically repudiates transubstantiation. So Pusey could not hold to transubstantiation even if he wanted to.

The real problem is trying to reconcile The Council of Trent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church-the Catholic Church named in the Creeds, and to which we Anglicans also belong. So far Mr. Longenecker is only managing to undo years of ecumenical progress. Like a bull in china shop he smashes clarification of thought and words, and the progress of reconciling Trent with true Catholic Faith that modern theologians, such as the great Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, have accomplished. And, along with those smashed treasures go the resulting ecumenical advances.

So—like Ridley and Latimer before him—he used the phrase ‘real presence’ to sound as close to Catholicism as possible while, in fact, rejecting Catholic doctrine. Pusey believed that the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the sacrament was only a spiritual and sacramental presence. In this way the Victorian Anglo-Catholic actually agreed with the reformer Ridley who wrote, "The blood of Christ is in the chalice…but by grace and in a sacrament…This presence of Christ is wholly spiritual."

What does he mean by the words "only a spiritual and sacramental presence" in this context? The sacraments signify what they effect, and effect what they signify. The Real Presence is spiritual, and very real-or must true Sacramental Theology assume, as a premise, the philosophical error called Materialism?

Why does it matter whether or not we believe that the presence is only spiritual? It matters because the whole work of Christ is more than spiritual. It is physical. Ever since St. Irenaeus in the second century, the Catholic Church has been insistent that the Incarnation really is a supernatural union of the spiritual and the physical. As Darwell Stone writes, Irenaeus was countering Gnosticism, "which interposed an insuperable barrier between spiritual beings and material things, between the true God of the universe and the universe of matter." It is one of the great heresies of our age that Christians attempt to ‘spirit away’ the physical-ness of the Gospel. So the Resurrection, the miracles and the Incarnation itself become mere ‘spiritual events.’

No one has tried to "spirit away" the physical truth of the Incarnation. Rather, it is dangerous to our understanding of the doctrine of the Incarnation to insist that it must be consistent in every way with this Medieval, backwards, simplistic and superstitious approach to transubstantiation, just as a literal 24 hours/6 days approach to Creation endangers the faith, of educated people, concerning scripture. Furthermore, if we insist on transubstantiation (by this backwards definition) as the only means of appreciating the Incarnation, we will loose the Incarnation. Instead of the Word (Logos) taking the fullness of human nature, we could end up inisting that the body and soul of Jesus of Nazareth was transubstantiated into Divinity, losing both aspects of the Incarnation: That he is eternally God of God and one with the Father, and has taken the fullness of human nature into His eternal Person without changing that human nature into something no longer human. This is why such a version of transubstantiation lends itself to heresy, whereas the Real Presence is perfectly consistent with the Incarnation (from which all sacraments flow). The human nature of Jesus did not turn into God, but remains forever human (perfected human nature by the Resurrection), and the bread and the wine retain their physical properties, even when taken up into Christ and transformed to become a means of grace.

Likewise, the Church has always insisted—despite the difficulties—that the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is not simply spiritual and subjective. It is objective and corporeal. In some way it is physical. At the Fourth Lateran Council the Church explained this belief with the phrase "transubstantiation." As the Oxford Dominican, Fr. Herbert McCabe has said, "Transubstantiation is not a complete explanation of the mystery, but it is the best description of what we believe happens at the consecration."

The word "transubstantiation" is not defined in the Fourth Lateran Council; and the idea of "corporeal" change is not taught by the Fathers, nor by any ancient Council, and is clearly not true to the plain meaning of scripture, which forbids the eating of material human flesh and blood.

What then, should Christians do with this confusing phrase ‘real presence’? First of all clarity and honesty are most important. Catholics should realize that when used alone, the phrase "Real Presence" is not uniquely a Catholic term. Its history is mostly Anglican, and as such it was used as a way to adroitly sidestep the doctrine of transubstantiation. Therefore, we must be careful that whenever we chose to use this phrase our hearers understand clearly the full extent of what we are inferring by it.

It was used to correct what transubstantiation, at best, said in a clumsy manner. Or, to correct a flat out wrong idea that was corrected as it was clarified by Roman Catholic theologians, including the pope, in modern times.

When our separated brethren say they believe in the ‘real presence’, Catholics should be glad that they have a fairly high view of the Eucharist, yet realize that transubstantiation is almost never meant. Like my buddy Doug, he may ‘prefer to remain a little bit vague’. And if pressed, the person will admit that by the phrase ‘real presence’ he does not mean he believes the sacrament is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord. Asking the person to clarify the meaning of the phrase as they understand it could be a positive and constructive way to move a theological discussion forward.

In his 1965 encyclical Mysterium Fidei, Pope Paul VI encourages the use of clear and unambiguous language about the Eucharist. He says, "Having safeguarded the integrity of the faith it is necessary to safeguard also its proper mode of expression, lest by careless use of words we occasion the rise of false opinions regarding faith in the most sublime of mysteries."

In the same encyclical Pope Paul actually uses the phrase ‘Real Presence’ but he does so to outline the ways in which Christ is present in his church. Interestingly, Paul VI affirms all the ways non-Catholics might define ‘the real presence.’ He says Christ is really present in the Church when she prays. He is also present when she performs acts of mercy. Christ is present in the Church as she struggles to perfection. He is really present when the Church governs the people of God. Christ is present in the preaching of the gospel and he is present as the Church faithfully celebrates the Eucharist.

However Paul VI also makes it clear that the Eucharistic presence of the body and blood of Christ is different from these other forms of Christ’s presence. It is a unique presence. So he affirms, "This presence is called ‘real’ by which it is not intended to exclude all other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense. That is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ the God-Man is wholly and entirely present. It would therefore be wrong to explain this presence by taking resource to the ‘spiritual’ nature, as it is called, of the glorified Body of Christ which is present everywhere, or by reducing it to a kind of symbolism as if this most august sacrament consisted of nothing else than an efficacious sign of the spiritual presence of Christ and of his intimate union with the Faithful members of his mystical body."

We agree with this quotation. This is perfectly in line with what we have always meant by "Real Presence."

Catholics must continue to use clear language about the Sacrament. We can affirm the ‘real’ presence of Christ which non-Catholics affirm in the fellowship of the church, in the preaching of the gospel and in the celebration of the Eucharist, but we must also affirm that the fullest sense of the ‘real presence’ is that which we worship in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

Although Paul VI used the phrase ‘real presence’ in Mysterium Fidei the whole thrust of the encyclical is to support and recommend the continued use of the phrase ‘transubstantiation’ as the Catholic phraseology. Mysterium Fidei also encourages those devotions which are implied by the Catholic belief in the ‘real body and real blood of Christ.’ That such devotions are encouraged as a support to transubstantiation is nothing new. Just fifty years after the doctrine of transubstantiation was promulgated by the Fourth Lateran Council, Pope Urban IV decreed the Feast of Corpus Christi. The beliefs of the Church are always reflected in her devotions.

The Catholic Church encourages the devotions which accompany belief in Christ’s corporeal presence in the sacrament of the altar. It is the practice of benediction, prayer before the sacrament and veneration of the blessed sacrament which makes clear exactly what Catholics do mean by the phrase ‘real presence’ and that it is not the same thing that other Christians mean when they use the same phrase.

Mr. Longenecker needs to catch up with the times. It is now the Church of Rome that he fails to understand.

That many non-Catholic Christians are growing into a higher view of the Eucharist is a sign of real movement toward unity. But that true and costly re-union for which Christ himself prays will not come as long as we accept ambiguous language which allows us to pretend that we all believe the same thing. Instead unity will come as we recognize the true divisions which still exist, understand our differences and seek to resolve them with patience, love and a good sense of humor.

If this came from a student, and I were his instructor, I would give it a D. Good research work, though lacking thoroughness. And, it reveals an undisciplined mind very remiss in philosophical skills.


Anonymous said...

To the best of my knowledge and belief, Mr Longenecker used to be Fr Longenecker, then poped, and I don't know whether he's Fr Longenecker again as I tend to lose interest in Anglican clergy who renounce what they are. He may care to enlighten us.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

I believe he is "Fr. Longenecker." It seems to me I read that he was a "Pastoral Provision" Roman priest. But wait a minute... he was also an Anglican priest. Hmmm... so maybe that makes him "Fr. Fr. Longenecker." But wait a minute: Isn't Longenecker a Mennonite name? Ahhh, I guess I have no idea. I give up!

I agree with Ms. McColl.

William Tighe said...

He is an American, a graduate of Bob Jones University, who became an Anglican, went to England, studied at Wycliffe House (Oxford), was ordained in the Church of England, ministered there for 12 years (as a parish pries ton the Isle of Wight), and then becaue a (R) Catholic, and returned to the USA, where he was ordained a couple of years ago, under the "Pastoral Provision" for the Diocese of Charleston, SC.

poetreader said...

This is an incredibly sloppy piece of writing and thinking. It is very difficult even to follow his "reasoning" as it does not appear coherent or even self-consistent. Fr. Hart, you did a good job of answering him (insofar as an answer is even possible to something so inconsistent).

One thing, however, that is consistent throughout is an insistence that the spiritual is less real than the physical, and is inevitably subjective rather than objective. Real Catholics, including RCs, reject such a notion as heretical in theology. Such an outlook is a denial of the world-view of the Scriptures and the Fathers (in which ultimate reality is found in the spiritual), and a capitulation to the materialism of rationalists. Pope Benedict's thinking I can both follow and nearly completely accept. Longenecker's I cannot.


Anonymous said...

Wycliffe, eh? That's probably coloured his thinking about Anglicanism.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Thank you, Ed. We are not debating here with a truly Catholic mind, Roman or otherwise. But, this kind of writing is all too typical of the people who create artificial reasons to maintain division at any price, usually demonstrating an inability to search out the meaning of words, ideas and concepts. It is not unlike certain converts to Orthodoxy who constantly dream up brand new "ancient" reasons why the "east" and the "west" cannot be reconciled.

I have learned now that this entire 2600+ word essay has been on a website run by self-appointed apologists for Rome. From this sample I would say that they need to learn the teaching of their own church before presuming to defend it.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

You can tell that someone doesn't know his Roman theology when he firmly states that some Anglican or another doesn't believe in the really real real (yes, all of those reals were intended) presence because they reject corporality. Rome has never asserted the corporal nature of Christ in the Eucharist--the teaching of Aquinas, Cardinal Cajetan's teaching, and the teaching of Trent are closer to Ridley and Latimer than to this author when he keeps asserting the physical and corporal nature of Christ in the elements while denigrating the terms spiritual and symbolic. I agree with Poetreader--sloppy job.


Fr Matthew Kirby said...

The Presence is "corporeal" inasmuch as it is the presence of a true body or "corpus". It is not corpor(e)al according to mode of presence, however, as St Thomas Aquinas teaches. He also specifically says it is a spiritual mode of presence. In short, what is present is corporeal, how it is present is non-corporeal. This necessary and traditional distinction seems not to make it into the quoted authors thinking at all.

And Ed is right to object to the author's assumption that "spiritual" means "subjective". His statement concerning the presence -- "In some way it is physical" -- "suffers" from precisely the same necessary surrender to mystery that the Anglican statements he criticises do. And Anglicans could agree that in "some way" the Presence is physical simply by agreeing that it is the true presence of a physical body, though not according to a natural, material, physical or local mode of presence.

He seems not to realise that the classic disagreement between High Church Anglicans and RCs was not so much over the reality of Christ's presence, but the reality of the outward sign, which Anglo-Catholics affirmed as materially present though changed in fundamental sacramental "identity", and RCs seemd to deny, depending on the precise interpretation of "substance" and "accidents".

Anonymous said...

In case I was a bit cryptic before, and in acknowledgement that I've probably scored a few Fs in recent comboxes, I'll attempt an analysis.

Fr Longenecker trained at Wycliffe Hall. That's the protty Oxford seminary. Chances are, he never came to appreciate Catholicism within Anglicanism. I think that says a lot.

As to 'Real Presence' v 'Transubstantiation': it would appear that both words are capable of many meanings. As Pusey would say, tot homines, quot sententiae. Some protestants, Anglican and non-Anglican, apparently use 'real presence' to mean less than it ought to mean. Likewise, transubstantiation appears to mean everything from something very much like classical Catholic Anglicans mean by 'Real Presence' (e.g., Dr Ratzinger), to an application of Aristotelian physics involving substance and accident, to tales of gobbets of flesh and bleeding hosts.

Nevertheless, in the case of both terms, there is a correct meaning, and in the case of the Sacrament itself, there is the correct form of belief.

I believe that Fr Longenecker's piece has somewhat vindicated me in that I tried rather badly before to point out that, whatever unity of belief may exist between the liturgically more and less austere members of the ACC in the USA, within Anglicanism at large (and not bothering to include the loony liberal ascendancy) there is a wide variation on just this issue, and it isn't a purely Australian phenomenon.

Glad you agree with me, Fr Anderson. Nice to meet you. But I wouldn't pick on the man for his name. I was once challenged by a large gentleman at a hoity toity city church, who thought that nobody called McColl had the right to be Anglican.

Probably get an E for this one, I expect.

Anonymous said...

Poor Fr. Longenecker's bad addled brain needs to focus on this summary of the laws for syllogisms:

Limit both in words and meaning all the terms you use to three.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that this author doesn't try to engage with Orthodoxy in any way--much as the cultured despisers of religion are quick to bash Christianity but wouldn't dare to be so politically incorrect as to insult Muslims or Hindus.

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart wrote, "The grace of the sacrament, as we have noted very carefully in 'What is Receptionism?' is given only to those who believe."

Vide Article XXV: "And in such only as worthily receive the [Sacraments], they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith."

Article XXIX: "The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively [i.e., living] faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing."

John A. Hollister+


Anonymous said...

My general experience with party apologists is that they don't reflect what real theologians are doing and talking about -- it's usually low-brow, sensationalistic (mis)representations of RCism and other Christians in the Great Tradition. It's a carry-over of Jack Chick on a grander scale, from both sides.

I don't know much about this Fr. Longenecker, but I visited his website and it's rather underwhelming in style, content, and presentation.

Conversely, I've been ordering and reading lots of Pope Benedict's materials. He's an enjoyable Roman Catholic apologist. Ecumenism has a bright future with good men like him.

In Christ,
St. Worm
(Happy to be Anglican)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The idea was, of course, not to beat up on Fr. Longenecker (as we now have been informed), who may really be quite sincere in his endeavors, and may be motivated by charity. But, we need to see this for what it is. This kind of "apologetic" is a genre that seems mostly to appear in books from small publishing companies and on the internet.

Some Anglican out there may be ready to hurl himself into the Tiber, for no good reason, just because this kind of argument makes him think he is not "really Catholic." Real people have been persuaded by such things, and I could name names.

poetreader said...

Fr. Longenecker is, in all probability a fine Christian gentleman, and I supect I would find him pleasant to know. However, his writing does represent an all-too-familiar genre of deliberately combattive and alienating polemics. One of the major problems with such efforts is that they exaggerate and consequently distort one's own position in order to contrast it with the position being attacked.

The end result is that one strays into positions that are not those officially held by their own church, and may even have been condemned therein.

The fact is that I simply do not believe the things he asserts that I do, nor do I see in the Anglican authorities he mentions even a small part of what he asserts is there -- on the contrary, my perception is that I stand closer in agreement with his own Pontiff than he does.

All in all polemics is a very peculiar field of writing.


Anonymous said...

By the way, what caused it to drop from a B minus to a D?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The realization that bad thinking does not get an absolution. No more Fr. Nice Guy.

Anonymous said...

I've read Father Hart’s post and the following discussion on this subject with interest, from the Traditionalist Roman Catholic point of view.

If I may suggest, this discussion may become more fruitful if it is engaged with the definition of transubstantiation as authoritatively given in definitions 1373 thru 1377, and 1413, of the Catechism of the (Roman) Catholic Church.

These definitions, being too long to quote here, can be read via the link below:


The Shrinking Cleric said...

I find it interesting that in all comments on both articles, nobody bothered to bring up Saint Thomas Aquinas and his relationship to the term, “transubstantiation.” Transubstantiation is a term that describes how Christ becomes really present in the Holy Eucharist. That some Protestants ascribed almost cannibalistic meanings to the term does not change the fact that it is an explanation. I am only an amateur Thomist and I studied this stuff several decades ago, but if my memory serves me correctly, the Thomistic explanation for Transubstantiation runs something like this.

A thing that exists, or has being, is composed of two elements: Esse (the thing) and essence (that which makes something what it is and not something else). Essence is further divided into form (the appearance of a thing) and matter (the stuff of which something is made). Matter can then be further divided into accidents (things of appearance that are not essential to the nature of the thing) and substance (that which is essential).

When the Priest says the words, “This Is My Body,” and “This Is My Blood” over the respective elements, a change occurs in the “substance” of the bread and wine that changes them into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. The elements keep the appearance of bread and wine but, since the substance has changed, the very nature of the thing has changed in itself. If substance changes, matter changes. If matter changes, essence changes. Finally, if essence changes, the thing itself is changed. Hence bread and wine become really Body and Blood (but not in a bone-crunching manner).

People often confuse the term “transubstantiation” with the nature of the change and they mistakenly believe that if you hold to “transubstantiation” then you are somehow crunching the bones and drinking actual blood. This really isn’t a part of any traditional Catholic theology of which I am aware.

There are many areas in which we can disagree with Romans, but I think we should at least make our arguments based on some proper terminology.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The Rev. Robert T. Jones IV, wrote:

There are many areas in which we can disagree with Romans, but I think we should at least make our arguments based on some proper terminology.

Recognizing common ground requires thinkers like Pope Benedict XVI on the Church of Rome side. Much of what is in your comment takes me back to his words, which seem to be in disagreement with the notion that a change in substance (essence) requires a change in matter:

But here, where Christ meets us, we have to do with this true being. This is what was being expressed with the word "substance". This does not refer to the quantums, but to the profound and fundamental basis of being. Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified...How should we relate to reality? What is "real"?...Concerning the Eucharist it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being...The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.


The Shrinking Cleric said...

Dear Fr. Hart,

Thanks for pointing out Benedict's thought which does not follow Thomas' on the relationship between substance and matter.

Benedict, unlike many of his predecessors, has never been a Thomist, preferring Augustine to Thomas.

While I would not put myself in Benedict's league, I've always preferred Thomas simply because he appeals to my (probably pathological) need for order. :-)


Fr Longenecker said...

A reader of my blog alerted me to this stimulating discussion on an article I wrote a decade ago.

Thank you all for your interest and your charitable comments about my article, my character and my education!

Allow me to state a bottom line here which should be obvious: Anglicans must, by virtue of the 39 Articles to which they subscribe, repudiate the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Therefore what they mean by 'Real Presence' cannot be the same as that which Catholics mean by 'Real Presence.'

To do so would make them both an apostate Anglican and a pretend Catholic.

I refuse to engage in the sort of ecumenism which whitewashes the truth, soothes souls with falsehood in order to make people feel good and have nice feelings towards Catholics.

There are plenty of other Catholics who seem to have that vocation.

poetreader said...

1. If Fr. Longenecker was not the one who posted that article here, I wonder just who was the brave soul who posted it without identifying himself. The good father did not come here to pick a fight, nor did we go searching him out in order to pick one ourselves. However, what we have said here with regard to his thinking still stands, and though the article is ten years old, he has just afffirmed it as his current thinking, so the discussion has apparently been engaged.

2.I'm with Fr. Hart in his observation that there is here a matter of fighting over words, rather than over the meaning of words. The Pope himself has, years ago, affirmed a view of 'transubstantiation' much more similar to the actual views of Eucharistic Presence held by the classic Anglican divines than it is to the teachings they were condemning. One can deny the appropriateness of a word when that word (regardless of what other meanings it may be able to carry) is used a substantial amount of the time to support views one thinks false. The word itself appears to have originated in a philosophic environment (Aristotelian) that makes divisions between 'substance' and 'accident' that are not demanded by either Scripture or the Fathers. These are categories that stand or fall with insights of secular philosophy and science, and may or may not have relevance to matters beyond the physical. Thomists have adopted these categories as if essential, whereas not all Catholic theologians (RC or otherwise) have done so. If 'transubstantiation' bears a meaning as defined by Thomists, then non-Aristotelian philosophers are bound to discard it as inadequate for describing the mystery. Anglicans of the Tudor and Stuart periods would have heard no other definition from the Roman Church. Moreover, this concept, as actually applied, very often, perhaps usually, included some of the abusive notions we've discussed above. For these reasons it was essential that Anglican affirmation of the Real Presence include a denial of the assumptions that seemed integral to the use of the word.

3. Now, if some wise soul had been able or willing to give such a definition of 'transubstantiation' as has been given by Pope Benedict,it could have been perceived then, by both sides, as it can at this time, that there is no essential difference between the official teaching on this matter in the two camps.

4. I can't use the word comfortably, largely because of its Aristotelian connection, but, in the definition Benedict gave it, so many years before his elevation to the papacy, I can see how it can be properly used.

5. Isn't it high time that we try to find out what those we engage in discussion actually do believe? Isn't that better than telling our opponent what he believes and demoishing the straw man we have erected? This latter has been the procedure of both sides for many generations and fails to grasp the theological realities actually extant. The more we find out what we do share in common, the more we have to build upon in seeking the unity Our Lord wishes us to have.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

When the comment was submitted (for a recent thread) I thought Fr. Longenecker had done so himself. The fact that someone actually thought that this essay was profound, or that it made a good argument, is kind of scary. Even more frightening is the comment Fr. Longenecker has written to us (above). I replied, but simply had to remove my reply since it was possibly too severe, and the idea here is not at all to inflict any wounds.

Suffice to say, Ed has summarized it perfectly: "There is here a matter of fighting over words, rather than over the meaning of words. The Pope himself has, years ago, affirmed a view of 'transubstantiation' much more similar to the actual views of Eucharistic Presence held by the classic Anglican divines than it is to the teachings they were condemning."

Fr.Longenecker's comment is a distressing example of Nominalism, based on an approach that is so simplistic that it insults the intelligence. How can anyone imagine that such an argument is, in any way whatsoever, persuasive to educated people? More scary yet, it seems that the whole purpose of his argument is to protect confusion from the danger of clarifiction, to protect division from the danger of unity, and to protect sophistry from the danger of wisdom. How "Catholic" can it be, for a man who swims the Tiber, to put up defenses against the teaching of the pope? Unless, of course, Pope Benedict XVI is also, to use Fr. Lomgenecker's words, "a pretend Catholic."