Hi! I’m familiar with the quotations of the Church Fathers regarding the Catholic understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I’ve been reading the Church Fathers and it seems to me that, from the perspective of an average reasonable person, they all hold to some belief in the Real Presence.
Still, I can’t discount some of the arguments that Protestants make regarding their interpretation of what the Church Fathers taught. A common line of argumentation I find in Protestant apologetics is that Catholics take the Church Fathers out of context, and they insist that they taught only a symbolic presence instead.
These websites are examples of their proof-texts:
So what do we say about the Protestant interpretations of the Church Fathers’ writings? It all seems complicated and difficult to tell when a particular Father is speaking literally or metaphorically (it doesn’t help that the Alexandrian and Antiochene Schools had very different exegetical traditions!).
Is it right to say that the Church Fathers were unanimous in their teaching of the Real Presence? Or can we say that they taught some version of the Real Presence, but not exactly transubstantiation as we know it?
And there’s this matter about historical controversies regarding the development of doctrine. One of the sites above says that the Catholic Church removed Clement of Alexandria from the Roman Martyrology because he spoke too figuratively, and thus was potentially wrong regarding the Eucharist. And then there’s this thing about the Carolingian Eucharistic Controversy, where the Protestants say that the mere fact that there was opposition to St. Paschasius Radbertus’s teaching shows that there was no consensus during the first millennium.
Bottomline is that I’m annoyed when Protestants quote from the Church Fathers, who are our patrimony, against us. And I have no way of telling whether their interpretation of the Fathers is right or wrong because I have no historical, linguistic, or exegetical training. So thoughts?