Is Transubstantiation Theology or Dogma? Is it necessary?

promethius has ably responded to this inquiry (thanks, dude), but I would like to add an additional perspective.

Suppose that I proposed an alternative mechanism by which Transubstantiation might occur. I propose that Angels are equipped with transporter devices (similar to Star Trek), and have access to an unlimited supply of the Body and Blood of Jesus (the angels are, of course, in heaven, where Jesus is present to an infinite degree). They have radio scanners tuned to every Church, and at the words of Consecration they “beam up” the simple bread and wine right off of the altar, and “beam down” the Body and Blood of Jesus. Their transporters are instanteneous (or maybe the angels also employ a Buck Rogers-style “mind ray” that prevents us from noticing any difference).

My proposal is deliberately silly, but it cannot be scientifically proven or disproved (science has no knowledge of the abilities or limitations of angels). My idea does not contradict the doctrine of Transubstantiation in any way (and, in fact, supports it more firmly than the ideas proposed by St. Thomas - we now have angels with transporters!)

But, though my silly idea does not contradict Transubstantiation, it could not possibly be confused with Church doctrine. St. Thomas also had an idea, which was NOT silly (and, which I personally favor), but neither of our ideas have been endorsed by the Catholic Church. Any Catholic is as free to reject my idea of heavenly transporters as they are free to reject St. Thomas’ philosophy.

The thing that no Catholic is free to reject is Our Lord’s assurance that “This is my Body,” and “This is my Blood.” This is what the Catholic Church teaches, and this is all that a faithful Catholic is expected to accept.

Gotcha. Thanks David (and promethius). I just assumed that when you said that it is not found in the doctrine of transubstantiation, that you meant that is a contradiction to the Real Presence.

Mea culpa!

Why not simply call this “real presence”, leave it as a mystery (in what sense is the bread and wine still bread and wine, and in what sense is it Christ seem impossible questions)?

Transubstantiation seems to me to carry with it ideas of “substance” and “accident” that, although useful ways to express what is happening and how properly to treat the host both before and after the consecration, do not rise up to the level of dogmatic certainty.

Is it true that the entire substance of the bread and wine become the entire substance of Christ Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity? I think it depends on what you mean by substance, and even then, the expression is going to fall short of the reality.

The philosophical framework that St. Thomas uses is interesting, but it is not part of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. So Catholics are required to accept Transubstantiation, but are free to ignore or disagree with the opinions of St. Thomas.

Why not simply refer to this doctrine as “real presence”? I think this is much of what Byzantine Catholics do. I know that the Orthodox dislike the term “transubstantiation”, so for ecumenical relations if nothing else, why not just call it “real presence”, and say that transubstantiation is a peculiarly western way to talk about the mystery without committing heresy?

It seems to me that you have more emphasis on the word “transubstantiation” than the Church does. In the section in the Catechism on the Sacrament of the Eucharist of several hundred words, “transubstantiation” occurs only twice. Once in the body and once in the summary.

I believe the Church already does what you suggest. The usual language used to describe the Eucharist is “real presence”.

If this is true, the issue is solved, in my mind.

I suppose then it’s also fair to say “The body of Christ is made out of bread” as St. Thomas Aquinas does.

No it is not fair as it is contrary to Church teaching.

How so?

Please consult the CCC link in my prior post.

But I don’t see a contradiction between the Catechism and St. Thomas Aquinas’s answer (Part 3, Q 75, Art. 8): “Nevertheless, since in this sacrament, after the change, something remains the same, namely, the accidents of the bread, as stated above (Article 5), some of these expressions may be admitted by way of similitude, namely, that “bread is the body of Christ,” or, “bread will be the body of Christ,” or “the body of Christ is made of bread”; provided that by the word “bread” is not understood the substance of bread, but in general “that which is contained under the species of bread,” under which species there is first contained the substance of bread, and afterwards the body of Christ.”

If “substance” itself is a term to be avoided, to talk simply about “real presence”, then it is perfectly fair to call the host both bread and wine and the Body and Blood of Christ, since the substance-accident distinction is connected to a particular philosophy, and not dogma.

In my view, calling the consecrated host something that it is not (bread) is a lie. At this point, what looks, feels and taste like bread in not in fact bread, it is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.

In my view, it is still bread. It’s just also Jesus. In some way it is really entirely Jesus, and in another way it is entirely bread (it looks like bread, it tastes like bread, it has the molecular structure of bread). How does this all work together? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.

But I’m open to different views. Just don’t consider my words a lie. Mistaken, maybe. But not a lie.

Since I am a Catholic, it would be a lie for me to agree with your view. Given that I accept the Words of Jesus in John 6 and the constant teaching of the Church, I can declare your view is wrong. Whether you are culpable for holding a wrong view is your call.

I guess I just don’t get it. I don’t see where the conflict is between what I say and what the Catholic Church teaches.

bread does not equal not-bread.

The law of non-contradiction indicates that the consecrated host cannot be bread and not bread at the same time.

The Church teaches that the host is no longer bread. You say it is. One of these statements is false.

I suspect this is tangential. Let’s say that I define anything that has a certain range of molecular structures as “bread”. By that definition, the host is bread, because the host would have been bread before the consecration, and the consecration does not change molecular structure.

The law of non-contradiction indicates that the consecrated host cannot be bread and not bread at the same time.

But where there is a contradiction, we make a distinction. The host is bread, in one sense (in the sense of what we observe and measure), but entirely not-bread in another (in some deeper sense, what the host actually is is no longer bread).

The Church teaches that the host is no longer bread. You say it is. One of these statements is false.

Or both are true, but in different senses.

The dogma regarding transubstantiation can be found in the canons of the 13th session of the Council of Trent (see here). In particular:

CANON lI.-If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.

This is not tangential. In fact it strikes at the heart of the matter.

Just because all scientific measures indicate that what is visible is bread, the truth of the matter is that throught the power of the Holy Spirit it is no longer bread. Therefore the host is not bread in any sense.

It is bread according to my first definition. It’s also bread according to Trent (quoted by JustLurking above), as per “species”. It’s just that no substance of bread remains in the host. I’m not totally against that notion.

Why does your definition apply? We are speaking of a Church teaching. The Church’s definitions are what are applicable. To use another definition is the logical fallacy of equivocation.

It’s not like these definitions were written by God in Heaven, and handed down to us. There can be multiple meanings for the same word.

And I’m definitely not equivocating (and neither is Trent or St. Thomas Aquinas, who do the same thing I’m doing). I’ve made my meanings quiet clear. I’m not trying to mislead.

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