Real Presence vs.Transubstantiation


I need to have this broken down into the simplest form. A Lutheran states the CC is wrong about the Eucharist…



Whenever someone says the Church is wrong about something, ask them what specifically. Your question is so general that it’s difficult to know what exactly their misunderstanding is about.

Your phrase Real Presence vs. Transubstantiation is a false dichotomy.

Is there a specific question or do you want a general explanation? Catholic Answers has tracts/answer sheets and surely one deals with your question.


Here is the argument:

"Be careful, my full unseparated friend, since the RCC denounced Real Presence in 1215 and replaced it with Transubstantiation - rejecting the real presence of the bread and wine. Real Presence was replaced with a dogmatic embrace of a now entirely debunked pagan theory of Aristotle commonly known as “accidents.”

I accept Real Presense. I don’t accept half real presense as does the RCC and most Protestants."

Explain this…


The Real Presence means that the Eucharistic Host and Wine actually become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

Transubstantiation is the Catholic (and Orthodox) understanding of how this happens, i.e. the Eucharistic Prayers of a valid Priest can cause the change.

Lutherans believe in the Real Presence, but they believe it is not the Priest’s prayers that cause it. It just happens mysteriously during the Mass, and ceases to be the Body and Blood after the Mass. They also believe the bread and wine remain, along with the Body and Blood, instead of being replaced. They term this whole process Consubstantiation.

Hope this helps.

God Bless


Look in the current Catechism. The Church still teaches the doctrine of the Real Presence, quite explicitly so. Your friend is, quite simply, wrong.



I think that this article from This Rock magazine: “Beware the Term Real Presence!” might be useful.

It seems that your friend is taking issue with the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 which defined the terminology “transubstantiation” – at least that is the only plausible thing that your friend’s mysterious reference of the year 1215 could mean.

Speaking only to your friend’s warning, I find it ironic that he says Catholics are “rejecting the real presence of the bread and wine.” How true! After the consecration there is no real presence of the bread and wine to be found, because we hold that the entire substance of bread is changed into Christ’s body and the entire substance of wine is changed into Christ’s blood.

A further unintended irony is that your friend says that he doesn’t accept an “half real presence.” However, if he were to hold anything but that the entire substances of bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ (which we fittingly describe as “trasubsantiation”) then it would be your friend himself who professes an incomplete or “half-real” presence. Why? Because if Christ is present along with the bread and wine in some fashion then you would seem to have some quasi-real presence. . . since Christ, as he really is, right now, doesn’t exist along with bread and wine.

The concept of transubstantiation serves to protect the doctrine of the real presence. Basically we are saying: “No, really, the bread and wine transform into the body and blood of Christ!”

What do you think?


I would also caution you about making the same mistake that your friend is doing, which is defining your belief as a negation of somebody else’s belief. Because, you see, it’s extraordinarily rare to understand someone else’s belief well enough to be able to do this.

Lutherans and Catholics both believe in what we both call the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Lutherans also call their belief “consubstantiation” and they have a pretty good idea of what they mean by that. Catholics also call our belief “transubstantiation” and we have a pretty good idea of what we mean by that. But Catholics are not reliable experts on what Lutherans believe and Lutherans are not reliable experts on what Catholics believe – at least not reliable enough experts to make that exacting a distinction.

On this matter, Anglicans hold that the only difference is in spelling & pronounciation, and that Catholics and Lutherans are a bunch of dunderheads arguing about nothing more substantial (pun intended :wink: ) than what word to use. (And a particularly silly argument to have in churches which are multi-lingual and so use different words in different languages to explain the same things all of the time.) There has been a Catholic-Lutheran dialogue trying to figure out if the Anglicans are right about this for about the last four decades.

I have decided that if the theological experts conclude that it was all a big misunderstanding and that there is in fact no distinction then I will waste no more than 3 milliseconds feeling sheepish and move on with great rejoicing…

Also understand where it at least appears our dispute is. Catholics describe our belief by saying that the consecrated Eucharist has the essence of Christ and the accidents of bread and wine, while Lutherans (when constrained to use Catholic terminology) describe their belief by saying that the consecrated Eucharist has the essence of Christ and both the essence and accidents of bread and wine. As your friend alluded to, this comes down to a highly technical discussion of what you mean by “essence” and “accident.” On the surface, after all, it appears that we have no argument about Christ at all, and only differ on a pretty arcane hair-split on the existential nature of food. (Which, admit it, is a pretty silly basis to have a schism over.) But of course just as it is possible for two people to use two different terms to mean exactly the same thing, it is possible for two people to use one term to mean two different things. So maybe it is the definition of “essence” which we differ over.

So, I think that the best response to your friend is that it is far more productive for you to come to a deeper understanding of transubstantiation and be faithful to it, and for him to come to a deeper understanding of consubstantiation and be faithful to it, and Jesus had quite a few rather uncomplimentary things to say about busybodies more concerned about what other people believe than about what they themselves believe.


You misunderstood the issue. They are speaking of the Real Presence of bread. In other words, they are saying that since they see bread, then the substance could not have changed.

They do not mean Real Presence as in Christ’s presence.


They claim that they are speaking of the Real Presence of both bread/wine and Christ. Why should I believe what a Catholic says Lutherans believe over what Lutherans say that Lutherans believe?

What is the essence of bread and of wine? Bread and wine are food; as a student of biology I observe that the essence of food is that it is always something which is alive, is consumed, dies, and in so doing, gives life to the living being which consumes it. When we say that the Eucharist loses the “essence” of bread and wine and becomes Christ, do we claim that Christ does not have the property of dying to give us life? No, of course not, that’s not what we mean at all. (Well, I don’t mean it, anyway – I firmly believe that I have life by Christ’s death.)

We have spent billions of words trying to describe the Eucharistic mystery, and of course we have not quite got it. (That’s pretty much the definition of “mystery” after all.) There are lots of perfectly plausible readings of our terminology which are not, in fact, what we believe. Why should I believe that my (or your) ignorant interpretation of Lutheran theology is any better than an ignorant person’s interpretation of my theology?


OK, now that you have teed off on me, I was not referring to Lutheran theology; I was referring to a previous post who misunderstood what was said. If they mis-spoke Lutheran theology, that is their issue, not mine; I was only responding that one of the posters misunderstood what was being said (rightly or wrongly).


Catholic position as I understand it: This is my body. At the words of institution that which before was bread and wine ceases to exist, being changing completely into Jesus whose glorious presence is hidden by a vision of bread and wine, as angels sometimes hide their glorious presence and appear as men. Jesus is really present as true God and true man.

Lutheran position as I understand it: This bread is my body. At the words of institution Jesus unites himself to the bread and wine, as in the incarnation when the Son of God united himself to a human nature and became a man, now he also unites himself to the bread and wine, in what may be called an inpanation, and becomes bread and wine. Jesus is really present as true God and true man, and as true bread and true wine.

A Lutheran who believes that Jesus is really present as true God, true man, true bread, and true wine might consider the Catholic belief that Jesus is only present as true God and true man as a belief in a half real presence, since it lacks the belief that Jesus is really present as true bread and true wine.


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