It is hard to believe that anyone believes that in every Catholic parish church in the world, there is a Man – alive and well, though He was killed 2000 years ago – living locked up in a small metal box on or near the altar . . . waiting to be eaten ! Some readers may think I am delirious, drunk, drugged or, at 84 years of age, just plain senile. But neither the Pope nor over a billion Catholics would deny what they call the “Real Presence” of Jesus in those little white tasteless wafers, the size of a euro, which they will later swallow, each believed to be the resurrected Jesus.
It is, I say, hard to believe that such a belief exists. but for four decades – half of my life – I myself not only believed in this “Real Presence”, but as a Catholic priest, miraculously made it happen every time I celebrated Mass ! The “miracle” is called “transubstantiation” : the substance of bread is transformed into the substance of Jesus’ body, while retaining the (convenient) appearance of bread ! “This is my body” I would say over the “host”, a wafer larger than the ones already “consecrated” and stored in the food-larder we called a “tabernacle”, using the words of Christ at His Last Supper. Over a chalice of wine I would then say “This is my blood”. The symbolic separation of the body and the blood of the Savior reenacts His death. The “bread” and the wine BECOME Jesus, and, like the Apostles the night before He died, we consume His living flesh and blood in a “Holy Communion”.
Forty years ago – after seven as a priest – I finally recognized all this as disgusting nonsense, checked in my chasuble and abandoned the Church and every shred of Christian belief in favor of militant atheism, Today I am dedicated to exposing and denouncing the exploitation of believers’ credulity, including my own, through this blog, aggressively entitled “blindfaithblindfolly”.
The Last Supper, prelude to Jesus’ crucifixion and purported Resurrection, has been ritually renewed for 2000 years in the rite both Catholics and Anglicans call the “Eucharist”, though Catholics prefer “Mass”. Nobody, including theologians, seems to be astonished that at the momentous farewell meal with His closest disciples, Jesus actually declared that the loaf of bread He was holding was … His body ! That was insane enough, even if He meant it symbolically. But we have to wonder why on earth, the night before He was to be put to death, He would suggest that His faithful followers “take and eat” His flesh, and worse (?) “drink His blood” ! Catholics, of course, differ from Protestants in that they insist on the REAL presence of Jesus under the appearance of consecrated bread and wine. (The Anglican Communion, be it noted in passing, does not know what to believe or teach about the Real Presence; take your pick.) But who, except cannibals, would ever be tempted to consume – even symbolically – human flesh, even if it supposedly, miraculously, retained the “accidents” (the characteristics) of ordinary bread ?
The eucharistic “hosts”, circular, tasteless wafers made from flour and water, are kept in a “ciborium” in the “tabernacle” in every Catholic church in the world. No one seems to question this multiple supposed “Real”, universal, presence of Jesus in the countless Catholic churches all over the planet. (The doctrine of the Trinity – three Persons in one God – is challenge enough to monotheists. What should we make of hundreds of thousands of Jesuses ?). A large host is enshrined in an elaborate “monstrance” to be displayed for “Perpetual Adoration” or for occasional ceremonies called “Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament”. Pious Catholics “pay visits” to their churches to pray before the living Prisoner of the Tabernacle, lonely in His … solitary confinement.
All this raises questions Catholics never ask because since their early childhood this is what they were taught in preparation for their First Communion. Later questions might occur to them, and perhaps trouble some to the point that they abandon their faith entirely. More often than not, the vast majority decide to settle for symbolism, thereby becoming crypto-Protestants. Of course the “settling for less”, while avoiding the absurdity of eucharistic cannibalism, begs the question as to why anyone would think that admiration for, confidence and belief in another person, could be appropriately symbolized by . . . eating him ! Go figure.
P.S. “Transubstantiation”. The Church has a gift for disguising nonsense with neologisms. “Immaculate Conception”, “Divine Inspiration”, “Resurrection” are all devoid of rational content. No one was ever conceived immaculately in the sense of being preserved from Original Sin – another theological invention – no writing (even this blog !) was ever divinely inspired and none of us has any chance of rising from the dead. But, according to official Vatican doctrine, I am still capable of transubstantiation. I could turn a whole baker’s shop into multiple bodies of Jesus ! Meantime, Catholics should check out the meaning of the words of “Panis Angelicus”, their favorite, tear-jerking, lovely hymn, which should make them throw up. You’ll find it in my post of July 20, 2020.