I don’t know whether it is true or not that in the University of Paris, in the middle of the 13th century, no less than seventeen of St Albert the Great’s students defended doctoral theses on the burning subject of the number of teeth in a horse’s mouth. The celebrated Dominican theologian-scientist never decreed which thesis, if any, was accurate in suggesting a given number, but the theses would have involved intensive studies of the opinions of the early Church Fathers on the subject, as well as conscientious consultation of biblical concordances and every single reference to horses, even Jesus’ donkey, to be found in Sacred Scripture. I do know that several centuries later, during the Enlightenment, someone opened a horse’s mouth and came up with the right answer.
I don’t know either how many angels can fit or dance on the head of a pin, but smiled as a young Franciscan student when I first heard this fictitious question as a send-up of Scholasticism.
I do know that theologians still talk about consubstantiation, transubstantiation and … impanation. Thom did well not to bring up this third element in his posting “Ignorance : No Obstacle to Believing”, concerning the debate about Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. But the Catholic Encyclopedia does. In a long article it discusses the origins of this “heretical doctrine”, closer to Luther’s consubstantiation than Catholic transubstantiation. The heresy holds that “Christ is in the Eucharist through His human body united with the substances of bread and wine, and thus is really present as God made bread.”
Thom did well not to bring up the subject with the devout ignoramuses attending the WYD in Sydney, who had never heard even of transubstantiation, the official Catholic “explanation” of what happens when priests say “This is my body” and “This is my blood”.
Theologians will continue to waste their lives talking rubbish like this. The faithful are ready to accept whatever they say. But more often than not they do not know or care about such pseudo-intellectual ravings, and content themselves, when they receive the consecrated wafer of bread, to affirm their belief that it is indeed “the Body of Christ” with a resounding “Amen”. Blind faith, my friends. Blind folly.