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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A heterodox Jesuit is obfuscating Church teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit, wrote an article on Tuesday revealing he does not believe in transubstantiation — the Church's explanation of how Our Lord is present in Holy Communion.
The Jesuit attempted to explain his position:
Since my critics often accuse me of heresy, before I go further, let me affirm that I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I just don't believe in transubstantiation because I don't believe in prime matter, substantial forms and accidents that are part of Aristotelian metaphysics.
Reese is attacking the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas — a Doctor of the Church and a backbone of Catholic theology — who drew on the philosophy of Aristotle, who was often hailed as the greatest of heathen philosophers. Reese, however, claims the thoughts of the great saint are out of date, writing: "What worked in the 13th century will not work today."
The Church, however, has always taught and continues to teach the doctrine of transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses:
The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."
Reese isn't the only Catholic to adopt a personal interpretation of the Eucharist. In the last five years, polls have revealed that 7 in 10 Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. According to the surveys, a majority of Catholics think the bread and wine in Holy Communion are mere symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
It's no wonder, then, that, as Reese claims, the doctrine of the Real Presence as explained in catechism — i.e., transubstantiation — has been meaningless for most Americans, rendering Holy Communion "a meaningless ritual to be endured."
The 16th-century Council of Trent, however, emphatically stated, "If anyone denies" the teaching of Transubstantiation and holds that Christ "is in it as by a sign or figure ... let him be anathema" — or condemned.
Reese claims the failure of clear Catholic teaching is one reason behind the ongoing crisis of record-low Mass attendance among Catholics. Although Mass attendance was very high in the 1950s and early 1960s — immediately before the Second Vatican Council — Reese maintains "Catholics then believed that it was a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday, and unless you went to confession, you could die and go to hell. This filled Catholic churches despite boring homilies and a Mass in Latin that the people did not understand."
While Reese claims fear of Hell was the factor most influencing Mass attendance, bishops have stated otherwise. Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican's former head liturgist, insisted the problem was the loss of faith in the Real Presence. He wrote: "The decline of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus the Eucharist is at the heart of the current crisis of the Church and its decline, especially in the West ... ."
It's a lie & an insult for @ThomasReeseSJ to claim without proof that the primary motivation of Catholics who attended Mass every Sunday pre-Vatican II (74%) was a fear of hell.— MrCasey (@MrCasey62) February 1, 2023
What's clear, though, is now, with only 17% attending weekly, most aren't motivated by anything. pic.twitter.com/kOJA0BDdkE
In 2019, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recognized this crisis and held a survey, asking Americans for ideas on how to restore faith in the Real Presence. Thousands of responses included:
Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, rued in 2016: "Catholicism is in the throes of the worst crisis in its entire history." He blamed poor formation, writing "decades of a thin and even false catechesis had created a situation in which many Catholics ... were left in confusion and error regarding the most fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith and of the moral law."
Cardinal Sarah went a step further in 2015, revealing that the crisis of faith was present in the hierarchy. "I feel wounded in my heart as a bishop in witnessing such incomprehension of the Church's definitive teaching on the part of my brother priests," he lamented.
He continued, "I cannot allow myself to imagine as the cause of such confusion anything but the insufficiency of the formation of my confreres."
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