Thursday, 11 April 2013

I believe, but how about you, Father?

Actuality rather than re-enactment

A recent conversation with a liberal Catholic Priest produced an interesting topic for debate.

That is, how many modern priests believe that, at the Consecration, the bread and wine becomes the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord.

Transubstantiation as we call it.

I was rather fed up with receiving a barrage of veiled assaults on traditionalists (or, as he preferred to call them, "Puritans") and, more in an attempt to halt the flow rather than launch a counter offensive I asked him a simple (as I thought) question.

I have raised this issue in earlier posts and been berated for not producing evidence so we will treat the following as hearsay rather than statistical fact.

Back in either 1984 or 1985 some research was published (so I claim) that showed that 48% of priests in England and Wales did not believe in transubstantiation. The  survey was from a base of 1,000 priests so, in market research terms, it was a small sample.

But that statistic, true or false, has stayed active in my mind ever since and I do speculate on just how many priests believe in the Mystery and how many just believe that what they are doing is remembering via a repeat of the Last Supper ritual.

So I asked this priest, whom I shall call Father Charles, having brought him up to speed on the research element, if, during the course of his socialising and meeting with his brother priests he had any idea of how many might believe or not as the case may be.

He looked as if he had bitten rather hard on a rusty four inch nail and, after a pause replied that it was a subject that had never cropped up in team meetings or retreats or days out for whatever purpose.

I found that rather hard to comprehend. Most professional people with a keen interest in their work tend to debate, discuss and dissect every particle of knowledge concerning their daily duties.

Most Catholics that I know (mainly of the orthodox kind, I have to say) also veer towards intense discussions on every aspect of the Faith; it's what we like to do; it produces greater knowledge and understanding - it is a good and wholesome pastime.

Surely a priest would know how his brothers feel about such an important issue?

So, perhaps those who attend OF Masses of the liturgically challenged kind, should stop and ask their priest if he does believe or if he is just doing the Protestant play acting thing.

It's a fair question, if asked courteously, and it would be most interesting to hear the answer. 


  1. It is clear from how many priests behave, especially at the consecration during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that they do not believe that Our Lord and Saviour is fully present in the Blessed Sacrament. Where the priest does not believe this, the Mass is not valid. The cancer quickly spreads to the laity of the parish.

    1. That is incorrect. The priest's measure of belief or total lack thereof has no power to invalidate the consecration. The sacrament is not dependent upon the inner state of the priest. He is not, after all, performing a magic trick or manipulating forces with his thoughts. That is a misunderstanding of 'in persona Christi'. It is actually extremely difficult to achieve an invalid consecration. Illicit may be much easier, and perhaps that's what you are thinking of.

  2. Richard
    Unfortunately, nowadays if you use such sacred words as Transubstantiation or Consecration- I'm afraid that many of our brethren in the modern fraternity of priests, catechists, teachers and laity will no doubt think that you are both balmy and mediaeval! They use ecumenical buzz words as; epicletus or confecting the sacraments; after all Hoc Est Emim Corpus Meum has now become a load of Hocus-pocus to them! God help us! Trust You and All your readers had a blessed and peaceful Easter.





    God Bless

  3. The matter has never been discussed at any deanery meeting that I have attended, simply because no one there would have the slightest doubt that everyone present believes in transubstaniation

  4. I think you may be mixing some things up here because it is perfectly easy while believing in Transubstantiation to behave as if one did not i.e. behave with minimal display of reverence. In a sense we all do this when we sin. In other words when we sin we behave as if God did not exist or was not concerned with us.On such occasions it would be easy for someone observing our behaviour to view us as atheists. Equally, there may be some priests (perhaps mistaken, in my view), who affect a casual manner when carrying out the sacred rites so as not to appear intimidating or off-putting to weak souls.

  5. For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
    No wonder is a lewed man to ruste

    - Chaucer, "General Prologue," 501-502

  6. I suspect he had the George Bernard Shaw quote about wrestling in his head.

  7. I'm not sure 'the actual body and blood of Christ' is an accurate description of Transubstantiation - it could be taken to mean the physical body and blood of Christ which would be heresy. The doctrine says body, blood, soul and divinity.

  8. No. Patricius, I am not confusing the two but there is almost certainly a correlation that results in a lack of belief if Canon Law is not observed.
    Peter Fordham, we refer to the True Presence meaning (presumably) the body and blood of Christ present in the form of bread and wine. I think it not unreasonable to use the word 'actual' as, of course, the bread and wine is changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
    Tony, it will not surprise you if I say that I have no knowledge of that quote, me not being a Shaw fan and all. (That is GBS, by the way, not Joe Shaw).

  9. EFPE, Father, I would not dream of contradicting you but you have an overwhelming level of trust in your brother priests.
    In my defence all that I can say is that I know a goodly few priests who would not hold their hand up to that belief.

    Lynda - I am of the same mind as you although I believe that it is true to say that a Mass celebrated by a non believing priest is valid. I find that fact rather strange.
    Thank you Michael and Mack, you both have an enviable skill with words.

    1. Mr Collins,
      You say that "all that I can say is that I know a goodly few priests who would not hold their hand up to that belief."

      Very simply - they are NOT Catholic if they deny transubstantiation.

    2. To WILLFULLY DENY transubstantiation is very different than being confused about it, having weak faith, being unclear, having doubts, being poorly educated, etc. I imagine very few priests fall into the first category. To vehemently deny transubstantiation and say Mass every day would take a very hardened soul.

      I do concur with folks here, however, that there may be a big percentage of priests in this other category, who pray at night, "Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief."

      For the saintly priests who are graced with fervent faith and devotion, let us be thankful for them and not try to mind-read the others. The Sacrament is a gift to us from God, not from an individual human being.

  10. EFPE - of course, I agree totally. Richard.