Lust for power

Will Pope Francis be successful in his mission to reform the Church so that it can approach more closely its vocation to be The Mystical Body of Christ? I emphasised, in my last column on this subject, the essential need for communication – which must operate downwards, upwards and laterally. Today I want to look at another essential factor: subsidiarity. It means that authority must be devolved to the maximum practical extent. Higher authority must not arrogate the functions and decisions which can properly be exercised at a lower level.

Subsidiarity is not a covert ploy for wresting power from authority, or a simple management device, it is, in fact, an outcome of Natural Law, and so mandated by human dignity. Its apotheosis is found in God’s gifts of free will and reason. In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the concept is strongly emphasised. However, the references here are to secular society. Does subsidiarity also apply to the Church?

Indeed it does, for the Church has all the characteristics of a secular society notwithstanding its sacred mission, just as we individuals retain our all too human characteristics, although we are a redeemed race. And Pius XII confirmed its application to the Church in his “Address to New Cardinals” in 1946.

The desire for power is a form of concupiscence; it entered the human race with the Fall. That power can be rational and necessary is undoubted, but the desire for power in itself is destructive. The obvious example is the politician who, convinced of his essential value to society, becomes a stranger to the truth. When Lord Acton famously said that all power had a tendency to corrupt, it was in the context of the Renaissance popes. But it is present at any level, and we are all susceptible to the itch to control – we rarely cede it willingly. It is no coincidence that love of power and lust are connected: Henry Kissinger told us that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and, at one time, the power of a ruler was defined by the size of his harem.

Unfortunately the Church, even in modern times, does not have a good record on subsidiarity. Cardinal König wrote, for example, “…the curial authorities, working in conjunction with the Pope, have appropriated the tasks of the episcopal college. It is they who carry out almost all of them”. (Tablet, March 27 1990). The bishops’ synods of that era were emasculated by curial authority and the very concept of subsidiarity was forbidden or criticised (in one case, ironically, by a certain Cardinal Bergoglio).

The sad story of how the Congregation for Divine Worship wrested the translation of the liturgy from the English-speaking bishops after their many years of work is well known. Not only was this a direct offence against subsidiarity but it produced a translation unworthy of the language which gave us the King James Bible.

In more general terms we may describe the past model of the Church as subjecting Christian existence to authority, regulating life even into its most intimate preserves, and thereby attempting to maintain control over people’s lives. Too harsh a verdict? I have taken it directly from a 1991 address to bishops by Cardinal Ratzinger. There is hope here. He goes on to say that this “pre-conciliar” model is superseded by the model of freedom, and claims – rightly in my view – that this is the older tradition.

In terms of structural subsidiarity, the appointment of bishops is significant. While the recommendations of relevant persons may well be considered, the choice is reserved to the Holy See. There are historical reasons for this, and there remain some territories in which it is needed, but there is no good reason why, in most cases, a diocesan bishop should not be chosen by the local Church as a whole – with perhaps a final veto for truly exceptional cases. This limits the danger that a pope may, even unconsciously, prefer bishops who conform to his own views, and thus damage the representative quality of the episcopal college. The bishop is not a papal delegate, he is, in his own right, the leader of the Church in his own diocese.

But in the end, the core of subsidiarity does not lie in structures – for these can only follow the fundamental attitude. In eradicating the lust for power – a difficult task indeed once it is indurated – the right kind of structures will follow. The secular term for this is “tight-loose”. In pursuing its objectives the organisation must be firm and executive in those few matters where this is necessary, and allow maximum room for freedom and initiative where it is not.

Pope Francis has already shown by his example that authority exists for its functions of service and not to sustain rank. He is putting together structures which should push power further down towards those who can use it better. The early documentation for the forthcoming Synod on the Family suggests that there will be serious engagement with the issues important to everyone in the Church. We shall see.

But true subsidiarity, like true communication, will not be easily won. There will be hotheads who will damage the cause through their excesses, and conservatives, full of fear, who will desperately batten down the hatches. We saw all of this following Vatican II. Indeed had Vatican II been fully implemented, much of Francis’s work would already have been done.

About Quentin

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87 Responses to Lust for power

  1. claret says:

    There is not the slightest of hopes that anything will change. The Church is too old, too set in its ways and structures, the whole subject is just too vast. Where it does make feeble attempts at ‘subsidiarity’ these always include a ‘get out’ that is wide enough for any change to be eliminated at source.
    It would need something truly radical and it just won’t happen.
    Do we need all these Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Dioceses and parishes?
    Why should priests be excluded from the normal means of employment. Viz, submit their CV to the local church council and subject themselves for interview, and if appointed, then subject to an annual appraisal !

    • milliganp says:

      The church needs some structure and Apostolic succession requires Bishops as do the sacraments of Orders and Confirmation. If anything we need more Bishops, but pastors rather than adminstrators.

  2. John L says:

    Quentin, – common sense dictates that one could hardly produce a major disagreement with the points you make. However – (there is always a “however” isn’t there?) it does seem to me that if the unity of the Church is to be preserved then any Pope must reserve some central form of “government” to himself. The huge diversity of opinion in this blog alone indicates the practical difficulty of “low-level” decision making. Those of us who can be bothered to join in sometimes esoteric discussions might possibly be regarded as cranks by the rest of the “don’t bother me with detail” part of the Catholic community. I couldn’t visualise many bishops, even, reaching a sufficient level of agreement from their own devices. To quote W S Gilbert, “…all thinking for themselves is what no man can face with equanimity”.
    Prayers for St Joseph as requested. Missing her style of argument.

    • Quentin says:

      A counter example might be provided from the discussions of Vat II. It was called by a pope who symbolised his wish by throwing open a window and saying there was a need to let light into the Church.

      When the Council began the delegates were handed carefully worked out schemas prepared by the Curia. The bishops simply threw them out, wrote their own, and approved the new documents, as amended in discussion, by very large majorities. And the new pope sealed the work of the Council by approving them.

      The only issue the new pope reserved was that of contraception. There are those who say that this was his only mistake.

      Which is not to say that things didn’t go wrong after that – and your doubts are well taken. However, where the blog is concerned – amidst all the argy-bargy, I have learnt a great deal and changed my mind or refined my views on many issues.

      Many years ago I resigned from the parish committee once I realised that I was only expected to confirm the pp’s views. Today much of the parish’s work is done by the laity without any hazard to the pp’s ultimate authority. This is in practice expressed as guidance rather than command. He listens to us, we listen to him.

  3. John Nolan says:

    One has to ask whether those who champion ‘subsidiarity’ (and, Quentin, I must include you in this category) are less interested in the principle than in the result it may obtain. It is a known fact that in the last 40-odd years many if not most parishes in the UK and USA are effectively run by committees of middle-aged, middle-class, liberal laypeople who effectively call the shots. Even the liturgy, which of all things defines us as Catholic, is delegated to ‘liturgy committees’ whose main qualification would seem to be a complete ignorance of the subject coupled with a condescending attitude to the ‘hoi polloi’ – ‘Well, we’re off to Glyndebourne again this year, but ordinary people can’t appreciate high culture, so we’ll give them “Here I am Lord” ‘.

    Supposing a diocesan bishop in England and Wales decided that he didn’t want female servers or Communion in the hand in his diocese. It has happened elsewhere. This is surely an example of subsidiarity; after all the bishop is prince in his diocese. However, he won’t do it because he has to be in lockstep with the National Conference which mandates policy in this as in many other areas.

    Compared with most bureaucracies the Curia is tiny. It’s function is, as it has always been, as a backstop, a last resort but whose decision is final – Roma locuta est, causa finita est. However, the Church is a hierarchy, and we are told that heaven is too; ‘Et ideo, cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus … tremunt Potestates’. The same no doubt applies to hell.

    • Quentin says:

      You’re quite right, John. Subsidiarity, which is dependent on good leadership, is much more difficult than sending commands down the hierarchical line. And if you can supercharge that with the idea that obedience per se is a virtue, you’ve got it made. The only problem is that, in the long term, you will have a failing organisation.

      • Horace says:

        I am now 20 years retired but when I was a Consultant in Clinical Neurophysiology in the National Health Service I never had a formal contract.
        When I applied for a vacant post I was interviewed by a panel of Consultant Physicians and Surgeons, and if they approved I was sent for by the Hospital Secretary who told me that my job was to ‘provide whatever services were required’ and with a formal handshake I was appointed.
        Is this a good example of ‘subsidiarity’?

    • milliganp says:

      John, you raise 2 issues that interest me. Yes, in the USA the local church is often dominated by “professional” lay people. And the old joke about arguing with a liturgist often extends to the entire cast. I suspect the issue is that, unlike clergy, the formation of lay people often lacks a spiritual or ecclesial dimension (you can get a degree in theology without having to share a solitary Catholic thought).However it is the nature of the beast that a move to openness and subsidiarity must pass through the minefield (desert) of mistakes – I don’t believe there is an alternate journey.
      The second is that of the individual Diocesan Bishop vs the collective. Certain aspects of liturgical discipline are delegated to Bishops Conferences. Note, they are not delegated to individual Bishops, this is to ensure consistency within a region. In England and Wales the Bishops Conference has decided that receiving communion standing is the norm but that, for reasons of pastoral care, communion should be administered to those who choose to kneel. Reception on the tongue and in the hand are both normative.
      If every Bishop decided to “do his own thing” going to Brighton or Birmingham, or even crossing the river in London could provide interesting confusion.

  4. John Nolan says:

    I’ve touched on this before, but translation of liturgical texts and non-liturgical prayers is not a good example. The translations which we used before the Council, many of which have persisted, were, if Scriptural, based on the Challoner edition of Douai-Rheims which was heavily influenced by the AV; other texts were in similar hieratic English, and were often poetic and memorable (Adrian Fortescue’s ‘Hail Holy Queen’ is an outstanding example, but there are many others) as well as being accurate translations. Those who followed the Mass in a hand missal were quite familiar with Mass in the vernacular.

    The decision in the 1960s to replace liturgical Latin with a babel of tongues was an entirely new departure, and few could foresee its consequences. The insistence on a standard text for all English-speaking countries can be seen as ‘a direct offence against subsidiarity’ and in any event the result was highly unsatisfactory in a number of areas and for a number of reasons. Had the English hierarchy been allowed to employ someone of the calibre of Fortescue to produce a translation to be used in England, the result would have been immeasurably better and the principle of subsidiarity more faithfully served – if indeed it has ever applied to the liturgy, which is another question.

    The 1998 Sacramentary made a better job of translating the Propers, but left the flawed rendition of the Ordinary (which dated from 1967 with emendations, including a mangled ‘ecumenical’ Gloria, dating from 1975) largely intact, apart from some tweaking to achieve what American feminists call ‘inclusive language’, which is actually nothing of the sort. It also exceeded the remit of translation in that it composed new prayers which have no Latin original. Not surprisingly, the CDW rejected it, and the reasons it gave for doing so are convincing.

    • milliganp says:

      Dear John, if you hadn’t noticed from my other posts I can be pedantic as well as the best.
      When the recent Roman Missal translation was introduced I produced a side-by-side translation comparison of the Collect prayers for 4 Sundays using 3 popular Missals from pre-1960, the 1972 Roman Missal and the Third Edition. The pre-Vatican II missals seemed to entirely convey the form and content of the Latin. The 1972 does not bear comparison but the Third Edition fails the test of being intelligible English.
      As an experiment I took a sample of prayers from the current translation and put them through a piece of software used to check how easy a piece of text is to read and understand. Most of the prayer of the church come out at graduate level, how this leaves the 80% of the English speaking world who do not get past post 15 education is a mystery.

  5. Iona says:

    Languages which are in daily use are in a continual state of flux, absorbing from other languages and heading off in different directions. There are lots of different Englishes. Maybe there’s something to be said for retaining sacred (“dead”) languages such as Latin, Sanscrit, ancient Hebrew and the Arabic that the Koran is written in, and providing translations which can be frequently revised as the languages they are translated into change.

    • John Nolan says:

      Iona, exactly the point that St John XXIII made in ‘Veterum Sapientia’. Looking at the opening sentence of this thread, viz. ‘Will Pope Francis be successful in his mission to reform the Church so that it [sic] can approach more closely its [sic] vocation to be The Mystical Body of Christ?’ I am somewhat perplexed. It seems to assume a lot and presume even more. I would say that it is a typical piece of ‘Tablet-ese’ but this might be taken as a compliment.

      Bergoglio on his own admission is not a good administrator and his record as Archbishop of Buenos Aires is at best somewhat patchy (not that the UK/US media knows or cares about what happens in South America, unless there’s a World Cup going on). Since his election as pope he has made some off-the-cuff remarks which have caused confusion, but has not set out any coherent programme of reform, and the current crisis in the Church does not admit of easy ‘fixes’. A return to the 1970s ‘spirit of Vatican II’ hermeneutic, while attractive to ageing liberals who deplored the papacies of JP II and B XVI, is no more likely to succeed than would be an attempt to return to the era of Pius XII.

      Even in the 1970s, with the weakest papacy in modern times and the Church apparently in freefall, no-one would have foreseen a situation where someone could legally marry another of the same sex, where criticism of homosexual practices could constitute a criminal offence, and where Parliament could be considering legislation allowing doctors to kill their patients. Yet the hot-button issue, it would appear, is whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be told they can receive Communion, regardless of the fact that they do anyway, and in any case a majority of those who troop up and stick their mitts out haven’t a clue what they are receiving, thanks to two generations of poor catechesis.

      Etenim si incertam vocem det tuba, quis parabit se ad bellum?

  6. Iona says:

    John – For those of us who never got beyond ‘O’ level Latin, many decades ago, and who are post-Vatican II converts hence did not grow up with Church Latin….?

  7. ignatius says:

    Etenim si incertam vocem det tuba, quis parabit se ad bellum?
    In fact, if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

    .”….and in any case a majority of those who troop up and stick their mitts out haven’t a clue what they are receiving, thanks to two generations of poor catechesis……..”

    I guess the above is just a throwaway line..?

    • John Nolan says:

      ‘A throwaway line’. Given the number of dropped or discarded Hosts found these days, especially after large gatherings, that’s quite clever.

      Not long ago, and at a cathedral no less, I was tapped on the shoulder by a verger to indicate that it was my turn to join the ‘Communion line’. At the time I was singing, along with the choir, the Communio from the Graduale Romanum, and was not best pleased at the interruption (and showed it). What gave him the right to assume that I was properly disposed to receive the Sacrament?

      How many people heard the Lauda Sion on Corpus Christi this year? Not many, since it is ‘ad libitum’ in the Novus Ordo. (And that means omitted. A lot of priests, who normally can’t resist ‘ad libbing’, make an exception in this case.) How many people would understand it, even in translation? You tell me.

      • Singalong says:

        “What gave him the right to assume that I was properly disposed to receive the Sacrament?”

        John, I should think the verger tells people when it is their turn, on a provisional basis, meaning IF they intend to receive, or perhaps go up to ask for a blessing, if they wish and are not able to receive the Sacrament. It is his job to ensure calm and due order when there are is a large gathering, is it not?

  8. John Nolan says:

    Singalong, no. There is no turn and turn about. The London Oratory is a very large church and yet everyone receives kneeling and goes up when he/she wants to. One might be directed, if one is at the back of the church, to receive at one of the side altars, but there is no regimentation.

    The post-V2 regimen – based on a decidedly Teutonic hermeneutic – seems to be based on ‘you will stand here, sit here, kneel here as we direct; you will respond here in unison in the words you have been given by a committee; you will not make private devotions after Communion because we want you standing at this point (I’m not making this up – US bishops are insisting on this.)

    Anyone who has studied the development of the Roman Rite since the fourth century now knows that the 1960s liturgical revolution was bogus. Benedict XVI came to realize this. Every liturgical scholar worth his or her salt (and I use the feminine pronoun deliberately) now realizes this.

    I’m not disparaging Pope Francis; he is a man of his time and although there were better candidates for the papacy it is unlikely he will reign long enough to do too much damage.

    • Singalong says:

      John, my emphasis was intended to be on your assumption that the verger was presuming to know the state of your soul, and to suggest this need not be the case.

      • John Nolan says:

        No, Singalong, the point I was making was that it is assumed that everyone who attends Mass will receive Communion; the connection between the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, which was axiomatic before the Council, has been effectively abrogated.

        All right, I have had 50 years to accept a new dispensation which turns on its head everything I was taught as a child. But I don’t actually accept it, I never have done so, all my reading over the past half-century has confirmed me in my opinion, and latterly I have realized that I am by no means alone in rejecting it. Quentin seems to want a Church whose orthopraxis reflects the opinions of late 20th century liberal intellectuals like himself. I suspect that while he and I regard ourselves as Catholic, a great gulf separates us.

      • Singalong says:

        One more reply perhaps! I don’t think it is expected that everyone who attends Mass will go up for Holy Communion. Some people will go up, but will ask for a blessing instead of receiving.

        I was 30 years old in 1965, there`s a giveaway, and was brought up in a very devout family, with daily Mass as the norm. Frequent Confession was part of our lives, but we did not think that we could not receive, if for any reason we had not received absolution the same week, or even the week before, as long as there was no question of mortal sin.

        As regards your description of V2 regimentation, I have a number of relatives who are contemplative Benedictines, whose liturgy, as I am sure you know, is very structured. The rules for sitting, standing, kneeling, walking in procession, are very clear and precise, and every word of the prayers, and every note of the chants is prescribed in detail, which, in that context, I expect you approve, so I am rather puzzled by what you say.

  9. John Nolan says:

    Indeed, Singalong, but the rules for those in the sanctuary, or in choir, are only guidelines for the congregation, where one certainly stood for the Gospel and (where it was the custom) knelt for the Consecration. Most people kneel for most of the Low Mass and carry this over into the Sung/High Mass, which is ‘incorrect’ (the congregational postures for the Novus Ordo are actually more ‘correct’ in this regard).

    I see no point in ‘going up for a blessing’ since everyone is blessed at the end of Mass and these days Communion is often given by EMs who can’t give blessings anyway. And there’s a lot to be said for singing from the decent obscurity of a choir loft where you can shuffle the music and sing it over to yourself in quiet periods (the sermon gives a great opportunity for practising the Offertory Chant) without having to be concerned with the liturgical choreography.

  10. Geordie says:

    Why can’t EMs give a blessing? Anyone can give a blessing. St Thomas More knelt in the street for his father’s blessing; a long time before Vat II.

  11. John Nolan says:

    The issue of blessings is a complex one, and has not been made any clearer by some theological interpretations since Vatican II. From 1967 to 2011 in the Consecration prayer (EP I and also EP III) the English translation omitted ‘benedixit’ altogether, regarding both Bread and Chalice. The German version still omits it. The ‘Book of Blessings’ (De Benedictionibus) which was part of the revised Roman Ritual has attracted widespread criticism, and since the older Rituale Romanum is still in use, many priests prefer it.

    Be that as it may, although ‘invocative’ as opposed to ‘constitutive’ blessings may be given by lay people one to another, the Church is strict about who should give blessings in the context of the liturgy (basically the priest). And, of course some blessings (such as those for the sacred oils) are reserved to the bishop, and some (such as those for the palliums conferred on metropolitan archbishops) are reserved to the pope.

    • John L says:

      In our parish, the PP blesses infants in arms and pre-communicants with the Host.
      On one occasion the PP was unwell and I distributed the Host on his behalf while he rested. A parishioner with a babe asked for its blessing. I held the Host above the child and said the simple prayer “May Jesus bless you”. I see no reason why any Extraordinary Minister cannot do the same. The blessing comes from Christ, not from the lay minister.

      • ignatius says:

        The difference is quite simple, the priest has the sacramental power to bless, you do not. When you ‘bless’ you are passing on good wishes, when the priest blesses something happens….thats it in a nutshell.

      • milliganp says:

        To bless with the host is entirely contrary to the role of an extraordinary minister. The priest blesses “in persona Christi” by nature of his ordination. Sadly the priest is not supposed to “bless” with the host either, but silly priests are not a rarity in the church.

      • John L says:

        Ignatius, I still see no problem. “Good wishes” or a prayer as I prefer it, is all that was on offer – I claim no sacramental power.
        Milliganp, yes, a priest does bless “in persona Christi”, and if he does so with the Host in his hand, I feel that Our Lord is more concerned with the intent than with some little-known rubric. Certainly, our PP is far from silly.

      • milliganp says:

        Firstly, John L, it is not a little known rubric but a direct and specific set of instructions from the previous Holy Father, Benedict XVI. It is not a matter of getting hot under the collar about trivialities but understanding the nature of the church. We have apostolic succession which ensures the faith we follow comes authentically from Christ. In addition we have the Sacraments, which have matter and form. The rites of the church guarantee the authenticity of these sacraments. To meddle with the rites distorts and, in-extremis, can invalidate them.
        In the case of the Blessed Sacrament we have two sets of rites. In the Mass we receive the sacrament as spiritual food, in Benediction we offer worship and are blessed (and yes, a lay-person can administer Benediction). The reason the church has affirmed that blessing with the Host should not occur during Mass is to prevent confusion of the two rites.
        Priests and lay-people are not supposed to make up their own rites and rubrics, however well intentioned.
        I do not believe that God will fall out of heaven for these minor infractions but we run the risk of confusing the certainty of our faith with each, albeit minor, personal innovation.

  12. Ignatius says:

    John L,
    If you claim no sacramental power then why bless? Why make gyrations with the host – which you really should not do. Why not just wave a hankerchief and say ‘have a nice day’…then at least you will not be confusing people. Sorry John but I think a bit of serious thought on your part is needed. I do understand the issue is a thorny one among EM’s and priests though having just recently had to work through the entire problem myself. I am acolyte and in our church I recently began to help distribute the host – mainly for the sake of practicality- I also visit hospitals and take communion to the sick there and in their homes . One has to think these things through not merely from ones own perspective and consider the effects of ones actions upon the community one serves. Have you set aside time to discuss the matter with your PP? (who, as you say, probably isn’t silly !!)

    • John L says:

      Ignatius, – first, my background – aged 77 I am a life-long altar server in many capacities and in both rites, including Dominican. I have been an Extraordinary Minister for nearly as long as there have been such offices. I say this, not to boast, but to indicate that I have some little notion of necessary rubrics and respect for the Blessed Sacrament.
      It seems that in my original comment I did not make things sufficiently clear. The lady in question, before receiving Communion herself, distinctly asked me for the customary blessing for the child. I know my own limitations, but have no idea what the lady thought I was entitled to do. Certainly I had not the arrogance to refuse – I held the Host above the child and uttered a simple prayer, such as anyone might say, asking for the Lord’s blessing.. No gyrations took place. As far as I was concerned, any “blessing” for want of a better word came from the Blessed Sacrament, not from me.
      This is not a matter of trying to assume the priest’s authority, but a harmless response to a request for prayer.
      Geordie (July 17th) made my point in the form of a question, and my response was partly in answer to it.
      I’m sorry we can’t agree on this, let’s agree to differ.

      • Quentin says:

        Hey! Let’s not agree too quickly. I may be in trouble here but I read St Paul’s statement “I live, now not I, Christ lives in me”, as meaning that I live, now not I, Christ lives in me. So of course I can bless, and rely on Christ’s promise that he is present in my blessing.

        I go further. If there is a ‘priest’ communion queue, and a ‘minister’ communion queue, I normally choose the minister, Why? Because it’s an outward sign of my belief in the community of the laity. I quite agree with the Vatican’s, somewhat tactless instruction, that Eucharistic Ministers shouldn’t get too big for their boots. Of course they are not pseudo clergy, they are layfolk serving the altar – that is their great importance.

    • RAHNER says:

      “…..and consider the effects of ones actions upon the community one serves.”

      What “effects” do you have in mind?

      • stormdog1 says:


      • ignatius says:

        As you will be aware liturgical acts carry out the function of sign and/or symbol of something or another. Everything happening at Mass says something and thus acts upon the consciousness of the gathered church. If the PP and the EM standing next to one another perform the same functions with the same gestures then equivalence is quite likely to be read. John Nolan talked earlier about invocative and constitutive blessing….to the average eye perhaps the difference is not evident. At eucharist, if I understand it correctly, strictly speaking no one should bless except for particular and unusual pastoral reasons- at eucharist we are sharing the body and blood of Christ, that is what we are doing- nothing else.

  13. St.Joseph says:

    Thank you all again for your prayers, feeling a lot better today I am really depending on them
    I just thought that I would make quick comment before I tire.
    My mother gave us as children a blessing with Holy Water before we went to sleep.
    Also when we make the sign of the Cross on our forehead we thought we were blessing ourselves too.
    I hope I can return again soon.
    Love to all.
    The stormdog above was me , a mistake!! Sorry Quentin

    • milliganp says:

      St Joseph, great to hear from you. A parent does indeed have a special power of blessing for children and grand-children and this is reflected in many passages in the OT. I also believe it is intimately bound up with the fourth commandment.

      And indeed we, as children, always talked of blessing ourselves.

      As one follower of Christ to another, may God bless you.

      • tim says:

        Bless you, St Joseph (invocatively, of course!) Really good to hear that you are feeling rather better. Prayers will continue.

  14. ignatius says:


    “..I go further. If there is a ‘priest’ communion queue, and a ‘minister’ communion queue, I normally choose the minister, Why? Because it’s an outward sign of my belief in the community of the laity. I quite agree with the Vatican’s, somewhat tactless instruction, that Eucharistic Ministers shouldn’t get too big for their boots. Of course they are not pseudo clergy, they are layfolk serving the altar – that is their great importance….”

    Seems to me this kind of thing is precisely the problem, you come forward bringing with you your own hobby horse, all in harness and jingling!!

    • milliganp says:

      We’re all human. Why, when Benedict XVI, visited Britain, where special people chosen to receive communion, on the tongue and kneeling. At communion we receive Christ and that should be the sole consideration on our mind. However the church is made up of fallen people. When the Bishop comes, certain people rush to receive communion from him. In our parish we have 20+ people who visibly avoid reception from any extraordinary minister (and a few who find a deacon insufficient to their need).
      We have writers on this blog who seem to think the only sufficient mass is the one at Brompton Oratory “where everyone receives kneeling on the tongue”.
      What we shouldn’t be doing is promoting woolly thinking and personal re-interpretations. If ever, in history, there was a need for our faith to be clearly stated and clearly enacted it is, surely now.

    • milliganp says:

      Now a hobby horse emoticon, that would be useful!

    • Quentin says:

      Yes I jingled away like anything at Mass this morning, as I supervised a lady I am training to be a Mass-server. And I received Communion from an old friend. Indeed, everything around this Mass is done by lay people, although we do of course allow a priest to celebrate the actual Mass. But then we were for decades a Jesuit parish, and the Jesuits are too secure to be scared of the laity. They actually encouraged us.

  15. John Nolan says:

    I assume that the ‘somewhat tactless’ instruction to which Quentin refers is the Instruction ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’ issued by the CDWDS ten years ago, in particular paragraphs 146-160. In para.151 we read: ‘Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature is supplementary and provisional’. Furthermore, the Instruction makes it clear that the term ‘Eucharistic Minister’ should not be used for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, since the name ‘minister of the Eucharist’ belongs properly to the priest alone.

    Paul Milligan says that a lay person can administer Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. This is not so. A lay person may in certain circumstances expose the Sacrament for adoration, and repose It afterwards, but the blessing with monstrance or ciborium may only be given by a priest or deacon.

    In the classic Roman Rite the priest makes the sign of the cross with the Host before placing It on the communicants tongue, but the formula ‘Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi …’ is not a blessing, so even before the 1965 changes the priest did not bless with the Host during Mass. Even the blessing at the end of Mass is a relatively recent addition, which is why it comes after ‘Ite missa est’ and is not sung. In the Novus Ordo it precedes the dismissal and is sung, which emphasizes it as part of the main body of the Mass, rather than (like the Last Gospel) an add-on.

    • milliganp says:

      As my son would say “my bad”. It was a hot day and I wasn’t feeling energetic enough to dig out the document. You are entirely right that a lay person can expose and reposit the Sacrament but not perform Benediction. As we used to say, mea culpa ….

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, you’re right John. I forbore from quoting so as not to cause scandal. The ruling is perfectly fair, but the tone is impertinent. I am surprised they don’t form a clerical trade union. ‘disUnite’ perhaps? If anyone wonders why there is such a gap between the laity and the ‘official’ Church, Redemptionis Sacramentum should provide a few clues. Anyone with half a clue about public relations could have transmitted the message without causing offence

  16. John Nolan says:

    Actually, RS was directed principally at the clergy and upholds the rights of the laity. Foremost among these rights is the right not to have to suffer distortions and abuses of the liturgy. Of course, if bishops did their jobs properly, there would be no need for dicasterial Instructions of this nature (subsidiarity again!) but it is clear that in many cases they tolerate and even encourage liturgical abuse, partly, no doubt because of a fear of ‘causing offence’. If Mrs Jones has been rostered as an EMHC for the 11 o’clock Mass and is told beforehand that her services are not required because there is a visiting deacon or concelebrant, she should not feel slighted. If her amour-propre is dented, she should not be performing the function in the first place.

    All the abuses mentioned in RS and similar documents going back to 1970 do occur. Some are more serious than others, but all are a cause of scandal, and correcting them is not a PR exercise.

    I think that Pope Francis is wise not to distribute Communion to a selected few at papal Masses. However, some years ago I was at a Mass where the priest harangued those who preferred to receive the Body of Christ from an ordained minister. I found this insolent and patronising, and on the rare occasions when I attend a church which uses EMs I exercise my right not to receive from them. By the way, those churches which use an altar rail (e.g. Brompton Oratory) do not insist on receiving on the tongue in the OF, although most people do. If people put out their hands the server holds the communion plate under their hands. And since they are kneeling they consume the Host there and then, and are not tempted to walk away with It, which is another cause of scandal.

  17. Quentin says:

    John, I’m sorry not to have responded to your remark “I suspect that while he (i.e. me) and I regard ourselves as Catholic, a great gulf separates us.” July 15, 6.23 (WordPress got itself mixed up at one point.) I neither see, nor feel, a great gulf. We are both intent on the truth, and solving the difficulties arising from chasing such a slippery customer. After all, it is two photographic angles which give us three dimensions.

    Naturally I pay particular attention to your comments. I learn nothing from those with whom I agree — which is why I feel short changed if we discuss a point of moment about which you have not expressed a view. When you do, I may feel greater confidence in my opinion, or begin to suspect that I have not got the whole story. I trust that we both share Horace’s view: Sapere aude. I speak of course of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, and not our esteemed contributor.

    • John Nolan says:

      I no doubt exaggerated the extent of the gulf, but it does appear that you and I can look at the same evidence and draw very different conclusions. Redemptionis Sacramentum is a case in point! Still, this is probably the only Catholic blog where most opinions and interpretations are tolerated, and there is a refreshing absence of trench-digging and name-calling.

  18. Ignatius says:

    John Nolan,

    “….However, some years ago I was at a Mass where the priest harangued those who preferred to receive the Body of Christ from an ordained minister. I found this insolent and patronising, and on the rare occasions when I attend a church which uses EMs I exercise my right not to receive from them….”

    John, I find this interesting. I can understand why you might ‘prefer’ to receive from an ordained minister, probably so would I. But the question is why? As far as I understand it the host once consecrated is the Real Presence. This would imply that the grace you receive is the same regardless of minister. So does this mean that your choice is purely affective – a simple preference in the same way that I like blue better than brown…or do you have any other understanding regarding authenticity or validity? If you had opportunity to meet Jesus but would only go if you could be led there by someone you liked wouldn’t that be being ruled by your own conditions?

  19. Ignatius says:


    That’s an interesting point about Jesuits and their confidence, I have found them to be the same, its an endearing trait.

  20. John Nolan says:


    I would maintain that a preference for what is traditional in liturgy over that which is novel (and often without precedent) is not simply a matter of personal taste.

    Paul Milligan

    Regarding the points you made earlier today, I have just read a short but scholarly book by Uwe Michael Lang ‘The Voice of the Church at Prayer – Reflections on Liturgy and Language’ (Ignatius Press 2012) which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the subject. With reference to the Collects, the one in the EF for today, the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, is translated in my missal as follows: ‘O God of all power and might, who art the giver of all good things; implant in our hearts the love of Thy name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness and by Thy mercy keep us in the same’. Cranmer uses this in the BCP for the 7th after Trinity, and translates it thus; ‘Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same’. It’s not a slavishly literal translation of the Latin which has ‘…ut quae sunt bona, nutrias, ac pietatis studio, quae sunt nutrita, custodias’. Clearly the missal translator was familiar with the Prayer Book Collects!

    Is this ‘graduate level English?’ I ask because in Victorian times and for some time afterwards, elementary school children learned the Cranmer Collects, week after week, by heart; and those who left school at thirteen were sufficiently literate to cope with the King James Bible and Prayer Book English.

    When as a child I was taught the Rosary we always concluded with the prayer ‘O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection hath purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise’. With two subordinate clauses what would your software make of that? But that’s the way we were taught to pray, and the structure is the same as in the variable prayers of the Roman Rite which were probably in use by the fifth century.

    • milliganp says:

      John, I am happy to violently agree with this post. I think you slightly missed my point. The 1957 Burns and Oats missal my father used was written in slightly archaic English and was happy to follow the Latin sentence structure, but the translation was not so slavish as to render it difficult to understand. My father left school at 14 and has better English than most modern 18 year olds (at least those I hear talking on the bus, or young BBC news presenters). The “dumbing-down” present in the 1972 Missal could be described as a crime against faith.
      My point was that the 3rd Edition Roman Missal (the current one) missed an opportunity by being slavish in translation but failing to convey the beauty of which archaic English is capable (to mirror your own point, no-one would quibble that Shakespeare’s words for Henry V at Agincourt are still capable of rousing brave hearts (if they are still to be found). The 3rd edition has the disadvantage of being neither beautiful nor intelligible;
      my criticism was of the lost opportunity present in the 3rd Edition.
      I had hoped that the one benefit we might have got from the Ordinariate was a BCP (Catholic Edition) reflecting the beauty present in the language of one of the high points of English language and literature.
      If I can add my own example, the post-communion of 2nd Epiphany in my father’s missal was translated “May the working of thy power, Lord, be intensified within us, so that we may be quickened by the divine sacrament and prepared by thy grace to lay hold upon the bliss it promises.”
      The 1972 version reads “Lord, you have nourished us with bread from heaven. Fill us with your Spirit, and make us one in peace and love.” (God is now someone we tell what to do!)
      The 3rd Edition reads “Pour on us, O Lord, the Spirit of your love, and in your kindness make those you have nourished by this one heavenly Bread one in mind and heart.” –better, but no cigar.
      I believe that, given the adage “Lex orandi, lex credendi”, we are still a way off.

  21. ignatius says:

    John Nolan,

    ” I would maintain that a preference for what is traditional in liturgy over that which is novel (and often without precedent) is not simply a matter of personal taste…”

    Yes I know that John but on this particular and definite point of debate, who you receive communion from that is, the question was why do you maintain that? What doctrinal, theological, basis do you have for your preference? Why do you stand in the other line other than by personal instinct?

  22. John Nolan says:


    I don’t believe that lay people, myself included, should pick up the Body of Christ with the fingers; in fact I find it abhorrent. There is evidence of Communion in the hand in the early Church, but the sacrament was to be received in the palm of the RIGHT hand (with the wrists not extended and the left hand serving as a ‘throne’ for the right) and transferred directly to the mouth. There is no evidence that the practice was universal. It was condemned by Paul VI, and as late as 1980 St John Paul II said that only the priest may handle the Sacred Species.

    The present manner of CITH began as an abuse in the 1960s in Holland and spread to Germany. Rather than confront the issue the Vatican reluctantly and retrospectively legitimized it. That doesn’t make it right historically, doctrinally or theologically; in fact if one applies those criteria there is no justification for it. In the classic Roman Rite even the deacon does not handle the Host.

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider in ‘Dominus Est!’ argues the case better than I can. Incidentally, he’s the only bishop I’ve met who comes across as a pastor of souls rather than as a committee man.

    • Singalong says:

      Some time in the 1970`s I happened to see a short close up piece from a film on TV which showed teenage altar servers smirking as they held the Communion plate while a priest placed the Sacred Host on the tongues of nubile young ladies, probably in a convent school chapel, I did not watch the rest of the film.

      This, and the belief that the hand is not less worthy than the tongue, as well as the realisation that Christ would have handed the first consecrated bread into His apostles` hands at the Last Supper, encouraged me to start receiving in the hand, which I have continued to do. My husband receives on the tongue.

      • milliganp says:

        The classic argument against your latter point was that at the Last Supper Christ instituted the priesthood and that the Apostles were therefore not lay-people.
        My personal argument in favour of reception in the hand is that, after the Last Supper, Jesus went on to have his Sacred body mutilated and abused by rough Roman soldiers and spat upon by the crowd. After his death his body was entrusted to women to minister to. When I receive communion in the hand I remember that history and try to make the few seconds between reception and consumption a moment where I, 2000 years later treat the body of my Lord with affection and respect.

  23. Vincent says:

    Yes of course — we can’t be too careful. For instance it would be wise to avoid one’s teeth getting anywhere near, the idea of biting through Christ is unthinkable. If it falls on the floor you had better have at least a silver plated scoop, but probably best to send for a priest. And avoid Communion if you have bad digestion. The possibility of the host retaining its outward sign, and therefore inward reality, right through the alimentary system is simply frightful.

    • Singalong says:

      There was a story in a book I was looking at some years ago, in-family teasing, sending up Catholicism, I am not sure which, but someone will know the author`s name, of a hapless curate vacuuming the floor after dropping a Host, who ended up burying the whole vacuum cleaner in the presbytery garden.

  24. John Nolan says:

    Singalong, it was a custom in first century Palestine for the host to place a morsel of bread directly into the mouth of the guest. We also have an example of intinction at the Last Supper in John 13:26. ‘Respondit Jesus: Ille est cui ego intinctum panem porrexero. Et cum intinxisset panem, dedit Judae Simonis Iscariotae’. Having dipped the bread in the wine, Our Lord is hardly likely to have placed it in Judas’s hands. In any case, the disciples at the Last Supper were instituted as priests and bishops – you and I are not. As for your 1970s film clip, at least the smirking altar server, had he been holding the plate correctly, would not have been able to ogle their breasts, and in any case to base your decision to abandon the time-honoured method of receiving Communion on such a flimsy premise is somewhat odd.

    Vincent’s sarcastic comment is what I might have expected from this contributor, who I imagine is a lapsed Catholic.

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you, John, for your reply. I suppose it would depend on how much wine was dipped into, and the size of the piece of bread, but as you say, it was sometimes customary, and I accept that the apostles were actually being ordained. I can`t think that tongues are intrinsically more worthy than hands, though of course they are normally necessary for digestion, which hands are not.

      The film clip concentrated on tongues ad open mouths, not breasts, and it certainly made a big impression, as I expect was the intention.

      • milliganp says:

        At the risk of being frivolous, it is well know that young female members of the Travellers community, despite that community having a strong moral sense, often dress unbelievably provocatively. It is said that a Bishop, having a pulchritudinous girl from this community kneeling before him for Confirmation, his personal MC bent down and whispered in his ear “guardianship of the eyes, my lord”.

    • Vincent says:

      Ego te absolvo, Johannes, a peccato tuo in nomine Vincentis.

      • John Nolan says:

        Vincentii, surely? Nominative is Vincentius (2nd declension).

      • Vincent says:

        Ah, but we Vincentes were always irregular. Now, to a more important point.

        Transubstantiation, as a philosophical concept, serves a purpose — but it is dangerous because it appears to solve a problem without actually doing so. Thus it may prevent us from a continued fruitful exploration of the mystery. Russell, you may recall, used the metaphor of coats (accidents) being hung on a hook (substance), and then remarked that the hook did not in fact exist. Thus in the recent past other attempts like transfinalisation and transignification have been essayed. While rejected by authority, these are neither less or more satisfactory as an explanation.

        All we know is that, to human senses, the Eucharist is recognised as bread. Jesus used bread because, as the staff of life, it was the most fitting form to indicate the mystery. Thus we should use it, albeit reverently, as we use bread in the normal process of eating — hands, mouth, chew, swallow etc. To do otherwise is to censor Jesus’ intention in the choice of the sign. Then comes that dramatic leap of faith whereby we accept that the gift is Jesus himself. Precisely because it is, to natural judgment, insanity to accept that, that we require supernatural faith so to do. It is the great test. And the account in St John’s gospel deliberately gives us no quarter. We either accept his word or, as many did, leave him.

      • Quentin says:

        I recall, many years ago, my wife and I were in a sceptical mood. We tried to identify what we certainly believed. In the end, the only doctrine we entirely accepted was the Real Presence. Then of course we saw that everything else fell into place because of that. The test indeed!

    • milliganp says:

      John, the alleged “practice in Palestine” is a canard, much emphasised by Auxiliary Bishop Shneider. The reality is that there is absolutely no evidence that this is what Jesus did at the Last Supper. Indeed we know that earliest practice was certainly not like this, otherwise Paul would not have had to tell the Corinthians off for getting drunk on Communion Wine (the Blood of Christ).
      Whatever the origins of Communion on the hand the reality is that Paul VI, a valid pope decided that this was an issue that was for local Bishops to decide. Communion in the hand is an issue of discipline, not of dogma.
      This is not to say that the uniform practice has not led to any obvious increase in reverence or faith.

  25. John Nolan says:

    Paul Milligan

    I think your points about the 2011 translation are well made, although calling it the 3rd Edition is misleading; the Editio Typica Tertia refers to the 2002 revision of the 1970 MR which replaced the 2nd edition of 1975. Also, the Postcommunion of 2nd Epiphany ‘Augeatur in nobis, quaesumus, Domine, tuae virtutis operatio …’ was replaced in 1970 by a different prayer which begins ‘Spiritum nobis, Domine, tuae caritatis infunde…’, so the comparison is really between 1973 and 2011. The former vandalizes the structure of the prayer and translates ‘una … concordes’ as ‘one in peace and love’; it misses the important repetition of ‘one’, and is flat and pedestrian. 2011 restores the structure, and although it replaces the subjunctive ‘ut … facias’ with the simple imperative ‘make’, this is perfectly acceptable and has advantages in English. To say ‘that those whom in your kindness you have nourished by this one heavenly bread, you may make one in mind and heart’ sounds stilted to me. I think it’s a good translation.

    There are indeed areas where 2011 can be improved, and there was a case of ‘too many cooks’, especially after Vox Clara became involved. I am irritated when ‘we pray’ is inserted into a prayer when the Latin does not have ‘quaesumus’ or similar – it’s as if somebody thought that the imperative on its own sounded impolite. Also the bishops didn’t want the people’s parts to be changed more than was necessary, so we were deprived of ‘I confess to Almighty God, and to you, brethren, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, deed and omission …’.

    The Ordinariate Mass, in its rendering of the Roman Canon, the Tridentine prayers at the foot of the altar and Offertory prayers, which are available as options, as is the Last Gospel, uses ‘Prayer Book’ English similar to that found in pre-Conciliar hand missals. I haven’t seen the Propers but I imagine they would be treated in a similar way.

  26. John Nolan says:

    Vincent, I don’t think that the scholastics, St Thomas included, were trying to ‘solve a problem’ . No problem existed, except that of trying to approach the Mystery using the theological and philosophical tools of the day (which are in no wise inferior to those of the present day – technological progress may increase knowledge, but it does not increase wisdom, quite the opposite in fact).

    I would agree that to approach the Mystery in terms of legal positivism is inappropriate, but not to have a Eucharistic theology at all (as in the case of the Anglican ecclesial community) does not get us very far. What was affirmed at Trent, and reaffirmed at Vatican II, and is carried over to the Novus Ordo – see the preamble to the GIRM – remains the Catholic position, which is shared by the rest of Christendom with the exception of some protestant sects who regard the Eucharist as merely symbolic.

  27. RAHNER says:

    The concept of Transubstantiation may have been formulated in an attempt to present one of the central mysteries of the faith but it is pretty clear that for us it is a dead end. Its (pseudo?) Aristotelian metaphysics generates very difficult conceptual/philosophical questions that do nothing to promote a deeper appreciation of the mystery of the Eucharist.
    The medieval thinkers could not agree as to how the concept of Transubstantiation was to be understood. Scotus, for example, rejected Aquinas’s analysis of the concept. It is also notable that the Council of Trent did not provide a detailed account of the meaning of Transubstantiation.
    And the idea that you can formulate a deeper understanding of a doctrine by simply regurgitating medieval theology and ignoring seven hundred years of philosophical reflection is obviously absurd. A new conceptual framework for appreciating the Eucharist is required.

    • John Candido says:

      Lovely post Rahner. I do not understand how some people, (I am not saying who), do not appreciate that time does not stand still even for theology and philosophy. Centuries of theological debate means that most people, including myself, need to do a lot of catching up.

    • milliganp says:

      We do not reject the mathematics of Pythagoras or Newton because time has passed. As Einstein said, we see further because we stand on the shoulders of giants. I am not aware of any philosophical system that expands the basic understanding behind Transubstantiation. Modern philosophy and theology deny the miracles of Jesus, and, in extremis, His resurrection.
      Did the Apostles see the risen Lord, did Thomas put his hands in those wounds, did Christ manage to both meet the disciples on the road to Emmaus and appear to the Apostles in Jerusalem, did he break bread at Emmaus, and did he bake fish by the Sea of Galilee?
      Whatever the philosophical system we use to explore our faith the reality is that there is a God who exists outside of any constraints of science. In the Eucharist we each have a substantial encounter with Christ. We reject consubstantiation, spiritual presence or mere symbolism. Mysteries, by their nature are ultimately beyond human reason, we have to use the best language we can and transubstantiation is still the best word we have for the true presence of the risen Lord, body, blood, soul and divinity in the consecrated bread and wine.

      • RAHNER says:

        Your comments are rather confused. Philosophy is not mathematics.
        And Aquinas and many others have attempted to expand our understanding of transubstantiation by employing philosophical analysis. The issue is whether the philosophical framework they use does promoting a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist or distracts from this appreciation by generating philosophical problems and confusions.
        The idea that you use a concept like transubstantiation and then reuse to give any further explanation of its meaning other than by contrasting it with a spiritual or merely symbolic understanding of the Eucharist (whatever they might mean) does not seem very helpful.
        There are, of course, leading modern philosophers such as Swinburne and Plantinga who defend a quite traditional understanding of Christian doctrines.

      • milliganp says:

        Rahner, given that British Philosopher Bertrand Russell’s major work was Principia Mathematica, I don’t follow your logic either. Most mathematicians regard their subject as philosophy in its purest form.
        However you seemed to have missed my principal argument. Just as modern mathematicians regard the ancients as foundational, so philosophy cannot be dismissed purely on the basis of age. The UN declaration on human rights is founded on natural law principals that go back to Aristotle. Most modern philosophy starts from the premise that a deity either does not exist or cannot be known. In either case we cannot use modern philosophy to address what we mean by the true presence, aka transubstantiation.
        What the Blessed Sacrament is not, is better defined than what it is (such is Mystery), but it definitely is not merely symbolic or spiritual, that IS at the heart of Catholic teaching.

  28. Singalong says:

    Milliganp, thank you for that. I don`t think any modernising theology could go further, and thank you especially for your thoughts about communion in the hand, July 21st 2.51 pm

  29. John Nolan says:

    I think the final score is Milligan 1, Candidorahner 0. (Actually, Candido is really a cheerleader for Rahner, so he isn’t really part of the team). Paul’s remarks about CITH are affecting and if that had been the rationale for authorizing the practice, I might have been appeased; however I was around in the mid-1970s when it was introduced, and all we were told was that it was the practice of the early Church. We weren’t told that receiving in the left hand and picking up with the fingers of the right was NEVER the practice in the early Church.

    Apart from retrospectively legitimizing an abuse, there was another factor at play, namely the ongoing liturgical revolution which was still being furiously advanced at that time, and still has its champions (although, thank God, they are now all superannuated). I kept myself apart from it, although it wasn’t easy (it’s far better now) but without an intellectual and cultural underpinning I doubt whether my faith would have survived.

  30. RAHNER says:

    I very much doubt if most mathematicians do regard their subject as being a part of philosophy i.e. as being a part of metaphysics or epistemology as traditionally understood. Whether or not modern philosophy can promote theological understanding can only be determined on a case by case analysis. To affirm that it can’t in advance of such an analysis is simply irrational.

    I not dismiss philosophical claims on the basis of age. In fact, currently, there is something of a revival in philosophy of what might be termed a Aristotelian viewpoint. Any philosophical claim is to be judged on the quality of the argument on which it is based and its explanatory value.

    John Paul 2 drew extensively on insights from the modern phenomenological and personalist traditions in philosophy (e.g., Husserl and Scheler, neither of whom were conventional religious believers). These traditions may well provide insights for our understanding of the Eucharist.
    And although JP2 rightly recognised the importance of Aquinas he makes it clear in Fides et Ratio that the “Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.”

    (Russell’s own attempt to show that mathematics was a part of logic is generally judged to have failed because of his reliance on the non-logical axioms of infinity and reducibility.)

  31. Ignatius says:

    This is all very interesting…I wonder if any of you would perhaps venture a few simple words on precisely how one might go along constructing a newer and more appropriate discussion around the topic of transubstantiation? Since we now live in the 21st century and you are a pretty brainy bunch I wonder quite how you would go about fashioning this new understanding? How can the subject be approached freshly…using what criteria?

    • John Nolan says:

      Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius: Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius. We are told that St Thomas had a vision towards the end of his life and realized all his writings were as nought. Still, his mighty intellect thunders down the centuries and makes the animadversions of modern theologians appear as mere squeaks upon the margin.

      • Quentin says:

        So let me ‘squeak’ away.

        In front of us is an entity of which we recognize the accidents. But what is its substance, identity, essence (whatever word you prefer)? You, let’s suppose, identify its substance as a table; while I identify it as bench. Neither of us is wrong for we may be influenced by usage, or by the manufacturer’s intention. Substance is a concept we invent and impose on the collection of accidents – not a thing which inherently belongs to those accidents. Indeed it is not a thing at all – just a convenient idea which allows us to give a unity of identity to a collection of accidents.

    • RAHNER says:

      Difficult to give a few words on a topic that is clearly very mysterious (and when some of the contributors to the blog are obviously philosophically illiterate)……but a useful book to read is “In Breaking of Bread” P J Fitzpatrick, CUP, 1993.

      In response to other comments made I would just say that Aquinas is of course a major contributor to both theology and philosophy but this does not mean that his views can never be criticised, amended or rejected.

      Many of his philosophical views are entangled with an Aristotelian physics and biology which no reasonable person could accept today.
      For example,his hylomorphic world view which is used extensively in his theology and philosophy is now very difficult to interpret and defend in the light of subsequent philosophical analysis and developments in science.

      • milliganp says:

        Ignatius, there are definitely 2 attempts which have been made using modern philosophy and theology, transignification and transfinalization; both of which were rejected by the Catholic church under Paul VI but have seen some interest amongst theologians in the protestant tradition.
        John Paul II was a major advocate of phenomenology and yet he seemed happy to leave the CCC with the “traditional” Aquinas using Aristotle” definition of transubstantiation.

      • milliganp says:

        Insulting those with whom you disagree is always the tail end of a bad argument.
        Just to save the energies of those who might be inclined to waste £40 on P.J. Fitzpatrick’s book a review in a theological journal starts:-
        “Altough the dust cover hails this book as being “immensly important”, it is an extremely difficult book and at times somewhat obscure in meaning.” and goes on to say “All this looks very promising, but in my opinion the promise remains unfulfilled.”
        A modern child does not need to know that mass bends space time in order to understand why a ball thrown in the air falls to the ground. Similarly I do not need to know the exact mollecular structure of a rock to know it is a rock. There are areas of thinking where basics entirely suffice. Just introducing complexity for its own sake is probably the reason philoshophy has such a low reputation in the average opinion.

  32. Ignatius says:

    I see, no one even prepared to have a decent go then?

    • pnyikos says:

      I saw this topic only yesterday, but I’ve long had a conjecture about transubstantination that may just be compatible with the orthodox formulations, but not using Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics.

      The starting point is I Corinthians 15:37-38 and 42-44, where Paul says that the body that dies is transformed into something more than it was. “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church expounds on this with reference to Christ’s Resurrection Body in paragraph 999, referring back to par 645:

      “Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.510 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.”

      And so, my conjecture is that, besides having these ordinary appearances of human bodies, the Resurrection Body of Jesus also incorporates other members including the bread and wine that now become, in an ineffable way, part of that body. This is not as strange as it may seem at first: after all, when we consume that part of his body, it becomes part of our own after being digested. And we might also note that at Jesus’s birth, the opposite sort of thing took place: his body shed some organs that had been part of his body while in the womb–umbilical cord, placenta, and “bag of waters.”

      • milliganp says:

        A useful chain of thought. Whenever I get into difficulty with Transubstantiation I always return to the Incarnation. If the second person of the Blessed Trinity can become corporeal and sunstantial in the form of a baby – and then grow through the normal human process to manhood, then the real presence in the Blessed Sacrament does not seem alien.

      • RAHNER says:

        For what it is worth, it is notable that Aquinas denies that the accidents or empirical properties of the consecrated bread and wine become properties of Christ:
        “The species of the bread and wine, which are perceived by our senses to remain in this sacrament after consecration, are not subjected in the substance of the bread and wine, for that does not remain, as stated above (Question 75, Article 2); nor in the substantial form, for that does not remain (75, 6), and if it did remain, “it could not be a subject,” as Boethius declares (De Trin. i). Furthermore it is manifest that these accidents are not subjected in the substance of Christ’s body and blood, because the substance of the human body cannot in any way be affected by such accidents; nor is it possible for Christ’s glorious and impassible body to be altered so as to receive these qualities.”

        Summa, 3/77/1

      • pnyikos says:

        Well, that’s Thomas’s metaphysical distinction between substance and accidents at play, with him minutely distinguishing between them in a way alien to our current way of thinking about physical properties. His closing remark, though, is strange for the way in which it seems to limit the power of the Second Person of the Trinity, and I cannot comprehend what he is saying in the earlier part of that sentence. Is he really saying that the bread and wine cannot affect our bodies in the way they would if their substance had not changed? Someone with gluten intolerance would vehemently deny that.

  33. RAHNER says:

    And of course the best way to judge any book is by not reading it yourself……

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