Thursday, May 7, 2009

Don't Get Too Close To Jesus, He May Have the Swine Flu

A Magician's Trick?

Apparently, across the United States and in other countries, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is modifying church services to take "common sense" precautions against spreading the Swine Flu. Clearly gathering in public places can heighten one's risk for contracting this virus and everyone should take steps to ensure that they are safe.

One of the changes some parishes are implementing is to dispense of the shaking of hands during the Rite of Peace. This is understandable as direct contact with other people can also increase one's risk of exposure.

However, many churches are also changing the way that Communion is served. In particular they are not placing the eucharistic wafer directly on the parishioners' tongues and are foregoing the sharing of a common cup. So my question is: What does this say about the RCC's faith in the efficacy of the eucharist and even transubstantiation?

According to the RCC, the eucharist is a sacrament where the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper (while maintaining their outward appearance) becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Through a process called transubstantiation, the priest presiding over the ceremony performs a rite and says, "Hoc est enim corpus meum" (which some say is the origin of the magician's term 'hocus pocus') to bring about this miraculous change. The congregation may then partake in the literal body and blood of Jesus as a "spritiual" food.

According to the Catholic Reference website, these terms are defined as:
The true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, in order to offer himself in the sacrifice of the Mass and to be received as spiritual food in Holy Communion. It is called Eucharist, or "thanksgiving," because at its institution at the Last Supper Christ "gave thanks," and by this fact it is the supreme object and act of Christian gratitude to God. Although the same name is used, the Eucharist is any one or all three aspects of one mystery, namely the Real Presence, the Sacrifice, and Communion. As Real Presence, the Eucharist is Christ in his abiding existence on earth today; as Sacrifice, it is Christ in his abiding action of High Priest, continuing now to communicate the graces he merited on Calvary; and as Communion, it is Christ coming to enlighten and strengthen the believer by nourishing his soul for eternal life.

The complete change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood by a validly ordained priest during the consecration at Mass, so that only the accidents of bread and wine remain. While the faith behind the term itself was already believed in apostolic times, the term itself was a later development. With the Eastern Fathers before the sixth century, the favored expression was meta-ousiosis, "change of being"; the Latin tradition coined the word transubstantiatio, "change of substance," which was incorporated into the creed of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The Council of Trent, in defining the "wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the wine into the blood" of Christ, added "which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation" (Denzinger 1652). After transubstantiation, the accidents of bread and wine do not inhere in any subject or substance whatever. Yet they are not make-believe they are sustained in existence by divine power.

Discussing the concept of the "real presence", the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says:

"Consequently, eating and drinking are to be understood of the actual partaking of Christ in person, hence literally...Consequently, together with His Body and Blood and Soul, His whole Humanity also, and, by virtue of the hypostatic union, His Divinity, i.e. Christ whole and entire, must be present. Hence Christ is present in the sacrament with His Flesh and Blood, Body and Soul, Humanity and Divinity."

It is important to note that the "real presence" of Christ being in the eucharist is an essential part of this doctrine. As stated above, the RCC teaches that Jesus' whole humanity and divinity is present in the eucharist after transubstantiation.

I am taking such time with this because I understand that these are concepts with which those outside of the RCC may be unfamiliar. When Catholics partake of the Lord's Supper, they believe that they are literally eating and drinking Jesus Christ. They believe it to be a "moral necessity" for salavation as a continual sacrifice for the sin of man.

I can remember when AIDS first began to become a national concern. I experienced a crisis of faith as a Catholic, knowing that there were people with AIDS in our church. Would I follow a number of my family members and simply stop drinking from the communal cup? Or, would I trust that once transubstantiation had occurred, any impurities would be purged because the wine had truly been changed into Jesus' blood? Each Sunday, I would put aside my fears and partake of communion. If I did not have faith in Christ to sustain me in my obedience to His command to partake of His literal Body & Blood, then I figured that my faith was in vain.

Since that time, God in His mercy has brought me out of the RCC doctrinal errors and deception. Indeed, it was nothing but His grace and power that sustained me as I ignorantly participated and placed faith in a ritual that is nothing more than Babylonian mysticism.

It can certainly be argued that it is only "common sense" for parishoners to abstain from shaking hands during the Rite of Peace. Other men and women may be contaminated with this horrible virus, even unwittingly.

Yet, where is the logic behind changing the way that the "literal body and blood" of Jesus Christ is given? By admitting that the bread and wine could become contaminated with the swine flu, the RCC is indirectly stating one of the following:

  • Transubstantiation is a lie. The bread and wine really DO NOT become the Body and Blood of our Savior & Lord, Jesus Christ (God incarnate) and is therefore subject to contamination, OR
  • Our Saviour & Lord Jesus Christ is not really God and is subject to the same curses of sickness and disease that befall man. Indeed, under this scenario, the Blood of Jesus would be insufficient to save even from the swine flu let alone anything else.
Either way, this decision by many RCC churches reveals a critical lack of faith in either their rite of transubstantiation or in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Even more significant, it sheds a critical light unto the type of religious gymnastics one must go through to justify and support unscriptural doctrines presented as being commandments of God.

Transubstantiation is an unScriptural, man-made tradition. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to stop serving the wine in communal cups as a precaution against the spread of the swine flu. Because these elements do not become the Body & Blood of Jesus Christ, they are not sanctified from disease.

When trying times such as these arise (and those even harder to come very shortly), the RCC is showing you that you cannot place faith in their doctrines and teachings. By their example, you had better stray from their doctrinal traditions and do what is necessary to save your life. This implication alone - that adherence to what are supposed to be the things of God is secondary to the preservation of our own lives - is an anti-Christ theology.

When you really know Jesus Christ and really do His will, you don't have to worry about modifying His commands in order to save your life. In fact, He says, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 16:25

It is time that those who truly desire a relationship with Christ leave religiousness behind and stop playing pretend with the things of God.


  1. As a Catholic theologian, I would like to clarify the RCC's position on the Eucharist. First, the transubstantiation occurs when the priest says "This is my body... this is my blood," and it is the bread that becomes Christ's body, and the wine that becomes his blood. If there is a stone in the wine, it does not become Christ together with the wine. If a pebble is dropped into the consecrated wine, the pebble does not become Christ. If a fleck of dirt falls into the chalice, the dirt does not become Christ. If bacteria or viruses enter into the chalice, they do not become Christ, nor do they enter into him. Present in the chalice are Christ and the foreign objects. But these foreign objects are not present in Christ.

    Secondly, when transubstantiation occurs, all the accidents remain. It is not called transubstantiation for nothing. "Substance" is contrasted with "accidents," which includes "powers." The power to make a person drunk remains when the wine becomes Christ. Similarly, even if viruses did become Christ's body and blood, the power of infecting would remain.

    This is the Roman Catholic Church's distinct teaching since Thomas Aquinas, and implicit and indistinct even before that.

  2. Hi Joseph,

    Thanks for clarifying the RCC position.

    I understand the distinction between the bread becoming the body and the wine becoming the blood, although this was not perhaps as clear as it could have been in the article. Your comments offer a great opportunity to make that clear. Thank you for that.

    So during transubstantiation, the body of Jesus Christ is literally in Heaven "inviolate, entire without contamination or injury" and at the same time literally present in the wine and bread subject to violation, contamination, and injury?

    The blood of Jesus Christ, offered as a pure sacrifice, has the power to cleanse man from sin but is powerless to cleanse other contaminants? Even worse, this same blood can itself become contaminated by containing within itself elements of death instead of life?

    I really don't think this is a question of substance versus accidents. Clearly the accidents of bread and wine are not deadly to men.

    Yet, the RCC would have us to believe that God Himself has ordained a practice - indeed insisted upon such a practice as a spiritual necessity for receiving eternal life (according to the RCC understanding of John 6:53-54) - that is potentially contaminating and harmful?

    Is the body of Jesus free from contamination or subject to contamination? Is the blood of Jesus the power to save or is it powerless to cleanse? Does God in His holiness give us good gifts or does He give us a snake?

    You say, "...if viruses did become Christ's body and blood, the power of infecting would remain."

    That is an astounding statement. You believe it is possible for the body and blood of Jesus to be infected and contaminated? Just consider what this says about your perception of God's divinity, in that He becomes subject to the curses of His creation.

    While you have certainly helped to better elucidate the RCC position, it does nothing to diminish the types of illogical gymnastics one must perform about who God is in order to hold on to this belief.

  3. The distinction I made was not between the bread becoming Christ's body, and the wine becoming his blood, but between either of them becoming Christ's body or blood, and something else like a stone or a foreign virus, which would not become Christ at all.

    "So during transubstantiation, the body of Jesus Christ is literally in Heaven "inviolate, entire without contamination or injury" and at the same time literally present in the wine and bread subject to violation, contamination, and injury?"

    No. He is literally, and locally in Heaven, entire without contamination or injury, and at at the same time literally, and sacramentally, present under the species of wine and bread, without violation, contamination, or injury. I stated in my original comment: "These foreign objects are not present in Christ." Even if Christ were locally present, rather than sacramentally, he would not be contaminated by being in contact with disease. So why would his substantial sacramental presence in the chalice, simultaneously with bacteria and viruses, mean that he was contaminated?

    Of course Christ's blood has the power to cleanse other contaminants, just as Christ could have had twelve legions of angels come to him in the garden, or throw himself down from the temple without injury. But "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." He has the power, but he does not always work such miracles, when it is not for the glory of God.

    "You believe it is possible for the body and blood of Jesus to be infected and contaminated? Just consider what this says about your perception of God's divinity, in that He becomes subject to the curses of His creation."

    In the Catholic Church's teaching, Christ does not literally become bread. The bread literally becomes Christ. There is an very important difference there, which should not be overlooked. The point was, even if Christ were present under the species of a virus, he would not be infected, or affected in the least.

    To clarify your understanding of the Catholic Church's teaching, let me ask you this. Consider sacramental presence, and local presence. In your opinion, is the distinction between these two (1) merely false, or (2) actually meaningless?

    I ask this because you seem to be making a parody of the Catholic Church's sacramental teaching, as though the Church taught that Christ suffered a loss of blood through transubstantiation, that his blood become warmer, colder, infected, etc., with the changes in the species of the wine.

    It is okay to argue, e.g., that in order to be consistent, one would have to hold this. But it is simply false that this is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

  4. Hi Joseph,

    Yes, I understood you to be saying that foreign objects are not changed into the body and blood of Jesus as the bread and wine are.

    Yet, whether sacramentally or locally present, in both cases the RCC believes that the body and blood of Jesus is literally there. So in terms of the reality of presence for Jesus' literal body and blood, there is no distinction.

    IF, the blood of Jesus is literally present in a chalice along with a virus, then it is certainly contaminated. Whether the virus becomes the blood or not is irrelevant. The virus is present with and IN the blood.

    You say, "He has the power, but he does not always work such miracles, when it is not for the glory of God."

    You believe that the character of God permits Him to mandate a ritual that is potentially harmful? And not only such, but that - although He has the power to - it would be against His glory to sanctify that process for the protection of His children who participate and obey in faith??

    Let's summarize the RCC position:

    1. Jesus has commanded that believers partake of His literal body and blood.

    2. In the process of transubstantiation, the bread and wine are changed sacramentally into the literal body and blood of Jesus. Foreign objects and the accidents of the original bread and wine remain unchanged. In this way, Jesus' body and blood remain inviolate, entire without contamination or injury both locally (in Heaven) and sacramentally (in the eucharist).

    3. While the body and blood of Jesus would not be "infected or affected" by contaminants, those believers who partake of the sacrament might be both "infected and affected".

    4. While God has the ability to sanctify this process and ensure the protection of His church, He chooses not to.

    5. So God - who is love - commands us to partake in a process that could be unsafe and harmful with no regard for the well-being of His followers.

    6. To make up for this capriciousness of God's character, the RCC suspends use of the common cup when appropriate so as to lower the risk of contamination to its congregants. And this knowing full well that the church has no way of knowing - outside of worldwide outbreaks (like the swine flu) - when parishioners may be passing deadly viruses to one another as they share a common cup.

    This portrays God as either uncaring, cruel, or idiotic.

    How do you reconcile these contradictions?

  5. Your argument sounds very much like, "If God is all-good, how can he allow evil in his church? Why should his followers have to take any measures to avoid harm?"

    To illustrate how the argument no longer pertains particularly to the Eucharist, but is generally the "problem of evil," I make an analogy with childbirth.
    1. God commanded that men increase and multiply.
    2. In the process of generating new life, God creates a soul. The natural and material aspect of the process remains natural, and subject to the flaws that occur in the natural world.
    3. While death is not created by God, those who give birth to children may thereby become ill or die. (Millions of mothers have died in childbirth).
    4. While God has the ability to sanctify this process and ensure the protection of his church, he chooses not to.
    5. So God - who is love - commands us to partake in a process that could be unsafe and harmful with no regard for the well-being of His followers.
    6. To make up for this capriciousness of God's character, the RCC sees medical procedures, such as Caesarean section, as well-advised when they lower the risk of harm to the mother or to the child.

    This portrays God as either uncaring, cruel, or idiotic.
    This argument is just as valid or invalid as your argument is.

  6. "This argument is just as valid or invalid as your argument is."

    Actually it isn't at all.

    We are not speaking in generalities about why bad things happen to God's people.Such an argument is a strawman.

    Child birth is not a moral requirement for salvation the way that the RCC says that partaking of the eucharist is.

    A woman's salvation is not affected in the least by not having children. Yet, according to the RCC, the eucharist is a "moral necessity" for salvation.

    Should I just take it that you have no answer for how these contradictions posed by transubstantiation can be reconciled?

  7. There is no contradiction. Until you show a contradiction, it is kind of pointless for me to "reconcile" them.

    You are right, you were not speaking in generalities. My point, however, was that there is no particular point about the Eucharist that distinguishes it from the general question of evil happening to good people (God's people). You point to a difference in the two cases, namely that one is not necessary for salvation. But that does not change the fact that God commanded both, and therefore is irrelevant. If God wills and commands one thing which can/is the occasion of an evil, one cannot assert that it is a contradiction for a loving God to will and command another thing which can be the occasion of an evil.

    God wills us to eat, and we are obliged to do so. It is an offense against God to allow ourselves to starve to death. We can be poisoned by food. Oh no! God requires us to do something that can harm us. God commanded the Apostles to preach the Gospel, which sometimes meant risking their lives. (And this was a necessity--"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.) Was God displaying a lack of concern or love for their lives?

  8. There are actually two major points that clearly distinguish the eucharist from these general events you cite.

    Does God command that one do this and is it necessary for salvation?

    None of the generalities you suggest meet those two criteria (unless you assert that a woman who does not bear children jeopardizes her relationship with the Lord).

    The criteria regarding being impactful to salvation is a key issue, for this (salvation) is a process that God Himself administers. He sent His Son to accomplish it, for there was nothing in the world that could save man. God alone is the author and purveyor of salvation.

    The solution for salvation had to be supernatural and must also be administered supernaturally in order to ensure that it produces the desired fruit (reconciling man to God). If God's plan for the salvation of man is subject to contamination or evil, then salvation itself is not assured.

    If the very process that God authors and uses to reconcile His people unto Himself can be defiled or contaminated, then what does that say about His divinity (in that He is subject to evil) and His character (in that He has the power to sanctify this, but chooses not to)?

    Unless you can identify another part of the salvation process that is subject to evil, then I think this is a dangerous and unScriptural position.

  9. My examples are not "generalities." If preaching the Gospel (which Christ commanded) is a generality, so is the case of the Eucharist. Likewise childbirth. God does command having "children" ("Increase and multiply"), and for those who choose it, it belongs to the process of salvation, even if it is not strictly necessary for it. "Woman will be saved through bearing children" (1 Timothy 2:15).

    Yes, God does command us to preach the Gospel, and this is necessary for salvation. He also commands us to believe, to baptize, to "do this in memory of me, etc." and these are necessary for salvation. While doing any of these things, we may be struck down by other men, we may have a heart attack, or we may be infected by sickness. The preacher who, at God's command, preaches God's word, may be infected by an illness of those to whom he preaches, just as a doctor may be infected. God permits it in the one case as in the other.

    "If God's plan for the salvation of man is subject to contamination or evil, then salvation itself is not assured." This is the fallacy of accident. If a preacher gets sick while preaching, or if someone who is hearing the Gospel preached for the first time is infected by a virus from the preacher, it does not mean that God's plan is subject to evil.

    Also, I wonder what you mean by "salvation is not assured." It may be that this is another matter of difference. As I remarked earlier, your objections to the Catholic Church's teaching do not seam really particular to the Eucharist at all, though you used that as the occasion for spiel against it.

  10. Most of what you cite does not meet the criteria of being required by God for the purpose of salvation.

    We are not speaking of God's judgment of good works or His assessment for rewards, but of the nature of salvation (i.e. such as what impacts one's ability to be reconciled unto God).

    I Timothy 2:15 is clearly not an assertion that only women who bear children can be saved. Please state it clearly. Are you asserting that women who have no children jeopardize their relationship with God? Only if that is true would it be a valid parallel to the eucharist in this case. The commands of what is necessary for salvation are universal to - and apply equally for - all believers in Jesus Christ.

    If a person gets sick or dies while receiving the Gospel, it is not a defect carried by or contained within the Gospel message which causes the injury.

    Yet, in the case of the eucharist, it is specifically the blood of Jesus which is the transmitter of the contaminant. That is a BIG difference.

    What I mean by salvation being assured is that if any part of the process of salvation is subject to defilement, then the entire process becomes questionable.

  11. hey joseph...i kno this post is old though but i will realy love u 2 check out this book...READ IT and get back to me...please have a bible by your side as u read 2 check the scriptural references ..AND PLEASE PRAY THAT JEHOVAH GOD WILL GUIDE U BY HIS SPIRIT AS U offence 2 u man...just doin this in love...PLEASE PLEASE JUST READ IT B4 SAYIN ANYTHIN ...after u can give me all the points u want...i beg u in the name of THE LORD JESUS....GOD BLESS name is samuel,by the way


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