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While Extraordinary Miracles Abound, Many No Longer Believe in True Presence of the Holy Sacrament

by Fr. Richard Foley, S.J.

Descriptive Title

Jesuit Theologian Contemplates "Wounded Sacrament"


This article discusses the breakdown in Eucharistic faith and practice and looks briefly at some of the erroneous teaching and practices of modern liberal theology.

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Queen of Peace Newspaper

Publisher & Date

Pittsburgh Center for Peace, Summer 1997

Jesuit Theologian Contemplates "Wounded Sacrament"

by Fr. Richard Foley, S.J.

On becoming a Catholic, Cardinal Newman said he never got over the glad surprise of discovering the Blessed Sacrament reserved in even the humblest of our churches. He called the Lord's tabernacled presence "a treasure unutterable."

It certainly is. And the golden key that gives access to this treasure is faith. In the Blessed Sacrament faith attains its highest possible level, its Everest. For in the consecrated host we encounter faith's supreme object, the God-Man in person, He who is faith's giver as well as its goal and reward. And in the Mass, which is the mystery of faith par excellence, the God-Man reoffers the self-same sacrifice of redeeming love He made on Good Friday.

Surely, then, of all revealed truths none could possibly be more exalted, holy, beautiful, precious, uplifting, inspiring, consoling, exciting and enriching than the mysteries of the Eucharist.

For this added reason it comes all the more as a shock to learn that tens of millions of our fellow-Catholics no longer believe these sublime mysteries. Their minds and hearts have become estranged from the Eucharist. Their faith in Our Lord's True Presence and Sacrifice has been eroded if not totally demolished.

This state of affairs is nothing short of disastrous. We recognize in it a grim symptom of the faith-hemorrhage that over the past few decades has been weakening Christ's mystical body-the Church. And the chief casualty has been the Eucharist. Newman's treasure, alas, no longer has its true meaning or value for multitudes of Catholics.

The following statistics reflect the situation in the United States. But things are no better in Europe; indeed, in certain particulars they are even more disturbing.

In January 1992, a nationwide Gallup Poll discovered that two out of three Catholics no longer believed in Christ's Real Presence-that is, His glorified body, soul and divinity- in the Eucharist. Instead, they declared that the consecrated host is merely bread which symbolically represents Christ's spiritual presence.

These disturbing statistics were confirmed in another national poll conducted by the New York Times/CBS in June 1994. Of Catholics under the age of 45, some two out of three believe that the Blessed Sacrament is merely a "symbolic reminder of Christ." Only half the Catholics over 65 years of age still subscribe to the Church's teaching on the Real Presence. And more than half of all those who regularly attend Sunday Mass described the Eucharist's status as "strictly symbolic."

These regular Mass-goers total 15 million: that is, they comprise only one quarter of America's Catholic population. In any case, one wonders how many of the Mass-goers have a clear idea of what is going on at the altar, because people are being led nowadays to believe that Mass is just a commemorative banquet or meal, not the Lord's sacrifice, This in turn, has fed the misconception that Holy Communion's main function is to promote fraternal ties and good fellowship, So everyone present, no matter the state of their conscience or what religion they belong to (if any), is welcome to partake of the symbolic bread from heaven.


We know exactly where the main blame lies for this appalling breakdown in Eucharistic faith and practice. Liberal theologians, catechists and liturgists have from the Sixties onwards been systematically undermining the Church's traditional teaching in this as well as other areas of theology.

These liberal reformers, firmly entrenched in Catholic universities, seminaries and catechetical institutes, are responsible for the widespread errors being preached in pulpits or being taught in lecturerooms, catechism classes and schools. As for liberal-controlled newspapers and publishing houses, they spread these falsehoods far and wide with a zeal that matches their profits.

Liberals are freewheeling dissenters; they arrogantly oppose the Church's teaching authority, setting themselves up as a counter-magisterium. Basically they are neoModernists. Which means that for them there are no fixed truths, no dogmatic certainties, no unchanging creeds. Christian doctrines, they contend, are no more than temporary hypotheses which are continually evolving into new hypotheses as time marches on. Our efforts to track and codify this evolution of Christian ideas gives rise to what they call "process theology."

There is another characteristic common to liberals bent on wrecking our faith: not only at heart but in word and action they are Protestants. For, like their 16th century counterparts, they protest and revolt against papal authority and teaching. But, unlike Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the rest, these present-day Protestants appear to lack both the honesty and the courage to leave the Church. They remain in it instead, continuing in many cases to enjoy the emoluments of tenured security, while they go about their destructive work like fifth columnists or hostile infiltrators.

"The chief obstacle to faith," Cardinal Newman observed, "is a proud and obstinate spirit." The truism is verified and illustrated in the liberal revolution. Its theologians have arrogantly set themselves up as a para-magisterium and flagrantly defy the Church's authority.

Another factor, sinister and menacing, is operative in the liberal assault on Catholic orthodoxy and discipline. Pope Paul VI referred to it as the smoke of Satan within the Church. The very extent and bitter intensity of the opposition to traditional truths point to a diabolical influence behind it all. Another sign of this influence is the almost pathological hatred for revealed truth on the part of many liberals. This should not surprise us. Odium fidel, that is, hatred of the faith-particularly Eucharistic faith-burns and rages Lucifer, and he kindles it in every willing instrument he finds on earth.


To gain an overall picture of orthodox Eucharistic faith and devotion on the one hand, and of what its attackers say on the other, let us look briefly at some of the main areas concerned.

The Church's official ruling is in each case given in bold print. The erroneous teaching and practices of modern liberal theology follow in ordinary print.

* Jesus Christ is present body, soul and divinity in the consecrated hosts and wine.

The hosts and wine appear to remain what they are. But they have been invested with a new meaning and purpose, namely to represent Jesus, to remind us of Him, and to conjure up His spiritual presence.

The True Presence of Jesus is mystically in His disciples in general, and in each Eucharistic congregation in particular. It is not in the consecrated elements.

* The Mass is not only a sacred meal commemorative of the Last Supper but a True Sacrifice, renewing in an unbloody manner the sacrifice of Calvary.

The whole and sole function of the Mass is to create a community of faith and fellowship gathered together as at a meal or banquet. The Good Friday sacrifice was the only one offered by Christ.

* Only an ordained priest can consecrate the Eucharist and offer the Lord's Eucharistic sacrifice.

The whole congregation, exercising the common priesthood or priesthood of the faithful, performs the Eucharistic action. A priest's function is limited to that of president of the assembly and overseer of the liturgy.

* Only members of the Church who are in a state of grace may receive Holy Communion.

Because this is a common meal in which we enjoy fellowship with each other as well as with the Lord, everybody should partake of the blessed bread that symbolizes his presence.

* The True Presence of Christ remains in the consecrated hosts after the Eucharistic ritual. Whether preserved in the tabernacle or exposed in a monstrance, the Eucharist merits our adoration.

Even if Christ is considered truly present during the Eucharistic ritual, this presence ceases once proceedings are over; hence the hosts revert to being bread and nothing morel hence too, adoration of the reserved hosts is emptied of all meaning.


What we can and must do is pray for Eucharistic faith to be restored. The real tragedy is that so many young Catholics have never been taught the Church's traditional teaching. Having been deprived of their heritage, they know nothing about the loving God of the Blessed Sacrament, Clearly a comprehensive catechesis on a massive scale is called for if our youth are to know about and live by the mysteries of the Eucharist.

As a practical contribution of a most effective kind, each of us is recommended to spend as much time as possible before the tabernacle. Doing a Holy Hour is a choice way of making reparation to the Lord for the widespread rejection of the sacrament of His love. It is also a most effective way of asking Him for benefits and favours. Nobody needs these more than the victims-and the architects-of the liberal revolution.


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