Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: October 2000

October 2000

The Real Presence: Not Physical

Regarding Michael Murad’s letter titled “Are Catholics Cannibals? (Scene 1, Take 2)” and your reply (Jul.-Aug.) concerning Msgr. Francis Mannion’s column in Our Sunday Visitor: Without the intention to defend Msgr. Mannion in other matters, I believe he is correct in saying that the presence of the Lord in the holy Eucharist is not physical. One must be very careful in the use of terms in theology. The Church has never used the adjective “physical” in describing the Lord’s presence under the species of bread and wine. Rather, she has always used the terms “real” and “substantial.”

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines physical as “having material existence; perceptible esp. through the senses and subject to the laws of nature.” Clearly Our Lord’s presence under the species does not fall under these conditions. If it did, He would be extended in space with parts outside of parts. To break the sacred Host into parts would divide His Body, which is absurd, since He is fully present in each perceptible fraction of the fractured Host. Nor is the presence of the Lord perceptible to the senses; its recognition requires faith.

St. Thomas, who is still an expert in these matters, writes: “the body of Christ is not in this sacrament according to its own mode of dimensional quantity, but rather by means of substance…. In no way is the body if Christ in this sacrament by location” (S.T. III, a.5). Were Christ present physically, He would be present by the mutually exclusive locations of the various parts of His body.

To say that Christ is not present physically in the Eucharist in no way denies the objective reality of His presence. But let us stick to the consecrated terminology of the Church.

Rev. Gerald A. Buckley, O.P.

Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church

Ashland, Oregon


Oh yes, the Church has used the adjective “physical.” In his encyclical Mysterium Fidei (On the Holy Eucharist), Pope Paul VI says that “after the change of the substance or nature of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and wine but the appearances under which Christ, whole and entire, in His physical ‘reality,’ is bodily present…” (italics added). Paul VI says Christ’s “presence is called ‘real’…because it is presence in the fullest sense…” and that His presence “surpasses the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind….”

Woodmere, New York

Did Judas Avoid Hell?

Apropos of Michael Murad’s letter (Jul.-Aug.) regarding Msgr. M. Francis Mannion’s regular Q&A column in Our Sunday Visitor: A recent issue of the Visitor came my way somehow. In that issue (July 16) Msgr. Mannion was asked whether it’s possible that Judas did not go to Hell, and Mannion answered that it is indeed possible, adding: “To say that Judas’ sin could not be forgiven is to say that the power of Satan is greater than that of Jesus, that Jesus’ resurrection had limited power to redeem and was not able to grasp the soul of Judas. In truth, Jesus’ death and resurrection overpower the worst evil of which human beings are capable.”

I found Mannion’s answer lacking. Scripture tells us that Judas used his free will to hang himself. Now, it’s possible that between the time Judas put the rope around his neck and the time he lost consciousness, he called on the name of the Lord and asked for forgiveness. But Mannion did not mention any need for repentance, so his answer seemed to minimize, even excuse, Judas’s sin.

Since my family started to recite the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the Holy Rosary every day, I have experienced a very powerful desire to defend the teachings of the Catholic Church. I have e-mailed Msgr. Mannion, but he has yet to respond, so I ask that you publish my concern.

Manuel N. Crisol

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