A ‘phenomenal’ argument goes up in smoke…
On Francis’ Denial of Transubstantiation:
A Rejoinder to Dave Armstrong
When he’s not promoting the “wisdom” of Methodist founder John Wesley or the “glorious sounds” of rock bands like The Beatles, Novus Ordo apologist Dave Armstrong carries the water for another beacon of faith and virtue: the Argentinian apostate Jorge Bergoglio, who has been starring as “Pope Francis” in the ongoing theological comedy act that is the Vatican II religion.
Apparently our post exposing the false pope’s denial of dogma on the Feast of Corpus Christi caused enough of a ruckus for Armstrong to take notice. Alas, his concern is not, of course, with Francis declaring that “Jesus … becomes bread” in the Eucharist and that “there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread”. Instead, he saves all his ire for that “sedevacantist rag, Novus Ordo Watch” and other “reactionary extremists” who dare to expose the heresy in Francis’ words, as we read in his June 25 response to our post:
- “No, Pope Francis Did Not Deny Transubstantiation” (Dave Armstrong / Patheos)
Since Armstrong joined the discussion in our combox (appended to the original Novus Ordo Watch post) and challenged us to refute him, we are happy to oblige.
Before we begin, let’s just point out for the record that we didn’t, as Armstrong says, “follow suit” after GloriaTV published the same accusation of heresy against Francis — our post actually predates GloriaTV‘s by about half a day. But it shouldn’t matter, as it was evident to anyone with Catholic ears that what the Jesuit pseudo-pope said in his Corpus Christi sermon is heresy; to wit:
In the presence of the Eucharist, Jesus who becomes bread, this simple bread that contains the entire reality of the Church, let us learn to bless all that we have, to praise God, to bless and not curse all that has led us to this moment, and to speak words of encouragement to others.
…The Lord does great things with our littleness, as he did with the five loaves. He does not work spectacular miracles [!], but uses simple things, breaking bread in his hands, giving, distributing and sharing it. God’s omnipotence is lowly, made up of love alone. And love can accomplish great things with little. The Eucharist teaches us this: for there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread. Being simple and essential, bread broken and shared, the Eucharist we receive allows us to see things as God does.
(Antipope Francis, Homily for Corpus Christi, Zenit, June 23, 2019; italics removed; underlining added.)
As we pointed out in our original post, this is the Lutheran heresy of Consubstantiation, also called Impanation, according to which “the substance of Christ’s Body exists together with the substance of bread, and in like manner the substance of His Blood together with the substance of wine” (Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Consubstantiation”). This heresy was solemnly condemned by the Council of Trent in the 16th century:
If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially contained the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ, but shall say that He is in it as by a sign or figure, or force, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist there remains the substance of bread and wine together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the entire substance of the wine into the blood, the species of the bread and wine only remaining, a change which the Catholic Church most fittingly calls transubstantiation: let him be anathema.
(Council of Trent, Session 13, Canons 1, 2; Denz. 883-884)
The only correct understanding of what happens to the bread and wine when they are consecrated by a priest during Holy Mass is the dogma of Transubstantiation and nothing else — not Luther’s Consubstantiation, not Rahner’s Transfinalization, not Schillebeeckx’s Transignification, and not Muller’s Transcommunication.
Now let’s have a look at Armstrong’s response to our post. His argumentation that Francis did not deny Transubstantiation in his Corpus Christi homily can be boiled down to the following five claims:
- Francis has affirmed his belief in Transubstantiation on other occasions
- By talking about Jesus becoming bread or being enclosed in bread, Francis is using “phenomenological language”
- The Bible itself uses the term “bread” to refer to the Eucharist
- There are instances of the Church Fathers themselves using the term “bread” in this way
- Popes have referred to the Eucharist as the “Bread of Angels”
With these five theses, Armstrong thinks he has delivered a severe blow to our accusation against Francis. But has he? We will now analyize and refute his arguments one by one.
(1) Francis has affirmed his belief in Transubstantiation on other occasions
Armstrong quotes from seven occasions on which Francis speaks about the Holy Eucharist, and he argues that these are examples of him affirming Transubstantiation. This, he claims, proves that he cannot have meant to teach Consubstantiation in his homily of June 23.
Specifically, Armstrong refers to the following seven occasions on which Francis supposedly taught Transubstantiation (the words quoted below are what Armstrong himself quotes as evidence from each text; emphasis with blue font is Armstrong’s):
Francis’ Angelus Address of the same day, June 23, 2019
“This miracle — very important, so much so that it is recounted by all the Evangelists — manifests the Messiah’s power and, at the same time, His compassion: Jesus has compassion for the people. That prodigious gesture not only remains as one of the great signs of Jesus’ public life, but it anticipates what would later be, at the end, the memorial of His sacrifice, namely, the Eucharist, Sacrament of the [sic] His Body and of His Blood given for the salvation of the world. . . . The feast of Corpus Domini invites us every year to renew the wonder and joy for this stupendous gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist. Let us receive it with gratitude, not in a passive, habitual way. We must not get used to the Eucharist and go to Communion out of habit: no! Every time we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist, we must truly renew our “Amen” to the Body of Christ. When the priest says to us “the Body of Christ,” we say “Amen,” but it must be an “Amen” that comes from the heart, with conviction. It is Jesus, it is Jesus who has saved me; it is Jesus who comes to give me the strength to live. It is Jesus, Jesus alive, but we must not get used to it: it must be every time as if it were our First Communion. . . . May Our Lady help us to follow Jesus with faith and love, whom we adore in the Eucharist.“
Francis’ Video Message for Eucharistic Congress of India, Nov. 2015
(Armstrong incorrectly cites this as Francis’ Corpus Christi Homily of May 30, 2013)
“There are other hungers- for love, for immortality for life, for affection, for being cared, for forgiveness, for mercy. This hunger can be satiated only by the bread that comes from above. Jesus himself is the living bread that gives life to the world (cf. Jn 6:51). His body offered for our sake on the cross, his blood shed for the pardon of the sins of humanity is made available to us in the bread and wine to [sic] the Eucharist transformed in the consecration. But the Eucharist does not end with the partaking of the bread [sic] and blood of the Lord. It leads us to solidarity with others. The communion with the Lord is necessarily a communion with our fellow brothers and sisters. And therefore the one who is fed and nourished by the very body and blood of Christ cannot remain unaffected when he sees his brothers suffering want and hunger.” (This translation is a disaster, but the original isn’t that great either: Francis actually speaks of the “bread and blood of the Eucharist, transformed by means of the consecration” [nel pane e nel sangue dell’Eucaristia, trasformato con la consacrazione].)
Francis’ General Audience on Feb. 5, 2014
“Therefore the Eucharistic Celebration is much more than simple banquet: it is exactly the memorial of Jesus’ Paschal Sacrifice, the mystery at the centre of salvation. “Memorial” does not simply mean a remembrance, a mere memory; it means that every time we celebrate this Sacrament we participate in the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. The Eucharist is the summit of God’s saving action: the Lord Jesus, by becoming bread broken for us, pours upon us all of his mercy and his love, so as to renew our hearts, our lives and our way of relating with him and with the brethren. . . . the bread that is the Body of Jesus Christ who saves us, forgives us, unites us to the Father.”
Francis’ Angelus Address of June 22, 2014
“Jesus underlines that he has not come into this world to give something, but to give himself, his life, as nourishment for those who have faith in Him. . . . Every time that we participate in Holy Mass and we are nourished by the Body of Christ, the presence of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit acts in us, shaping our hearts, communicating an interior disposition to us that translates into conduct according to the Gospel.”
Francis’ Angelus Address of Aug. 3, 2014
“In the Eucharist Jesus does not give just any bread, but the bread of eternal life, he gives Himself, offering Himself to the Father out of love for us.”
Francis’ Angelus Address of Aug. 16, 2015
“The Eucharist is Jesus who gives himself entirely to us. To nourish ourselves with him and abide in him through Holy Communion, if we do it with faith, transforms our life into a gift to God and to our brothers… eating him, we become like him. . . . [the Eucharist] is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual experience . . . it is a memorial, namely, a gesture that actualizes and makes present the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus: the bread is truly his Body given, the wine is truly is Blood poured out.“
Francis’ Angelus Address of Nov. 22, 2017
“It’s not just a memory, no, it’s more: It’s making present what happened twenty centuries ago. . . . This is Mass: entering in this Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, and when we go to Mass, it is as if we go to Calvary. Now imagine if we went to Calvary—using our imagination—in that moment, knowing that that man there is Jesus. Would we dare to chit-chat, take pictures, make a little scene? No! Because it’s Jesus! We would surely be in silence, in tears, and in the joy of being saved… Mass is experiencing Calvary, it’s not a show.“
Thus far the evidence presented by Armstrong for his first argument. Our response will be twofold.
First, none of the evidence adduced is actually a clear and unambiguous affirmation of Transubstantiation, for all quotations can easily be reconciled with belief in Consubstantiation, some of them even with a merely metaphorical understanding of the Eucharist. In fact, a quick internet search — note well, Mr. Armstrong — allows one to see that Lutheran adherents of Consubstantiation say very much the same thing about their “Eucharist” that Francis does in the passages quoted above. For example:
What we see, taste, touch, smell, and feel is ordinary bread and wine. The Holy Spirit persuades us that the bread is Christ’s body and the wine is Christ’s blood…. We receive the same body and blood. That means we receive the same forgiveness of sins…. The minister does not change bread and the wine into the body and the blood of Jesus. Christ has the power to make ordinary bread his body and ordinary wine his blood. And he does so…. But we are here. And here is Jesus. Is not the bread of this Sacrament the communion of the body of Christ? Is not the wine the communion of the blood of Christ? Does not our Lord Jesus serve us by giving us his body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of all our sins?
(Rolf Preus, “The Communion”, The Brothers of John the Steadfast, May 12, 2015)
To be clear: This quote is from a heretical Lutheran sermon in which Transubstantiation is denied and Consubstantiation is taught. This one example shall suffice to make the point.
Armstrong appears completely oblivious to the fact that mere references to “Body of Christ”, “Body and Blood of Christ”, “sacrament”, etc., are by no means unambiguous references to Transubstantiation specifically. After all, this same language is used in Holy Scripture, which countless Protestants read and understand in all sorts of different ways, but all of which are heretical and deny the dogma of Transubstantiation. This shows that someone using a term found in Sacred Scripture does not automatically mean that he is using it in an orthodox sense.
Second, we can assume that in over six years, Francis probably has taught Transubstantiation explicitly at some point. But even if he did, this in no wise proves that he did not teach heresy during this year’s Corpus Christi sermon. It only proves that he is happy to teach one thing at one time and another thing at another time, precisely as innovators have done for hundreds of years in order to poison souls in the most clever and effective way possible.
In 1794, Pope Pius VI condemned this very tactic, which he had seen used in the robber synod of Pistoia, which was actually a theological prototype of the Second Vatican Council:
They [prior Popes and bishops] knew the capacity of innovators in the art of deception. In order not to shock the ears of Catholics, the innovators sought to hide the subtleties of their tortuous maneuvers by the use of seemingly innocuous words such as would allow them to insinuate error into souls in the most gentle manner. Once the truth had been compromised, they could, by means of slight changes or additions in phraseology, distort the confession of the faith that is necessary for our salvation, and lead the faithful by subtle errors to their eternal damnation. This manner of dissimulating and lying is vicious, regardless of the circumstances under which it is used. For very good reasons it can never be tolerated in a synod of which the principal glory consists above all in teaching the truth with clarity and excluding all danger of error.
Moreover, if all this is sinful, it cannot be excused in the way that one sees it being done, under the erroneous pretext that the seemingly shocking affirmations in one place are further developed along orthodox lines in other places, and even in yet other places corrected; as if allowing for the possibility of either affirming or denying the statement, or of leaving it up the personal inclinations of the individual – such has always been the fraudulent and daring method used by innovators to establish error. It allows for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it.
It is as if the innovators pretended that they always intended to present the alternative passages, especially to those of simple faith who eventually come to know only some part of the conclusions of such discussions, which are published in the common language for everyone’s use. Or again, as if the same faithful had the ability on examining such documents to judge such matters for themselves without getting confused and avoiding all risk of error. It is a most reprehensible technique for the insinuation of doctrinal errors and one condemned long ago by our predecessor St. Celestine who found it used in the writings of Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, and which he exposed in order to condemn it with the greatest possible severity. Once these texts were examined carefully, the impostor was exposed and confounded, for he expressed himself in a plethora of words, mixing true things with others that were obscure; mixing at times one with the other in such a way that he was also able to confess those things which were denied while at the same time possessing a basis for denying those very sentences which he confessed.
In order to expose such snares, something which becomes necessary with a certain frequency in every century, no other method is required than the following: Whenever it becomes necessary to expose statements that disguise some suspected error or danger under the veil of ambiguity, one must denounce the perverse meaning under which the error opposed to Catholic truth is camouflaged.
(Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Constitution Auctorem Fidei, preamble; underlining added.)
Clear words from a real Pope! Armstrong should take them to heart and denounce Bergoglio instead of finding ever more creative ways to excuse and defend him.
(2) By talking about Jesus becoming bread or being enclosed in bread, Francis is using “phenomenological language”
The second argument Armstrong makes in defense of his “Pope” is that Francis is simply using “phenomenological language”:
So why does Pope Francis often seem to equate “bread” (after consecration) with Jesus’ Body? He doesn’t say the more precise and literal “what was once bread” or “what has the appearance of bread” or “what continues to have the accidents of bread and wine”. I contend that he’s simply using phenomenological language. We do so all the time by saying, “the sun goes down” or “the sun rises.”
It’s everyday language that refers to appearance rather than essence. We know that He believes in transubstantiation because he refers to partaking of the Body and Blood in several of his homilies and other talks. He combines this orthodox belief with the language of appearance. And so he says, “the bread is truly his Body given, the wine is truly is Blood poured out” (8-16-15).
(Armstrong, “No, Pope Francis Did Not Deny Transubstantiation”, Patheos, June 25, 2019; italics given.)
The problem is that by that reasoning, what heretic could not escape the charge of heresy? Are Lutherans, too, perhaps simply using phenomenological language? They too, as we saw, believe that “the bread is Christ’s body and the wine is Christ’s blood.”
But let’s return to what Francis actually said. He said that in the Eucharist, “Jesus … becomes bread”, which is the exact opposite of what truly takes place: bread becomes Jesus. An appeal to phenomenological language will not help here: Under no appearance does Jesus become bread. The only thing that one could reasonably say is that Francis is using metaphorical — not phenomenological — language, but then that’s not what Armstrong is saying, nor would it help his case very much.
Yes, one can say that Christ becomes our food in the Holy Eucharist, but then that’s literal and not metaphorical. Yes, one can even say that Christ is bread in a metaphorical sense (cf. Jn 6:48,51), but then Francis himself has ruled out that sense by saying in the very same sermon that in the Eucharist “we find God himself contained in a piece of bread.” So, are we to believe that Francis meant that Christ is contained in metaphorical bread? And what would that even mean? On the other hand, if Christ Himself is the metaphorical bread that is contained in literal bread, we still have Consubstantiation! The fact that Francis then speaks of this bread as “broken and shared” doesn’t help Armstrong’s case, either.
Since Armstrong invoked the “phenomenological language” defense, a few words should be said about the philosophical school of phenomenology, not because the Novus Ordo apologist invokes its principles — he doesn’t — but because it enjoys some prominence in the Vatican II religion. Thus, a quick aside before we move on to Armstrong’s next argument.
Phenomenology is a discipline invented by the Austrian-German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) in 1900. It concerns itself with the description and analysis of what appears to consciousness. Probably the most famous Novus Ordo proponent of the phenomenological method was the Polish apostate Karol Wojtyla (“Pope Saint” John Paul II). His infamous Theology of the Body is a prime example of the disaster that phenomenology can produce when it is applied to Sacred Theology.
Other more or less well-known phenomenologists associated with the Vatican II Sect are Dietrich von Hildebrand, William Marra, Josef Seifert, Jean-Luc Marion, and Fr. Robert Sokolowski. Phenomenology is dangerous and can easily lead one into heresy, as is unwittingly demonstrated by Fr. Sokolowski, who has published a book in which he subjects the Blessed Sacrament to a phenomenological analysis. He writes:
The choice of bread and wine as the embodiment of the memorial of our Redemption furnishes an image of the Incarnation: as the Son took on human flesh and assumed it into the life of God, so the common material elements of bread and wine become transformed into signs and vehicles of that same life. And the fact that bread and wine are food confirms the sacrament’s involvement in the distribution of life. It is in being fed that our life is sustained. The Eucharist is the most material of all the sacraments; it establishes a sacramentality in eating. The bread and wine given to us to be consumed are palpable images of the life that is conveyed to us in and through the Church.
(Robert Sokolowski, Eucharistic Presence: A Study in the Theology of Disclosure [Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1994], p. 37; underlining added.)
No, Fr. Sokolowski: In the Holy Eucharist, bread and wine are not changed into mere signs, vehicles, or images. Neither are “bread and wine given to us to be consumed.” Although, admittedly, this sounds quite a bit like what Francis said. Perhaps the Vatican’s Modernist-in-Chief used not phenomenological language but phenomenology itself to prepare for Corpus Christi this year.
The bottom line is this: Francis’ overtly heretical statement cannot be explained away by saying he used phenomenological language.
(3) The Bible itself uses the term “bread” to refer to the Eucharist
Thinking that the “phenomenological language” defense gets his “Pope” off the hook, Armstrong moves to buttress his argumentation by appealing to Sacred Scripture: “Is it impermissible (or heretical) to speak in that way? I should think not, seeing that our Lord Jesus and the Gospel writers and St. Paul did so” (italics given). He then quotes the following six Scripture passages (we’ll use the traditional Douay-Rheims translation here instead of whatever translation Armstrong used):
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. … As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. (Jn 6:50-51,58)
And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. (Mt 26:26)
And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. (Mk 14:22)
And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. (Lk 22:19)
The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:23-29)
Thinking he has thus dealt a final blow against us evil Francis accusers, Armstrong concludes: “Thus, Pope Francis is using the language of Jesus, Paul, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. If he is wrong and is supposedly a eucharistic heretic, so are they. Since that is ridiculous, the accusation collapses in a heap” (italics given). So there! We’re obviously very ignorant of Scripture! What in the world were we thinking?!
Before we answer, we’ll go ahead and make Armstrong’s objection even stronger, for he missed something important: Even the traditional Roman rite of Mass itself uses the term “bread” to refer to the Holy Eucharist after the consecration has taken place:
Mindful, therefore, Lord, we, Thy servants, as also Thy holy people, of the same Christ, Your Son, our Lord, remember His blessed Passion, and also of His Resurrection from the dead, and finally of His glorious Ascension into heaven, offer unto Thy most excellent Majesty of Thine Own gifts, bestowed upon us, a pure Host (Victim), a holy Host, an unspotted Host, the holy Bread of eternal life [Panem sanctum vitae aeternae] and the chalice of everlasting salvation.
(“Unde et Memores”, Latin-English Missal, TraditionalCatholic.net; underlining added.)
In addition, just before the priest administers Holy Communion to himself, he prays: “I will take the Bread of heaven [Panem coelestem], and will call upon the Name of the Lord.” And in the liturgical rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest chants at the conclusion of the hymn Tantum Ergo: “Thou hast given them bread from heaven” (Panem de coelo praestitisti eis).
Yes, clearly, both Sacred Scripture and the Roman liturgy at times refer to the Holy Eucharist as “bread.” The question is: Does this mean that what Francis said is orthodox? As we will see presently, the answer is: far from it.
In the first passage cited, Jn 6:50-51,58, Christ Jesus refers to Himself as the Living Bread come down from Heaven. His use of the word “bread” there is obviously metaphorical, for He is certainly not literal bread, nor did He appear to be bread, either, so one cannot claim He was using phenomenological language.
If we look attentively at the context of John 6, we see that Christ begins His Bread of Life discourse after the Jews challenge Him to work an even greater miracle than the multiplication of the loaves to feed the five thousand: “They said therefore to him: What sign therefore dost thou shew, that we may see, and may believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (Jn 6:30-31).
The phrase “bread from heaven” appears in Ps 77:24 in reference to the miraculous manna of Moses (cf. Ex 16:11-15). Our Lord picks up this phrase and applies it to Himself — not as though He were bread in a literal sense but in a metaphorical sense, for He would give His very literal Body and Blood to be consumed by His disciples as the true heavenly food, and that is “bread” much greater than that given by Moses! Hence He says:
I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.
Therefore, unless Armstrong wants to argue that Francis spoke metaphorically, he cannot invoke John 6 in his defense. But then a metaphorical sense to Francis’ words is ruled out by the simple fact that there is no reasonable metaphorical sense in which Christ is “contained in a piece of bread”, as the apostate from Buenos Aires put it. Had Francis simply said that Christ is the Bread of Life or the Bread come down from Heaven, there wouldn’t be an issue. But this he did not say.
The second, third, and fourth passages cited (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19) are of questionable relevance since the “bread” our Blessed Lord took into His sacred hands was, at that moment, still unconsecrated. Does Armstrong perhaps mean to argue that the Gospel writer nevertheless also speaks of it being broken and given to the disciples, after Transubstantiation has already occurred, without pointing out separately that the bread is then no longer bread? That would be Armstrong scraping the bottom of his apologetical barrel. If that kind of hairsplitting is what he wishes to hang his entire defense of Bergoglio on, he needs only to say so, and we can then fight that one out in a follow-up post.
The fifth passage cited is 1 Cor 10:16-17, in which St. Paul refers to the Holy Eucharist as “the bread, which we break” and the “one bread” of which all partake. Is this an instance of phenomenological language?
It might be — the commentaries from Catholic Scripture scholars are not all in agreement. For example, Fr. George Leo Haydock notes that St. Paul speaks in this manner “because of the outward appearance of bread” (source), which would support a phenomenological understanding. On the other hand, Fr. Cornelius à Lapide sees in the term “bread” an idiomatic expression proper to Hebrew, called a “Hebraism”, which would be closer to a metaphor:
I reply that bread, by a Hebraism, stands for any food (2 Kings ii. 22 [sic — presumably means xii. 21 here]). So Christ is called manna (S. John vi. 31), and bread (Ibid. vi. 41). The reason is that bread is the common and necessary food of all. Moreover, S. Paul does not say “bread” simply, but “the bread which we break,” i.e., the Eucharistic or transubstantiated bread, which is the body of Christ, and yet retains the species and power of bread. In this agree all the Fathers and orthodox doctors. Christ, on other occasions as well as in the Last Supper, is said to have broken and distributed the bread, according to the Hebrew custom by which the head of the house was wont to break the bread and divide the food among the guests sitting at table. For the Easterns did not have loaves shaped like ours, which need a knife to cut them up, but they used to make their bread into wide and thin cakes…. Hence “to break bread” signifies in Scripture “to feast,” and breaking bread signifies any feast, dinner, or meal. In the New Testament it is appropriated to the Eucharist; therefore “to break bread” is a sacramental and ecclesiastical term. Hence S. Paul calls here the Eucharist “the bread which we break,” meaning the species of the body of Christ which we break and consume in the sacrament.
(The Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide: I Corinthians, trans. and ed. by W. F. Cobb [Edinburgh: John Grant, 1908], pp. 242-243; underlining added.)
Lapide then refers the reader to his commentary on 1 Cor 11:24, which takes us to the sixth passage cited by Armstrong (1 Cor 11:23-29). Lapide says:
Hence there is no foundation for the argument of Calvin, who says that all these words “took,” “blessed,” “brake,” “gave,” refer to bread only, and that therefore it was bread that the Apostles took and ate, not the body of Christ. My answer is that these words refer to the bread, not as it remained bread, but as it was changed into the body of Christ while being given, by the force of the words of consecration used by Christ. In the same way Christ might have said at Cana of Galilee, “Take, drink; this is wine,” if He had wished by these words to change the water into wine. So we are in the habit of saying, Herod imprisoned, slew, buried, or permitted to be buried, S. John, when what he buried was not what he imprisoned: he imprisoned a man; he buried a corpse. Like this, and consequently just as common, is this way of speaking about the Eucharist, which is used by the Evanglists and S. Paul.
(Great Commentary: I Corinthians, p. 272; underlining added.)
We can understand this final passage too, then, as either using the word “bread” in a phenomenological sense or else as a Hebraism meaning “food”.
All this leads us to the following conclusion: Out of the six passages brought up by Armstrong to substantiate the claim that the use of phenomenological language has biblical precedent, at most two of them actually do so, whereas the other four do not. Even the two that do, however, ultimately accomplish nothing in support of Francis, since we already saw under section (2) above that he wasn’t using phenomenological language.
Fundamentally, Armstrong’s argument is quite a superficial one: He contends that because in Scripture there are some instances where the Holy Eucharist is referred to as “bread”, therefore Francis is entitled to say that “Jesus … becomes bread” and “God himself [is] contained in a piece of bread” in the Eucharist, both of which, taken at face value, are heretical. But does this follow?
If Armstrong were right, his argument would prove too much. Then every Protestant statement about the Eucharist as bread would suddenly become orthodox, as long as it didn’t explicitly rule out Transubstantiation. Then anyone could, at all times, simply refer to the Blessed Sacrament as bread on the grounds that “we’re using biblical language again”! Then one could say that at Mass, bread is offered to the Holy Trinity (as indeed Montini’s Novus Ordo Missae does say!), that in Holy Communion we receive bread, that we worship the bread in the monstrance…. We’d just be being extremely biblical, right?
The supposed return to the use of the language of the Bible and of the Church Fathers only serves one end: the gradual subversion of Catholic dogma. It is no wonder, therefore, that in recent decades it has been advocated by the adherents of the New Theology (Nouvelle Theologie, aka Ressourcement Theology), many of whom were held in suspicion of heresy by the Holy Office or were otherwise censured (such as Chenu, Congar, Rahner, de Lubac, and others; cf. Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, n. 13). Pope Pius XII, however, shot down this noble-sounding but quite nefarious endeavor:
In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents.
Moreover they assert that when Catholic doctrine has been reduced to this condition, a way will be found to satisfy modern needs, that will permit of dogma being expressed also by the concepts of modern philosophy, whether of immanentism or idealism or existentialism or any other system. Some more audacious affirm that this can and must be done, because they hold that the mysteries of faith are never expressed by truly adequate concepts but only by approximate and ever changeable notions, in which the truth is to some extent expressed, but is necessarily distorted. Wherefore they do not consider it absurd, but altogether necessary, that theology should substitute new concepts in place of the old ones in keeping with the various philosophies which in the course of time it uses as its instruments, so that it should give human expression to divine truths in various ways which are even somewhat opposed, but still equivalent, as they say. They add that the history of dogmas consists in the reporting of the various forms in which revealed truth has been clothed, forms that have succeeded one another in accordance with the different teachings and opinions that have arisen over the course of the centuries.
It is evident from what We have already said, that such tentatives not only lead to what they call dogmatic relativism, but that they actually contain it. The contempt of doctrine commonly taught and of the terms in which it is expressed strongly favor it. Everyone is aware that the terminology employed in the schools and even that used by the Teaching Authority of the Church itself is capable of being perfected and polished; and we know also that the Church itself has not always used the same terms in the same way. It is also manifest that the Church cannot be bound to every system of philosophy that has existed for a short space of time. Nevertheless, the things that have been composed through common effort by Catholic teachers over the course of the centuries to bring about some understanding of dogma are certainly not based on any such weak foundation. These things are based on principles and notions deduced from a true knowledge of created things. In the process of deducing, this knowledge, like a star, gave enlightenment to the human mind through the Church. Hence it is not astonishing that some of these notions have not only been used by the Oecumenical Councils, but even sanctioned by them, so that it is wrong to depart from them.
Hence to neglect, or to reject, or to devalue so many and such great resources which have been conceived, expressed and perfected so often by the age-old work of men endowed with no common talent and holiness, working under the vigilant supervision of the holy magisterium and with the light and leadership of the Holy Ghost in order to state the truths of the faith ever more accurately, to do this so that these things may be replaced by conjectural notions and by some formless and unstable tenets of a new philosophy, tenets which, like the flowers of the field, are in existence today and die tomorrow; this is supreme imprudence and something that would make dogma itself a reed shaken by the wind. The contempt for terms and notions habitually used by scholastic theologians leads of itself to the weakening of what they call speculative theology, a discipline which these men consider devoid of true certitude because it is based on theological reasoning.
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, nn. 14-17; underlining added.)
We can summarize Pope Pius XII’s teaching as follows: It is not permissible to go back on Catholic formulations of doctrine that have been crystallized by the laborious work of the Church’s holiest and most competent authorities over the centuries, on the pretext of returning to the language of Scripture or of the Church Fathers.
And thus we have also implicitly answered Armstrong’s point (4) There are instances of the Church Fathers themselves using the term “bread” in this way. It doesn’t matter if there are such instances because it is simply not permissible to return to the language of the Church Fathers, as Pope Pius XII said, and for the reasons given. As is clearly evident from the rotten fruits of the New Theology, which is the essence of Novus Ordo theology, the use of such language in our day only accomplishes one thing: the gradual erosion of Catholic dogma.
(5) Popes have referred to the Eucharist as the “Bread of Angels”
Armstrong’s last main argument is that Popes Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII have referred to the Blessed Sacrament as the “Bread of Angels.”
This phrase comes from Ps 77:25, which is the verse right after the one quoted earlier about the manna in the desert being the “bread of heaven.” Verse 25 states: “Man ate the bread of angels: he sent them provisions in abundance.” On this point, the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
The expression “Bread of Angels” (Psalm 77:25) is a mere metaphor, which indicates that in the Beatific Vision where He is not concealed under the sacramental veils, the angels spiritually feast upon the God-man, this same prospect being held out to those who shall gloriously rise on the Last Day.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament”; underlining added.)
Here, again, we are back to the fact that some scriptural references to bread are metaphorical. These could only help Armstrong if he were arguing that Francis was speaking metaphorically when he said that “Jesus … becomes bread” and is “himself contained in a piece of bread.” But we have already seen that these words cannot reasonably be understood in a metaphorical or phenomenological way.
A Final Argument
At the end of his post, Armstrong offers one last argument. He writes:
Jesus was omniscient, and so He knew that in 2019, there would be sedevacantist and reactionary extremists making out that Pope Francis denied transubstantiation because he used the same sort of language that He, the Apostle Paul, and the evangelists had used, as recorded in inspired revelation. And indeed, Protestants (and atheists) could have and have in fact made the same sorts of arguments against transubstantiation, by noting that the Bible refers to consecrated bread as still “bread.”
But He didn’t change the way He talked. He didn’t speak like a Thomist or systematic theologian. But His words and that of the others in the Bible are just as likely to be misunderstood as Pope Francis’ identical language has been. He didn’t consider that enough reason to use different language Himself, or to bring about different language used by the other Scripture writers and apostles.
(Armstrong, “No, Pope Francis Did Not Deny Transubstantiation”, Patheos, June 25, 2019; italics given.)
Though it may appear on the surface to have some merit, this too is lousy argumentation. The fact of the matter is that Christ gave us a Church to interpret, understand, explain, promulgate, and defend His Truth. Once this Truth has been authoritatively set forth, with the proper language to safeguard it from heresy and other errors, it is not permissible to abandon that terminology under the pretext of returning to biblical parlance. That is the clear teaching of Pope Pius XII, and adherence to it is not optional (unless you’re Novus Ordo, of course, but then anything goes).
Summary and Concluding Thoughts
This has been a fairly long response, but this was necessary to make it thorough. Our rejoinder to Dave Armstrong is summarized as follows:
- In none of the instances cited has Francis clearly affirmed belief in Transubstantiation, for all words quoted are reconcilable with the heresy of Consubstantiation just as well
- Even if Francis has affirmed Transubstantiation somewhere, this proves only that he is content to preach at times orthodoxy and at other times heresy, to the greater confusion of the people and to allow himself plausible deniability for a more effective dissemination of heresy; this is consistent with the approach of past heretics condemned by the Church
- Francis’ declaration that in the Eucharist “Jesus … becomes bread” and “there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread” is not reasonably explained by supposing him to be using phenomenological language, since God does not appear to become bread or appear to be contained in it, either
- Our Lord and the Evangelists only use the word “bread” in reference to Christ metaphorically, not phenomenologically; St. Paul uses the term either phenomenologically, once or twice, or as a Hebraism meaning any type of food; this, however, cannot justify Francis’ claim that God becomes bread or that He is enclosed in bread; if it could, then any Lutheran or other Protestant could just as legitimately appeal to St. Paul in defense of his heresy
- Per Popes Pius VI and Pius XII, it is not permissible to return to biblical language or the language of the Church Fathers, for this would erode and subvert the Church’s subsequent and unambiguous formulations of Catholic doctrine; not coincidentally, such subversion is precisely the fruit of Novus Ordo theology
- The Popes’ use of the term “Bread of Angels” is metaphorical, not phenomenological
At this point, we must pose a simple question to Mr. Armstrong: Imagine there were some deceitful religious figure (cf. 2 Cor 11:13; 2 Thess 2:8-10; 2 Pet 2:1) intent on teaching the heresy of Consubstantiation, yet while leaving himself a small loophole of plausible deniability so that he could always claim to be orthodox if challenged. Precisely how would such a one accomplish this if not in the manner Francis has done?
Indeed it is hard to see what heretic couldn’t make use of Armstrong’s argumentation to promote his own “Bible-based” heresy, for what heretic does not claim to find his peculiar doctrine in Scripture? Therefore he could always claim to be using scriptural language to disseminate his false doctrine, as long as he doesn’t explicitly state: “I reject Transubstantiation.”
We must not forget that although every portion of the Bible is certainly divinely inspired and entirely free from error (see 2 Tim 3:15-17), nevertheless Scripture is the “raw data” of written Revelation, and it belongs to the Church to explicate the exact doctrines contained therein, with their precise formulations; for in the Bible “are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest … to their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16). Therefore, to “return to the language of the Bible” would necessarily lead to an obscuring of Catholic doctrine and would also, ironically, ultimately result in a rejection of the very truths taught by the Scriptures. This is precisely what we have seen in the New Theology of the very people who first insisted we needed to “return to the sources”, rejecting Scholasticism. (“Cardinal” Gerhard Muller’s heresy on the Holy Eucharist is a perfect case in point.)
With regard to Transubstantiation in particular, Pope Pius VI went so far as to condemn an orthodox description of the dogma as “dangerous” and “favorable to heretics” because it omitted the term “Transubstantiation” and did not elaborate sufficiently on the way in which Christ is present in the Sacred Species:
The doctrine of the synod [of Pistoia], in that part in which, undertaking to explain the doctrine of faith in the rite of consecration, and disregarding the scholastic questions about the manner in which Christ is in the Eucharist, from which questions it exhorts priests performing the duty of teaching to refrain, it states the doctrine in these two propositions only: 1) after the consecration Christ is truly, really, substantially under the species; 2) then the whole substance of the bread and wine ceases, appearances only remaining; it (the doctrine) absolutely omits to make any mention of transubstantiation, or conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood, which the Council of Trent defined as an article of faith, and which is contained in the solemn profession of faith; since by an indiscreet and suspicious omission of this sort knowledge is taken away both of an article pertaining to faith, and also of the word consecrated by the Church to protect the profession of it, as if it were a discussion of a merely scholastic question,–dangerous, derogatory to the exposition of Catholic truth about the dogma of transubstantiation, favorable to heretics.
(Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Constitution Auctorem Fidei, n. 29; Denz. 1529; underlining added.)
One can only imagine what Pius VI would have said to Armstrong’s argumentation that the statement “Christ is contained in a piece of bread” is orthodox because of biblical and phenomenological language!
Think about where Armstrong’s reasoning logically leads: Shall we proclaim that God the Father is greater than God the Son, which is a heresy, on the grounds that Christ said: “…for the Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28), leaving out of account how the Church says this quote must be understood? Shall we refer to the Blessed Mother no longer as the “Mother of God”, which is a term not found in the Bible, and instead call her only “the Mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43)? Shall we say that Christ had “brethren” because that’s the term used in the Gospels (e.g., see Mt 12:46-49; Mt 13:55; Jn 2:12), although it refers to the members of His extended family and not to any brothers or sisters in the strict sense, since His Mother was a perpetual virgin? Shall we refer to all fellow-Catholics as “saints” because that’s what St. Paul did at times (e.g., see Rom 16:15; 1 Cor 14:33; Phil 1:1; Heb 13:24)? What would all this do to Catholic dogma and doctrine in the long term? To ask the question is to answer it.
The idea of returning to the language of Scripture ultimately implies that it doesn’t matter what the Church has defined, or what terminology she has sanctioned or forbidden, because we can never go wrong using the language Christ Himself and the biblical writers used. What an insult to Christ and His Church!
After the last 6+ years of the Francis circus, it is beyond obvious that Bergoglio checks every single box of the how-to-identify-a-Modernist checklist. Given his track record, wherever there is any ambiguity in his words such that they can be understood in either an orthodox or a heterodox sense, we must assume that he intends to convey the heretical meaning, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. That’s because he has given us an excessive number of reasons to — let’s put it nicely — suspect his orthodoxy, on an almost daily basis.
Especially in conjunction with Francis’ repeatedly displayed contempt for (what he claims to believe is) the Holy Eucharist, we recall Pope St. Pius X’s admonition to recognize Modernists not only by what they say but also by how they speak and how they act:
Although they express their astonishment that We should number them amongst the enemies of the Church, no one will be reasonably surprised that We should do so, if, leaving out of account the internal disposition of the soul, of which God alone is the Judge, he considers their tenets, their manner of speech, and their action. Nor indeed would he be wrong in regarding them as the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church.
(Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi, n. 3; underlining added.)
Based on what Francis has said, how he has said it, and what he has done, over and over again in the last six years, we have evidence by the truckload that the man is a Modernist and not a Catholic.
Let us wrap up this post by giving a final word of advice to Mr. Armstrong: Give it up. Quit trying to outdo Jimmy Akin in defending the indefensible. Join your co-religionists who tried for a long time to “explain” Francis but finally realized it could no longer reasonably be done. We’re thinking of people like Catholic Answers’ long-time radio host Patrick Coffin, the Vericast loudmouth Tim Haines, Church Disneyland‘s Michael Voris, the podcaster Taylor Marshall, and to an extent even the popular apologist Patrick Madrid. The emperor has no clothes, and everyone knows it.
Exit Dave Armstrong.
Image source: youtube.com (Vatican News – English; screenshot)
License: fair use