Don’t worry, ‘Pope’ Francis doesn’t either!

High-Profile Jesuit: ‘I Do Not Believe in Transubstantiation’

Catholicism just isn’t his thing: the Jesuit Modernist ‘Fr.’ Tom Reese

It is rare that a Novus Ordo Jesuit comes out and states explicitly that he does not believe in a dogma of the Faith, but it does happen on occasion.

A recent example is the American ‘Fr.’ Thomas J. Reese, S.J. (b. 1945), who was editor-in-chief of the Jesuit rag America until 2005.

In a Jan. 31 article suspiciously entitled “The Eucharist is about More than the Real Presence” — a write-up meant to contribute to the “Eucharistic revival” the Novus Ordo bishops of the United States want to bring about — Reese openly proclaims his rejection of Transubstantiation, which was defined dogmatically and infallibly at the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

The very idea of Reese giving suggestions for a “Eucharistic revival” is comical, of course. Indeed, in his essay he complains that under ‘Pope’ John Paul II (r. 1978-2005), the liturgical training in Novus Ordo seminaries “stressed observing the rubrics rather than understanding liturgical reform.” Who knew?!

After a few paragraphs, Reese gets down to business. He writes:

Since my critics often accuse me of heresy, before I go further, let me affirm that I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I just don’t believe in transubstantiation because I don’t believe in prime matter, substantial forms and accidents that are part of Aristotelian metaphysics.

(Thomas J. Reese, “The Eucharist is about More than the Real Presence”, National Catholic Reporter, Jan. 31, 2023)

This is the typical double-tongued twaddle of a Modernist. But at least Reese shows he has a sense of humor. First he complains that his critics accuse him of heresy, and then he proceeds to prove that they’re right!

Oh, but notice he does affirm that he believes “in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist”. So is he orthodox after all? No, not even close. The dogma of the Catholic Church is not simply the Real Presence, it is Transubstantiation very specifically, and only Transubstantiation:

But since Christ, our Redeemer, has said that that is truly His own body which He offered under the species of bread [cf. Matt. 26:26ff.; Mark 14:22ff.; Luke 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor. 11:23 ff.], it has always been a matter of conviction in the Church of God, and now this holy Synod declares it again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a conversion takes place of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This conversion is appropriately and properly called transubstantiation by the Catholic Church.

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, Chapter 4 and Canons 1 and 2; Denz. 877, 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 — nothing else.

You see, Lutherans, too, believe in some kind of Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but not in Transubstantiation. They believe in what is called 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”; italics added). This too is heresy because the dogma of Transubstantiation holds that the entirety of the substance of the bread and of the wine cease to exist, their accidents (appearances) alone remaining.

Reese is not shy about his heresy. He has the audacity to write: “So, first, forget transubstantiation. Better to admit that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is an unexplainable mystery that our little minds cannot comprehend.”

This too is typical for a Modernist. Under the pretext of appealing to mystery, he claims that the dogma is false or at least not necessarily true. At the root of this is the Modernist denial of the nature of dogma as divinely-revealed truth.

In his Syllabus of Modernist Errors, Lamentabili Sane Exitu, Pope St. Pius X (r. 1903-1914) condemned the following proposition as Modernist: “The dogmas which the Church professes as revealed are not truths fallen from heaven, but they are a kind of interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind by a laborious effort prepared for itself” (error no. 22; Denz. 2022).

Shortly after the release of this Syllabus, Pope Pius X decreed the penalty of excommunication for anyone who would contradict it, that is, for those who would espouse any of the condemned errors:

In addition to this, intending to repress the daily increasing boldness of spirit of many Modernists, who by sophisms and artifices of every kind endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy not only of the Decree, “Lamentabili sane exitu” [Syllabus of Modernist Errors], which was published at Our command by the Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition on the third of July of the current year [1907], but also of Our Encyclical Letter, “Pascendi Dominici gregis,” given on the eighth of September of this same year, by Our Apostolic authority, We repeat and confirm not only that Decree of the Sacred Supreme Congregation, but also that Encyclical Letter of Ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against all who contradict them; and We declare and decree this: if anyone, which may God forbid, proceeds to such a point of boldness that he defends any of the propositions, opinions, and doctrines disproved in either document mentioned above, he is ipso facto afflicted by the censure imposed in the chapter Docentes of the Constitution of the Apostolic See, first among those excommunications latae sententiae which are reserved simply to the Roman Pontiff. This excommunication, however, is to be understood with no change in the punishments, which those who have committed anything against the above mentioned documents may incur, if at any time their propositions, opinions, or doctrines are heretical; which indeed has happened more than once in the case of the adversaries of both these documents, but especially when they defend the errors of modernism, that is, the refuge of all heresies.

(Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Praestantiae Scripturae; Denz. 2114; italics added.)

Clearly, Reese’s Modernism is serious business.

His argumentation is specious anyway because one can affirm both, of course: that Transubstantiation is true, and yet also that it remains an unexplainable mystery. Just because God’s works are ultimately unfathomable doesn’t mean we cannot know anything about them. Who can ultimately understand the Incarnation? No one who is a mere creature. And yet, we know many things about the Incarnation because God has revealed them to us. God’s revelation exists precisely to allow us a glimpse into His inexhaustible mysteries. But although it be but a glimpse, it is nonetheless a glimpse of reality.

Reese is ultimately denying that divine revelation yields genuine knowledge of what is true. He says:

Thomas Aquinas used Aristotelianism, the avant-garde philosophy of his time, to explain the Eucharist to his generation. What worked in the 13th century will not work today. If he were alive today, he would not use Aristotelianism because nobody grasps it in the 21st century.

This argument is quite old. It is so old, in fact, that Pope Pius VI (r. 1775-1799) shot it down in the 18th century when he condemned the errors of the Synod of Pistoia, which was a veritable prototype of Vatican II:

The doctrine of the synod, 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.)

There we have it. The Pope condemns Reese’s claim that Transubstantiation is not the dogma itself but merely a useful conceptual framework that happened to appeal to thinkers who were steeped in Aristotelianism many centuries ago.

The idea, still so popular today, that Transubstantiation is merely a scholastic-Aristotelian way to express an underlying reality that can just as well be expressed using modern philosophical concepts that appeal to contemporary man, is false and dangerous. It was explicitly condemned and refuted by Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) in 1950:

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.

Some even say that the doctrine of transubstantiation, based on an antiquated philosophic notion of substance, should be so modified that the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist be reduced to a kind of symbolism, whereby the consecrated species would be merely efficacious signs of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful members of His Mystical Body.

These and like errors, it is clear, have crept in among certain of Our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science. To them We are compelled with grief to repeat once again truths already well known, and to point out with solicitude clear errors and dangers of error.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, nn. 14-16, 26, 28; underlining added.)

This is Pope Pius XII’s powerful answer to the Neo-Modernists like Reese and his ilk! Transubstantiation isn’t simply an Aristotelian way of framing an otherwise elusive reality. Rather, its substance-accident distinction is “based on principles and notions deduced from a true knowledge of created things.”

Reese’s claim that “nobody grasps” Aristotelianism today is misleading. For one thing, it is not Aristotelianism that must be adhered to but the dogma of Transubstantiation (whether it is grasped or not, we might add). Secondly, if people truly do not grasp the dogma, it is simply because it has not been explained to them properly. In fact, before they can make their First Holy Communion, the Church requires even children to understand this at a basic level, so let’s not exaggerate the difficulty involved.

Notions of accident and substance, of outward appearance and inward reality, are neither difficult to explain nor hard to understand. In fact, they are a matter of common sense, and they jibe with daily experience. The claim that 21st-century man is somehow incapable of grasping this is a damnable lie. He is very much capable of understanding it because human nature does not change. A study of ancient Greek philosophy would be useful, but it is not necessary.

What results, by contrast, when one tries to replace those common sense notions with something “more hip” for contemporary man, can be seen in ‘Cardinal’ Gerhard Ludwig Muller‘s theological gobbledygook that will definitely not be understood by anyone:

The term “body and blood” would be misunderstood if one were to suppose flesh and blood to mean the physical and biological components of the historical man Jesus. Neither is it simply the transfigured body of the risen Lord if by “body” is meant the material dimension of being human….

In reality, “body and blood of Christ” do not mean the material components of the man Jesus during his lifetime or in his transfigured corporeality. Rather, body and blood here mean the presence of Christ in the sign of the medium of bread and wine, which [presence] is made communicable in the here and now of sense-bound human perception. Just as before Easter the disciples were perceptibly together with Jesus by hearing his words and perceiving him in his sensory figure in accordance with human nature, we now have fellowship with Jesus Christ, communicated through the eating and drinking of the bread and the wine.

(Gerhard Ludwig Müller, The Mass: Source of Christian Life, pp. 139-140)

We might add that this man was the chief “watchdog of orthodoxy” in the Vatican from 2012 to 2017, thanks to ‘Pope’ Benedict XVI, himself not a big Transubstantiation defender.

By the way, Reese has nothing to fear from ‘Pope’ Francis, of course, who has continually expressed his own belief in the Lutheran heresy of Consubstantiation, according to which, we recall, the bread remains bread but Christ nevertheless becomes present somehow alongside it:

Another piece of brilliant advice Reese offers for that “Eucharistic revival” is this: “Second, remember the purpose of the Eucharist is not to worship Jesus.” Yes, he actually wrote that! He grants that worshipping Christ in the Eucharist at Benediction is “OK” (his word), “but it is not what the Mass is about.”

Really? Catholics (real Catholics, not Modernist pseudo-Catholics like Reese) are taught that Holy Mass is offered for four ends: adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and petition.

In his most wonderful Eucharistic devotional The Prisoner of Love, Fr. Francis X. Lasance writes that the first duty we have toward the Holy Eucharist — after believing in Christ’s real and substantial Presence therein — is to adore It.

In fact, that is precisely what St. Thomas the Apostle did as soon as He realized that the Person showing him His sacred wounds was indeed His Lord and Redeemer: “My Lord, and my God” (Jn 20:28)! It is also, of course, what the Magi did when they arrived before the Divine Infant: “And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him” (Mt 2:11a). And it is what the man born blind did when Christ revealed to him who He was: “And falling down, he adored him” (Jn 9:38b).

Reese, on the other hand, says: “We should remember that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to adore him.” Well, let’s see: Christ does teach that God alone is to be adored (Mt 22:37-38; Lk 4:8), and He also teaches that He is God (see Jn 1:1; 8:58; 10:30,33; Lk 18:19). Most people would know what follows from this, but for today’s Jesuits, that may be asking a bit much.

So, what does ‘Fr.’ Reese believe “the Eucharist” is about? (He means Holy Mass, or rather, the Novus Ordo Missae.) Why, naturally, “it is about us in the Christian community, about us being transformed into the body of Christ, about us joining in the mission of Jesus in the world”, he writes.

How low the Jesuits have fallen! What used to be the glorious Society of Jesus is now the rotten Society of Judas. Although that may not be entirely fair to say — after all, Judas betrayed our Lord for 30 pieces of silver, whereas Tom Reese has a vow of poverty.

In sum, we can say that the Jesuit Tom Reese is definitely not in danger of being disciplined by Francis for suspicion of Catholicism any time soon.

Speaking of Francis: Remember when the false pope called the poor “a real presence of Jesus in our midst”? See, “Real Presence” can mean all sorts of things. The bottom line is that if you don’t believe in Transubstantiation, you don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. That is because Transubstantiation alone is an accurate description of what God has revealed regarding His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

In its Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith against innovators of any kind, the First Vatican Council proclaimed: “…that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding” (Dei Filius, Ch. 4; Denz. 1800).

In other words, all dogmas must be believed precisely as originally defined and not later given some other, allegedly “more enlightened” meaning, as Reese thinks he has the right to do. Not surprisingly, therefore, Pope St. Pius X’s Oath against Modernism also forbids this tinkering with dogma under the guise of progress:

Fourthly, I accept sincerely the doctrine of faith transmitted from the apostles through the orthodox fathers, always in the same sense and interpretation, even to us; and so I reject the heretical invention of the evolution of dogmas, passing from one meaning to another, different from that which the Church first had; and likewise I reject all error whereby a philosophic fiction is substituted for the divine deposit, given over to the Spouse of Christ and to be guarded faithfully by her, or a creation of the human conscience formed gradually by the efforts of men and to be perfected by indefinite progress in the future.

(Oath against Modernism; Denz. 2145; underlining added.)

Reese has absolutely no excuse. It’s not that he doesn’t know what he must believe — rather, he chooses not to believe.

For people such as him, our Blessed Lord has terrifying words: “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mk 16:16; cf. Jn 10:26; Gal 1:8-9; 2 Jn 1:9).

But of course Reese doesn’t believe that either.

Image source: composite with elements from Shutterstock (Sebastian Duda) and YouTube (screenshot)
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