Shooting Down a Trendy Objection to Transubstantiation

There is a certain trendy objection to transubstantiation that goes like this:

“Of course, I believe in the Real Presence. But ‘transubstantiation’ is a very abstract term that would limit the Real Presence to a specific, Aristotelian philosophy. Why must we pry into mysteries and define the ‘how’ of the Real Presence? When it comes to the Real Presence, there’s more that unites Catholics with the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans than what divides us.”

This is very seductive, specious nonsense. Let me reduce this objection: the Church should not define the ‘how’ of a dogma using terms that are specific to this or that philosophical school. Transubstantiation depends on an Aristotelian distinction between substance and accidents, and therefore is too specific and limiting.

We can reject this very easily:

1.) Were the Fathers of the Council of Nicea wrong to define the “how” of the Trinity using very specific terms (homoousios, *not* homoiousios)? Their definition depended on a philosophical distinction between substance and person.

2.) Were the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon wrong to define the “how” of the Incarnation using very specific terms for person and nature?

If the Church can bind us to dogmatic definitions on the Trinity and the Incarnation that depend on specific philosophical distinctions (substance vs. person; person vs. nature), then the Church can bind us to a dogmatic definition on the Eucharist that depends on a specific philosophical distinction (substance vs. accident). The mystery of the Real Presence is the mystery of transubstantiation. It is no less a mystery for being defined in precise terms.

Those who object find themselves on the side of Arius and the anti-Chalcedonians, disputing the Faith that Christ entrusted to His Church. Anathemata sint.

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