Friday, August 22, 2014

Cannibalism and Catholicism?

A recent apologetics segment on the local Catholic radio station (It's staticy, but good) struck me. The topic was a Protestant charge that transubstantiation amounts to cannibalism. While the charge might be a marginal one, and the on air talent gave it as much time as it is worth, I found the illogic of the charge to be worthy of examining in its own right. Why? Well, lets dig in!

For an act to be cannibalism, it must consist of four elements.
  1. A being
  2. eats (of)
  3. Another being (living or dead)
  4. of the first being's kind.
Now the presence of the first two elements of the charge should not be in any serious doubt. Catholics are living beings (haven't seen anyone out baptizing rocks or plastic recently) and the Eucharistic celebration is a meal.

So far, so good, that's two down! The charge falls apart, however on the second two elements, or to be more precise, on the relative mindsets of the accused and the accuser: they simply fail to mesh. Most Protestants, to my knowledge, deny the Real Presence. As such, the argument falls apart on element three. If the Eucharist is not truly Christ, then eating it cannot be cannibalism. Simple.

Our hypothetical Huguenot might then counter that even if the Eucharist is not truly Christ, the Catholic still believes it is, hence, he must believe he is fulfilling all four points, and thus must believe himself to be a cannibal. This argument runs into a major hitch ‒ no Catholic actually believes himself to be a cannibal!

Therefore, if one wishes to press this line of argument, in order to be fully accurate they must say, "Given what you believe about the Eucharist, you should believe yourself to be a cannibal." They must then find a reason why what they believe that the other should believe would have any detrimental effect on that person, or that person's character, at all. Good luck with that.

Before we discard our Seventh Day-strawman entirely though, lets look at whether he is right that we Catholics should regard ourselves cannibals. To do that, lets ask the Pascal Victim Himself!
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.[...]“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.[...]I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  John (6:32-33,44,48-51,53-57) 
Given that, I think the true question is not whether we should regard ourselves cannibals or not, but why in the world we should care? If that which we eat brings eternal life, then whatever slurs it may cause to attach themselves to us pale in comparison! As Christ said,
It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!(Matthew 10:25)
While this is enough for me, those whose consciences are still tingling them may still be able to find an answer in Christ's dialogue in John. This answer comes from the fourth element, "of the first being's kind." Before you accuse me of heresy, note that I do not mean in the slightest to deny that the Eucharist is the "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" of one who is not merely fully God, but also fully man.

What I do, however, is point out the difference between His flesh and the flesh of other members of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. While eating normal hominid flesh takes life, through the means of whatever disease killed the person, or whatever diseases might be living in the person, or via prion diseases, ingesting the flesh of the Son of Man brings life. This flesh is thus, aside from its appearances, of a different kind then our own ‒ it is a living bread!

Therefore, no one need fear to eat of the Eucharist simply because of peoples' accusations of cannibalism. As our Lord says,
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.(Matthew 10:28)
Go forth, friends, and be fearless.

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