ASK FATHER: Priests who do not believe in the Real Presence

Mass_ConsecrationFrom a reader…

It is my understanding that the priest’s intention to consecrate is necessary for transubstantiation to take place. I know that there are Catholic priests out there that do not believe in the Real Presence. If the celebrating priest does not believe he CAN confect the Eucharist, is it possible that he therefore doesn’t INTEND to consecrate, even if he says the correct formula? How can he intend what, to him, is impossible?

Second question:
If a priest intends to consecrate the loaf of bread back in the rectory during the mass, does it happen? I’m wondering if a priest who lost his faith or had malice in his heart towards God for some reason, could he consecrate a whole pita bread factory (assuming that is valid matter) out of malice for the Eucharist?

“I know that there are Catholic priests out there that do not believe in the Real Presence…”

Responding to this sort of speculation is difficult. This line of inquiry is usually unhelpful. Speculative curiosity about hypothetic situations can lead to meditation and contemplative prayer, but it can also lead to a idleness and gossip that is antithetical to the Christian life.

Yes, there may be priests who do not believe in the Real Presence. Yes, of the 400,000 + ordained men currently alive, there are probably some who are horrific sinners of dissipate faith, dissolute life, and dispassionate evil. We should pray for them.

Imagine the horrors of hell.   Then multiply that a hundred fold for a priest who goes to hell.

Imagine, particularly, the pain experienced by a priest who loses faith in the Blessed Sacrament and then dies.

After death, he no longer has need of faith. He has knowledge. He knows, in a manner more full and more acute than the holiest of mystics alive today knows, the reality and profundity of the Eucharist which he once held in his hands.  Now he is for all eternity shut off from the blissful sight of that marvelous gift.

How he must scream in agony.

We should pray for all priests, but especially for priests who have doubts or who have lost their faith and lost their way.

There are multiple stories of perfidious priests and the Eucharist. There is the sad tale of Father Charles Chiniquy, who clashed with the bishop of Chicago in the 1850’s and ended up being suspended and excommunicated for his intransigence. (It’s not good to die excommunicated.) He became a fanatical Protestant who wrote books against the Catholic Church and created horrible lies about the Church’s supposed involvement in the assassination of Lincoln. He, according to some rumors, upon receiving notice of his excommunication, walked out in the street in Chicago and saw a passing bread truck and pronounced the words of consecration over it. The story, as it is told, is full of holes. Other versions of this faux legend surface every few years but there is no proof that it happened.

Were it to happen, woe betide the priest who did it. Suffice it to say that were something like this to happen, the priest would be in a world of eternal hurt in the afterlife.

Happier are the stories of priests who doubted the reality of the Eucharist but became convinced because of an interior or exterior Eucharistic miracle. Consider the miracle of Lanciano, where are kept to this day a monstrance holding the remnants of a Host which was shown to be real flesh and a chalice containing globules of coagulated blood, some thirteen centuries after the miracle took place.

The Holy Spirit is with the Church until the end of time, guiding Her and guarding Her from error. Despite the sinfulness of priests and their perfidious actions (along with the perfidy of laity as well!), Holy Church will continue to provide the real sacraments to the world. That is all we really need to know.

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  1. pseudomodo says:

    Of course the miracle of Lanciano exists because of a priest who doubted the real presence.

  2. gracie says:

    Then there are those priests who believe in the Real Presence – they just don’t think it’s a big deal.

    I have in mind a priest who allowed the Announcements to be read after the Homily and before the Creed. This happened several weeks at the Masses I attended at that Church. Finally, I stopped the pastor after Mass and asked him why the announcements were being read then, instead at the end of Mass. His answer was that people get restless having to sit through Mass and reading the announcements gives them a nice break from all the prayers.

    This is a priest for whom the Real Presence is no big deal, I suspect. [?!??! Whoa.] Going by some of the Masses I’ve sat through, he’s not alone in thinking along these lines – God’s real, He’s there, whatever.

  3. Dennis Martin says:

    It is a huge and unwarranted leap from where the priest chooses to place the announcements to “suspecting” that the Eucharist is “no big deal” to him. Fr. Z cautioned against this sort of speculation in his posting. We should take his admonition to heart.

  4. Kerry says:

    Dittos on the “Whoa, take ‘er easy there pilgrim!”; that is assuming facts not in evidence

  5. mshepard85 says:

    This seems fitting to share. Je suis prêtre catholique.

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Sinful behavior is sinful, and we should do everything we can, in order to prevent it happening. But we should also remember that Our Lord is capable of bringing good out of evil, and no doubt would use even a sacrilegiously-treated bread truck for His Own purposes.

    But woe to the one who sinfully would do such a thing, all the same.

  7. chantgirl says:

    I believe that St. Catherine of Siena also speaks about priests of her time who would purposely omit the words of consecration during Mass because they were in a state of mortal sin. The faithful would have had no way of knowing then, and we really have no way of knowing now whether the priest is in the right state to consecrate. I don’t think we should agonize over the possibility of this happening. God is generous, and I have hope that He would somehow communicate His grace to the people in the pew in such a situation. However, He also respects our free will so I tremble for any priest who utters the words of consecration without believing them. A priest who has reached that point should be allowed to take a leave of absence to assess whether he should continue in ministry. Do priests still go on yearly retreats?

  8. Gail F says:

    What about the bread factory question? I am dying to know the answer. I guess it would have to be a matzo factory, or a host factory… most bread these days isn’t made of just water and flour. But surely this question has been answered, it’s so Scholastic. They asked every question one can think of… and then some. I know it is a silly question and in real life this is not going to happen. But — to ask that Scholastic question — WHAT IF???

  9. APX says:


    It’s standard practice (at least with FSSP priests) to have all the announcements at around that time. I wouldn’t start judging a priest’s devotion to the Eucharist over something like that.

    I’m getting very fed up with so much priest bashing amongst traditionalists, as well as it being justified because “they started it by bashing us”. It’s time to grow up and start taking responsibility for all our priests. If our priests aren’t holy, it’s because we aren’t praying and doing penance for them to become holy. We get worked up over the possibility of a shortage of bread and wine to confect the Eucharist, but yet we just assume we’ll have priests to say Mass. It’s a lot easier to make wheat bread and mustum than it is to make a priest, whom without, all the wheat bread, wine, mustum, etc in the world. is pretty much useless. Regardless of how sinful any priest is, he is still a priest who can absolve is from our sins and say Mass for us.

  10. The Cobbler says:

    Doesn’t the Church set the outer limit at “intending to do what the Church does” precisely to avoid having to worry about this sort of thing, at least in general?

  11. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    APX, Thank you for saying what needs to be repeated more often.

  12. Gerard Plourde says:

    Regarding the placement of announcements. The practice of reading them after the homily was the standard prior to the Second Vatican Council. In the Mass of Pius V it was the only part of the Mass when it could conceivably be done. The time after Communion was filled with the purification of the Chalice and its recovering, which included folding the Corporal and putting it in the Burse, refolding the Purificator and laying across the top of the Chalice. covering the Chalice with the Pall and the Chalice Veil and placing the Burse at the top. Done properly, this action took about five minutes (and most likely still does in the Extraordinary Form).

  13. Nicolas Bellord says:

    When a protestant or Anglican minister conducts a communion service perhaps using the correct words of consecration he may have no intention to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Our Lord. Apart from the question of whether he has valid orders from Apostolic succession is not lack of intention one of the reasons why his orders are not regarded as valid? I stand to be corrected.

  14. Raymond says:

    Here in the traditionalist bastion of St John Cantius in Chicago, the announcements are read right after the Gospel, just before the priest begins his homily.

  15. Nicolas Bellord says:

    On second thoughts perhaps I have confused this with the intention of the Bishop who purports to ordain the Protestant or Anglican minister. One can ask the question does he intend to consecrate a priest who can perform transubstantiation?

  16. oldCatholigirl says:

    If a priest with a strong belief in, and a great reverence for, the Real Presence, should, nevertheless, being a human being (not to mention being particularly targeted by the devil) commit a serious sin–and/or be in spiritual and mental turmoil– would he be able to refrain from receiving Communion when he says Mass and still be providing a valid and licit Mass for his congregation?

  17. APX says:


    No. In order for the Mass to a valid sacrifice, the priest must receive from both species according to St Thomas Aquinas. If the priest is in the state of mortal sin and there is no other priest to offer Mass, the priest is supposed to do his best best to make a perfect act of contrition, offer Mass and get to confession asap.

  18. robtbrown says:

    APX says,

    If our priests aren’t holy, it’s because we aren’t praying and doing penance for them to become holy.

    Although I agree about priest bashing, I don’t buy the communal lay guilt trip. The problems in the Church were all caused by priests.

    1. That includes two popes, one of whom called a Council without really understanding the power of the Church’s home grown enemies.

    The other turned reform over to his liberal, humanist buddies who then did what he had been warned they would do. Afterward the Council ended, his papacy systematically persecuted those who objected to certain texts or practices.

    2. It also includes priest theologians like Rahner, Kung, and Schillebeeckx who hovered around the Council, influencing the documents.

    3. And then there have been the bishops. Many were so out of touch that they arrived at the Council unaware of the liberal agenda for the Church. Others actively participated in the destruction of formation in their seminaries and persecuted or ridiculed anyone who wanted Latin liturgy.

  19. Stephen D says:

    That there are priests who do not believe in the Real Presence is not conjecture, a recent anonymous poll conducted in a German diocese showed that around 40% (of priests in that particular diocese) did not believe. Germany may not be representative of other parts of the world (please God) but it does show that lack of belief is not merely a rumour.

  20. gracie says:

    APX, Gerard Plourde,

    Being born in 1950, one could say I grew up in the pre-Vatican II Church. In the City of Detroit, where I lived, announcements were made at the end of Mass. They were said at the end also in Philadelphia, where we spent our summers, as well as at other Churches along the East Coast that we visited. I do not know how it was in other parts of the country, so your experience may have been different from mine.

    Having said that, it was quite jarring to hear announcements said during the middle of Mass at the Church I referenced in my previous post. It was jarring because it was the first time I had experienced this in New Jersey, where I have lived for 40 years. In fact, one summer I attended Masses at neighboring parishes to check out their architecture and – even in the midst of some beautiful/wretched looking interiors – announcements were said at the end of Mass. Ditto for nearby New York City. Again, I have not attended every parish in the area and am going by what I have personally seen.

    As for the conversation I had with the priest in question, I first looked into the matter online to see what the rules are regarding the placement of announcements. After all, maybe it’s a new norm, or an old norm I never ran into and I wasn’t about to bring up the matter with the priest if it was allowed. Looking at the GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal), I found 3 directives regarding announcements:

    “90: To the Concluding Rites belong the following: (a) brief announcements, should they be

    “166: The Concluding Rites: When the prayer after Communion is concluded, brief announcements
    should be made to the people, if they are necessary.”

    “184: The Concluding Rites: Once the Prayer after Communion has been said, the Deacon makes
    brief announcements to the people, if indeed any need to be made, unless the Priest prefers
    to do this himself.”

    With all due respect – and deferring to those experts more knowledgeable on this issue – it seems clear from 3 separate directives of the GIRM that Announcements are to be said at the end of the Mass – not during it. I confirmed my suspicion that the “news of parish happenings” was being read at the wrong time before I approached the Monseigneur. After he said why he did it that way, I respectfully told him of what I had read, he snapped at me, “You’ve said enough” and walked off. It was like being slapped in the face. I checked with another priest there who said there had been other complaints about this matter. Believe it or not, when I attended Mass there a couple of months later, the announcements were being said at the end of Mass so, presumably, someone with more influence than me got through to him. So the abuse was ended, but in the teeth of a recalcitrant pastor who basically wanted me to shut up and go away.

  21. jacobi says:

    I would have thought that bishops and priest who seek to change doctrine of the Church are thereby wilfully rejecting that doctrine. There appear to be many such in the Germanic areas now, (ref Stephen D comment), just as there were during the Protestant Reformation. They are active in the Family Synod debates.

    The Real Presence is a doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    Many laity reject this doctrine, and increasingly others, such as the Indissolubility of marriage. But ignorance, not normally fault, often is the reason.

    Those guilty of knowingly rejecting any doctrine are guilty of heresy, formal heresy, and incur the penalty of excommunication, (1983 code of Canon Law, c1364).

    That is, I understand, the reality of the Teaching of the Catholic Church. Tough I know, but then, I didn’t make the rules.

  22. albizzi says:

    My faith in the real Presence in the Eucharistic is strengthened by the accounts of some exorcisms when the consecrated host is presented to the possessed person who usually becomes furious at its sight.
    Or by some holy mystics like St Padre Pio or Marie-Julie Jahenny who had the gift of being able tO discern between consecrated and non consecrated hosts.

  23. Michael Glowacki says:

    I heard a similar question on EWTN radio’s Call to Communion about chantgirl’s question:

    I believe that St. Catherine of Siena also speaks about priests of her time who would purposely omit the words of consecration during Mass because they were in a state of mortal sin. The faithful would have had no way of knowing then, and we really have no way of knowing now whether the priest is in the right state to consecrate. I don’t think we should agonize over the possibility of this happening. God is generous, and I have hope that He would somehow communicate His grace to the people in the pew in such a situation.

    I believe the host cited canon law that stated to the effect that if the priest was in a state of sin, the faithful laity would have no real way of knowing, therefore a state of grace for the priest was not necessary for the consecration of Eucharist to be effective, valid and licit. I’m sure I’m butchering the literal meaning, but I believe he explained that it was designed to protect the faithful, the communicants, not the priest who still has an obligation to confess sins and receive absolution.

    A canonist is welcome to correct me please!

  24. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Gracie,

    I agree that in the Ordinary Form it is clear that announcements are to be made at the end of Mass. My reference concerning announcements following the homily was to the Extraordinary Form. (I might have made it more clear had I used the word “sermon”.)

    You raise an interesting question concerning the applicability of GIRM to the Extraordinary Form. My impressoin was that the Extraordinary Form followed whatever instructions appear in the 1962 Missal.

    To be frank, announcements were pretty rare as I recall and were for the most part limited to a letter from the Archbishop or a reminder that a special collection was being taken. We are contemporary in age and my experience is also from the Philadelphia Archdiocese, albeit that my pre Vatican II observations are limited to one parish (sadly recently closed). Even in my current OF parish the announcement at the end of Mass is limited to the confession schedule for the week and whether there will be mid-week Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s expected that the congregation would get information about anythng else from the parish bulletin.

  25. johnmann says:

    Intro to the Lectionary 27:
    “Any necessary announcements are to be kept completely separate from the homily; they must take place following the prayer after Communion.”

    Announcements at the homily in the EF are the norm, including those in the NJ/NY area. I agree it’s jarring, especially when the announcements are longer than the homily.

  26. Dennis Martin says:

    Quite frankly, I find it very jarring to have announcements, often long and detailed, made just prior to the Post-Communion Prayer in the Ordinary Form. This is the pattern in the half-dozen OF parishes I have attended in Chicago. I think they get placed there rather than after the Prayer and dismissal and blessing, because the announcer is afraid people will walk out during the announcements. I detest this kind of manipulation as much as I detest long chatty announcements that people could and should read in the bulletin.

    There is good reason for fitting them in before or after the homily. The homily is one point where the congregation is addressed as a congregation. The other points are the penitential rite at the beginning and the dismissal and blessing at the end. Them’s your choices. But the homily is in some sense “outside” the sacred mysteries of the Mass. It is not required at all Masses. It already “interrupts”–in a good sense.

    I think the idea that the announcements cannot be imagined as fitting in there, that they ,horribile dictu, interrupt and obstruct the Sacred Homily, arises in part from the Protesto-Catholic fixation on the homily, combined with the loss of an understanding of the Holy Mass as the Sacrifice of Christ that expiates sins.

    If you turn the Mass into a communal meal, horizontalize it, then the instruction to the gathered community along with reception of Communion become the Two Big Things at Mass. So announcements cannot possibly be placed there because they would detract from the Two Big Things. Putting them just ahead of the final prayer to God at the end, not a problem if the “community” rather than God has become the focus of the worship.

    After all, who really cares if God has to be put on hold for a few minutes while we make sure the spaghetti dinner organized by the “Eucharistic Ministers” of the parish to raise money for a properly liturgical Purell dispenser at the credence table (I just made that up about the credence table, most people wouldn’t know what it is, so it actually wasn’t in the announcement itself) gets sufficiently publicized. We can’t possibly worship ourselves well without a handsomely appointed Purell dispenser.

    I first had to think this through when I started requiring students to attend an Extraordinary Form Mass and one of the most common points they raised was how surprised they were to hear the announcements read just ahead of the sermon.

  27. johnmann says:

    The congregation is addressed throughout the Mass. The homily is part of the Mass. In the OF, it’s not to be omitted on Sundays. It isn’t an intermission. Announcements, wherever they’re placed, feel like intermissions. At the end of Mass is the most practical. Announcements may contain information about events immediately following Mass. And it better maintains the dignity of the ambo.

  28. Nan says:

    @Nicholas Bellord, my understanding is that Pope Leo XIII decreed that Anglicans don’t have valid holy orders as their ordination rite was changed to omit language indicating that the priest’s major duty was to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; they also intended to leave the Church and belong to a different one. They therefore lack valid bishops and can’t ordain priests without. They also rejected Transubstantiation so don’t believe in the Real Presence. Same for all other Protestants.

  29. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Presumably, those priests mentioned, who were omitting the words of consecration because they believed themselves to be in the state of mortal sin, were doing so in order to avoid receiving Communion sacrilegiously.

    They were victims of very bad theology. In their misguided effort to avoid a sacrilegious Communion, they committed the grave delict of simulating a sacrament. They also failed in their duty to provide a Mass and an opportunity for Communion for the faithful. If there was a stipend, they could not, of course, keep it.

    A priest who has reason to believe himself in the state of mortal sin, but has a publicly-scheduled Mass to celebrate, with no opportunity to confess, should make a perfect act of contrition (which always includes the intention of confessing), and celebrate the Mass. He does NOT commit the sin of sacrilege by his reception of Communion because he is fulfilling a duty by celebrating the Mass (which requires Communion by the priest).

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