These folks could teach Moray eels a thing or two about slippery twisting.  (Yes, this features a Jesuit.)

Just a quick reminder about the nature of the Fishwrap and those whom they embrace as fellow travelers.

At the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) find – or don’t – an opinion piece by one of the most unhinged of current, visible anglophone Jesuits, Thomas Reese.  Here’s a sample, which Fishwrap published with, no doubt, ready endorsement.

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 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.

So, first, forget transubstantiation. Better to admit that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is an unexplainable mystery that our little minds cannot comprehend.

Second, remember the purpose of the Eucharist is not to worship Jesus.

These folks could teach moray eels a thing or two about slippery twisting.

Coincidently, moray eels have “goblet cells” which cover their exteriors with a mucus that protects them from jagged edges of rocks, coral, etc.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. daughteroflight says:

    Council of Trent condemned that position explicitly.

  2. Lurker 59 says:


    So much wrong with the full article that it is just silly.

    FYI, Fr. Reese, though I am sure you know, you don’t have to affirm Aristotelian metaphysics to affirm the dogma of transubstantiation.

  3. raitchi2 says:

    Forget about the article–What is going on with the picture at the top of the article? A priest is distributing communion from a cibiorium with tongs, into a standing lay person’s hands, with a patent held under their hands. The symbolism is very confusing here. Are the priest’s fingers not consecrated enough? Are the lay person’s consecrated? Why is the altar server holding the wooden handle with a cloth? It’s like a zen koan, the more you think about it the more reality melts away.

  4. Gab says:

    ”Second, remember the purpose of the Eucharist is not to worship Jesus.”

    I just don’t understand that sentence.

  5. UncleBlobb says:

    So, first, forget transubstantiation. Better to admit that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is an unexplainable mystery that our little minds cannot comprehend.
    Even I know that a mystery is something about which we can’t know everything, but about which we can know something.

    Second, remember the purpose of the Eucharist is not to worship Jesus.
    Says who?

  6. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    “Thomas Aquinas used Aristotelianism, the avant-garde philosophy of his time”

    Controversial, not avant-garde. And it was controversial because of his contoversial interpreters: 1) Averroes, 2) Avicenna, and 3) Alexander of Aphrodisias. And a number of pseudo-aristotelian texts that caused some heresy trials earlier in the century.

    “he would not use Aristotelianism because nobody grasps it in the 21st century.”

    The only people who can’t seem to grasp are the kinds of dilettante pseudo-intellectuals who make this accusation. The kind of people who would fail at trimming grass or mopping the floor. Children can “grasp” Aristotle. The only thingsthese people grasp are straws.

  7. makreitzer says:

    That’s about as clear as mud! What exactly does he believe happens at the Consecration of the Mass? Is the Eucharist whatever the individual thinks it is? And exactly what is the purpose of the Eucharist? No doubt some gobbledygook about the community getting together. Why would anyone take this man seriously? So sad when a priest of God scandalizers believers with nonsense.

  8. Fr. Reese’s comments are infuriating. When he says that no one grasps Aristotelianism in the 21st century, he sounds like Jorge Bergoglio saying “In facing ills or the problems of the Church, it is useless to look for solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of practices and outdated forms that even culturally aren’t able to be meaningful” ( Who do Reese and Bergoglio think they are that they can declare that something cannot be grasped by anyone or cannot be meaningful at a cultural level? Can they see into the hearts and minds of every human being? Walking the earth today are numerous counterexamples to their baseless generalizations. Dear Fr. Reese, if you can’t grasp Aristotelianism, that’s a “you problem” (to use an avant-garde phrase), not an “Aristotle problem.”

  9. fishonthehill says:

    When I read articles like that, i just want to leave this planet, and in the words of the dolphin say, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”

  10. Gaetano says:

    In all candor, Father, that’s the least objectionable part of the article.

  11. Servant says:

    This is Cranmer redivivus. So strange; I’ve been reading Michael Davies’ trilogy and as I was reading the first book I kept thinking to myself that we are living in a modern version of the mid-16th century. Fr. Reese seems to be one who may be fine with “the Black Rubric.”

  12. surritter says:

    That statement claiming that “the purpose of the Eucharist is not to worship Jesus” is a tired tactic used by the left.
    They’ll say that the Eucharist is important but say that the main purpose is to feed us. They’ll claim that the idea of storing the Eucharist in a tabernacle and then worshipping is a practice that was added in subsequent centuries.
    We’re told to go out and BE Eucharist to others, instead of hanging around in a darkened church to worship before a metal box.
    (In other words, they don’t believe that the Eucharist is important.)

  13. Kathleen10 says:

    “So, first, forget transubstantiation. Better to admit that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is an unexplainable mystery that our (your) little minds cannot comprehend.”

    Fixed it for him.

  14. Benedict Joseph says:

    The hubris is obscene but to be expected. Tom Reese, Jim Martin, Marko Rupnik and legion of other Jesuits each of whom has their own method, for their own personal justification, of “reimagining” the perennial Magisterium. They delight in their own self-perceived “edginess.”
    They never cease to cut your heart out. It is an ecclesial mortification.
    How long, O Lord, how long?

  15. bsjy says:

    Is the man an Occamian nominalist? We might be on to something here.

  16. Pingback: THVRSDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  17. JonPatrick says:

    There seems to be this strange concept among Modernists in the Church that we are oh so different from the people of the 20 centuries that proceeded us, so we need to throw away all the concepts of the past and start over again, because we are so much smarter now (although we can’t have Latin anymore because it’s “too harrrrd”)

  18. Gaetano says:

    Reeses’ claim that people today don’t know Thomistic philosophy is disingenuous. Every systematic theology rests upon a philosophical system that must be learned.

    The difference is that Sister managed to teach us fourth graders enough Aristotelian metaphysics that we understood Transubstantiation sufficiently to receive First Holy Communion.

    I doubt anyone could do the same with Rahner’s existentialism.

  19. Archlaic says:

    Looks like the odd photo accompanying the even odder article was taken during the “Great ShutUp” which occurred in the first decade of the reign of Franciscus Caesar; it appears to depict a member of the Obedientian order using the liturgical forcipes tormentorum to administer (duly-sterilized) Communion to a member of their third-order, who has removed her ritual face covering for the moment. The Obedientians are widely credited with having preserved the ancient and beloved custom of receiving Communion in-hand when it was threatened by public health authorities during this period…

  20. roma247 says:

    “Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?” said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?”

    “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

    “My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault — because I would not take the trouble of practising.”

  21. majuscule says:

    Lord help us. There are more articles to come.

    In my next two columns, I will present what I think would be a helpful approach to understanding the Eucharist. My approach will not be to use church documents or famous theologians. Others can do that better than I.

  22. KSC says:

    …and he wonders why there is a fall in Mass attendance and belief in the Real Presence!

  23. robtbrown says:

    Over the years Fr Reese has made it obvious that he is not one of the sharpest tools in the shed.

    1. Is thinking a noun or a verb? It is both. Verbs used as nouns are called gerunds. Whoever is the source of the Eucharist is a verb comment is not familiar with basic English grammar.

    2. St Thomas didn’t invent the word Transubstantiation. It is found in Lateran IV in 1215. Thomas is said to have been born in 1225.

    3. There is little reason to think that the use of the word Transubstantiation is Aristotelian. Thomas was first exposed to Aristotle while studying in Naples c 1240 by Peter the Hibernian. Naples was outside the papal states, significant because within them the study of Aristotle forbidden.

    4. Substance refers to what a thing is, but there can be many specific meanings.

    5. I know of no formal Church document using the couplet Substance/Accidents. Instead Substance/Appearance (species) is used.

  24. TheCavalierHatherly says:


    If my memory serves me correctly, St. Gregory of Nyssa uses the term “metastoichesis” (meaning something like “transelementation”) to refer the the change that occurs at the consecration, which would be the earliest use of technical philosophical language for the Eucharist of which I’m aware.

  25. jflare29 says:

    “With the laity commonly abstaining from Communion, the elevation of the consecrated host became the high point of the Mass. Today, that is still true for many Catholics in parishes where bells are rung and the priest holds up the host as high as he can for an extended period of time so that the people can adore Jesus.”

    In my first ever missal (yeah, at age 29, when I was first struggled to understand old Mass), I recall a blurb about this practice having come about because someone received a private revelation about earning an indulgence from adoring Christ in the Eucharist at Mass. I realize he’s a Jesuit; surely he’s been taught about this?

    “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.”

    Yeeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, I dang near choked on that one.
    Believing in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, yet not believing in trans-substantiation…sounds to me like directly contradicting oneself.
    I almost get the impression he hasn’t actually read any of Thomas. I have read portions of the Summa myself, mostly from curiousity for what he wrote. Fr Reese’ term Aristotelianism” sounds like he thinks Thomas believed in Aristotle, not God. Aquinas certainly DID use Aristotle’s style of logic, with objections and answers. That’s a loooooooooong way from declaring belief in Aristotle.

  26. robtbrown says:


    And that is consistent with the emphasis by the Eastern Churches of the deification of man: Endowed by the Christ (and here the Eucharist) with supernatural powers, e.g., the Infused Virtues and 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    Btw, St Thomas was the first Western theologian to refer to the Eastern Fathers.

  27. The Masked Chicken says:

    So, what am I missing? Trent, clearly teaches: Session 13, Chapter 4


    “But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offered under the form of bread,[20] it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the 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.[21] This change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.”

    The Church dogmatically uses substance and transubstantiation. In fact,

    Canon 2.If anyone says that in the sacred and, holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation,[43] let him be anathema.

    To deny transubstantiation in a public forum makes Fr. Reese’s statements heterodox. He cannot be formally declared a heretic except by a Church tribunal of some sort, however.

    The Chicken

  28. The Masked Chicken says:

    I think I know where Fr. Reese is going with this:

    “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.”

    I suspect, in his second part of the series, he will start talking about what amounts to Leibnitz’s doctrine of the Monad, or elementary substance. He will link this to Occasionalism, which posits that there is no secondary causation. To quote the Wikipedia article on Monadology:

    “In his day, atoms were proposed to be the smallest division of matter. Within Leibniz’s theory, however, substances are not technically real, so monads are not the smallest part of matter, rather they are the only things which are, in fact, real. To Leibniz, space and time were an illusion, and likewise substance itself. The only things that could be called real were utterly simple beings of psychic activity “endowed with perception and appetite.”[11] The other objects, which we call matter, are merely phenomena of these simple perceivers. “Leibniz says, ‘I don’t really eliminate body, but reduce [revoco] it to what it is. For I show that corporeal mass [massa], which is thought to have something over and above simple substances, is not a substance, but a phenomenon resulting from simple substances, which alone have unity and absolute reality.’ (G II 275/AG 181)”[12]

    Now, this gets a little hairy, because some physicists, such as Leonard Susskind at Caltech, are arguing something similar such that the concepts of space and time are an illusion. He suggests that the universe is a single quantum entangled system having an infinite number of superposed states, which give rise to our perceptions of time, space, and matter. Essentially, quantum entangled space = monad. He calls on the Occasionalist argument that there are no secondary causations, but all is contained within a single entangled system. I could go on to take about Hugh Everett’s idea of the universal wavefunction, from which Susskind gets his idea, which, mis-interpreted by Bryce DeWitt, brought about the Many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, but I suspect that this would appeal to only a few people (yes, I did read Everett’s dissertation).

    The Occasionalist arguments were first presented by the Islamic philosopher, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari , in the early 900’s A. D. and brought to prominence by, Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, in about 1100 A. D. The idea was the God was the first and only cause of everything – there were no secondary causes. God, usually, decides to act in an orderly fashion, hence, the Laws of Nature, but, occasionally, he will subvert those laws in the form of miracles.

    The quantum mechanical analogue was first put forth by the chemist, Karen Harding, in a 1993 paper entitled, “Causality Then and Now: Al Ghazali and Quantum Theory.” She argues, contra Susskind, that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, whereas Susskind believes the Copenhagen interpretation is wrong, at least as I read the article cited, above. Harding comments:

    “In addition, the world is not entirely predictable. For al Ghazali, God has the ability to make anything happen whenever He chooses. In general, the world functions in a predictable manner, but a miraculous event can occur at any moment. All it takes for a miracle to occur is for God to not follow His ‘custom.’ The quantum world is very similar. Lead balls fall when released because the probability of their behaving in that way is very high. It is, however, very possible that the lead ball may ‘miraculously’ rise rather than fall when released. Although the probability of such an event is very small, such an event is, nonetheless, still possible.”

    Of course, Harding is wrong in her specific example, because a rising ball is not one of the states accessible to the ball if gravity only has a single state (i.e., no anti-gravity). She was, I think, really trying to make an analogy to Maxwell’s Demon, but chose a flawed example. Nevertheless, she is basically correct from a statistical physics point of view.

    I’m just betting that this is the tack that Fr. Reese is going to take.

    Occasionalism has an old history. In Catholic circles, its greatest proponent was the French philosopher, Nicolas Malebranche, who was a contemporary of Leibnitz and Newton. Of significance with regards to Fr. Reese’s rejection of the Aristotle/Aquinas idea of transubstantiation, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy article on Malebranche (

    “However, occasionalism was already an old doctrine at the time that Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) wrote against it. (There is a helpful survey, in German, of the earlier history of occasionalism in Perler and Rudolph 2000.) Thomas indicated that the primary concern of the occasionalists was to strengthen the assertion of God’s omnipotence. Though he allowed that God must “concur” with creatures in producing effects, Thomas also claimed that there is reason to conclude that creatures are true secondary causes. For instance, he urged that it is more in accord with divine greatness to say that God communicates His power to creatures. Moreover, he claimed that it is simply evident to the senses that creatures have the power to bring about effects. Thomas also argued that if there were no natures in creatures that explain effects, there could be no true scientific explanation of effects through their natural causes.”

    This looks like an old Jesuit/Dominican flap, to be honest. I suspect no one else but me is interested in this topic beyond just commenting on Fr. Reese’s provocative statements, but if I am correct and he is taking a monadistic/Occasionalistic stance, then one should know the arguments and counter arguments, including the ones from theoretical physics, since you know that atheists are sure to bring them up.

    Sorry for the length of this post. I have been thinking about these issues for a while. One of the principle problems with monadism and occasionalism is what I am going to call the ontological transition problem. How can an immaterial monad produce a material object? If everything were monad, there would be no distinction between body and soul.

    Of course, the problem of creating real objects is handled in quantum mechanics through the use of quantum field theory, but the quantum fields and the resulting bosons both exist in space-time, normally. If there were a single entangled state field, then, according to Everett, there should be a universal time, not the absence of time. One could think of this as an eternal NOW.

    I’m just talking to myself, right…

    The Chicken

  29. robtbrown says:


    Calvin believed in the Real Presence but not in Transubstantiation. He thought that in the Eucharist Christ was really present spiritually. His body, however, was not present. See 1 Cor 11:29, especially non dijudicans corpus Domini

  30. GregB says:

    The Masked Chicken:
    The names of God touch on the subject of time, existence, and God’s power. I saw a video presentation by a rabbi where he goes through an explanation of the names of God. This was part of a larger presentation on the Exodus and the Ten Plaques of Egypt. The original videos are no longer available, but there is a downloadable PDF online that covers the material:
    The names of God starts on page 6. He says that YHVH in the original language is an amalgam of the three Hebrew words for existence. In the PDF it says that: ‘It describes his essence. The Hebrew words for existence are “Haya”, “Yiheeyeh”, and “Hoveh” Was, Will be, and Is. If you take these words and overlay it with each other, you will get “Yud-Kay- and Vuv-Kay”. We are talking about a simultaneous existence. It is experiencing time in another way we cannot imagine. It exists but not in this world. It exists outside of time, outside of our world, outside of our universe.’
    He further says that in the original language that the word that is translated as lower case g gods in the Commandment against idolatry can also be translated as the words judges or powers. The word is elohim. The gods of pagan idolatry often represent the powers, or forces, of nature. The word can also apply to earthly repositories of human power as well.
    El Shaddai was another name of God that the rabbi talked about. “Shaddai” stands for “Mi she’Amar Dai L’olamo”—”He who said ‘Enough’ to His world.” This name centers on the control that God has over His creation.

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