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May 12, 2011


Tom in U City

Joe, this is a very thought provoking essay, well outside of my box.

One thought so provoked is to ask about how to work into any new production on this Eucharistic theme some allusion to the original double origin.

This is my body and the barley farmers in parallel to this is my blood and the shepherds.

In addition to the usual grape bunch and wheat stalk, baking versus broiling, perhaps, using a common fire alight in the people of God?

There is also the dual origins of the Liturgy of the Word in the synagogue and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Upper Room. There is the contrast of the Upper Room meal to either the synagogue or the temple.

Often omitted by those who favor the sacrificial imagery is the uniqueness of the paschal sacrifice where only the killing was done at the temple while the burning/cooking was done at home. That is quite different from the holocaust leaving nothing to be consumed and the sacrifices where there was a portion for the levites/clergy to consume.

You have started a rich train of thought for Eucharistic images and raised in my mind an interesting question as to how these multiple images might fit into our performances in memory of Jesus.

Marie Rottschaefer

You have presented an intellectual trove to be sure! But I look for scientific biblical-historical scholarship with collegial input. Funk’s Jesus Seminar book The Acts of Jesus has convinced me that we need to look beyond the history of the Eucharist to the bedrock of Christianity i.e. the doctrines of the incarnation and bodily resurrection ofj Jesus. If there is a higher probability that Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection do not exist then discussion of the Eucharist seems irrelevant.

Spirit of Vatican II

Well, yes -- Rowan Williams makes that point: if the Resurrection is not a resurrection of Christ's body (in some ineffable, glorified, spiritual sense, as in I Cor 15) then how can the Eucharist really be the body of Christ. Incarnation can be thought of in many subtle ways, but it is true that if Christ is universally present in the Eucharist, his human nature acquires some qualities of the universally present Word. I think Luther even taught, in monophysite language, the omnipresence of Christ's body. I try as much as possible to approach all three doctrines "from below" to ward off monophysite crudity and inflation. Whether that approach can retrieve the full sense of those doctrines is hard to know.

Spirit of Vatican II

The critical historians have to interpret what Jesus was doing or intended to do at the Last Supper. (I think it historically unlikely that the Last Supper was invented by the early Christians or by Paul).

Marie Rottschaefer

5-13-11 my time. Spirit of V II, thank you. I’m trying to steer clear of the doctrines and scoop up the dig(s) if you will pardon the pun. Please see Pope Pius’ XII 1943 encyclical (online) that opened up a whole new ballpark if you will excuse another pun. Marie.
I repeat: “Funk’s Jesus Seminar book The Acts of Jesus has convinced me that we need to look beyond the history of the Eucharist to the bedrock of Christianity i.e. the doctrines of the incarnation and bodily resurrection of Jesus. If there is a higher probability that Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection do not exist then discussion of the Eucharist seems irrelevant.”

Spirit of Vatican II

Incarnation and resurrection are very subtle concepts -- not empirical data. The apostles somehow discerned that God had made this same Jesus that had been crucified both Lord and Christ; they spoke of Christ being exalted; or in an alternative or successive language as raised from the dead. The "appearances of the risen Christ" that account for their conviction are listed by Paul, who includes himself as the recipient of such an experience. The growth of the church and its amazing abundance of pneumatic gifts gave further body to the resurrection faith. The schema of Incarnation was discerned by John -- John 1:14 is an interpretation of the entire sense of Jesus's career in all its dimensions -- a coming of the divine Word into history, dwelling in the midst of our history in a more intimate fashion. The Eucharist has to be interpreted in this key as well. The reality of the body is involved in all three doctrines, but crudely physical accounts spoil all three -- the Word became flesh; he who eats my body and drinks my blood; put your finger in the wounds in my hands and side. These three massively physical utterances in John's Gospel have to be interpreted in the pneumatic key in which John frames them. I do not think the statements "God dwells in the flesh", "Christ rose in the flesh" and "Christ feeds us with his flesh and blood" are false or ineffective expressions of the realities involved. But they need to be spiritually understood.


Can you please give me a link to the rejected 1998 translations of the Roman Missal? (I remember reading them ages ago but can't recall where.)

Eugene A. Koene

Fr. O'Leary, great to see you resuming some solid and provocative theological reflection on this blog! This is what first attracted this Lutheran to your homepage starting in 2009.Some real food for thought here (pun intended) -- your dynamic view of the Eucharist is congruent with a Lutheran understanding, especially in a postmodern horizon of understanding.

Spirit of Vatican II

Try this: https://rs895l34.rapidshare.com/#!download|895dt|387089704|ICEL_Sacramentary__1998_.zip|6767|R~7BCEF3503D6FB22136597275B5E874B7

Spirit of Vatican II

I tried that rapidshare link several times, but it seems to get any kind of service you have to subscribe.

The more I see of the incompetence of the Vatican now, the happier I am with my moniker: Vatican II is the future, and Benedict XVI is the past.


Spirit, I know a lot of Maynooth seminarians. Roughly about half of them share your views and the other half seem to think the Novus Ordo is a Judeo-Freemasonic conspiracy. I suspect the Irish Church is going to get very divided in the next few decades especially as the older Vatican II generation fade.

As for myself I'm 21 and to be honest I feel quite bitter about Vatican II. I have no interest in a "hermeneutic of continuity", or a 'reform of the reform'. It utterly baffles me how anyone could think the last Ecumenical council was anything other than a catastrophe for the Church.

I agree that Benedict's papacy has been a disaster although probably for the opposite reasons :)

Spirit of Vatican II

Judeo-Masonic conspiracies? Surely you are exaggerating. If what you report is accurate, then the crisis of the church in Ireland takes on a lurid new dimension.

Joe The Worker

Has Fr ever read a book entitled "The Rhine flows into the Tiber"?


Spirit, I am not exaggerating at all. Many seminarians there would make the SSPX look like pinko liberals (and the other half are pinko liberals --- with a strong emphasis on 'pinko'). Maynooth has become very polarized.

Joe, I have read that book. It reports the Council's deliberations very objectively. I highly recommend it.

Joe The Worker

It is indeed very objective. Very eye-opening too.

Spirit of Vatican II

I see that this book by Wiltgen is cited over and over and over again on neocath websites -- a book written in 1967. They seem short of recent ammunition; yet they describe Kung as an "ageing" figure, though he is in reality rather uncannily unageing, a hardy perennial. A link spreading the Free Masonry conspiracy theory about the new liturgy also quotes Wiltgen: http://www.freemasonrywatch.org/bugnini_vaticanII.html
I read some of the book when it first came out in the late 60s and saw it as a jaundiced and reactionary work.


Spirit, I have observed liberal, conservative and traditionalist Catholics reference or quote that book, including that priest who writes the 'Vatican Counsel' column in the Catholic Times.

It's very objectively written and it's difficult to discern the author's views but according to Michael Davies ('Pope John's Council') Fr Wiltgen's sympathies were with the liberal faction at the Council.

"a book written in 1967. They seem short of recent ammunition"

Not like you would ever reference something that old ;)

Spirit of Vatican II

Well, since I have not even seen the book in the last 40 years I am not in a position to contest your judgment. I may well be confusing it with von Hildebrand's Trojan Horse in the City of God, which circulated about the same time, and which I am pretty sure WAS a reactionary rant.

Joe The Worker

I have to agree Shane It is non-judgemental, just presents facts . It is a little heavy going, but was a real eye opener for me. Who was not old enough to read when the book was published.

Joe The Worker

Shane, do you mean Mgr Loftus?


Joe, aye that's him. Incidentally there was a booklet by Fr Hugh J. O'Connell that came out around the same time and deals with the same theme (mine is signed in pen by Archbishop McQuaid). I've put up a post about it here, which may be of interest


Spirit of Vatican II

Your sources seem to be nervous nellies worried about the faithful being confused by the Council. I heard many Irish clergy muttering in the same vein in the 1960s and 1970s. In reality, the faithful are well capable of handling new biblical scholarship and theological debate. The nannies who want to keep them in perpetual leading-strings are no longer taken seriously by lay Catholics aware of their status as declared by the Council but poorly recognized by the Vatican today. The current neocath restorationist lay activists are NOT "simple faithful" suffering from confusion. They are media-savvy ideologists who use images of the faithful as pawns in their games. It is they, not Vatican II, who are paralyzing the Church.

Joe The Worker

Whilst your thought are noted Father. I can t say I agree. Around here people who would like to see even an occasional EF Mass are just ordinary punters. Media-savvy ideologist may be in abundance in the cities, but not where I live. I have no reason to believe its different anywhere else.

Joe The Worker

I recently chatted to a friend who is a Priest in Ireland. He is now saying(this is a change of mind for him)that the changes in the Missal will be good for Priests and people. In that it will make them think, at least for a while, before trotting out the well worn responses. That it might, at least for a while, no longer be rote.

Andy K

People believe in the "Real Presence" - they just don't believe in Plato!

Your wonderful insights certainly point to new ways of wrestling with the ineffable.

Even though neo-Cath "sound-byting" makes Fr. Matthew Kelly sound tongue-tied, I don't think it is a coincidence that people tasked with making Western theology accessible to the Eastern mind are the ones trying to unhitch the Eucharistic reality from a pre-Christian metaphysics.

Jesuit head of Asian Catholic news agency criticizes transubstantiation

Frank Gibbons

Father O'Leary wrote "When we talk of Jesus “instituting” the Eucharist, we think of something dead and invariable."

How can the most intimate gift of God be dead and invariable? I don't believe anyone who take the Eucharist seriously thinks this way. Maybe you have felt that way, but I wouldn't assume that other feels that way; hence, not everyone needs to reinterpret or reimagine the Eucharist. That the languqge of corporate maketeers.


Brendan Walls

On the contrary, Frank, I find that most people are either non-questioningly stuck in their penny catechetical simple invariable definitions of eucharist, or are those like my wife who dare not share what they experience in Eucharist impelling them to (kenosis) foster sincerity, community, and self-expression in the freedom of friendship and trust. Frank every Mass we re-affirm and re-imagine the Eucharist in our living, or we leave that community as blinded as when we came in.


Spirit your assertion that "the faithful are well capable of handling new biblical scholarship and theological debate" is naive at best and disproven by history. The vast majority of lay Catholics have no competence or interest whatsoever (myself included) in theology or biblical scholarship.

That is the problem with liberals in the Church. They assume everyone else shares their own middle-class aspirations, concerns and general worldview. As a layman I have no interest in being 'recognized' by the Church. That is a narrow and profoundly middle-class ideal. My goal is the salvation of my soul.

And since liberals profess to champion their interests, why weren't the laity consulted over the liturgical reforms in the 60s and 70s? Fr Austin Flannery, while welcoming the reforms, believed that the majority of lay Catholics in Ireland were quite happy with the way things were. At my local cathedral the laity are so enthusiastic about involvement in the liturgy that the priests almost have to beg people to do the readings. The Second Vatican Council was the most tragic and destructive event of the 20th century (yes, even worse than the Nazi holocaust: "fear not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell"). As a layman I actually would have had more ways to involve myself in the life of the Church BEFORE the Second Vatican Council. But thanks to your generation (which inherited a perfectly vibrant and vigorous church and then comprehensively smashed the whole thing to pieces) the Church I would have loved was robbed from me before I was even born. Now, I can do absolutely nothing. I have no interest in becoming a lay reader, or joining a parish council; in my opinion the very concepts are elitist and create an unnecessary stratification among the laity. It doesn't surprise me that the vast majority of lay readers and 'Eucharistic Ministers' are female, and disproportionately middle-class.

Your comments remind me of Fr Ruff's complaints about 'mainstream scholars' not having been consulted on the new translations. Given how detached they are from the real world, there is no one less qualified to comment on pastoral practice than a scholar or an intellectual.

What liberals do not seem to realize is that the Church does not belong to them alone. Hence the need to construct patronising caricatures of pre-conciliar liturgical piety, such as the oft-invoked image of elderly peasant women rattling beads to the backs of mumbling priests. But the Church of Christ is as much the Church of an old lady piously meditating over the sacred mysteries as it is of uppity scholars and intellectuals demanding the interests of the whole Church be made subject to their whims. Much more so, in fact.

Spirit of Vatican II

shane, you are 21 years old, and you are sunk in such negative thinking that readers would probably take you for a very disgruntled old man. Your defeatism and "save my soul" individualism is what has destroyed Irish Catholic culture. I played host to Sean Freyne this week and he spoke to the minds and hearts of my students and to earnest lay people in Japan (all "middle class" to be sure). You could be enriched if you had the privilege of sitting at his feet. It is from Scripture that the Irish Catholic Church can be renewed -- not by an impossible return to the pre-1965 regime. You are like someone who adores Greta Garbo and wishes the world of the movies had never changed -- an impossibility. The creative path is to seek to create quality within the present canons of cinema, not to hark back to a past that may have been glowing then but that would be rancid now.

Your contempt for the middle class and claim to be close to some sub-middle class laity in fact masks an aristocratic haughtiness. You would deny, for instance, to African Christians, the right to a creative, inculturated worship. Let them use Latin, you declare, in the manner of a celebrated Queen of France; http://allafrica.com/stories/200806271027.html

As a university professor I am of course horrified at your attitude to scholarship and intellectual life -- particularly as your posts show that you do not lack an acute intelligence. This seems to me a perverted and suicidal stance for a young man to take. If you can bear to read one scholarly essay, try this: http://www.afrikaworld.net/afrel/shorter.htm
Ask yourself, do you really want a diet of Marian hymns, hymns to the Sacred Heart, rosaries, silent Masses, charity organized by the Legio Mariae and St Vincent de Paul Society, hellfire Lenten retreats, occasional pilgrimages to a pre-1965 Lourdes and Fatima, occasional fragments of Gregorian chant, AND NOTHING ELSE? Do you really want a solipsistic, static, uncreative church, that clutches at the ever more anxiogenic wraith of "the salvation of my soul"?

Christopher Lake

Spirit, your denigration of Shane in your comment above, is, quite frankly, shameful. When I was younger myself, I encountered a theologian who thought much as you do here, on your blog-- a well-known Jesuit who has since been rightly reprimanded by the Church. His answers to my sincere questions helped to damage my faith and contributed to my eventually leaving the Church for fifteen years.

Last year, I finally returned, through prayer and study of Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the documents of Vatican II. I admittedly have not read *all* of the ill-described "progressive theologians" of whom you are enamored, but I have some knowledge of them, and I have interacted, personally, with one of them (the Jesuit whom I mentioned), and the experience was not a nourishing one.

Spirit, we do not need to "re-imagine the Eucharist." It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the re-presenting of the once-and-for-all Sacrifice of the Cross. A "re-imagining" of it does not truly value it for the miracle which it already is.

In the Eucharist, we have the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord. Anyone who needs to "re-imagine" that is suffering from an impoverished imagination.

You chide Shane, above, for wanting a Church which supposedly "clutches at the ever more anxiogenic wraith of 'the salvation of my soul'." It verges upon the diabolical for a Catholic theologian to chide a young man for wanting a Church which will address the most pressing concern of our (and his) mortal lives-- the salvation of our eternal souls.

Shane wants the Church that, in fact, objectively exists. It is the Church which our Pope is lovingly leading-- not as some rigid, encrusted dictator, as you seem to think, but as a careful lover of our souls. This Church is also the Church against which you seem to be protesting. I will follow the Pope and the historic teachings of the Church, which he upholds, not the Protestant-like musings of "progressive theologians" who purport to be "Catholic."

Spirit of Vatican II

Vatican II asks us to reimagine the Eucharist -- by setting the real presence and the sacrifice of Calvary in a wider context -- more open to the suffering of contemporary human kind and more aware of the eschatological character of the Eucharist as oriented to the future of the Kingdom. The eucharistic presence is linked to the presence of Christ in his Word and in his community, something missed in the privatized pre-Vatican II celebration, in which Catholics thought only of saving their souls. Of course salvation includes individual salvation, but to focus anxiogenically on that is to miss the true breadth of gospel salvation, the Kingdom.

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