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Monday, May 30, 2011

If Catholics believe that the Eucharist is actually the body of Christ, aren't Catholics participating in cannibalism when they take Communion?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

He is risen!  Alleluia!

Question:   If Catholics believe that the Eucharist is actually the body of Christ, aren't Catholics participating in cannibalism when they take Communion?
My first response to this question is, so what if it is cannibalism?  If Christ commanded us to do it, then as the Creator of the Universe speaking to a creature, he is to be obeyed.  <shrug> 
However, I understand if that answer is not satisfactory and not quite compelling enough to use in an apologetics discussion, when one is called to provide a reasoned defense of the hope that she has in her. 
:) happy
The better response is from apologist Mark Shea"There are a number of paradoxes which the gospel teaches. We are not to worship men, but there is one Man whom we absolutely must worship. Human sacrifice is against the will of God, but in one unique case, a human sacrifice was at the heart of God's plan. In the Old Testament the eating of blood was forbidden since "the blood is the life." That is, we are not to seek our "life" from creatures. We are to seek it from God. And when God assumes flesh and blood he therefore tells us, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

Cannibalism is not sinful because it's "icky". It's sinful (unless done for desperate purposes as in the Donner Party) because it violates the dignity of the human body and it violates our dignity if done (as it typically is) for the religious purpose of seeking our life from a creature rather than from God. Cannibalism is virtually always a religious act, as it was in Germany. And it is a religious act fundamentally ordered to blaspheme God and those in his image either by treating a human being as an idol or as an animal, but not as a human being.

The Eucharist is, of course, not the consumption of dead flesh, but of the Living, Risen and Glorified Christ. It is shocking, to be sure. Indeed, if the Eucharist does not shock you, you're just not awake. But it is not immoral and it is not cannibalism for it is not seeking the ends that cannibalism seeks and it is instituted by the living God to give us his divinized human life, not to make us idolators and desecrators."


That is, the social taboo against cannibalism doesn't apply at the Eucharist. 
Cannibalism is gravely immoral not because consuming human flesh is inherently wrong, but through the intent--devouring the flesh of another in a barbaric and disrespectful manner violates the dignity of a human by treating the body as if it were an animal.

Finally, "cannibalism is when one individual physically eats the human flesh off of another’s body. Catholic or not, the words in John 6 do sound cannibalistic. Even a Fundamentalist would have to say that he eats the flesh of Christ and drinks his blood in a symbolic manner so as to concur with the passage. By the same allowance, Catholics eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood in a sacramental way. Neither the Protestant nor the Catholic appears to be doing anything cannibalistic, though.

It would have been cannibalism is if a disciple two thousand years ago had tried literally to eat Jesus by sinking his teeth into his arm. Now that our Lord is in heaven with a glorified body and made present under the appearance of bread in the Eucharist, cannibalism is not possible. From "How to Defend Christ's Presence in the Eucharist".

In other words, if it's cannibalism for Catholics, then it's also cannibalism (albeit in a symbolic manner) for Protestants who partake of the Lord's Supper in their churches.  Yet it seems that those who point out that Catholics are "ritualistic cannibals" don't seem to view their communion service as a symbolic cannibalism.  If it's wrong for Catholics to literally be cannibals, wouldn't it be wrong for Protestants to symbolically pretend to be cannibals as well?

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic article! I love Mark Shea, and you've done an excellent job in explaining how the Eucharist is not cannibalism. I'm sure I will use this!

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  2. "Cannibalism is gravely immoral not because consuming human flesh is inherently wrong, but through the intent--devouring the flesh of another in a barbaric and disrespectful manner violates the dignity of a human by treating the body as if it were an animal."

    So, if both parties were willing, well-mannered and respectful, it would be completely fine to eat the flesh of a human?

    Interesting.

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  3. @ Shadow: if both parties were willing? That is, if a person offered his arm for another to gnaw on?

    If that's the scenario, even if both are well-mannered and delightful people, allowing someone to gnaw on your arm would be immoral. Unless, I suppose, it were for the purpose of allowing another to live.

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  4. Jesus told Nicodemus, "you must be born again." This
    was not a physical rebirth as Nicodemus sarcastically
    suggested, but spiritual rebirth. The unbelieving Jews grumbled when Jesus said," I am the bread that came down from heaven." He replied, "My flesh is real food and my
    blood is real drink." The Jews saw this as a physical
    partaking. Jesus said his words were spirit and life.
    The eating and drinking were not physical but spiritual.
    Earlier in this chapter he said, "I am the bread of life.
    He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." We are to work "for
    food that endures to eternal life. The work of God is to
    believe in the one he has sent.

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    Replies
    1. There's nothing in what you say that Catholics disagree with, Dan.

      However, while the eating and drinking are indeed spiritual, it's just not ONLY spiritual. It's literal or physical as well.

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