In this Year of the Eucharist, there is no lack of sound, inspirational material readily to hand in the Scriptures (e.g., John's chapter 6), the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, his Apostolic Letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine, and from the works of saints like Francis of Assisi, Alphonsus Ligouri, Peter Julian Eymard and Padre Pio, to mention just a few.
In light of this, it is puzzling that any Australian Catholic diocese would see fit to use a piece of writing on the Eucharist emanating from the homosexual Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, which describes itself on its website (www.mccsf.org) as "A home for queer spirituality" and goes on to declare: "We primarily serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community".
The writing in question, titled "The Eucharist", is the work of R. Voigt, a regular contributor to the above gay website, and was used recently in the Queensland Diocese of Rockhampton. It was presented by the Bishop at an in-service meeting for Catholic teachers and catechists on 27 February 2005 and also at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper.
AD2000 contacted the Bishop of Rockhampton about this matter prior to publication.
The San Francisco piece, as one might expect, has no conception of the Catholic understanding of the connection between the sacrifice of the Cross and the sacrifice of the Mass, or of the real, true and substantial presence (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. At best, it reduces the Eucharist to the level of the mundane.
The following are a few extracts:
She was cute, nice build, a little too much paint,
wobbly on her feet as she slid from her barstool, and on the make.
"No thanks, not tonight." - and I gave her EUCHARIST.
Downtown is nice,
lights change from red to green, and back again,
flashing blues, pinks and oranges:
I gulped them in,
said, "Thank you, Father," - and made them EUCHARIST.
I laughed at myself, and told myself,
"You, with all your sin, and all your selfishness,
I forgive you, I accept you, I love you."
It's nice, and so necessary, to give yourself EUCHARIST.
Already, the expression "Be Eucharist to one another" is catching on in some Church circles. In the Rockhampton Diocese, a four week series (concluding on 5 July 2005) organised by Adult Faith Education and Formation, and titled "Rediscovering the Eucharist", exhorts participants to "Be Eucharist for Others".
While the Church's understanding of the Eucharist is set out clearly in the Catechism and numerous authoritative documents, judging from the above expression there continues to be widespread misunderstanding regarding the meaning of "Eucharist" (or "Body of Christ").
Hence, we find the real, true, substantial presence of Our Lord in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine is commonly equated with the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, of which we are members (1 Cor 12:12-31) - with some influential people in the Church apparently thriving on such confusion.
One of them was heard to declare recently, "Welcome to ambiguity!". The result is that many Catholics are mixed-up and misinformed on the central tenets of their faith.
The latest survey information confirms this, with under half of church-attending Catholics aged 15 to 17 years accepting that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
The faithful are often told simply: "You are the Body of Christ." There is no attempt to explain that such a statement applies to the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), not the Blessed Eucharist.
Nor is it made clear that as individuals, each one is but a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, as St Paul puts it in 1 Cor 12:27: "You [plural] are the Body of Christ and individually members of it."
In other words, each of us alone is not the Body of Christ. Each of us is a member of the Mystical Body, the Church.
No wonder confusion prevails. As one pundit put it when confronted with a bald, undefined, ambiguous statement, "You are the Body of Christ": "If you are the Body of Christ and I am the Body of Christ, why on earth do we need to go to Holy Communion?"
Some much-needed clarity on the subject was recently provided by the American theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ. Such thinking needs wider circulation as an antidote to the confusion and misinformation one continues to encounter within the Church on the Eucharist.
"There is a vast difference between Christ's presence in the Eucharist and in the assembly of its members. The worshippers, if they have a proper disposition, are mystically united to God by grace. The Holy Spirit dwells in them, but they retain their own personal identity. They are not transubstantiated; they do not cease to be themselves and turn into Christ the Lord.
"The Church as Mystical Body can never rise to the dignity of Christ in His individual body, which was born of the Virgin Mary, died on the Cross, and is gloriously reigning in heaven. That body is present substantially in the Eucharist but not in the Christian community. There is a vast difference between the adoration we give to Christ in the Eucharist and the veneration we offer the saints.
"Some of the minimising theologians argue that because the purpose of the Eucharist is to form the Church as the body of Christ, His ecclesial presence is more intense and more important than in the consecrated elements. The error in this logic can be exposed if one thinks of the Incarnation.
"Jesus became man and died on the Cross for the sake of our redemption, but it does not follow that God is more intensely present in the community of the redeemed than in the Incarnate Son, or that our devotion should focus more on our fellow-Christians than on Christ the Lord" (Adoremus, April 2005).
A copy of this article was emailed to Bishop Brian Heenan of Rockhampton on 2 June.