Dawkins is right to say Catholics who don’t believe in transubstantiation are no longer Catholic

Richard Dawkins has given an address in Dublin on the eve of the International Eucharistic Congress in which he said that Catholics who don’t believe in transubstantiation should be honest and admit that they are no longer Roman Catholics.

Richard Dawkins was responding to this week’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showing almost two thirds (62 per cent) of Catholics believed the bread and wine which was blessed during Mass “only represents the body and blood” of Christ.

Just 26 per cent said they believed the bread and wine transformed into Christ’s body and blood in accordance with the doctrine of transubstantiation.

“If they don’t believe in transubstantiation then they are not Roman Catholics,” Prof Dawkins said. “If they are honest they should say they are no longer Roman Catholics.”

Protect the Pope comment: For the first time Protect the Pope agrees with Prof. Dawkins on something. If the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI is accurate then tragically around 60% of Irish Catholics are no longer in full communion with the Catholic Church. And it is a tragedy when one considers the suffering and sacrifice of previous generations of Catholics to uphold this central truth of the Faith against the persecution and hostility of Protestants, who likewise rejected this central doctrine of the apostolic faith.

The question has to be asked, what has happened to catechesis in Ireland that would result in over 60% of Catholics agreeing with the statement that the bread and wine ‘only represents the body and blood of Jesus’? For twenty years Irish priests and catechists have had access to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which clearly sets out the Eucharistic doctrine of the Real Presence, so there is just no excuse for this ignorance.

The summary of the Holy See’s Irish visitation report recommended an overhaul of Irish schools and Irish catechetics. In the light of this shocking poll of Irish Catholics it is obvious that what is needed is a radical root and branch reform of diocesan catechetical departments.


12 comments to Dawkins is right to say Catholics who don’t believe in transubstantiation are no longer Catholic

  • Karla

    To me polls like are kind of silly and not accurate, because there are people who call themselves Catholic who are not practising, so including them in a poll is silly and gives an inaccurate picture. A poll done on practising Catholics who go to Church frequently would give more accurate results.

    I think there is a difference in somebody who personally struggles with a teaching of the Catholic Church but wants to try and understand it and believe it, and somebody who does not care to believe.

    • just asking

      Agree 100pc with your post Karla.

      Polls do tell us something but the results are highly dependant on sample selection and the question asked (and how it is asked). The results would be more convincing if we had historial data to compare them to. Is this lack of belief increasing or have a significant proportion always had difficulty believing in the real presence? Is this lack of belief due to ignorance or just people honestly struggling and TRYING to believe something which, lets be honest here, is a challenging belief? Do Irish Catholics know that they are supposed to believe it? Would they like to believe it if only they could overcome their scepticism? Lots of interesting questions that a single question completley glosses over.

  • Excuse me, but this is nonsense, and Catholics are being gulled by Dawkins.

    The doctrine of transubstantiation was articulated by Thomas Aquinas in terms of Aristotelian physics to explain more precisely the “how” of the doctrine of the Real Presence.

    One need not believe in Aristotelian physics and the Doctrine of Transubstantiation to have a profound devotion to Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

    Transubtantion is totally absent from the thinking of all the Orthodox churches of the Byzantine tradition and all other Eastern Christian traditions.

    This is not to say that the doctrine of transubstanciation is meaningless. It is profoundly meaningful. Go and read Aquinas’ superb hymn Verbum Supernum Prodiens.

    But what is profoundly meaningful is not the Aristotelian physics in whose terms Aquinas deepened understanding Catholic understanding of Jesus’ presence in the sacrament but Jesus himself, the sacrament of Life and of the Church.

    What is going to happen is a self-defeating, counter-productive idiocy of the first order. There is going to be a witch hunt and inquisition by earnest, pious, well-intentioned, and ignorant Catholics who are going to do much damage to evangelism particularly among the millennial generation.

    Instead of hounding people with annoying Evangelical question, “Have you been saved?” they will hound them with the litmus test, gateway question, “Do you believe in transubstantiation?”

    What these moronic Catholic evangelists need to be doing is inviting people,whether they pass the test on Scholastic theology or not, into a life of personal prayer and love of Jesus.

    God help us.

    • Karla

      Some Christians, particularly Eastern Orthodox do not want to attach the language of Aristotle to the mystery of the faith of the Real Presence and what happens to change it.

      Ultimately it is not about the philosophical language that is used to describe how the Real Presence happens but that you believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

  • ms catholic state

    Dawkins may be right….but his motives are completely anti-Catholic. While the Faith has been dealt an enormous blow in Ireland….something like 85% of the Irish classified themselves as Catholics in the last census (2011). It was a drop of only about 2% from the previous census. (While in fact the actual number of Catholics had risen.) This was a matter of some satisfaction for the Church and faithful Catholics.

    No doubt though, Dawkins and Co were not happy with this somewhat surprising result. So if those who don’t believe in Transubstantiation were to refuse to classify themselves as Catholic….then Ireland could be ‘officially’ declared a Secular nation. This I have no doubt is Dawkins’ motive. Beware.

  • Never thought I would agree with Dick Dawkins on the time of day; funny the curves life throws you. As for the collapse of catechesis in Ireland, I think you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. I’m Irish, and of that generation which was just barely old enough as children to get the tail-end of the old order before the Vatican II reformers hit the beachheads, and I’m here to tell you that after they arrived, there WAS no catechesis in Ireland, nor has there been for forty years. What did anyone THINK was going to happen? In my own case, I had only the vaguest, haziest memory of something beautiful being snatched away, and it is only in recent years that I have begun to familiarize myself with it again. I was, for instance, completely unaware that the Friday abstenece from meat is still in force during Lent; I had thought that all done away with by Vatican II and nobody told me any different. I’m in mid-life now and am only learning stuff that should have been inculcated in childhood, and boy, is there a mountain to climb. We’re Catholics; it’s time we stopped apologizing for it to the likes of Dawkins and his half-witted apostolate.

  • Gurn

    Wow, Dawkins actually managed to say something that was theologically sound.

    “overhaul of Irish schools”
    Reflecting on this I don’t think an overhaul of any Catholic school will reverse the downright disgraceful state of Catholic education on the British Isles. If somehow our Bishops can acquire a backbone, if somehow we had proper catechesis as opposed to patronising lessons based around drawing useless storyboards and complimenting other faiths, if somehow Catholic teachers became orthodox and if somehow Catholic teachers also acquired a backbone we would still have the problem with hard hearted, culturally conditioned, liberal, pseudo Catholic parents raising their children in a deviant secular culture outside of school grounds. And that isn’t including the problems with a secular government that is hostile to other people’s children being brought up in a way that they disapprove of (a religious upbringing).

    Kids will go to a Catholic school and get a disastrous impression of what the faith is and will be certain to leave such a lukewarm, vacuous and phony set of practices that they will see as the liturgy. In light of this Catholics are better off sending their kids to secular schools while ensuring they get an adequately orthodox upbringing.

  • Felim Norbert McCarthy

    If one is to be a Catholic then the DOGMA of Transubstantiation is part of the faith.
    The Penny Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirm, with no room for doubt. Jesus is present Body Blood Soul and Divinity. Jesus did not say “Here boys have a snack and a drink on me.” He said “This is My Body.” “This is My Blood, the blood of the New Covenant.” NO GREY Just the beauty of Truth.
    Semper fidelis
    Reverend Felim McCarthy
    Permanent Deacon

  • Felim, are you one of the new batch of permanent deacons just ordained in Ireland? If so, welcome.

  • [...] does not share the beliefs of he who sits on the Chair of Peter, then you are not a Catholic. Even Professor Dawkins understands this as he shows by his recent pronouncement that those who do not believe in transubstantiation are [...]

  • R.C.

    It’s good that folk here are making the distinction between Transubstantiation as articulated in terms of Thomism (based on Aristotelian Metaphysics) and the doctrine of the Real Presence.

    To get it right, though, one must take the distinction one level deeper and talk about the “grammar of assent.”

    We must assent to the Church’s teaching on this issue. What does that mean?

    Well, part of the need for St. Thomas Aquinas’s writing on the Body and Blood in terms of Aristotelian categories of “substance” and “accidents” was to distinguish the Catholic belief (that the bread and wine are actually changed and that Christ is thus really, if mysteriously, present) from similar-seeming beliefs that some folk may find easier to believe.

    Thus if one says that Christ is “spiritually” present, but only in the same sense that God is everywhere, then one is not holding the Catholic belief. That belief is, however, easier for many people to believe, and since belief in a “spiritual” Real Presence might seem much the same as belief in a “sacramental” Real Presence, many folk will say, “Oh, whew, that’s easier.” They wouldn’t think clearly enough to realize the how these two views imply different modes of adoration, different treatment of the consecrated elements, and a different theology of the participation in and consuming of the sacrifice.

    So St. Thomas wrote a description which clarified this distinction, in Aristotelian terms, so that anyone conversant with Aristotelian terms could clearly understand on which side of the distinction their own understanding lay, and whether they were in a state of assent or dissent.

    What does that mean to us today?

    If one dissents from Thomas’s description, not because one is trying to believe something less than what the Church teaches, but because one holds a view which is every bit as shockingly literalistic as the Church’s view but articulates it in non-Aristotelian metaphysical terms, then THAT’S FINE. One is permitted to dissent from Aristotle (and even St. Thomas) without dissenting from the Church.

    If, however, one dissents from Thomas because the Thomistic description describes Jesus as being Really Present to an unacceptably high degree of reality, then one is dissenting from the Church. If the disagreement with Thomas leads one to believe that Jesus is less “really there” than agreement would, then one’s belief is not Catholic. One might say that Thomas articulates the minimum permissible amount of “realness.”

    Finally, what if one feels uncertain in one’s “gut” about the degree of “realness,” but tries to believe, prays for more faith, and as an act of will asserts belief in the infallibility of the Magisterium and, consequently, the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence?

    Well, THAT’S an act of assent, which is all that’s required. One’s gut-level uncertainty doesn’t outrank one’s freely willed act of loyalty.

    So: Agree with Thomas if you can stomach Aristotle; or hold an equally shocking level of belief in Jesus’ “realness” if the Aristotelian terms offend. And if one doesn’t always feel the reality of Jesus’ presence, then at least willfully remind yourself of the reliability of the Church’s Magisterium on such doctrines, and trust in the inescapable conclusion in defiance of one’s unreliable feelings.

    And having done all that…Take, Eat.

  • Virum Iratum

    The Irish who do not believe in transubstantiation have committed Fahnenflucht of their Church. One could argue they were heretics and have committed Verrat against God. However the key word is “pertinax”, or stubborn. “If a man is not pertinacious in his error, he is no heretic, only a man in error.”

    So… how hardheaded are the Irish?

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>