Saturday, October 29, 2011

Things that go bump in the lab

In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.[1]

Unlike C. S. Lewis, I’ve never met anyone who’s seen a ghost. I don’t automatically believe ghost stories. But I don’t automatically disbelieve them, either. Nor do I reflexively write off stories of possessions, visions, miracles or other creepy stories of the paranormal.

Context is everything. I can disbelieve in orcs because I know J. R. R. Tolkien made them up for his epic universe. I can disbelieve in Martians because we know Mars to be inhospitable to all but the simplest organic life. I can disbelieve in the Flying Spaghetti Monster because it was some wiseass college kid’s attempt to poke fun at religious beliefs while questioning the need to present intelligent design in school curricula.

But we have no such context of knowledge which makes ghosts or demons inherently impossible … or even unlikely.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Faith, Evidence and Anonymous

In today’s Telegraph.co.uk blog post, Francis Phillips did a fairly good job of explaining why Shakespeare lovers should avoid the Roland Emmerich film Anonymous.

The premise of the movie is the ill-regarded theory that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford,  wrote the plays attributed to the Bard of Avon. The only attraction the theory ever had is its contention that a college graduate must have written such masterpieces of literature as Hamlet, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice … certainly not some lout of a glover’s son from Warwickshire with “little Latin and less Greek”.

It’s not my task here to re-write her take-down, which could have gone further into the why of the “de Vere authorship” theory’s falsehood. Rather, I would draw your attention to her penultimate paragraph, where she quotes scholar James Shapiro: “Mr. Emmerich has made a film for our time, in which claims based on conviction are as valid as those based on hard evidence.” To which Phillips adds the sideswipe, “I am surprised that author Dan Brown hasn’t (yet) taken up this theme.”

Phillips is a Catholic writing for a Catholic journal, so I doubt she saw what I saw. Truth is, it took me a minute or so to see the implications of Shapiro’s comment, as funny as it was. Eventually, though, it dawned on me that you could substitute “faith” for “conviction” in Shapiro’s jab without changing his meaning.

Wait a minute. Let’s drill into this a little further before we move along.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On monks and changing the stamp of nature

On Virtuous Pla.net, Sr. Lisa Marie Doty (whose reflections will make any Catholic nostalgic for the days when nuns were an everyday presence in parish life) has a beautiful piece on marriage: the union of man and woman reflecting the union between Christ and his Church, and the three “M’s” that lie behind every vocation (Mass, Maturity and Mission).

One of my friends from the Bright Maidens, Elizabeth Hillgrove, responded, “This is beautiful, Sister. Thank you! I love reading a reflection on marriage from your perspective as one in the religious life.” To which Sr. Lisa replied (with a wink), “Thank you, Elizabeth! It would be interesting too, to read a post from you on the ‘possibility of religious life today’. God bless!”

Elizabeth recorded the exchange on her own blog, Startling the Day. She then admitted, “Other than the occasional pop culture reference, the majority of my childhood exposure to women in religious life was at family events (several non-habit-wearing nuns in my family) and from the 1966 classic, The Trouble with Angels.” From there, she summarized the film (which I’ve not seen, but will as soon as I can) … and evaded Sr. Lisa’s deeper challenge.

If you’ve gone to Elizabeth’s post, you’ll see I called her out on it. And she’s promised to make good on the challenge. But discussing personal vocations can be a bit soul-baring, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to dare her without daring myself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

30th Wednesday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I: The predestination problem

Ordinarily, in working with the daily Mass readings, I present the texts as part of the post. Today, however, I want to save some extra space for the discussion. The first reading is from Romans 8:26-30, the psalm is from Psalms 13:4-6, and the gospel is from Luke 13:22-30.

Let’s say your brother wants to buy a new Mustang convertible, and has asked your advice on the matter. You know his particular financial situation, so you know it’s a very bad idea. But you also know that when he wants to do something, opposing his will is likely to get his back up: “You’re not the boss of me!” Nevertheless, you can’t in good conscience advise him to do whatever he wishes.

Now here’s the question: Supposing you told him in the strongest terms possible, “Don’t buy that car,” and he reacts precisely as you suspected and buys the car anyway. Did you take away his free will? Or did he have free will to begin with?

This is as close a hypothetical as I can create for the conundrum that our Scripture passages hand us today. For while Jesus tells us to try to enter through the narrow gate (Lk 13:24; cf. Mt 7:13-14), Saint Paul tells us that some people God has “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). So how does free will work in light of predestination?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

30th Tuesday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I: The waiting is the hardest part

[Jesus said], “What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and ‘the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches’” [Ez 31:6].
Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed (in) with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened” (Lk 13:18-21 NAB).

So what precisely is the kingdom of God?

The reign or rule of God: “the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). The Kingdom of God draws near in the coming of the Incarnate Word; it is announced in the Gospel; it is the messianic Kingdom, present in the person of Jesus, the Messiah; it remains in our midst in the Eucharist. Christ gave to his Apostles the work of proclaiming the Kingdom, and through the Holy Spirit forms his people into a priestly kingdom, the Church, in which the Kingdom of God is mysteriously present, for she is the seed and beginning of the Kingdom on earth. In the Lord’s Prayer … we pray for its final glorious appearance, when Christ will hand over the Kingdom to his Father.[1]

Vatican reform note: Anyone got a better plan?


My friend Steve – who really should be writing this blog instead of me – had this to say about the Pontifical Commission’s note:

What I take as one of the points of the document is that the world economy is largely controlled by, and at the mercy of, private financial institutions who do not have anyone’s interests at heart but their own. In an ideal world there would be a beneficent central authority managing the economy in a fair and just matter, with the interests of all in mind.
An hopelessly idealistic dream and totally impractical? Sure, but that’s nothing new, is it? The Church also dreams of a world free of war, hunger, suffering, cruelty, and other (often self-inflicted) plagues on mankind. Their solutions to those problems are not always very practical either, but they are ends worth talking about and working toward.
I concede that I have not read or watched the entirety of these folks’ comments [i.e., the comments I linked in yesterday’s post], but what would they suggest would bring greater economic opportunity and fairness? Just letting the markets work unfettered, which will eventually result in a trickle down to the underprivileged among us? Show me when that has worked. We had a little laboratory to test how laissez faire works during the Industrial Revolution, and it was a mixed bag. Great advances in technology and overall wealth, no doubt, but it also exposed the ugly underbelly of unfettered capitalism and necessitated all sorts of laws and regulations to protect workers, children, public health, etc. To argue against these would be difficult, even for the most hardened Randian.

In other words, do Catholic conservatives have any better ideas?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vatican reform note cause for conservative face-palms

Whatever else you can say about the various cardinalatial functionaries at the Vatican, this much is true: Media-savvy they ain’t.

This weekend, on the eve of the G20 economic summit, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace released Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority. In this document, the PCJP looks at the current economic situation and forecast, and critiques the presumptive causes from the perspective of Catholic social doctrine.

The one recommendation the document (hereafter shortened to TRIFMS) makes that’s causing much conservative Catholic garment-rending begins well into the document:

In the prophetic encyclical Pacem in Terris of 1963, [Bl. John XXIII] observed that the world was heading towards ever greater unification. He then acknowledged the fact that a correspondence was lacking in the human community between the political organization “on a world level and the objective needs of the universal common good”. He also expressed the hope that one day “a true world political authority” would be created.
In view of the unification of the world engendered by the complex phenomenon of globalization, and of the importance of guaranteeing, in addition to other collective goods, the good of a free, stable world economic and financial system at the service of the real economy, today the teaching of Pacem in Terris appears to be even more vital and worthy of urgent implementation. …
As [Pope Benedict XVI] reminds us, if this road is not followed, “despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations” [Caritas in Veritate §67].

Thursday, October 20, 2011

29th Friday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I: Interpreting the present time

[Jesus] also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain – and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot – and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny” (Lk 12:54-59 NAB).

“Discerning the signs of the times” is the favorite activity of many people. In particular, “the signs of the times” are always telling certain Catholics that the Church should change its teaching on x, y or z. But as we unpack this passage, we find that “interpreting the present time” isn’t a license but a warning.

29th Thursday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I: The real outsider

[Jesus said,] “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Lk 12:49-53 NAB).

I look at young people who are, for some odd reason, still into the “Goth” shtick, and I pity them.

Not as poor, misunderstood souls, no. I pity them because the whole “Goth” business is so 1996. It’s old. It’s no longer shocking or upsetting; it’s darn near mainstream. Stick it with a fork, ‘cause it’s done.

No, if they want to be misunderstood and feared and still get to wear black clothes, then they should become Catholic priests and religious. I mean, go all out — the theology, the spirituality, the rosaries and Liturgy of the Hours, the cassocks, robes and habits, the whole megillah. Instead of listening to Marilyn Manson (is he even still around?), they should be listening to the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreutz.

In fact, the bare minimum they need to do to be feared and misunderstood is to practice Christianity in spirit and truth.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

29th Wednesday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I: Preparing for the Master’s return

I wrote this to return myself back into the groove; I’ll post an extra essay sometime in the next week to fill the gap, as it were.

*          *          *

Today’s gospel is from Luke 12:39-48:
[Jesus said,] “But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.”
 The springboard for this reading is Jesus’ warning to his disciples to be ready for his return, a warning repeated at several points throughout the New Testament: the day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:2-3; cf. Mt 24:44, 25:13, Mk 13:33, 2 Pet 3:9-10, Rev 3:3). Most successful surprise attacks are launched in the darkest hours of the morning, when the opponent is mostly asleep and the watchmen are at their least alert.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

29th Monday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop & Martyr)


Sorry this is running late, but that’s been the story of my day.

*          *          *

Luke 12:13-21 is one of my favorite passages, for it contains the parable of the Rich Fool.

Jesus continually tells us not to place our trust in riches: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:19-21). Everything mortal passes away; everything material is subject to entropy, to the slow process by which the universe breaks down everything from the complex to the simple.

So it is here: Jesus first refuses to act in a dispute between two brothers squabbling over their inheritance from their father; his rhetorical question “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over your claim?” is as much a reference to the purpose of his earthly mission as it is a rabbinical legal point. He then warns the crowd, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finding the Least Objectionable Republican Shmo

Yeah, it's late, and it's long, and it's mostly about practical politics. Tomorrow—er, later this morning, I'll be down in Fort Worth as part of a Forty Days for Life group; perhaps I'll have a bloggable experience there. See you Monday.

*     *     *

A friend of mine sent me an email today. Among other things, Steve said:

I agree with [James Carville] that [Jon] Huntsman and [Newt] Gingrich may be the most qualified, but neither stands a chance.  Shame, I kind of like Huntsman.  I would like to have an alternative to consider, and I know that Romney is really a moderate temporarily trying to pander to the right, but if any of the current crop of GOP contenders … gets the nomination, there will be no need for deliberation and I will vote again for Barry.

I find myself longing for the old days of machine politics, which — as corrupt as the system could be — deliberately produced candidates who could win, rather than finding them by guess and by gosh. My theory of politics is very Irish: you can’t get anything done if you can’t get your people into office; you can’t get your people into office unless you can get Joe Schmuckatelli down at the meat-packing plant into the polling place to vote for them.

People may sniff and gripe about the “astroturf” that bought Our Glorious Leader his waves of pre-election adulation. However, it was a direct throwback to the ward politics of the machine days, different only by the social media used to execute it. It should have been a lesson to the Republicans. But instead of actively co-opting the Tea Party – a real, honest-to-goodness grass roots movement – and learning from their playbook, they’re busy helping the Democrats marginalize them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

28th Thursday in Ordinary Time, Cycle I

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 11:47-54 NAB:[*]
  
[Jesus said:] “Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”
When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

What does this mean?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lord Acton vs. the Chesterbelloc


Note: "Chesterbelloc" was a term coined by George Bernard Shaw, who dabbled in Socialist politics, to describe distributism as a "fantastical beast" ... not to mention poke fun at both his friend G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

*     *     * 

So I ran late with what was supposed to be yesterday’s post. I hadn’t intended on following it up with another post on distributism.

However, the springboard for “yesterday’s” post was Richard Aleman’s story in The Distributist Review on handing out flyers at Occupy Wall Street. Kenneth Spence of the Acton Institute Power Blog picked up on the flyer and produced a flip, dismissive riff off of Jeff Foxworthy and Dave Letterman titled “10 Signs You May Be a Distributist”.

In two more serious articles (“Distributist Fantasies” and “Distributists Ignore the Lessons of History”), Spence shows more quietly that what he assumes about distributism is more extensive than what he actually knows. The articles are serious only so far as he doesn’t attempt to be funny; his analyses are as shallow and offhand as his satire. In fact, he pretty much writes off distributism as misguided nostalgia backed by papal encyclicals.

But there are a couple of other lines of attack worth exploring as well. For capitalists, at their core, are conservatives, only willing to change so long as they can see a payoff for doing so and only so far as it benefits them personally. It’s not enough merely to make a forensic case for change: one must make a business case for it. My purpose here isn’t to make the business case for distributism but only to answer some objections.

Selling distributism as a fairer system

Click for full-size view.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is into its fourth week. While copycat protests have sprung up in over two dozen cities, according to Reuters correspondent Lauren Tara LaCapra, Wall Street denizens are nervous but not exactly on the edge of panic, far less surrender (surrender to what? he wondered).

For one thing, despite the heavy presence and influence of anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist radicals in the core of the movement (according to one observer — see the comments in this post), the participants themselves seem to have no particular goals in mind, showing up mostly to eat free cookies and express their displeasure with the masters of Corporate America. They’re having their Howard Beale moment, and enjoying the fact that they’re with others who are “as mad as hell and not gonna take this anymore”.

They don’t necessarily want an anarcho-syndicalist commune or a socialist workers’ state … they just want somebody to do something, to fix the rotten situation we’re in. The focus of their anger is on the top one percent, partially because of envy, but also because of the increasing income inequality that’s sapping the middle class and which compares unfavorably to such third-world economies as Cameroon and Uganda.[1] But that doesn’t automatically translate into a populist desire either to surrender everything to a “nanny state” or to chuck State powers altogether.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Come now, let us reason together

On October 1 on The Impractical Catholic I posted the news out of Rockford, Illinois that the state Department of Public Health had suspended the license of the Northern Illinois Women’s Center, an abortion mill most notable for the anti-Catholic antics of its owner and employees, and now established as completely uncaring of their patients’ health. After making some grimly celebratory remarks, especially on how access is far more important to the hard-core pro-aborts than is women’s health, I added a YouTube clip of Queen’s video “Another One Bites the Dust”.

The only comment I got was this piece of whiny snottiness:

I find it quite ironic that you use a song that was written and performed [by] a *gasp* HOMOSEXUAL to celebrate this.
Why do I even waste my time, we all know you are going to keep on trying to keep others down ....

I no longer make any attempts to prove I’m a nice guy with plenty of friends both straight and gay, conservative and liberal, Catholic and non-Catholic. For one thing, people like “Poosy” don’t listen, don’t care, and won’t believe me anyway. For another, it reminds me too much of the old Jewish joke about anti-Semites: “Some of my best friends are Jews.” So of course “Poosy” finds it ironic: in the cramped, angry little box of her ideology, I’m not allowed to have gay friends or to appreciate good music performed by homosexuals because it would detract from my all-encompassing homophobia.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Moral math and sadistic choices

In the path of a runaway train car are five railway workmen who will surely be killed unless you, a bystander, do something. You are standing on a pedestrian walkway that arches over the tracks next to a large stranger. Your body would be too light to stop the train, but if you push the stranger onto the tracks, killing him, his large body will stop the train. In this situation, would you push him?[1]

Okay, the first response that pops into my mind is: “I’m too light to stop the train car by flinging myself in front of it, but I’m strong enough to push a man that large over the rail? We’re talking a railcar weighing thousands of pounds here! What were you on when you thought of this question?”

But that’s not the point, is it? The point is, the large man isn’t the one posing the threat to the workmen’s lives … but his death can save them, so would you deliberately cause an innocent by-stander’s death to save the lives of five other innocent people?

According to a utilitarian, your answer should be “yes”; if not, you’re making a wrong moral choice. After all, to quote Mr. Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” right?[*]

But the choice as given above demonstrates one problem with utilitarian ethics: it presumes that all moral choices can be boiled down to numbers with which you can do some simple math.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cherry-picking the Word of God

“You Christians point to the Bible as the Word of God. But then you engage in a bunch of hand-waving about allegories that allow you to pick and choose what you believe and what you don’t. Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either it’s all literally true or it’s all baloney. I say it’s all baloney.”

Really? Including the statement, “In those days there came a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled”? You mean there wasn’t a king of Persia named Artaxerxes? No Antiochus Epiphanes?

Of course, the position in the first paragraph is an extreme position, taken by someone who has never really read the Bible — just lists of apparent Scriptural contradictions and horrific commands God gave that get passed around the Internet like the Demotivational Images you see on Facebook — and who has not even a passing acquaintance with classical history. But even a non-Christian who is well-read in classical history and gives a passing grade to most of the Bible is liable to pick and choose what she wants to accept as true.

And why shouldn’t she? After all, she’s not bound to accept it as the Word of God. But it’s still a little hypocritical to chastise Christians for cherry-picking Scripture to fit their needs and then go and cherry-pick it to suit your own materialist biases, no?

But I didn’t get you this far merely to hit you with a tu quoque fallacy. The point of bringing non-Christian selectiveness up is to point out the “all true or all hogwash” argument is a false dilemma.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A small matter of good will


Come inside my mind and see the kind of minutiae with which I concern myself.

I love looking at words and their meanings, and I get impatient with people who don’t watch their use or who dismiss language analysis as “semantic games”. Unable to meld minds, and not being telepathic, we’re forced to use words; so it’s crucial for us to say what we mean and mean what we say, to make sure we understand and are understood. Otherwise, all attempts at spreading ideas are hopeless — communication is defeated.

Here’s the springboard: “Vatican Diary/Not All Bishops Are of Good Will”, in yesterday’s Espresso Online, by Sandro Magister. (I love that name, by the way: Sandro = Alessandro = Alexander, as in “the Great”; Magister = Latin master or teacher.) Most of the column concerns itself with the reluctance of the Italian bishops to use per molti (“for many”) to translate the Latin pro multis in the words of the Consecration — does this sound familiar to you, too?

But near the end, Magister reports that the bishops voted to use Gloria a Dio nell’alto dei cieli e pace in terra agli uomini che egli ama (“Glory to God in the heights of heaven and peace on earth to the men whom he loves”) to translate Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. He also notes that the new English text will say “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.

Okay, what gives here?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why is the “old Church” coming back?

This is a "test chapter", if you will, of a book I'm in the early stages of writing, with the working title The (New & Improved) Catholic Why? Book (after a book written in the early 1980s by Andrew M. Greeley). The target audience of the book are Catholics in the middle ground between the "spirit of Vatican II" Church they grew up in and the resurgent "old Church" growing back up around them. I'd appreciate any constructive feedback.

*     *     *

There are two competing stories — meta-narratives, if you will — about the Second Vatican Council, the changes it made, and the main body of Catholic beliefs and practices that came from those changes.

One story has it that Vatican II made many substantive changes that led to a completely new and different Church, or would have if traditionalists hadn’t started pushing back. Oddly, this meta-narrative (the “hermeneutic of rupture”) is favored not only by liberal Catholics but by sedevacantists and many traditionalists as well.

The other story is that, while the Council authorized some changes in discipline, they made no substantive changes in doctrine but rather re-presented traditional teachings in more modern, more affirmative language. Many other unauthorized and unwanted changes were snuck into the life of the Church using “the spirit of Vatican II” as a Trojan horse, changes prompted by secular political and social theories dressed up in Scriptural language. This is the meta-narrative (the “hermeneutic of continuity”) favored not only by conservatives and most traditionalists but by Pope Benedict, who coined the phrases.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Imagination and immateriality

Joe Heschmeyer’s post on “the dog that didn’t bark” is turning out (for me, at least) to be a gift that keeps giving.

If you’ll remember — if not, just follow the link — Joe’s post was on Eucharistic theology. His major point was, if Catholic Eucharistic theology is wrong, then we should see in the writings of the Church Fathers a theology that the Church denies; we should see a Lutheran or Calvinist or Evangelical theology. But since several of the Church Fathers directly assert that the bread and wine become the true Flesh and Blood of Christ, we must believe that Protestant interpretations are wrong and the Catholic understanding correct.

Into the combox came a particularly long and rambling vomit from an ex-Catholic turned anti-Catholic. Two-thirds of the way through, we finally come across a specific, on-topic objection:

Anyways, again, as I’ve stated in other posts, the Lord’s Supper MUST be symbolic since, “Not one of His bones shall be broken” [Jn 19:36, cf. Ps 34:20]. Think about it, if the Eucharist is the true body, blood, soul, and divinity, then His bones would be broken every time your teeth crush the host. Yet, “the Scripture cannot be broken” [Jn 10:35]. Also, since He called himself the Door [Jn 10:7-10] and Vine [Jn 15:1-8] (among others), should I take that literally and worship doors and vines as you do with the host? It’s irrational. Not just Eucharistic or “apostolic succession” teachings, but almost all RCC teachings.

Is the Church being overly literal in insisting on the Real Presence? Or is what we’re seeing here a failure of imagination?