Speculating regarding the idea of “minimum standard of Catholicism” advocated by the Catholic Left, a month or so ago, I argued that such a minimal standard should include attitudes towards the Eucharist and towards contraception.
Now, a blogger at Vox Nova, who says his research specialty is “ecumenism” (note: clear difference between a specialty of “ecumenism” and a specialty of “apologetics”), has written a piece claiming it’s heresy to say Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist. He uses the testimony of an unnamed female theology professor and a bunch of Rahnerian doublespeak according to which “substance” is not something physical but something spiritual.
In the process, he claimed that anyone who believes the Eucharist has miraculous properties is actually a materialist(!) or a fideist. He said that those who believe the Eucharist is truly the Body of Christ are guilty of “Caphernism” (is that even a word?), saying that faithful Catholics who think Jesus is physically present in the Host are like the people at Capernaum who turned away at the Bread of Life Discourse.
I mean, that’s the epitome of poor logic: if you think the Eucharist is miraculous and cannot cause disease, you’re a materialist; if you think the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, you’re the equivalent of those who denied it.
All of this twisted logic to avoid giving offense to the Lutheran heretics, whose insults to the Eucharist caused so much sorrow for St. Teresa of Avila.
Philosophy 101: substance is that which makes something what-it-is. Substance is what remains when a thing has lost all accidental properties.
I offered an immediate rebuttal, but here is one with citations.
First, excerpts from an EWTN article called “Modern Misconceptions of the Eucharist”, by Fr. Regis Scanlon (I think it’s the same one I quoted to “Anonymous” last month):
St. Thomas also gave a very good reason why bread and wine cannot remain after the consecration: “Because it would be opposed to the veneration of this sacrament, if any substance were there, which could not be adored with adoration of “<latria>”.” If bread and wine remained, Catholics would be committing the sin of idolatry by adoring it. So, physical bread and wine do not remain!
Jesus is corporally, that is, physically, present:
Finally, in 196:S, Pope Paul VI taught most clearly that, after the consecration at Mass, “nothing remains of the bread and wine except for the <species> (smell, taste, etc.)” and that Christ is (bodily) present whole and entire in his lt;physical> ‘reality,’ corporeallypresent, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.” So, the “<physical” thing> that remains after the consecration is Jesus Christ and not bread and wine.
In 1966 the late Fr. Karl Rahner stated that “one can no longer maintain today that bread is a substance, as St. Thomas and the Fathers of the Council (of Trent) obviously thought it was”. For Rahner, the “substance” of a thing did not include its <material and physical> reality, but the “meaning and purpose” of the thing.  So, according to Karl Rahner, transubstantiation meant that, after the consecration of the Mass, the physical bread remained physical bread but it now had a new “meaning” of spiritual food because it was now a “symbol” of Jesus Christ.
I was speaking with a theologian friend of mine, a former department head at Duquesne, and he said that, in part, Rahner was right: we cannot identify Aristotelian substance with modern ideas of matter, but that does not mean it is not physical, since modern physics knows that the universe is composed of far more than just energy and matter.
But Rahner reduces the Eucharist to symbol by saying its “significance” changes. The problem is a definitition of physicality which is limited to matter–in other words, materialism.