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Fr. Ri presents a new theology of the Eucharist in an attempt to defend Archbishop Youn’s Declaration on Naju

Fr. Sun Song Ri, who is the secretary general of the Naju Investigating Committee and a theology professor at Kwangju Archdiocesan Seminary, contributed an article to the March 1998 issue of "The Pastoral Care," a monthly magazine published by the Korean Bishops’ Council. The title of his article is (translated from Korean) "A Correct Understanding of ‘the Transubstantiation in the Blessed Sacrament’ mentioned in the Kwangju Archbishop’s Declaration." This article is of a special importance and will undoubtedly attract much attention, because it is the first theological defense of Archbishop Youn’s recent declaration on Naju by a leading member of the Naju Investigating Committee. The importance of this article is further enhanced by the fact that it appeared in a magazine published by the Korean Bishops’ Council.

The focus in Fr. Ri’s article is on the concept of "the Transubstantiation in the Blessed Sacrament." He makes it clear that the Eucharistic phenomena in Naju involving changes in the Eucharist into visible Flesh and Blood are incompatible with his understanding of "the Transubstantiation."

The questions that promptly arise in the readers’ minds are what Fr. Ri’s theological explanation of "the Transubstantiation" is and whether or not it conforms to the official Church teaching on the Eucharist. If it does, Fr. Ri has a strong case in support of Archbishop Youn’s declaration. If it does not, his article will further weaken the credibility of the Archbishop’s declaration.

Fr. Ri directs our attention to the many debates
on the Eucharist in the past and present

Fr. Ri devotes six of the ten pages of his article (in Korean) to a narration of many different theories on the Eucharist including the views of Ratramnus in the 9th Century, Berengarius in the 11th Century, and Luther, Zwingli and Calvin in the 16th Century. Fr. Ri notes that the dogma of "the Transubstantiation" was defined by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and reconfirmed by the Council of Trent in 1551, but also adds that this dogma did not include a detailed philosophical and theological explanation. He says that debates on the Eucharist are still continuing even among Catholics. At the end of his narration of the different theories on the Eucharist, Fr. Ri makes the following conclusion:

If there exists today a foundation for a comfortable meeting between Catholics and Protestants, it must be their common understanding of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Both (Catholics and Protestants) have reached a deeper understanding that the Real Presence does not refer to any object but is a personal presence. In addition, both share a common view that Christ is present in the Eucharist not only as the giver of salvation but as the gift of salvation itself, which is unique to the Eucharist.

Fr. Ri adds that theologians are looking for more appropriate ways of explaining the Real Presence without rejecting the traditional doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Fr. Ri emphasizes unity

Fr. Ri also states the following:

The Transubstantiation in the Eucharist of course requires faith as the premise but is something that needs to be understood theologically. It certainly has "unity among Christians," that is, unity between Catholics and Protestants and among all Catholics, as the major premise. In the Kwangju Archbishop’s Declaration, it is stated that the phenomena of the Eucharist changing into lumps of flesh and blood in Julia’s mouth are in conflict with the Church teaching that says that the external appearance of the Eucharist must remain unchanged even after the Transubstantiation through the consecration by a priest. This expression must be understood in the above-mentioned theological context. However, many people still do not have the correct understanding of "the Transubstantiation" and, thereby, are leaning toward disunity in faith. The purpose of this writing is simple. It is unity between Catholics and Protestants and among all Catholics in the faith and theological understanding of the Eucharist.



1. Unity among people at the expense of the truth?

Fr. Ri says that unity between Catholics and Protestants and among all Catholics is the major premise in the theological consideration of the Eucharist. In other words, a good theology of the Eucharist is one that is acceptable to both Catholics and Protestants. How is this possible? Can we say that we do not deny Our Lord’s physical presence in the Eucharist but, at the same time, say that Christ’s presence is only a personal or spiritual one? God is infinitely truthful and infinitely simple. He cannot contain conflicts in Himself or reveal conflicts to creatures. He does not expect us to be double-minded, either. Our Lord said, "Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37). Our Lord also said that He came to the world not to give peace but to give division (Matthew 10:35-36; Luke 12:49-53). What Our Lord means is that peace for the sake of peace and unity for the sake of unity at the expense of truth are false. To Pilate who was asking the Lord if He was the king, He answered, "I came into this world to testify to the truth" (John 18:37). He climbed Mt. Calvary and was crucified instead of pleasing the world at the expense of the truth.

Fr. Ri’s basic error lies in that he regards "unity among people" instead of the teaching authority in the Church as the basis for determining the authenticity of supernatural truths. It is even possible that the question of authenticity does not mean much to Fr. Ri, because "unity among people" can hardly be a source of any supernatural authenticity. Or is Fr. Ri forgetting about the supernatural nature of the truths regarding the Eucharist?

2. Fr. Ri’s new theology denies the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Fr. Ri says that he does not deny "the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" but is rejecting that bread and wine turn into real flesh and blood of Christ through the consecration by a priest. To him, Christ is really present in the Eucharist but only in a personal and spiritual way. Is this what the Church teaches about the Eucharist? Is this what Christ said to His disciples? Our Lord said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world … For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink" (John 6: 51, 56). Many of Our Lord’s followers understood this literally and complained among themselves: "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" (John 6:60) They left Jesus and no longer accompanied Him (John 6:66). If Our Lord only meant His "flesh" and His "blood" in a symbolic or spiritual way, He would have called the Jews back, explaining that they misunderstood Him. But He didn’t call them back, and even challenged His twelve apostles to leave, if they could not accept His words: "Do you also want to leave?" (John 6:67) Throughout the 2,000-year history of Church, it has always been the authentic understanding of Our Lord’s words that He meant His physical presence in the Blessed Sacrament by means of His flesh and blood. Also, because His flesh and blood are living flesh and blood, His soul and Divinity necessarily exist together with His flesh and blood. This is how the totality of the Person of Christ exists in the Eucharist. Therefore, this personal presence of Jesus is not merely a spiritual one but is through His physical presence, just as God the Son became physically present in the world through the human nature of the Baby born of the Virgin Mary. Our Lord said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (John 6:56). There cannot be a separation between Our Lord’s personal presence and His physical presence in the Eucharist.

If one cannot believe in Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist, it will be impossible for him to accept Eucharistic miracles, because they are signs of Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist through His Flesh and Blood.

3. Can theologians alter Church teachings?

The proper role for theologians is to study and explain the meaning and implications of the revealed truth as clearly as possible. In doing so, they can utilize scientific reasoning and even speculation but they must humbly follow the enlightenment by the Holy Spirit and remain obedient to the teaching authority in the Church. Their reasoning and speculation cannot take on their own authenticity but are subject to discernment by the teaching authority in the Church. Our Lord has entrusted the charism of infallible teaching not to theologians but to Peter and his successors and to other apostles and their successors in union with Peter and his successors. If theologians cross over this line, they are in revolt against the Divine authority.

4. There is nothing new about the new theology

The implication of Fr. Ri’s new theology does not end with rejecting Eucharistic miracles. The primary effect of the new theological thinking is to dilute and destroy our recognition of Our Lord’s physical presence in the world — in other words, the reality of God the Son’s Incarnation. According to the new theology, God is present among us only in a spiritual way. Two thousand years ago, many people were believers in God, but did not recognize God when He physically came down to the world and began dwelling among them as one of them. The reality of God’s Incarnation was revealed to those who were simple in heart, but remained hidden to those who were spiritually blind because of their self-righteousness. Those who only saw the humanity of Jesus became indignant at His claim to Divinity and crucified Him. It was only the beginning of human rejection of God’s Incarnation, which is continuing even today.

In the 16th Century, the Protestant reformers believed in Christ as the Savior, but denied His continuing physical presence and redemptive work through the Church. They also rejected what is derived from and connected with this physical presence of God among us, such as the infallible teaching authority, seven Sacraments (except baptism), the essential role of the Blessed Mother for our salvation, the communion of the Saints, the need for penance, the rosary, statues, and so on. To Protestants, Christ came to the world, but left soon afterwards without establishing any means of continuing His physical presence and redemptive work on earth. They believe in Christ as the Savior but do not recognize His physical presence on earth prior to His Second Coming. The Catholic Church is the sole bearer and witness of Christ’s physical presence, divine teaching authority and redemptive work on earth continuing until the end of the world. Especially, the Holy Eucharist is the focal point of Christ’s physical presence. Through this Sacrament, the reality of God the Son’s Incarnation among us is essentially the same now as two thousand years ago. It is no wonder that the Eucharist has been the prime target of the devil’s attacks throughout Church history. To the devil, God the Son’s physical presence and activity in the world is the greatest threat to his efforts to control and ruin humans. So, he employs all the possible means to promote doubts about and denials of Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist.

St. John gives us the following admonition as a reminder that the reality of God the Son’s Incarnation among us forms the foundation for God’s Plan of Human Salvation:

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God. (1 John 4:1-2)

5. We cannot appreciate the signs in Naju, until we truly return to God’s Teachings

The messages and signs in Naju do not add any new truths to or alter any of what the Church already received from her Founder. They are, however, powerful reminders, warnings and encouragement for us to return to the truths in the Church. So many of us are still resisting, not because the events in Naju are in conflict with Church teachings, but because we have fallen away from loyalty to the true teachings of Our Lord through His Church. Dogmas are no longer studied or believed in a faithful way. Liturgies and church buildings have become more and more deprived of what inspires our yearnings for God and His supernatural gifts. Traditional devotions have been deemphasized. What is going on is a compromise with the secular spirit. It is a denial of the reality of God’s Incarnation and of the supernatural destiny that God has conferred on humans.

Naju could be quickly approved and, then, pushed into history and neglect, like many other heavenly signs in the past (that have been authenticated). Maybe it is better that Naju remains unapproved, unless we truly repent and kneel before the Lord, begging for His mercy. God and Our Lady do not want to see it wasted this time. The problem is that we may be running out of time.

— From Mary's Touch, Special Issue 1998 #2

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