The Propriety of Eucharistic Devotions

In the history of sacramental theology, those who dissent against the Catholic Church's teaching on the question of transubstantiation but do not want to give up the idea of a Real Presence entirely have sometimes defaulted to a middle position that acknowledges a Real Presence but denies the logical consequences of affirming that Presence.  Sometimes the Presence affirmed is even described as a physical or bodily Presence, in order to find conformity with the Scriptural tradition of referring to the sacrament as the "Body of Christ", yet the ramifications of what the Presence of Our Lord's Body in the sacrament means are denied, especially the devotions that are proper to the sacramental presence of Our Lord's Body, such as reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharistic Adoration, and Corpus Christi processions. Many Christian denominations teach a "Real Presence" of Christ in the sacrament, but only the Catholic Church retains the aforementioned devotions.

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Stercoranist Objections

It is one of the more crude objections to the doctrine of the Real Presence, but it remains an objection nonetheless and as such must be answered. The crude objection I am referring to is the assertion that if the bread and wine of the Eucharist truly become the real Body of Christ, then this would subject our Lord's Body to the humiliation of being subject to the full rigors of the digestive process, meaning eventually that parts of our Lord's sacred Body would inevitably be passed through the bowels and ejected as bodily waste through the process of defecation. This belief was called Stercoranism. A difficult thought for a believer to entertain, but it was a real objection some lodged against Transubstantiation, and once you think about it, it does have a certain internal logic. If we confess that what we put into our mouth is in fact the real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, then it seems to be logical that the sacramental Body would undergo the same processes as all other food that goes into the mouth, including final ejection of parts of it into the toilet about eight hours later. Fortunately this gruesome speculation has no truth to it, as we will see in this article examining the origin and answers to the objections posed by the Stercoranists.

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Is the Eucharist cannibalism?

It does not happen to often, but once in a great while I run into the cannibalism argument against the Eucharist. It is an interesting argument, but if the person you are talking with actually accuses Catholics of practicing cannibalism, then it demonstrates that he at least understands the seriousness with which we say that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, even if he does get the particulars wrong; at least he understands that we take the phrase "Body and Blood" seriously.

So, what do we respond when somebody attacks the Holy Eucharist on the ground that to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus would be cannibalism?

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