My Baylor colleague, Michael P. Foley (associate professor of patristics), is a new contributor to The Catholic Thing. His first entry was published today. Entitled, “The Eucharist and Cannibalism,” it begins this way:
Perhaps the most disconcerting Catholic doctrine is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Many people today have the same reaction as those disciples who heard Jesus preach it for the first time in Capernaum and were scandalized, “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (Jn. 6:61). John says that after, many of His disciples stopped following Him altogether.
What is obviously so “hard” about this saying is that it suggests cannibalism. If Catholics believe the Eucharist really is the body and blood of Christ, then they believe they are eating human flesh and drinking human blood. The Romans accused Christians of cannibalism and that the charge has been made against Catholics in various ways ever since.
But while Holy Communion does involve eating human flesh and blood, it is not true that it is cannibalistic. How so?