Jimmy Akin’s heresy on Transubstantiation

In a post dated April 22, 2011 (Good Friday), Jimmy Akin answers a reader’s question by teaching yet another heresy:

“In transubstantiation, two things happen: (1) The substances (i.e., the ultimate, underlying realities) of bread and wine cease to exist, leaving only the properties detectable by our senses and (2) the substance of Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity become present…. God created all matter out of nothing (Latin, ex nihilo), and he can similarly cause it to return to nothing (ad nihilo = where we get “annihiliate”).”

The above quoted explanation is a grave heresy. The Council of Trent taught the following dogma — an infallible teaching and a required belief under pain of heresy:

“And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.”

Trent Latin text
The word transubstantiation is suitable and proper to refer to this dogma because the word means that the substance of one thing is transformed into the substance of another thing. The whole substance of the bread and the whole substance of the wine are converted into the whole substance of the body and blood of Christ. This is a well-established dogma, an infallible teaching of an Ecumenical Council.

Akin’s claim that the substances of the bread and wine cease to exist, returning to nothing, is a denial that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. His error is clearly stated. He claims that the substances of the bread and wine cease to exist. He claims that these substances ‘return to nothing’; they are annihilated. Akin’s explanation directly contradicts the dogma of transubstantiation.

Astoundingly, Akin cites the Council of Trent (on a different point) later in the same post, and also quotes and highlights a teaching of Pope Paul VI, which correctly states that “the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood.” Yet he does not notice that this quoted highlighted teaching of the Pope is contrary to his own teaching at the start of the same post.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the same teaching on transubstantiation as the Council of Trent:

“1376 ‘a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.’ ” [the CCC quoting Trent]

“1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about.”

The CCC teaches that the substance of bread and wine are changed into, not annihilated and replaced by, the substance of the body and blood of Christ. Ludwig Ott, in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, explains this same point in greater detail:

“Christ becomes present in the Sacrament of the Altar by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His Bood. (De fide.)” (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 379)

Akin’s idea of the annihilation of the substance of the bread and wine, and the making present of the substance of the body and blood of Christ, directly contradicts the infallible dogma of transubstantiation. His claim that the substance of the bread and wine cease, being returned to nothing, is contrary to the very definition of transubstantiation, in which one substance is transformed into another.

Ott specifically rejects the idea that the substances of bread and wine cease to exist. Instead, they are converted or transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.

“Transubstantiation signifies a conversion…. Conversion in the passive sense is the transition of one thing into another…. A mere temporal succession does not do justice to the concept of conversion. In the Eucharistic conversion the substances of the bread and wine cease, because they are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ…. The conversion in the active sense, that is God’s activity in the conversion, does not, according to the general teaching of theologians, consist of two independent actions, the annihilation of the substances of the bread and the wine, and the making present of the body and blood of Christ.” (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 380)

Edited to add: In a older blog post, titled ‘Transubstantiation and Annihilation of Substances,’ Taylor Marshall explains that the substances of bread and wine cannot be annihilated. He quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas on this point:

“no way can be assigned whereby Christ’s true body can begin to be in this sacrament, except by the change of the substance of bread into it, which change is excluded the moment we admit either annihilation of the substance of the bread….”

And: Pope Paul VI explains this conversion of the substances in this way: “we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation.” (Mysterium Fidei, n. 46).

The rest of Akin’s post contains some foolish explanations that have no basis in sound Catholic theology, such as his discussion of ‘multilocation’, ‘bilocation’, and ‘folding Einsteinian spacetime’. A better and simpler explanation as to how Christ can be present in many Eucharistic hosts, even though He is one, is that Christ is God, and God is unbounded by place and time. It is not the case that Christ is present in multiple locations, like a Saint bilocating. Rather, the whole presence of Christ in each host is one Presence of the one Christ, unlimited by place or time.

As I explain in my book, New Insights into the Deposit of Faith, in the chapter ‘Time and Eternity’:

” ‘All the communions of a life-time are one communion. All the communions of all men now living are one communion. All the communions of all men, past and future, are one communion.’ All the consecrations of the Eucharist, throughout Time and Place, are One Consecration. All the Masses, throughout Time and Place, are One Mass. The One Mass is the Mass at the Last Supper, celebrated by Jesus Christ. Every Mass is the Mass of the Last Supper, not by imitation or repetition, but by the timeless grace and power of God. At the Last Supper, Jesus Christ celebrated the Mass, once for all Time, and consecrated the Eucharist, once for all Time. Every other Mass and consecration of the Eucharist is that same Mass and consecration of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Just as Jesus Christ suffered and died once for all Time and Place, so also did He celebrate the Mass and consecrate the Eucharist once for all Time and Place.” (Conte, New Insights, p. 296; inner quote from Teilhard de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin, p. 124).

Christ on the Cross can dispense salvific grace to all persons regardless of place or time, even to persons who lived prior to the Crucifixion. These persons are not saved by virtue of the mere anticipation of a later sacrifice by Christ on the Cross. They are saved by His Sacrifice directly, because Christ as God is unbounded by time. Similarly, the Eucharist does not merely look forward to the Crucifixion, it makes the Crucifixion effectively present, regardless of the place and time of that Mass.

And this insight provides the answer to the question of the reader: “If Jesus had not yet sacrificed His human nature, how could he offer his body and blood to the Apostles in the form of bread and wine?”

Akin’s answer is a serious doctrinal error, that the Eucharistic celebration at the Last Supper merely “looked forward to the sacrifice of the Cross”. He goes so far as to assert that “it is not necessary for Jesus to have sacrificed himself on the Cross in order for transubstantiation to occur.” This answer divorces that first Mass from the Cross, making it not really and truly one and the same sacrifice as the Crucifixion. In Akin’s explanation, transubstantiation, and therefore also the consecration that effects transubstantiation, is independent of the Crucifixion. And since consecration and transubstantiation are the foundation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in effect Akin divorces this Sacrament from the Crucifixion of Christ (from which, in truth, all Sacraments flow).

Akin errs by speaking as if the Mass of the Last Supper were fundamentally different, concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, than Masses subsequent to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. For he says that:

“the idea is that at the Last Supper Christ became present under the elements as he was then but in a way that looked forward to the sacrifice of the Cross and today he becomes present under the elements as he is now (enthroned gloriously in heaven)”

This wording implies that Christ was not present in the Eucharist of the Last Supper in his glorified body, but only ‘as he was then’ (prior to glorification). Only later (‘today’), does Akin admit that the human nature of Christ is present in the Eucharist in its glorified form. Again, this error is caused by his treating Christ as if He were limited by place and time.

In truth, every Eucharist, including that of the Last Supper, is one and the same Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, regardless of place or time. The Eucharist of the Last Supper, occurring prior to the Crucifixion, is no different than any other Eucharist. That first Blessed Sacrament was just as much a presence of the glorified Christ, and just as much a presence of the Sacrifice of Christ, as all other Masses, regardless of place or time. How can this be, when the first Mass occurred prior to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension? It is so because Christ is God and God is entirely unrestricted by place and time. Even God Incarnate is unlimited by place and time.

So then, how can Akin present himself as if he were a teacher of the Catholic Faith, while not understanding such basic points of doctrine? This is due to a combination of ignorance and arrogance. He does not know Catholic doctrine. He does not bother to study a point of theology before teaching it. In the custom of many other Catholic bloggers and posters, he teaches from his own mind, based on his own reasoning and misunderstandings, and not from Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.

In my other posts and articles, I have pointed out several other heresies being taught to the faithful by Jimmy Akin as if these ideas were Catholic doctrine, or sound Catholic theology:

Intrinsic Evil versus Proportionalism – A refutation of Jimmy Akin’s heretical errors on intrinsic evil and the moral object.

Modern Heresies on Contraception – A refutation of Jimmy Akin’s heretical errors on contraception and marriage.

Catholic Soteriology versus Semi-Calvinism – A refutation of Jimmy Akin’s heretical errors on predestination, grace, salvation.

Although many Catholics consider Akin to be a teacher of sound doctrine, in my considered opinion the number and extent of his doctrinal errors on matters of faith (transubstantiation), morals (intrinsic evil, contraception), and salvation (predestination, grace) demonstrate that he is a heretic and a teacher of heresy, who is harming many souls with his false teachings.

See also this article: More on Jimmy Akin’s heresy against the dogma of Transubstantiation

Furthermore, IF any Catholic priest believes Jimmy Akin’s heretical teaching on transubstantiation, THEN that priest does not validly consecrate the Eucharist. In order for the consecration to be valid, the priest must intend to do what the Church does, and the Church intends a change of substance and concomitancy, not an annihilation of the substance plus multilocation.

More recently, Akin has asserted a new version of his heresy on transubstantiation:
Jimmy Akin’s new heresy on transubstantiation

May God have mercy on the many faithful souls being led astray by the innumerable heretics of the current age.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator

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