Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate …

This lot are members of the Tullamore Parish International Eucharistic Congress group – and they go a bundle on transubstantiation. Pic: the aptly named Offaly Express

I CAN hardly contain my indifference to the fact that Ireland this week is hosting the Catholic Church’s 50th Annual Eucharistic Congress – and neither, apparently, can a significant number of Catholics in that country.

The congress aims to renew people’s belief in the core woo of transubstantiation: the crackpot notion that crackers and wine can be magically transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

But, according to a recent survey in Ireland, almost two-thirds (62 per cent) believe the blessing of bread and wine during Mass only represents the body and blood of Christ. Furthermore, the majority of Catholics in Ireland do not attend Mass regularly.

Ahead of what is being dubbed “The Spiritual Olympics”, “celebrity” Richard Dawkins, on a visit to Dublin, called on Irish Catholics to be “honest” and to admit that they were no longer Catholics because they do not accept their Church’s fundamental teachings.

This irritates the beJesus out of Colum Kenny, of the Irish Independent, who writes today:

He [Dawkins] and some bishops and their most loyal followers want people in or out. They think of the Church as a club, where you accept the rules or leave.

But the teachings of Jesus cannot be reduced to a neat set of club rules or medieval doctrines. How their truth is articulated is through the hearts and lives of Christians. The Eucharist is at the very heart of how Christians understand their faith and their church and themselves.

He adds:

The Eucharist consists of the consecrated bread and wine that are central to the Mass, which is itself a Christian re-enactment of the last supper of Jesus. The gospels tell us that Jesus referred to such consecrated bread and wine as his body and blood; he bid his followers to do as he had done and to eat and drink in memory of him.

But did he mean that Christians who did so would literally be eating his body and blood? Such an idea of ‘transubstantiation’ seems barbaric to some people, with its echoes of human sacrifice and cannibalism, and simply unnecessary to others.

And some merriment, of course, in the form of the brilliant Tom Lehrer’s Vatican Rag, in which he satirised this nonsense by singing:

Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate.

His lyrics include this verse:

First you get down on your knees
Fiddle with your rosaries
Bow your head with great respect and
genuflect, genuflect, genuflect
Make a cross on your ab-domen
When in Rome do like the Romans
Ave Maria, gee it’s good to see ya’
Doin’ the Vatican Rag!

Marty Feldman doing The Vatican Rag. Click on pic for video

I had no idea that The Vatican Rag was once performed on TV in 1974 by British comedian Marty Feldman, who in a prelude to an hilarious performance of the song, castigates the BBC for not allowing the word “God” to be uttered in broadcasts.

How things have changed!

Hat tip: Conor Mcbrierty


15 responses to “Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate …”

  1. northern light says:

    To conger in your mind that bread and wine are body and blood is odd indeed but other sects do some weird stuff as well.
    -Mormon magic underwear
    -Mormon baptism of the dead
    -Jehovah witness refusing medical help
    -Jewish Karopot ….holding chicken over your head to transfer sins to the chicken
    -Muslim women having to wear a Niqab

    The human mind is a wonder indeed …too bad the religious pay it so little reverence and use it for such stupid beliefs.

  2. 5ec4um says:

    Colum Kenny, “Such an idea of ‘transubstantiation’ seems barbaric to some people, with its echoes of human sacrifice and cannibalism”.

    Well, yes. A lot of that kind of thing went on in the name of religion. First-born sacrifices to Yahweh were all the rage. Those were the days!

  3. JohnMWhite says:

    I’m not sure what Colum Kenny’s point is. He seems to just be arguing with Dawkins because he doesn’t like him. Calling yourself a Catholic and not believing in the core of Catholic teaching is just silly, and for Kenny to argue that some ‘Catholics’ might not like the idea of transubstantiation because they’re disgusted by its harking back to human sacrifice (and what was the death of Jesus, prey?) simply compounds the point against him. If you look at what the Catholic Church sees as its most holy and magic and true component as ‘barbaric’, how on Earth can you still consider yourself part of that church?

    What if some people here were to say “I don’t believe in any gods but don’t dare call me an atheist”? We’d be baffled by such a request because it would be asking us to simply ignore what words mean. Torturous parsing of words and playing semantic games seem to be all the rage among the religious right now, though. They naturally can’t stand to be called a bigot while screaming about their right to engage in bigoted behaviour, for one, and they’ll always cry No True Scotsman if it makes them look better than try to claim everybody really is a Scotsman if it boosts the perception of their numbers. Convenient, but shameless.

  4. Lidia says:

    For religious barbarism, don’t forget the very real, and very common, blood and flesh sacrifice that is circumcision (male genital mutilation), as well as the less-common female version.

  5. Broga says:

    #It is the job of Church leaders to reimagine forms of faith, and articulate an understanding of real presence that is compatible with our scientific understanding of the nature of the universe.#

    Ah yes, this is the way to go. The beliefs are so bizarre and anachronistic, as well as being deeply repellent, that according to Colum Kenny they must be “reimagined.” But if they are imagined where do they find a base in reality? And imagination allows for many interpretations.

    Kenny throws in “real presence” which is to be articulated. Not mark you researched or backed by evidence. And the articulation has to be “compatible with our scientific understanding.” Why bother with the reimagining of the beliefs when you can go straight to the scientific understanding?

    Kenny continues to drift further and further into fuzzy thought as he says what is important is in the hearts and minds. He provides a real dog’s breakfast of an article which confuses more than it enlightens. I get the impression that Kenny is trying to convince himself more than his readers.

    I see Richard Dawkins is now a celebrity atheist. Makes a change from militant or aggressive, I suppose.

  6. Matt Westwood says:

    “… almost two-thirds (62 per cent) believe the blessing of bread and wine during Mass only represents the body and blood of Christ.”

    Frighteningly, that leave 38% of Irish catholics who really believe they are indulging in an act of actual cannibalism.

    Sheesh, how would it be possible to stay in the same room as one of these fucking creeps without puking is something that beggars my imagination.

  7. Matt Westwood says:

    I know it’s been done before, but I have an idea of going into a catholic mass, partaking of the “sacrament”, and rather than consuming it, taking it out of my mouth, dropping it into an evidence bag and ostentatiously leaving. When challenged, I would claim it as forensic evidence of ritual cannibalism, and that I’m taking it back to the lab to prove it is real 200-year-old human flesh.

    Finally, my wife and I have many cats and are getting more. We can’t get enough of them. Does that make us cat-holics?

  8. Daz says:

    But the teachings of Jesus cannot be reduced to a neat set of club rules or medieval doctrines. How their truth is articulated is through the hearts and lives of Christians.

    Indeed. The minimum requirement, I’d think, to being able to honestly call oneself Christian would be to try to live one’s life according to the teachings of Christ as reported in the Bible (and possibly non-canonical gospels). At a stretch, I could even imagine a sect who did so without belief in Jesus as a divine being.

    But we’re not talking about Christians in general; we’re talking about Catholicism, which does have a neat set of rules and doctrines. And one core tenet of Catholicism is that transubstantiation is literal.

  9. Robster says:

    It is written above by that strange Irish person:”But the teachings of Jesus cannot be reduced to a neat set of club rules or medieval doctrines”. I was under the impression that jesus the magic jew was a first century magic jew. The Medieval period was somewhat later. It was a dark and nasty time that the baby jesus managed to make darker and nastier.

  10. Bubblecar says:

    Due to the lot that history has granted them, the Irish have long thought of themselves as a “feminine” people – emotional, irrational, subservient to a Father caste etc. Much the same sort of mindset that’s so common throughout the Muslim world. One might have hoped that the Irish nationalism of the 20th century might have encouraged them to adopt a more practical self assessment, but really it just reinforced the notion of the Irish as an outpost of a paternal Rome. Let’s hope the 21st century will see them rejecting all this limp Irishry and the neuroses that go with it.

  11. AceLeon says:

    Mmmyearh, I’m more impressed with the Genie and a packet of Tim Tams

  12. Rob L says:

    “the core woo of transubstantiantion…”

    “Did you mean: transubstantiation”

    I’m not sure what’s funnier.

  13. Barry Duke says:

    Corrected now, Rob L. Transubstantiation, like banana, is one of those words I know how to spell, but I just don’t know when to stop ..

  14. Trevor Blake says:

    I don’t know why people think Christians are deeply concerned with cannibalism. I mean, it’s not like Leviticus 26:16 and 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53 and 28:57, Isaiah 9:19-20 and 49:26, Jeremiah 19:9, Ezekiel 5:10 and 24:10-12, Zechariah 11:9, 2 Kings 6:28-29, Lamentations 4:10, Micah 3:2-3 and Luke 22:19-20 all give a great big THUMBS UP FROM GOD HIMSELF for humans eating each other. No, it’s not like that.

  15. Matt Westwood says:

    It’s meant metaphorically. What Jesus *really* said at the last supper was: “take, eat, this is my seed …” and when he said “I will come again”, it was along the same lines.