A number of threads active here are concerned with the Roman Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist. So far as I can tell, the discussion began with a story about an attendee at a Mass who, after receiving a consecrated host, did not eat it, but instead left the church, over the objections of other attendees.
The purpose of this thread is to address and put to rest several arguments that appeared in this discussions that were, quite frankly, strawman argument. They were Frankenstein Strawman arguments, in fact.
The following information is factual. I don’t post this is GQ for two reasons: it’s poor form to post the answer to a question as the OP in GQ; and because, notwithstanding the factual nature of this post, experience suggests it may draw some debate. A third reason may be that this constitutes witnessing, although I will emphatically deny that. This is not a claim of what The Truth is with respect to the sacrament. It’s simply The Truth with respect to what Catholic doctrine says the sacrament is. I trust the distinction is apparent: I can declare definitively that Thomas the Tank Engine resides on the Island of Sodor without being accused of mixing fantasy and reality. The statement is clearly meant to apply to the theoretical world of Thomas the Tank Engine.
Catholic doctrine holds that when a piece of bread is consecrated during Mass, the bread changes to the actual, real body and blood of Christ. This statement often causes a negative reaction, and occasionally offers to subject the bread to the most minute laboratory analysis, in order to show that it remains simply a piece of bread.
But no one claims otherwise! Suggesting that a lab test somehow disproves the claim is a classic strawman argument: attacking a premise that your opponent does not hold.
Catholics believe that the substance of the bread changes, but the accidents of the bread remain the same. The substance of the bread refers to its actual nature, it’s “breadiness,” if you will, a quality utterly separate from it’s physical characteristics, or accidents.
Here’s an analogy: let’s say I move into a new house, and I tell my son: this is your new bedroom.
Now, before he, or any of us, have set foot in his room, he tells a friend: “This is my new room!”
“No, it isn’t,” replies the friend. “It’s just the same room it was yesterday. I could bring a whole CSI lab team in and test it, and get the exact same result as yesterday, when it wasn’t your room. So how can you say it’s your room?”
The answer is, of course, because what makes it “his room” is not a change to the physical characteristics of the room at all.
Catholics believe that an analogous change happens when a priest says Mass. The bread’s physical characteristics don’t change one iota; the underlying substance of the bread, it’s essential character, is what changes.
Now, how can we test such a claim, to see if it’s true?
We cannot. The claim is not falsifiable. It’s an error to call this claim false, in the realm of pure logical debate; it’s equally an error in that realm to call it true. It’s simply not testable. Now, because the onus is on anyone making a claim to provide evidence of it, certainly anyone interested in pure logic is entitled to disregard an untestable claim.
So – no, you can’t test the bread and see a difference. No, you’ve not proved anything by the failure of the bread test to reveal a difference, since no one is claiming any test should reveal anything different. Based on a lack of evidence, anyone is perfectly entitled to disregard the claims about the bread’s change in substance.
I do accept the claim that the bread has changed, because I have additional evidence that suggests it’s so. Unfortunately, I cannot convincingly share that evidence with you, because it’s a result of personal experiences that cannot be proven to someone who didn’t have them. So while I’m not remotely surprised if you regard these claims as unproven, I, by virtue of experiences that you don’t have, can’t share that evaluation.
Now, could my own perception be wrong? Of course. I don’t think it is, but I admit the possibility that I’m deluded. But just as you must use your own experiences to form conclusions about the world, so, too, must I.
I hope this is of some help, at least with respect to getting rid of the “lab test” business as having any relation to this discussion.