By Dave Armstrong (12-15-08)
Protestant writer C. Michael Patton observed (without himself believing this):
[H]istoric Protestantism has often charged the Catholic church with idolatry, believing that they have turned God into an idol of bread and wine, worshiping the elements without, indeed, contrary to, a scriptural basis.. . . which is an utterly wrongheaded criticism, as I have often argued, since idolatry, by definition, is a matter of the heart and interior disposition. No minimally informed Catholic has ever worshiped mere bread and wine (just as none have been dumb and absurd enough to actually venerate plaster in the form of a statue of a saint). We are worshiping Jesus Christ present in what was formerly bread and wine.
Obviously, other Christians may deny the fact of what we believe in faith to be taking place, but whatever the Mass is, it is not idolatry, which is worship of what is not God and raising something other than God to His sole place of supreme exaltation.
Clearly, Catholics aren't doing that, which is simple to see in the literal meaning of the word transubstantiation: "change of substance." Think about it for a moment in this light: how does the following "logic:" of our anti-Catholic critics make any sense?:
1) Catholics believe in transubstantiation.
2) Transubstantiation means, literally, "change of substance."
3) In this instance the substance change involves bread and wine being transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
4) Therefore, Catholics believe that bread and wine are no longer present; only the Body and Blood of Christ.
5) And the adoration of the host and eucharistic worship takes place after the consecration and change of substance in the Mass.
6) Nevertheless, we will accuse Catholics of worshiping bread and wine instead of Jesus Christ, which is gross idolatry, and no part of legitimate Christianity.
Obviously, #6 doesn't follow, based on the premises of #2-#5. So how is it we get accused of idolatry, when the very word that describes the practice being so critiqued proves that it is not taking place at all? If anything, Lutheranism would be more open to this accusation, on the grounds that they might conceivably confuse the elements with Jesus (I would not make the charge myself, I hasten to add, but I am making an observation based on anti-Catholic premises).
But that is not true in our case, by the fundamental definition of a complete change taking place, as we believe. So again, one can disagree with what Catholics (with virtually unanimous patristic support) believe in faith to be occurring, but it is ludicrous -- utterly illogical and emptyheaded -- to accuse us of idolatry in the Mass.