A leading Irish theologian has questioned why so little progress has been made towards the sharing of the Eucharist between Protestants and Catholics and has suggested that the continued use of the word “transubstantiation” is partly to blame. Augustinian Fr Gabriel Daly made his remarks at an ecumenical conference, “One Lord, One Faith”, marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at the Church of Ireland parish of Clontarf, Dublin.
He told the conference that he had been involved in ecumenism for more than half a century. “I have tried to learn from my studies of and with other Churches whose insights have played a significant part in where I personally stand today,” the retired Trinity College Dublin lecturer said.
Institutional self-criticism was necessary, he continued, because ecumenism is “primarily a search for the truth and is not a matter of horse-trading so that we may achieve some sort of unity”.
Speaking of transubstantiation, Dr Daly said that prior to the Second Vatican Council a uniform theology of the Eucharist had been imposed throughout the Church which had concentrated on what happens to the bread and the wine when the priest says the words of consecration. Eucharistic theology had become “reduced to a philosophical problem employing abstractions like substance and accidents”.
Dr Daly chided those decision-makers in the Church still acting on pre-Vatican II principles, invoking a theology that is no longer mandatory. While the Council of Trent had approved the use of the term transubstantiation as “suitable and proper” it did not make it obligatory. “We are perfectly free to reject it in the twentieth century,” he insisted.