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Bill Jackson [Founder of Christians evangelizing Catholics] wrote:

Hi, guys —

A Catholic friend has been worried for years. She is a vegetarian.

She wanted to know if consuming the Host is permissible for a vegetarian. I thought it was,
but was not certain if I gave her the right answer.

  • Is consuming the unconsecrated Host permissible for one who is a vegetarian?
  • Is consuming the consecrated host permissible for one who is a vegetarian?

Thanks,

Bill

  { Is consuming the consecrated Host (the Eucharist) permissible for one who is a vegetarian? }

Team answer from: Richard Chonak, Terry Quinn, Fr. Francis,
Rob Coutinho and Mike Humphrey

Hi, Bill —

The short answer to your question is: Yes and Yes.

Let's clarify some terms:

A vegetarian is one who lives on a diet composed primarily or wholly of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds, with or without eggs and dairy products only.
{They don't eat meat.}

Within the Roman Rite, the unconsecrated host consists of unleavened bread.
Within the Roman Rite, the unconsecrated wine consists of grape wine.

That said: Consuming either the unconsecrated bread or grape wine is OK for a vegetarian. Neither one falls in the meat category of foods.

After consecration, the Church teaches the:

  • substance of the unleavened bread becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus (John 6:51-70)
  • accidents of the unleavened bread remain the same: the taste, touch, smell, or qualities of the unleavened bread.

The same is true for the consecrated wine:

  • substance of the grape wine becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus
    (John 6:51-70)
  • accidents of the grape wine remain the same: the taste, touch, smell, or qualities of the grape wine.

Some will say:

  • OK. Doesn't the substance of the consecrated Host still change into the body { meat }
    of Christ?

Yes and No!

The category of "vegetarian/non-vegetarian" doesn't apply well to the mystical-sacramental presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We don't eat this in the same way that we would eat animal flesh as food.

There, we eat part of a dead creature. Here we are receiving a living person into ourselves, whole and entire, divine and human — Jesus as He is now, already risen from the dead. Jesus has conquered death by His Resurrection, and does not die again when we obey His command to eat His flesh and drink His blood. That act — shocking as it is — is not destructive, and does not harm Jesus. There is no re-killing of Jesus which would offend some against the desire to harm no living, breathing creatures.

The consecrated Host is the Risen Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity that we are given as real Food and real Drink. The Presence is Real. The transubstantiation is real. The New Food and Drink is real, but we have to be careful not to be caught up an overly physicalistic interpretation here — as if we are chomping on Jesus of Nazareth.

The Eucharist connects both the Mystery of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery. Sometimes in emphasizing the Real Presence, we have simply emphasized the Incarnation, but the Eucharist cannot be "understood" without the Resurrection.

  • Is the Risen Body of Jesus identical with Jesus of Nazareth?

Yes and No!

Everything that went into the Tomb was raised up — came out — on Easter morning but even there, there is a transformation. It is not simply the resuscitated Body of Jesus. He is transformed. We cannot begin to compare the 'glorified' Body with the Body Our Lord walked upon this earth before his death.

  • Remember the road to Emmaus, when even his close disciples didn't recognize him?
  • Remember how after the Resurrection:
    • Our Lord appeared suddenly amongst the disciples, and doubting Thomas, or
    • the fact that Our Lord came through the closed doors?

All this indicates a totally different mode of existence, totally alien to our understanding of the laws of physics and chemistry: Our Lord:

  • truly risen from the dead
  • truly possessing the same body (I suppose modern scientists would look for DNA.)
  • but in a 'glorified' form. Think of the Transfiguration!

Read 1 Corinthians 15 again. Paul goes after the Corinthians who both deny the Resurrection or have a too simplistic/physicalistic interpretation — there is the key! Paul teaches us about the Eucharistic Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11, the Mystical Body of Christ — the Church in 1 Corinthians 12 and the actual Risen Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. I do not think that is "accidental". They are interconnected.

I would dare anyone then to categorize the Risen Body of Christ as an animal.

Some will say:

  • The dictionary defines substance as chemical composition. Doesn't the consecration of the Host change the chemical composition of the Sacred Species?

Let me address this point:

In every material thing, there are two sets of elements quite different: substance and qualities. No man has ever seen substance; he has only seen qualities of the element.

e.g. I see the squareness of a block of iron, but it can become round, still remaining iron. I can feel its hardness, though it can become soft in the furnace, the substance being unchanged. If it be black, it can become red; if it be cold, it can become hot; if it be heavy, by great heat I can render it a vapor.

The qualities, then, differ from the substance, or we could not change one, without changing the other. If we can change qualities without changing substance, God can certainly change substance without changing qualities. Any chemical differences are dependent upon qualities, not the substance. Granted the permanence of the same accidental qualities, the same chemical reactions will be apparent.

Vegetarians are vegetarians because of the { chemical } effect that meat would have on their physical bodies.

Because a chemical change in a material object is dependent upon the qualities of the object, and not the substance, your friend can go ahead and partake in the Holy Eucharist without fear of consuming the Sacred Species as meat. The substance has changed, not the qualities of the material object: unleavened bread.

I hope this answers your question,

Team answer from: Richard Chonak, Terry Quinn, Fr. Francis, and Mike Humphrey
Assimilated by Mike Humphrey

Side note from the AskACatholic.com Administrator:

I'm sure you have a good heart Bill and would never distort another person's faith. That said, instead of evangelizing fellow Catholic Christians, why don't you try evangelizing non-Christians.

Just an idea! : )

Mike

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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