The Eucharist
Part 5 - Where's the Soul?

In the series that began with Where's the Christ?, I have been presenting a detailed examination of what happens to the bread and wine during the Catholic Eucharistic Sacrifice. Drawing from Roman Catholic catechisms and other texts, I am exploring the belief to which every Catholic must assent to as a matter of faith (de fide). I refer to the dogma that when the priest consecrates the Eucharistic species, the substances of the bread and wine are transformed into the substances of the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Catholic Christ.

1413. By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity [cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651.]. -- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (1994/1997) United States Catholic Conference, Inc., p. 356

In previous parts of this study, I have detailed what Catholics are required to believe concerning the magical transformation Rome calls transubstantiation. In the process, I have listed some of the peripheral dogmas that have been defined to sustain the fictions of transubstantiation and the Real Presence. In this part, I shall examine questions and dogma having to do with the soul of the Catholic Jesus in the consecrated species.

Before I can do that, however, it is appropriate to determine what the soul is. We know from the Scriptures (Genesis 1:26,27) that God created man in His own image. This gives rise to a question or two, such as just what exactly is the image of God in man? This image cannot be material, because God is spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a body. It seems clear, then, that the image of God in man cannot be corporeal.

God is a Spirit, the human soul is a spirit. The essential attributes of a spirit are reason, conscience, and will. A spirit is rational, moral, and therefore also, a free agent. In making man after his own image, therefore, God endowed him with those attributes which belong to his own nature as a spirit. Man is thereby distinguished from all other inhabitants of this world, and raised immeasurably above them. He belongs to the same order of being as God Himself, and is therefore capable of communion with his is also the necessary condition of our capacity to know God, and therefore the foundation of our religious nature. If we were not like God, we could not know Him. We should be as the beasts which perish. -- Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol 2, reprinted by Clarke:London (1960), pp. 96,97

A Catholic dictionary has this to say about the soul:

The "animating" principle, created directly by God, which together with the body contributes to the unity of man. The human soul is immaterial, rational, and immortal; it is independent of matter and enables man to enjoy a relationship with God. -- Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ed., Catholic Dictionary, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division (1993), p. 457

This dual nature of man, material and spirit, has been defined as a dogma to which all Roman Catholics are to assent as a matter of faith:

Man consists of two essential parts -- a material body and a spiritual soul. (De. Fide.)

The 4th Lateran Council and the Vatican Council teach this doctrine: deinde (condidit creaturam) humanam quasi communem ex espiritu et corpore constitutam. D. 428, 1783 -- Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books & Publishers (1974), has Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur, p. 96

This duality of the human nature has not always been accepted by all the membership of the Roman church. The early Manichaeans, for example, did not accept that men had a spiritual soul fashioned in the image of Almighty God. Several early provincial synods addressed this heresy and the 4th Lateran Council defined man's dual nature:

When the Fourth Lateran Council declared that "the creature man" is "composed of spirit and body," it used the word "spirit" as synonymous with "invisible" and "not corporeal." By saying it was invisible, it did not mean "unintelligible," as though the spirit of man could not be "seen" by the eyes of the mind. Its invisibility is relative only to the senses of the body. By saying that the spirit was not corporeal, the Council wished to affirm without equivocation that the human person is basically dual in character; on its bodily side it partakes of the same nature as the ground on which we walk and the air we breathe, but on the spiritual side it partakes of the nature of the angels. In Augustine's phrase, being like the angels we are near to God, being like matter we are near to nothing [50] -- John A. Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday&Company (1975), w/Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur, p. 103

The Manichaean heresy was not the only different view of the nature of the human person. The early Greek and Alexandrian Fathers held to the belief that man consisted of three parts -- body, soul and spirit. This Trichotomous view is explained in this manner: is a three-part being, consisting of body, soul and spirit. The soul and spirit are said to be different both in function and in substance. The body is seen as world-conscious, the soul as self-conscious, and the spirit as God-conscious. The soul is seen as a lower power consisting of man's imagination, memory, and understanding; the spirit is a higher power, consisting of reason, conscience, and will. (Henry C. Theissen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Edited by Vernon Doerksen, Eerdmans, (1979), p. 161). The support for the trichotomous view is: (a) Paul seems to emphasize the three-part view in desiring the sanctification of the entire person (1 Thess. 5:23). (b) Hebrews 4:12 implies a distinction between soul and spirit. (c) 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 suggests a three-fold classification: natural (fleshly), carnal (soulish), and spiritual (spiritual).(Ibid.) -- Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Press (1989), p. 305

The trichotomous view espoused by Plato, the Gnostics, Manichaeans, and Apollinarians does not wash with Catholic teaching and was soon addressed by a general council:

The 8th General Council of Constantinople (869-870) rejected the doctrine of the two souls, and laid down the Catholic dogma that man possesses only one single spiritual soul; unam animam rationabilem et intellectualem habere hominem. D. 338. The spiritual soul is the principle of the spiritual mental life, and at the same time, the principle of the corporeal (vegetative and sensitive) life. D. 1655" -- Ludwig Ott, Op. cit., p. 97

The Christian understanding is that the soul is spirit and that its essential attributes are reason, conscience, and will; that a spirit is rational, moral and, therefore, also a free agent. (Charles Hodge, Op. cit.) The soul consists of imagination, memory, and understanding (Paul Enns, Op. cit.). Such an understanding rules out the possibility of other creatures possessing a soul. A rock can neither reason nor understand. A blade of grass has no will nor free agency. No animal is known to possess a conscience or morality, not even the apes. Yet Roman Catholicism holds that other creatures indeed do have souls.

SOUL. The thinking principle; that by which we feel, know, will, and by which the body is animated. The root of all forms of vital activity. It is a substance or a being which exists per se; it is simple or unextended, i.e., not composed of separate principles of any kind; it is spiritual, i.e., its existence, and to some extent, its operations, are independent of matter; it is immortal (q.v.). The soul is the substantial form (q.v.) of the body. There are three kinds of soul, vegetative, the root of vital activity in plants; sensitive, the root of vital activity in animals; intellectual, the root of vital activity in man. The last contains the other two virtually (q.v.); the sensitive contains the vegetative also virtually. The sensitive and vegetative soul are both simple, but incomplete substances, incapable of existing apart from matter; they are therefore neither spiritual nor immortal... -- Donald Attwater, Ed., A Catholic Dictionary, The MacMillan Company (1942), has Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur, pp. 497-98

Judging by this definition, then, for Catholic faithful, all dogs do not go to heaven nor will their beloved dieffenbachia follow them into eternity. And, it would appear, the human soul multitasks, for it includes not only the intellectual soul, but also, virtually, the sensitive and vegetative souls of lower life forms. I confess to being a bit confused by a definition that first tells me the soul is not composed of separate principles of any kind, and then informs me that the intellectual soul virtually contains two sub-souls and that the sensitive soul includes, virtually, a sub-soul. I suppose I do not fully comprehend the Catholic interpretation of not composed.

I get even more confused when I read first that the soul is spiritual, immortal and to some extent independent of matter and then, further down the paragraph, find out that two classes of soul are not only neither spiritual nor immortal but they cannot exist apart from matter. Perhaps such contradictory and confusing definitions are understandable by those accustomed to Magisterial drivel and ambiguous definitions, but they are of precious little use to me in my search for enlightenment. Perhaps turning to another respected Catholic source will help clarify Rome's understanding of the nature of the soul.

The soul is the ultimate principle of our individual conscious life, the principle by which we feel, think and will. It is a substantial principle, subsisting in itself, and thus distinct from an accident, such as color, which is a mode or attribute of something else. The soul is a simple substance, that is, it is not composed of separate parts; it is also a spiritual substance; its existence is independent of matter --- Bertrand L. Conway, C.S.P., The Question Box, Paulist Press (1962), hasNihil Obstat & Imprimatur, pp. 17-18

So, according to Catholic dogma, as explained by Catholic sources, the human soul is either independent of matter or to some extent independent of matter. It is a simple substance not composed of separate parts that includes, virtually, the sensitive (animal) and the vegetative (plant) souls, which are incapable of existing without matter. Sounds like the definitions we see from government agencies or those computer people in Washington state.

Where does the soul come from? Is it eternal? Is there some great warehouse in the sky where souls are stored until used and then returned to when the user dies? If not, where does the soul come from.

...[T]raditional Catholic teaching holds firmly to speaking of the human soul as a direct creation on the part of God. Moreover, it is difficult to dispense with the Christian concept of "soul-body" when one has to explain the personal nature of man...-- Geoffrey Chapman, Trans., Credo: A Catholic Catechism, Cassell Ltd (1983) has Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur, p. 78

Catholic teaching is that souls are created. Therefore, they are not eternal, in that they have not always existed as have the Three Persons of the Trinity. When is the soul created? And how? There are a few theories concerning that question:

Pre-existentialism, which was proposed by Plato, and which in the early Christian era was accepted by Origen and individual members of his disciples ... as well as by the Priscillianists, teaches that souls exist even before their connection with the bodies -- according to Plato and Origen, from all eternity -- and are exiled in bodies as a punishment for moral defect. This doctrine was rejected by a Synod at Constantinople (543) against the Origenists, and by a Synod at Braga (561) against the Priscillianists. (Denzinger 203, 236)--Ludwig Ott, Op. cit., p. 99

This idea that men once were angels who messed up and, as punishment, were sent to live in human bodies has its roots in Hinduism. There is no clear support for this idea in the Scriptures, though there are a few who would argue that John 9:2 hints at a prior angelic existence. Also, New Age mediums and channelers notwithstanding, I am aware of no records of anyone having remembered once being an angel. Finally, if this theory were valid, someone would have to come up with a new doctrine of sin. The presently accepted doctrine built around the Genesis 3 account of Adam's sin simply would no longer work. We would need a sin doctrine based on the sins of angels. I go along with Constantinople and Braga on this one.

Emanationism, which was represented in antiquity by gnostic-manichaean dualism and which in modern times is taught by pantheism, teaches that individual souls proceed by emanation (outflowing) from the Divine Substance. The teaching contradicts the absolute simplicity of God. It was rejected by the Vatican Council, together with pantheism, as heretical. D 1804. Cf. D 348...Ibid.

Souls flowing out from God's substance? Sheesh! Applying that idea to the (various) Catholic definitions of the soul would mean that every person, plant and animal, right down to bacteria and molds must be a "little god." While such thinking might have a certain appeal for some of the god-making cults, I have to vote with the Vatican Council here.

Generationism traces the origin of the human soul, as well as the origin of the body, back to the act of generation performed by the parents. According to it, parents are the originators of both body and soul. The cruder forms of generationism, i.e., the traducianism expounded by Tertullian, teaches that with the corporeal semen, a part of the soul-substance of the parents (tradux) is transmitted to the child. A less crude form of generationism, which was held by St. Augustine to be possible, and in the past century [19th century] by Klee, Rosmini and others to be probable, holds fast to the spirituality of the soul, and makes the soul of the child emerge from a semen spirituale of the parents. -- Ludwig Ott, Op. cit., pp. 99-100

Actually, generationism sounds pretty good, as one theologian wrote:

Man is a species, and the idea of a species implies the propagation of the entire individual out of it...Individuals are not propagated in parts. -- William G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol 2., reprinted by Nelson (1980), p. 19

This theory, usually referred to by evangelicals as traducianism, has a lot going for it.

The strengths of traducianism are as follows. It explains the depravity of man. If parents pass on the nonmaterial nature then it explains the propagation of the sin nature and the tendency, from birth, of every human being to sin. The sin nature cannot be explained if God creates each soul directly. Traducianism also explains the heredity factor -- the intellect, personality, and emotional similarities of children and their parents. If creationism were correct the similarities should be as prevalent and noticeable. The Scripture seems to affirm the traducian position (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12; Heb. 7:10).--Paul Enns, Op. cit., p. 306

The traducian idea isn't perfect, however. For example, it does not explain how parents are able to pass on the soul, which is spirit. Also, it suggests that "Christ must have partaken of the sinful nature of Mary. -- Ibid.

The Roman Catholic Church, and a number of Reformed Christians, cling to creationism as offering the best explanation for the origin of the soul. The Magisterium has yet to define a dogma on this issue. Instead, they have offered a doctrine:

Every individual soul was immediately created out of nothing by God. (Sent. certa.)"

Creationism, taught by the vast majority of the Fathers, by the Schoolmen, and by modern theology, holds that each individual soul is created by God out of nothing at the moment of its unification with the body. This doctrine is not defined; it is, however, indirectly expressed in the decision of faith of the 5th General Lateran Council (pro corporum, quibus infunditur, multitudine multiplicanda: D 738). Pope Alexander VII, in a doctrinal assertion on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which formed the basis of the dogmatic definition of Pius IX, speaks of the "creation and infusion" of her soul into the body (in primo instanti creationis atque infusionis in corpus). D. 1100, cf. D 1641. Pope Pius XII, in the Encyclical "Humani generis," teaches "The Catholic Faith obliges us to hold firmly that souls are immediately created by God" D 3027. Cf. D 348 (Leo IX).

A stringent scriptural proof of the doctrine of creationism is not possible. However, it is intimated in Ecc. 12,7: "The Spirit returns to God Who gave it."; Wis. 15,11 (inspiration of the soul through God), and Hebr. 12,9 (distinction between fathers of the flesh and the Father of the Spirits=God). -- Ludwig Ott, Op. cit., p.100

Have I got this right? Catholic teaching is that there are three types of soul, which are the operating systems of man, animals or plants. If this Catholic teaching about creationism is considered, one must then ask if God also creates each individual plant and animal soul at the "moment of its unification with the body." If this indeed is the case, then each time a new human baby, or a puppy or a daffodil is engendered, the Lord God of Creation must be extremely busy, for science has informed us that just about every living thing is host to multitudes of other living things. Take, for example, the virtual forest of living microflora living in the human gut.

Approximately 28 feet of digestive tube, known as the gut and intestine, processes our foods into life giving nutrients. The first 23 feet, which include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small intestine mechanically divide the foods we eat, mix them with digestive enzymes, and then break them into microscopic particles ready for absorption into the body. The last five feet, known as the large intestine, or colon, works as a microbial factory. More than 400 different species of bacteria have been identified living in a single person. These bacteria are not distributed randomly throughout the intestinal tract, but are found in different numbers and kinds in different regions of the gut. The stomach and small intestine contain low numbers, the last part of the small intestine contains many more organisms. Within the colon their concentration reaches 1,000,000,000,000 (a trillion) per milliliter of feces. On the typical American diet one-third of the dry weight of the feces is bacteria. (On a healthy diet, dietary fiber dilutes the concentration.) Although the bacteria are the predominant microflora, protozoans, yeast and other microorganisms are also present. -- The McDougall Newsletter, July/August 1999.

Now that we have a variety of ideas as to what the soul is, where it comes from and when it is created, it is time to ask the question: Is the soul of Jesus Christ in the consecrated host?

Before we can address that question, it is first necessary to determine whether Jesus of Nazareth, had a soul. By either the Catholic or the Christian understanding of what a soul is and does, it is clear that Jesus, true God and true Man, certainly must have had a living soul. Further, I believe that soul lives still in the glorified body of biblical Jesus as He sits at the right hand of the Father. The soul of Jesus the God-man is immortal, as are the souls of all men.

The source of Jesus' soul is now at issue. If traducian theory applies, then the man Jesus received a part of His soul from His mother, Mary. This cannot be, however, for Jesus was conceived, born and lived without sin. Had He received even a tiniest portion of His soul from His mother, this could not be claimed, for she, in common with all Adam's progeny, inherited the stain of original sin from her parents.

The Magisterium deals with this problem by declaring Mary to also have been conceived, born and lived sinlessly. They do not, however, explain how Mary's parents were able to avoid passing along to her the stain of Adam's sin. This is, to use an explanation dear to Romish hearts, a mystery. On the other hand, if Rome's favored theory is true, then it would be no trick for God to create a sinless soul for her. That's the trouble with making things up; one has to keep inventing new stuff to support the original fantasy.

At this point perhaps it would be useful to determine just what role Mary had in the "creation" of her Son. Scripture is clear that Logos, the 2nd Person of the Godhead has always been -- never had a beginning. He was neither created nor engendered. He simply is.

After the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, she was still a virgin, yet bore within her womb a living child. Catholics and Christians alike believe this. It takes no great leap of faith to believe that this child, this Incarnate God, came equipped with a sinless soul. After all, He was not engendered in Mary's womb, He simply took up residence there in the form of a human baby. His life did not begin when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, so He got nothing from her: no part of His soul; no DNA; nothing.

Neither the traducian theory nor Rome's pet creation theory appear to apply in the very special case of the soul of Jesus of Nazareth.

Roman Catholic dogma proclaims that the soul of Christ is in the consecrated species and that it is permanently there, well, at least until the species lose the form of bread and wine. I was not able to find a Magisterial clarification of what happens to the vegetative souls of the grains of wheat and the grapes that are used to make the bread and wine used in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Do they die when their accidents lose the appearance of grains of wheat and grapes? Or do they continue until human digestive processes cause them to no longer be recognizable as having once been kernels of wheat and grapes?

Do the vegetative souls of the grapes and the wheat kernels cohabitate with the soul of the Catholic Jesus in the consecrated species? Or are they evicted by the priest when he commands the Catholic Christ to leave his mother's side to return to earth as millions of wafers and gallons of wine?

And what about all the sensitive and vegetative souls of all the microorganisms living on and in the consecrated species and the ones transferred to them by the hands and mouth of the priest? Do they also share space in the accidents of bread and wine with the soul of the Catholic Jesus?

Or will the Magisterium have to come up with a few more dogmas to cover these situations? Dogmas are needed to deal with the problems of bacterial contamination of the host and the wine or, perhaps, declaring the perfect purity of the consecrated species. Hmmm. Wonder how those dogmas would stand up to scientific verification.

In the final analysis, Roman Catholic faithful are required to believe, as a matter of faith, that what looks, feels, smells and tastes like a thin wheaten wafer and ordinary water and wine really is the very real flesh, blood, soul and divinity of their Christ. Yeah. Sure. Where's the soul?

A final something to think about. In presenting a Catholic dogma dealing with the relationship of the body and soul, Dr. Ott explains:

The rational soul is per se the essential form of the body. (De fide.).

According to Gn. 2, 7, the slime, by virtue of the creation of the soul, becomes a living human body, and thus a component part of human nature. According to the vision of Azekiel 37, I et seq., the dead members of the body are awakened to life through the spiritual soul. Ludwig Ott, Op. cit., p. 97

Ah! Another example of Catholic dogmatics adjusting Scripture to force it to support a favored definition. Genesis 2:7 reads as follows in the KJV:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Perhaps I misread the words of Scripture, but it seems to me that God created Adam before "man became a living soul."

Here we have another clear case of Roman Catholic revisionism. The Scriptures do NOT read that Adam became a living being by the creation of the soul or that Ezekiel's dry bones were wakened to life "through the spiritual soul." Quite the contrary, in fact. In both cases, it was a sovereign act of God, Who breathed life in to the dust used to form Adam and into the dry bones. That God may have at the same moment given Adam his soul is possible. There is no mention in the Ezekiel passage that dry bones in the prophet's vision possessed souls, even after being fleshed out. In fact, God told the prophet to call upon the winds to breathe life into them, as He had said He would do. The Magisterium has this unfortunate proclivity to read things into Scriptures that are not present in them. Find out for yourself. Take down your Bible and read it. Discover if the Scriptures really do say what the RCC claims they say

Home | Eucharist Stuff | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum