This heretical doctrine is an attempt to hold the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist without admitting Transubstantiation. According to it, the substance of Christ's Body exists together with the substance of bread, and in like manner the substance of His Blood together with the substance of wine. Hence the word Consubstantiation . How the two substances can coexist is variously explained. The most subtle theory is that, just as God the Son took to Himself a human body without in any way destroying its substance, so does He in the Blessed Sacrament assume the nature of bread. Hence the theory is also called "Impanation", a term founded on the analogy of Incarnation.
The subject cannot be treated adequately except in connection with the general doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. Here it will be sufficient to trace briefly the history of the heresy. In the earliest ages of the Church Christ's words, "This is my body", were understood by the faithful in their simple, natural sense. In the course of time discussion arose as to whether they were to be taken literally or figuratively; and when it was settled that they were to be taken literally in the sense that Christ is really and truly present, the question of the manner of this presence began to be agitated. The controversy from the ninth to the twelfth century, after which time the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which teaches that Christ is present in the Eucharist by the change of the entire substance of bread and wine into His Body and Blood, was fully indicated as Catholic dogma. In its first phase it turned on the question whether the Body was the historical body of Christ, the very body which was born, crucified, and risen. This is maintained by Paschasius Radbert and denied by Ratramnus in the middle of the ninth century. What concerns us here more closely is the next stage of the controversy, when Berengarius (1000-1088) denied, if not the Real Presence, at least any change of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood. He maintained that "the consecrated Bread, retaining its substance, is the Body of Christ, that is, not losing anything which it was, but assuming something which it was not" (panis sacratus in altari, salvâ suâ substantiâ, est corpus Christi, non amittens quod erat sed assumens quod non erat-Cf. Martène and Durand, "Thesaurus Novus Anecd.", IV, col 105). It is clear that he rejected Transubstantiation ; but what sort of presence he admitted would seem to have varied at different periods of his long career. His opinions were condemned at various councils held at Rome (1050, 1059, 1078, 1079), Vercelli (1050), Poitiers (1074), though both Pope Alexander II and St. Gregory VII treated him with marked consideration. His principal opponents If were Lanfranc, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury (De Corpore et Sanguine Domini adversus Berengarium Turonensem), Durandus of Troarn, Guitmundus of Aversa, and Hugh of Langres. Although it cannot be said that Berengarius found many adherents during his lifetime, yet his heresy did not die with him. It was maintained by Wyclif (Trialog, IV, 6, 10) and Luther (Walch, XX 1228), and is the view of the High Church party among the Anglicans at the present time. Besides the councils above-mentioned, it was condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Council of Constance, (1418 -- "The substance of the material bread and in like manner the substance of the material wine remain in the Sacrament of the altar ", and the first of the condemned propositions of Wyclif ), and the Council of Trent (1551).
Berengarius and his modern followers have appealed chiefly to reason and the Fathers in support of their opinions. That Transubstantiation is not contrary to reason, and was at least implicitly taught by the Fathers, is shown in the article TRANSUBSTANTIATION. In the discussions of the Father about the two natures in the one Person the analogy between the Incarnation and the Eucharist was frequently referred to, this led to the expression of views favoring Impanation. But after the definitive victory of St. Cyril's doctrine, the analogy was seen to be deceptive. (See Batiffol, Etudes d'histoire, etc., 2nd series, p. 319 sqq.) The great Schoolmen unanimously rejected Consubstantiation, but they differed in their reasons for doing so. Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas, and St. Bonaventure , maintained that the words, "This is my body", disproved it; while Alexander of Hales , Scotus, Durandus, Occam, and Pierre d'Ailly declared that it was not inconsistent with Scripture, and could only be disproved by the authority of the Fathers and the teaching of the Church (Turmel, Hist. de la théol. posit., I, 313 sqq.). This line of argument has been a stumbling block to Anglican writers, who have quoted some of the Schoolmen in support of their erroneous opinions on the Eucharist; e.g. Pusey, "The Doctrine of the Real Presence" (1855).
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online