Saturday, May 23, 2009

O'Connor, Wyclif and the Eucharist

 Re-reading James T O'Connor's work on the Eucharist The Hidden Manna1 he makes the intelligent notation that Wyclif was a thoroughgoing Aristotelian and thus rejected Transubstantiation. O'Connor cites Schillebeeckx in support.2 This is an interesting point against those detractors who frequently state the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist being simply a false philosophical child of Aristotle apud Aquinas. O'Connor writes:

     Wyclif is defended at times on the grounds that his errors are due not so much to his theology as to his inadequate philosophy.3

 O'Connor then records footnote #62 in which he states:

     Schillebeeckx...correctly sees Wyclif as being a prisoner of rigid Aristotelian philosophy. "Faithful to the authentic, historical Aristotelianism, which could not admit any division between substance and accidents, he denied transubstantiation." Wyclif's dilemma is a good reminder of the fact that the doctrine of transubstantiation is not Aristotelian. St. Thomas had used Aristotelian categories to delineate the mystery, but only after profoundly modifying Aristotle's philosophy. [Emphasis his]


[1]. The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist (2nd ed., San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005). The relevant discussion on Wyclif can be found in pages 123-30. I consider this work among the best written from the Catholic tradition on the Eucharist, highly recommended.  

[2]. E. Schillebeeckx, The Eucharist (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1968), whose discussion on Wyclif can be found in pages 48-49. 

[3]. O'Connor also notes that Wycilf's error was due to his misreading of Scripture. 


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