Why Lanciano Matters

I have seen the miracle in Lanciano depicted in the July-August issue ("Weird Things Happen" by Fr. Dwight Longenecker).

The greatest, unique, and incomparable miracle is the one which takes place whenever and wherever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. Through transubstantiation, Jesus Christ is substantially present under the signs of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the heartbeat of Catholicism. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is beyond the realm of sensory experience.

But for centuries extraordinary phenomena surrounding the Eucharist were and can still be experienced through the senses. These eucharistic miracles involve the natural characteristics—the accidents or signs of the bread and wine after they have been consecrated during the Mass. Eucharistic miracles are meant to confirm our belief that after the consecration, what seems bread is no longer bread, and what seems wine is no longer wine. Eucharistic miracles call us to a greater holiness of life.

The most spectacular of these took place in Lanciano, Italy, when a monastic priest doubted the Real Presence. As he pronounced the words of consecration, bread and wine changed into flesh and blood.

In 1970 and 1971, director of the Laboratory of Pathological Anatomy in Arezzo, Italy, Dr. Edward Linoli found that the consecrated species in Lanciano were real cardiac tissue of type AB blood.

Today, sadly, we are immersed in a world which accepts only that which can be

scientifically proven. Faced with the inexplicability of a eucharistic miracle, we are drawn to the "Divine Who" of the Eucharist. Eucharistic miracles can be useful in a catechesis on transubstantiation because they challenge us to look beyond the limits of perceptible science.

Msgr. Raffaello Martinelli, Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in his "Catechesis on Eucharistic Miracles":

Eucharistic miracles can be useful and fruitful aids to our faith. For example: They help us go beyond the visible, the perceptible and admit the existence of something beyond. Precisely because it is recognized as an extraordinary happening, the eucharistic miracle has no explanation in scientific facts and reasoning. It goes beyond human reason and challenges a person to "go beyond" the perceptible, the visible, the human, that is to say, to admit that there is something incomprehensible, something humanly unexplainable with human reason alone, something that scientifically cannot be demonstrated.

We must always remember that our faith in the Eucharist is first of all founded on the

proclamation of Jesus Christ. While eucharistic miracles continue to edify and inspire us, Catholics are not obliged to believe in them. They are considered private revelations (CCC 65-67).

Catholics are obliged to believe that Jesus Christ is substantially present in the Holy Eucharist.

— Mary Helen Klinge-Drucker
Freeport, Illinois

Is Heliocentrism Heretical?


A few remarks on Robert Lockwood’s article on the Galileo affair ("The Anti-Catholic’s Trump Card," July-August 2009). It was admirable to see him try to defend the Church, but it wasn’t convincing. The questions he never answers are: How could the Church of the 17th century, guided by the Holy Spirit, be so deceived in the very magisterial ranks it reveres as the protector of truth? How could the Church be led to believe that the Earth’s motion or non-motion was a matter of faith and morals if it wasn’t so? Did the Holy Spirit decide to forsake the popes and cardinals of the 17th century? Lockwood provides no answers. Although he admits the Church convicted Galileo in 1633 of being "vehemently suspect of heresy," he fails to reveal why. The reason was that the same tribunal had earlier declared heliocentrism "formally heretical." Galileo was only "suspected" rather than "guilty" because the tribunal couldn’t determine whether he really believed it. In any case, the tribunal’s major task was denying the heliocentric cosmos, as we can see in its first of two declarations: "The proposition that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture" (Galileo e L’Inquisizione, 143). How strong was this decision? When in 1775 astronomer Joseph LaLande inquired about exonerating Galileo, the Holy Office said that nothing could be done unless Galileo’s trial was either reversed or annulled. Hence, the 1633 trial stands as the last legal declaration of the Catholic Church on the Galileo affair. Neither indexes of forbidden books, imprimaturs, nor papal speeches can change that canonical decision. Essentially, Lockwood only repeats what we’ve heard for years from Catholic apologists, namely, modern science has proven heliocentrism and thus we must find a palatable excuse for the Church’s official declarations against it. He seems unaware that, to this very day, science has not proven heliocentrism. Scientists worth their academic salt have finally admitted that appeals to Newton’s gravity, the Foucault pendulum, stellar parallax, etc. are worthless. As one put it: "The bulge of the Earth’s equator may be attributed indifferently to the Earth’s rotation or to the outward pull of the centrifugal force introduced when the Earth is regarded as non-rotating" (Eddington, Space, Time and Gravitation, 41). Just last year New Scientist admitted that astrophysicists now have two choices with the telescopic evidence they’ve discovered: (a) continue to believe that Dark Energy and Dark Matter (even though no one has ever found any) make up 95 percent of the universe (since neither Newton’s nor Einstein’s laws work without this convenient invention), or (b) believe in a geocentric universe (Nov. 12, 2008, 32-35). It is time for Catholic apologists to get up to speed with science and stop making excuses for our medieval popes and cardinals, and most of all, stop making the Holy Spirit a part-time God. For more information, read my book Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right.

— Robert Sungenis
Via e-mail

Robert P. Lockwood replies: It is above my pay scale to get into an argument over heliocentrism and geocentrism. But I do know that while cardinals—particularly in the 17th century—might have masked their scientific opinions with canonical verbiage, the simple truth is that all the fulminations in the world cannot create a defined statement of infallibility guided by the Holy Spirit concerning questions of scientific fact. To expect such is like asking how far it is between London and Christmas.

More Miracles at St. Gildard?


Speaking of weird things happening ("Weird Things Happen," July-August 2009): Two weeks prior to receiving the July-August This Rock, I received a bulletin from a Catholic organization. In it was a very interesting article, "A Heavenly Visitor," describing a visit to the Convent of St. Gildard, by a Br. Jim O’Brien, OFM, in the year 1996 (11 years after Fr. Longenecker’s visit). These two articles were written independently. I found the article about the 1996 visit so interesting that I tore it out of the bulletin. Then along came my July-August This Rock, describing Fr. Longenecker’s visit to the same convent. Each visitor described his guide at the convent—apparently the same person—in visits 11 years apart.

That in itself is interesting, but what is remarkable is the statement made by the convent’s English-speaking nun when approached by Br. O’Brien at the end of his tour. Because the guide had disappeared, he asked the sister where he could locate the guide, to express his thanks for her help. Looking puzzled, the nun said, "We don’t have an English-speaking guide." Br. O’Brien said, "You must be mistaken, I spent the entire day with her!" The nun looked at him intently and said, " There is no English-speaking guide. Good day." Have I uncovered another "supernatural occurrence"?

— Joseph Karp, Sr.
Via e-mail

This article appeared in Volume 20 Number 8.