By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In an article appearing in the National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Richard P. McBrien of the University of Notre Dame said that in earlier times when Catholics were less educated in the faith, Eucharistic adoration had its place. But continuing this practice today is “is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward.”
Fr. McBrien, a professor of theology at Notre Dame who is well known for his dissenting views, was commenting on a front page article that appeared last month in The Boston Globe about the return of perpetual Eucharistic adoration to Boston.
Apparently, the article provoked some criticism because the author, a non-Christian, repeatedly referred to the Host as a “wafer.” McBrien defended him, calling his theological lapses “unintentional.”
He then goes on to explain Church teaching about the Eucharist, saying that the practice of Eucharistic adoration began in the 12th century when the Real Presence of Christ was either rejected by heretics or poorly understood by Catholics.
“The church saw eucharistic adoration as a way of reaffirming its faith in the Real Presence and of promoting renewed devotion to it,” McBrien writes. “However, as time went on, eucharistic devotions, including adoration, drifted further and further away from their liturgical grounding in the Mass itself.”
While he acknowledges Pope Benedict XVI’s personal endorsement of Eucharistic adoration, he says “it is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.”
Now that most Catholics are literate and even well-educated, “the Mass is in the language of the people (i.e, the vernacular), and its rituals are relatively easy to understand and follow, there is little or no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions. The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.”
In conclusion, he says, “Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward.”
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