Eucharistic pronouns – It vs Him?

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There is polarisation in the Church. Liberal vs conservative polarisation has been around for a long time. Now there is the New Polarisation, where conservatives have been pulled towards the radical traditionalist right wing, and the conservatives that remain are even having to defend the pope against claims of heresy. Some even go into schism over it. Bitching and biting goes on in the background, and sometimes in the foreground, every time Pope Francis sneezes. Nastiness abounds. On forums like Facebook, people who are high up on the bandwagon sit in judgement of anyone they consider to be “modernist”, a term not understood by most who use it in their criticism of others. It can get quite nasty. Some objections to the behaviour of “liberals” can also be bizarre.

Eucharistic adoration at Saint Brigid of Kildare Church (Dublin, Ohio)
Eucharistic adoration at Saint Brigid of Kildare Church (Dublin, Ohio)

This week on Facebook, I observed someone being attacked for incorrect and disrespectful pronoun usage. The main topic was churches allowing the homeless poor to sleep in the pews at night. A definite no-no for some, with legitimate reasons either way. But this particular grammar episode became bizarre.

This sort of thing is growing amongst the “nouveau traditionalists”, whose immature complaints about the Church are just all over the place and aren’t as refined and as reasoned as those of the more seasoned traditionalists like the SSPX.

The attacker, who is clearly quite vociferous and rigid on Catholic-related conservative issues that are not even Catholic doctrine, made the point that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and should therefore be referred to as “He” or “Him” instead of “it”. A fuss was made over this. The attacker would be worried if a priest referred to the Blessed Sacrament as “it”.

Well, she should take a look at the English-speaking Church for the last few hundred years. She should be worried about the Pope (she is about the current one), the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, the Mass in both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, the Baltimore Catechism which is held in great esteem by traditionalists, and she should be especially worried about the Bible.

The official English translation of the Catechism, and the Code of Canon Law, and the Ordinary Form Mass, as well as the official English GIRM, all use the pronoun “it” as the standard pronoun when one is used. See also the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Catechism of St Pius X, and the pre-Vatican II missals with parallel English translations for the laity to follow.

Angry ant
Angry ant

Primary English documents using “it” (i.e. not translated or derived from a Latin original): the Baltimore Catechism, Una Voce position papers. A primary English document, which is a translation but counts as primary, is the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible.

When we refer to someone’s “body” or their “blood”, the pronoun we use is “it”. Same with the words “soul” and “sacrament” – This is standard English, and the standard usage within the English-speaking Catholic world doesn’t deviate from this.

Those who choose to use non-standard English syntax for pious reasons, syntax which is neither required by the Church nor used by the English-speaking Church as a whole, have no justification for criticising others for not following a minority practice. They have no right to think themselves and their preferred practice superior, or to look down on those who differ. It’s one thing to do something piously; it’s another to engage in pedantry about it.

Documentary evidence follows showing that the word “it” is standard English for important documents of the Catholic Church, including those from the conservative and pre-Vatican II era/sector.

Documents whose primary language is English:

Douay-Rheims Bible, Challoner Revision:
1 Cor 10:16
The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?

Still life with Bible, Vincent van Gogh
Still life with Bible, Vincent van Gogh

Baltimore Catechism:
238
: … The Holy Eucharist is the same living body of Our Lord which He had upon earth; but it is in a new form …
241: … Our Lord gave thanks before changing the bread and wine into His body and blood, and because the offering of it to God is the most solemn act of thanksgiving. …
258: … But then the Holy Communion is called by another name; it is called the Viaticum, and the priest uses a different prayer in giving it to the sick person. …
265: … The Holy Eucharist is therefore both a sacrifice and a Sacrament. It is a sacrifice when offered at Mass, and a Sacrament when we receive it and when it is reserved in the tabernacle.

Una Voce position paper 21:
By contrast, there should be no danger of cross-infection in the case of the reception of the Host on the tongue, if it is properly administered, since the priest’s fingers should not touch the Communicant’s tongue.
Citing the Baltimore Catechism:
872: The Holy Eucharist is a Sacrament when we receive it in Holy Communion and when it remains in the Tabernacle of the Altar.

Documents for which the English is a translation, likely all from Latin:

Ordinary Form of the Mass:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it
(Note: this quotes Jesus after he has blessed “it”, i.e. after “it” has become his Body and Blood. The Mass uses the word “it”, as does whatever Bible translation you use.)
… May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.

The Tridentine Mass, by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter
The Tridentine Mass, by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, available from http://fssp.org

1952 Roman Missal, English parallel text:
May this mingling and hallowing of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be for us who receive it a source of eternal life.

Catechism of the Catholic Church:
CCC 1328
: The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. …
CCC 1330: … We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments. …

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (UK, 2011), 84:
… Then the Priest shows the faithful the Eucharistic Bread, holding it over the paten or over the chalice, and invites them to the banquet of Christ …

Code of Canon Law (1983/current):
934 §2
. In sacred places where the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved, there must always be someone responsible for it and, insofar as possible, a priest is to celebrate Mass there at least twice a month.
935. No one is permitted to keep the Eucharist on one’s person or to carry it around, unless pastoral necessity urges it and the prescripts of the diocesan bishop are observed.

Catechism of St Pius X – The Blessed Eucharist:
25 Q:
Why is the Most Blessed Eucharist preserved in our churches?
A: The Most Blessed Eucharist is preserved in our churches that It may be adored by the faithful, and brought to the sick when necessary.
26 Q: Ought the Eucharist to be adored?
A: The Eucharist ought to be adored by all, because it contains really, truly, and substantially, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
(Note: the first “It” above has a capital I, but the second doesn’t. That has probably been copied from an earlier translation to most extant copies on the web.)

Pope Benedict XVI in 2010
Pope Benedict XVI in 2010

Catechism of the Council of Trent:
For sometimes they call it Eucharist, which word we may render either by good grace, or by thanksgiving. And rightly, indeed, is it to be called good grace, as well because it first signifies eternal life, concerning which it has been written: The grace of God is eternal life; and also because it contains Christ the Lord, who is true grace and the fountain of all favours.
… the Sacrament is to be used by us as the food and nourishment of our souls, it was most appropriate that
it should be instituted as food and drink …

Pope Benedict XVI – Sacramentum Caritatis:
Sacramentum Caritatis, 27:
Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” Moreover, “the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.

Sacramentum Caritatis, 79: The love between man and woman, openness to life, and the raising of children are privileged spheres in which the Eucharist can reveal its power to transform life and give it its full meaning.

Coming Soon
What is the most correct English pronoun applicable to the Eucharist?
What is the most correct English pronoun applicable to the Eucharist?
What is the most correct English pronoun applicable to the Eucharist?

Further reading:

The Hermits of Westray withdraw from the Catholic Church

Susan and Chad, the contrasting parish council couple

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