This morning over a breakfast of wheat porridge (my first meal since Friday, before the chills turned to fever) I was reading the local Diocesan Catholic newspaper, and sipping a glass of whole milk between unproductive coughs. In a front page spread on the recent Pew survey on religiosity—and we've discussed that elsewhere—one of the interviewed priests mentions that 69 percent of Catholics surveyed report that they do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Like the priest, I found that figure really quite astonishing! And it led me down three divergent trains of thought.
First, it served as a reminder to check up on a claim in Greenblatt's book that I hadn't gotten around to. The claim surrounds an anonymous document, found in the Vatican Archives in 1983, that seems to suggest an alternative charge against Galileo; it suggests that he was being charged with atomism, a doctrine which in principle contradicts the transubstantiation of the Eucharist. This makes for interesting browsing but I couldn't find a very good link. The scholar's name was Pietro Redondi.
Second, it led me to reread David Hume's excellent essay Of Miracles. He begins his work by mentioning a contemporary refutation of the True Presence.
And third—since we're speaking now of both porridge and Scotsmen—an anecdote.
In Dr. Samuel Johnson's early lexicon he gave a curious definition for oats; "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people."
Replied his Scottish companion and biographer, James Boswell; "Aye, and that’s why England has such fine horses, and Scotland such fine people."
Finishing my porridge and milk, I closed the paper on the muffled intonations of the Bishop (a page-3 staple) and retired to the couch. I suppose my spirits are still recovering, after all.