Luther W. Martin
The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper, published in the interest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn New York, regularly contained a column entitled, The Question Box, whose replies were written by a priest named Raymond J. Neufeld. In the issue of September 24, 1955, a Catholic adherent asked:
Of all the symbolism used in the Church (Roman Catholic, LWM), the pelican confuses me. What significance has this bird in any doctrine of our Faith?
ANS. The pelican is supposed to wound herself with her beak in order to feed her young with her blood. Therefore, she has been chosen in Christian symbolism to typify the Atonement, Our Lord’s shedding His Blood and the Redeemer, Who gives us His Blood for the nourishment of our souls.
St. Thomas, in his beautiful hymn to the Eucharist, the Adoro te, addresses Our Lord through this symbolism as Pie pellicane or Holy Pellican, begging that He wash our uncleanness with His Blood.
The Bible, in symbolic language, speaks of Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David… (Rev. 5:5). He is also referred to, as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). But a pelican as a symbol of Christ, is of man’s imagination.
In catalogs showing Catholic religious articles and vestments, you can find such items as Benediction Burses with Pelican Design.
The Catholic Dictionary, edited by Attwater, states under the heading, entitled:
Pelican in her piety, or vulning herself. The heraldic way of expressing an image of a pelican wounding herself with her beak in order to feed her young with her blood, used in Christian symbolism to typify the Atonement and our Lord as redeemer and given of the Blessed Sacrament (Page 376).
Even this absurd use of the pelican as a symbol of Christ’s atonement, is based upon the Roman Catholic distortion of Bible truth. With Roman Catholicism, the offering of Christ’s blood must be a continuing thing, in order to fit in with their concept concerning the real presence in the Mass and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
The Pelican, in feeding her young, is engaging in a continuing process…while the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, occurred only once. Therefore, in point of time, Christ died once…shed His blood once,…while the pelican engages in wounding herself throughout the feeding period of her young. Consequently, this Roman Catholic symbol just fails to properly fit the inspired biblical record of Christ’s sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Rome and stated concerning Christ: “For in that he died, he died unto sin once…” (Rom. 6:10). In the preceding verse, Paul wrote: “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” Yet, Catholicism holds that Christ is offered daily in the sacrifice of the Mass.
The Hebrew writer said:
…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many… (Heb. 9:28).
Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:25-26).
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12).
The pelican symbolism of Catholicism nullifies each and every one of the above given Scripture references.
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence was defined by the Council of Trent (1545-1563 A. D.) as “in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ together with his soul and divinity are contained truly, really and substantially, and not merely in sign, figure, or virtue” (Catholic Dictionary, p. 418). “The Real Presence is effected by Transubstantiation” (Ibid., p.418).
The Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation was also defined by the Council of Trent (1545-1563 A.D.) as “the wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood, the species of bread and wine alone remaining” (Catholic Dictionary, p. 499).
If you wonder what the Catholic means when he says “the specifies of the bread and wine alone remaining,” the expression species is also defined by the Catholic Dictionary as “The accidents of the bread and wine (colour, taste, smell, quantity, etc.) which remain after the substance has been converted into the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist” (Ibid. p. 471). It is a combination of such man-made doctrines as those described above, that permits the idea of a pelican to symbolize Christ—a Christ—according to them, who is offered over and over in the sacrifice of the Mass, whose literal body and blood is really present in the interior of every Roman Catholic Church edifice in the world, at the time of the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Pelican—An Abomination (Lev. 11:13-18.)
As long as Catholicism was evolving a tradition on the subject of fowls, one would think that the Old Testament commandments would at least be respected as regarding abominable and unclean birds. “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the swan, the pelican, the stork, the heron, etc” (See Lev. 11:13-18 and Deut. 14:12-18).
Of course, the above instructions were given to the children of Israel, and as such, are not directed to Christians. However, inasmuch as Roman Catholicism has seen fit to add books to the canon of the Old Testament, even though the Jews had it several centuries in the same form and canon as it is received today by non Catholics, one would expect the Roman Church to abide by the Old Testament laws, since she considers its canon worthy of latter-day alteration.