Catholics Don't Believe in the Real Presence

There has been a new Pew Research study released. It pertains to Catholics in the US and contains some shocking truths which I would argue are as relevant to the UK & Europe as they are to the US:
  • Only 31% of Catholics personally believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
  • 69% - more than two thirds - of US Catholics believe it is a symbol.
What makes this study different is that they also asked if people understand what the Church's actual teaching was. It is revealing that 22% of US Catholics know what the Church teaches and reject it, while an additional 43% of Catholics both believe that the Eucharist is symbolic and that that is what the Church actually teaches (i.e. they are confused).

And there's a real stunner: only 63% of those who attend Mass once a week or more believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing Lumen Gentium n.11 teaches
"The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
That percentage plummets as Mass attendance declines: Only 25% of those attend monthly/year believe, and only 13% of those who seldom or never attend.

Only 26% of those under 40 believe in the real Presence. But here growing older doesn't make much different. Only 38% of those over 60 believe in the Real Presence.

All of which fit my experience of attending or giving talks about the Real Presence. Whenever we talk about this with the conviction it deserves, we find faces full of astonishment, especially when you begin to lay out the implications of what it means. And it is in those implications that the real potency of the Catholic faith lies, it is where dramatic converts, like Sherry Weddell or Scott Hahn come from. Sherry Weddell talks about encountering the Blessed Sacrament when going into a Church to find some space after starting a new job and just longing for it without even knowing what was in the golden box on the sanctuary. Scott Hahn's powerful journey, naturally, came through his study of Scripture
The Eucharist as Sacrifice...the Eucharist as Real Presence...I found these doctrines consistent among the Fathers and I found them to be continuous with the Scriptures--as the Fathers themselves insisted...The Fathers who were deepest in their knowledge of Scripture were most insistently realist in their approach to the sacrament. They had ready, deeply biblical reasons to speak of a "dread cup, full of much power." ~ Scott Hahn The Fourth Cup: Image, New York, 2018, p.135
I would argue that any sincere study leads one deeper in this direction. Love of God can only serve to deepen one's desire to be closer to God and this organically builds deeper reverence as understanding deepens. Even without any academic back-filling, prayer and proximity to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament builds reverence. This was what was meant by the old maxim lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

What IS shocking to me, is that this news has been met with such shock from some notable sources, for example, Bishop Robert Barron:
"Friends, it's hard to describe how angry I feel after reading the latest Pew Research Center study, which reveals only one-third of Catholics agree with the Church that the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood of Christ. This should be a wake-up call to all of us in the Church—priests, bishops, religious, laypeople, catechists, parents, everyone—that we need to pick up our game when it comes to communicating even the most basic doctrines of the Church. Watch this video for more..."

While I am deeply grateful for this video and for Bishop Barron's much needed words, can he really not have known what this new survey reveals? I mean it is pretty obvious to any of us involved in catechesis & evangelising on any sort of level.

You can stop reading now, that is the majority of the reason for this post. However, if you want to understand this more, I would point towards this point I made in September 2017. In that post I examined the dishonesty of prominent clergy; the men after all, with responsibility for leading our parish communities; for standing as the authoritative figures; the "go-to" people for information on the faith. These men, understandably to some extend, have for a long while now, been refusing to look at the reality of what is going on and instead painting a false picture of success.

I've lost track of the number of Catholics who have found Jesus and worked to deepen their faith and then found themselves baffled by deep contradictions in the faith as laid down and the faith as practised. The default position has to be "Father said is was OK so it must be OK". I remember being deeply, deeply troubled by this myself for a long while.

Canvas priests and they say they are forced into positions they know are wrong: the army of Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers on the altar, Communion standing and on the hand. The list goes on and on.

I don't believe catechesis is the only answer - although it is a vitally important element. I really believe that people have to experience a desire for Christ before they begin to deepen their understanding. Given the significance of the Eucharist in this context, the answer is quite literally staring us in the face. I think we need unity in profession, good programmes of catechesis focused on Scripture, Tradition & the Magisterium, but we vitally need real reverence and consistency in worship. Reverent Masses, a focus on preaching about the great gift of the Eucharist and the seriousness of receiving Him.

If we are serious about evangelisation, we have to be serious and consistent about Jesus and what His Revelation, His Incarnation, His teaching, His death and Resurrection means. 

I think, regardless of what happens to the Church at large, this faith will continue in pockets passed on by families and good clergy, but the Church will lose much, not to mention many souls, unless it wakes up to the opportunity which faces it. If only bishops had the courage to repent and believe the Gospel!


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