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Aug 8, 2019

7 in 10 Catholics Don’t Believe in the Real Presence. How Do We Feel about That?

The Ascension Team

A recent Pew survey found that seven in ten U.S. Catholics believe the bread and wine at Communion are only symbolic of Jesus’ Body and Blood. We asked our Facebook audience how they feel about that, and here’s how they responded:


Bill McKenna (119 likes):

Saddened but it shows the need for better catechesis and I think [that] includes more frequent instruction on the Eucharist from the altar.


Rachel Stella (89 likes):

Even the best catechesis at the parish level doesn’t help if people don’t actually *participate in their parish.* So yes, I’m all for better teaching, but people actually have to *go to church* AND teach the faith at home.


Lois L. Gafford (58 likes):

I believe it is the precious blood and body of Christ. How can a person be Catholic and not believe that?


Jennifer Riedel (45 likes):

Why would they be at Mass then, for the air conditioning? I’d also like to know who they were surveying—devout, regular participants of the Mass or cousin Tyrone who toddles in every Easter to make Grandma happy?


Ann Duffy Kuhlman (38 likes):

Sad, because those that think the body and blood of Jesus are only symbols are missing out on so much.


These are just the top five responses we received. If you’d like to read more (there are over 250 comments), visit the thread on our Facebook page

What are your thoughts on the Pew survey? Let us know in the comments.


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  • Sadly I didn’t really think about it until I came back into the church as a young adult. Through bible study and eventually teaching second graders the catechism I had a profound revelation. Now I am very aware, when I receive holy communion, of the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It has encouraged me to go to confession more often because I want to receive Him worthily.

  • Can we all just admit that Vatican II has failed the faithful? It’s been over 50 years folks and the numbers have only gotten worse and worse. Let’s get some perspective here and everyone wake up. Novus Ordo is a disaster. Change my mind.

    • I doubt I can change your mind, but you asked, so I figured it was worth a response. I can’t compare ‘post’ and ‘pre’ Vatican II, having no experience with the latter, but I can offer the experience of one person who has grown up in the Novus Ordo Mass. Further, it is thanks to Vatican II that the vocation I am currently pursuing- consecrated virginity lived in the world- was ‘reinstated,’ if you will, having fallen out of practice in medieval times with the rise of the convent.

      As a scientist by education (and hopefully eventually by profession!), I would point out that correlation does not equal causation. I am sure I don’t have to explain to you the many other things that have changed our world and even just American society and culture in the last 50+ years, aside from Vatican II! It is risky to blame just one factor- i.e. Vatican II- for such a complicated development as the loss of faith in the Transubstantiation. How do we know that Vatican II is the only contributor, or even just the most important? If the contributions are more complex than just Vatican II, it is wrong to level all the blame on it. For an example of this danger with mistaking correlation for causation, my father’s family has a firm Catholic background. They also are plagued by pancreatic illnesses. But I think we can both agree that their Catholicism is unlikely to cause their pancreatic problems, or vice versa! Just because they occur together, doesn’t mean they are related. I would argue that this also holds with Vatican II. Do we even know or have evidence that the Church was excelling *before* Vatican II?

      I would also point out that people indeed have experienced a deepening of faith due to the greater accessibility of the Novus Ordo Mass and emphasis on the role of the laity provided by Vatican II. I have several Protestant friends who have remarked that their grandma, mother, etc. used to be Catholic, but left the Church for Protestantism due to its being more ‘welcoming,’ fostering ‘a personal relationship with Jesus,’ and encouraging people to encounter God in the Bible. These explanations have been very alien to my own (entirely post-Vatican-II) experience of the Church, and without diminishing the real differences between our Christian traditions (again, at least in my experience, which while anecdotal, is still no more so than your different experience).
      I know peers who were drawn into the Catholic faith by the truth they found here, despite living post-Vatican-II.
      I once visited a Protestant friend out-of-state, and so on Sunday we first went to a local Catholic church for Mass before attending her usual worship service. I was surprised afterward to hear my friend expressing how impressed she was by the Mass- she noted how much it relied on and drew from Scripture, which she had not expected. In previous research on ‘how much of the Bible is covered by the Mass readings?’ I was surprised to find that this has changed with Vatican II: readings for obligatory Masses now cover about 2-3 times more Bible than they did before (at least according to this information compiled by Dr. Felix Just, SJ: https://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm).
      My own father’s stories of his faith journey have demonstrated his own deep appreciation for Vatican II. He struggled to engage with Latin Masses, and despite attending daily Mass with his mother, struggled Vianney-like to master the Latin well enough to become an altar server. It was the Novus Ordo that opened up the Mass to him and invited him to be more than just a passive observer, and although it isn’t like he’s never struggled or wandered from Church teaching over the course of his life, the Novus Ordo remains the foundation for a faith that- while still challenged by circumstances, questions, conflicts, etc.- continues to grow and mature as he gets older.
      Finally, I would point out that the Novus Ordo Mass and post-Vatican-II Church still clearly retains the ability to assist us in our sanctification- just look at martyrs like Fr. Jacques Hamel, the martyrs of La Rioja, Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve, and more. Or saints like Pope John Paul II and blesseds like Chiara Badano.

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