You might remember a Pew Research study a few years ago that shockingly claimed that less than one-third of Catholics in the U.S. believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. This meant fully two-thirds of all Americans who identify as Catholic do not accept one of the Church’s most important doctrines: that the bread and wine are truly transformed at Mass into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Christ. This doctrine has been proclaimed by faithful Christians since the first century. It goes all the way back to John, chapter 6, and 1 Corinthians, chapter 11.
Well, a new study has just been published, which shows that things are not quite so dire. Georgetown University’s Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted a new survey, and the results challenge the methodology of the 2019 Pew study.
The CARA study shows that almost two-thirds of adult Catholics in the U.S. believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Wow, that is quite a difference, and much more encouraging than the previous survey.
The people at CARA claim that the questions in the original Pew Research study were not phrased very well, which led to the surprisingly low percentage. For example, in the Pew study, this question was asked: “Regardless of the official teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you personally believe about the bread and wine used for Communion?”
- Actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
- Are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
- No answer.
The people at CARA think the wording of the Pew survey caused the percentage to be too low. Their new survey question was much more direct: “Just to clarify, do you personally believe that after Consecration during a Catholic Mass, that Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine upon the altar?”
This yes-or-no question revealed that 64% of U.S. Catholics said, “Yes.”
So, slightly less than two-thirds is way better than slightly less than one-third. On the other hand, it still means there are millions of people in this country who call themselves faithful Catholics who do not accept the core doctrine that the Church has defined as the “source and summit of the Christian life.”
The idea of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was not invented by some medieval pope a thousand years after Jesus walked the earth. It was taught by Jesus Himself, written about by St. Paul, and preached by Christian missionaries from the very beginning.
There’s a good reason the Church calls the Eucharist the “source and summit of the Christian life.” It is truly Jesus in the flesh. And even though two-thirds of Catholics believe this, which is much better than only one-third, there are still so many people who are missing out.
The Eucharist is a doctrine worth talking about. After all, it’s the closest we can get to Jesus while still here on earth.
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