Unfortunately, disbelief about the reality of the Real Presence, and its centrality to the Catholic faith, is not restricted to the secular world. Recent polls of U.S. Catholics have found that only half of them agree with the Church’s foundational teaching that Jesus becomes truly present physically in the Eucharist every time a Catholic Mass is celebrated.
A few things on this. First, most polling is flawed in how it asks the question. Perhaps in 1950, literate Catholics could recite a catechism word for word. It would be interesting to see if Catholics in those days could express Real Presence in their own words to the satisfaction of a questioner, even the Inquisition.
Since we don’t really have surveys that go back to the early 1960s or before, it might well be that Eucharistic belief today is higher. We don’t really know.
Even the expression with its qualifier “physically” is deficient in that this is not the only manifestation of Real Presence.
This disbelief stems primarily from a catechetical failure to communicate this truth of faith.
Another myth. Post-conciliar catechesis has generally been of a high standard, likely better quality than before Vatican II. I know I’ve written of this before, but other factors influence belief:
- the contrary witness of clergy. I know: the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend on the virtue or lack thereof of the minister. But that is not how many Catholics “sense” the action of Real Presence in the Eucharist.
- Piggyback on that the disconnect between people and the liturgy as it is celebrated by some priests. No preparation. No attention. No mindfulness. No reverence. These poverties extend across the ideological spectrum. A traditional cleric is just as likely to waste his witness as a casual presider in the so-called spirit of V2.
- The classic writer’s motto adapted: clergy and other ministers tell the people of Real Presence, but they fail to show it.
Pope Paul VI’s comment in Evangelii Nuntiandi 41 about witnesses rings as true for liturgical ministers as anyone, that if modern men, women, and children will listen at liturgy if its leadership are witnesses to Real Presence. Not merely teachers.
If the Church is truly in need of medicine on this point, it is essential to get the diagnosis right.