WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A recent poll of U.S. Catholics found that nearly 7 out of 10 self-described Catholics do not believe the Eucharist is the whole Christ.
Pew Research Center on Monday released data from a recent poll showing that 69% of self-identified Catholics think the appearances of bread and wine in Holy Communion are merely "symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ."
Less than one-third of all Catholics say they believe that "during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus."
The poll shows that half of America's self-styled Catholics (50%) are either ignorant or simply mistaken about what the Catholic Church teaches on the Eucharist. It also shows, however, that more than 1 in 5 of these Catholics (22%) do know that the Catholic Church teaches Christ is really present in the Eucharist but rejected this teaching anyway. They erroneously think Christ is only symbolically present.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 quotes the 16th century Council of Trent when teaching, "In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.'"
The Council of Trent was even more emphatic adding, "If anyone denies" this teaching and holds that Christ "is in it as by a sign or figure ... let him be anathema."
Polls from Pew Research and Gallup have shown that less than 4 in 10 self-described U.S. Catholics attend Mass weekly. The recent poll by Pew Research found that more than one-third of weekly Mass-going Catholics (37%) do not believe that they receive the "whole Christ" at Holy Communion.
The Catholic Church teaches that those who receive the Blessed Sacrament without believing that it is Christ commit a sacrilege.
This teaching is based on St. Paul's admonition, who, in 1 Corinthians 11:27–29 taught, "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. ... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."
Most people attending Mass also go up for Holy Communion because few priests ever warn them during funerals, weddings or during Mass at Christmas and Easter to only receive Holy Communion if they believe in the Eucharist and are in a state of grace.
The danger of sacrilege increased dramatically for those who attended Mass infrequently. The poll found that three-fourths of all Catholics who attend Mass monthly or yearly do not believe they receive Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.
The late former bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, Bp. Robert Morlino, blamed in part the loss of faith in Christ's Real Presence on the way Holy Communion is handled and received. Morlino made this observation during a homily in 2017 in which he asked the faithful to receive Communion on the tongue while kneeling.
"There are liturgies that are less than reverent, especially in the way that Communion is received," said Morlino. "It's hard to believe that some people actually believe that that's the Body of Christ the way they handle it. You'd think it was an M&M."