Saturday, June 7, 2008

CARA Study of the Sacraments - Belief in the Real Presence

It's been too long, but it's good to be back. Let's take a final look at the CARA study of the sacraments as it relates to the Eucharist. This time we will examine attitudes towards the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

While the overall numbers are distressing, again we see that regular mass attendance makes the difference.

  • In 2001, 63% of those surveyed said that the sentence "Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist" best described their belief. That number dropped to 57% in 2008.
  • In 2001, 37% agreed with the statement "Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not really present." This number rose to 43% in 2008.

Therefore, more than 4 of 10 Catholics reject a central doctrine of the Church and receive the Eucharist without the correct belief and proper disposition. They are unable to receive the infinite grace of the sacrament through their closed disposition. For some, this is due to a poor formation of their faith. For others, it is an inability to believe this profound mystery (think of the John 6:52-69). For others, I suppose, it is an obstinate rejection of magisterial teaching. We should pray for all those who do not accept that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.

And apparently, we should pray that they go to mass, which will greatly increase the likelihood of their belief in the Real Presence. For those who believe in the Real Presence, the breakdown by mass attendance is:

  • For those attending mass weekly or more - 91%
  • For those attending mass less than weekly but at least monthly - 65%
  • For those attending mass a few times a year or less - 40%

Some of the most heartening news comes when we look at the generational breakdown.

Of those believing in the Real Presence and attending mass at least monthly:

  • Pre-Vatican II - 86%
  • Vatican II - 74%
  • Post-Vatican II - 75%
  • Millennials - 85%

As a reminder, the generation breakdowns are:

  • Pre-Vatican II (Born in 1942 and earlier, or 66 years old and older in 2008)
  • Vatican II (Born between 1943 and 1960, or 48 to 65 years old in 2008)
  • Post-Vatican II (sometimes called "Generation X," born between 1961 and 1981, or 27 to 47 years old in 2008)
  • Millennial Generation (Born between 1982 and 1990, or 18 to 26 years old in 2008)

Millennials believe in the Real Presence at very nearly the same rates at Pre-Vatican II Catholics. That would seem to give us significant hope, and I think it does. However, we need to heed the reminder of the CARA report that Millenials get to mass less often than any other group. The breakdown by generation of those attending mass at least monthly is:

  • Millenials - 36%
  • Post-Vatican II - 39%
  • Vatican II - 42%
  • Pre-Vatican II - 65%

The breakdown by region for those believing in the Real Presence is:

  • Northeast - 48%
  • West - 53%
  • Midwest - 59%
  • South - 69%

The Northeast, which was once a stronghold of Catholicism, is now the region least likely to believe in the Real Presence. It should cause us grave concern to see that less than half of all Catholics attending mass at least monthly in the Northeast believe in the Real Presence. Here is an indication of the luke-warmness of Cultural Catholicism at its most pronounced in the U.S. I'm sure that in the Northeast, the more people go to mass, the more they believe in the Real Presence. However, even going to mass is not enough; that can be simply doing the exterior actions without the interior conversion and faith.

Clearly, the CARA study shows us that there is much work to be done catechizing the Catholic faithful on the Eucharist. We need to start with ourselves, then pass that catechesis on to our family, and then our parish.

In that spirit, my next post will be about the Corpus Christi procession we had at our parish a couple of weeks ago.

No comments: