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Poll finds half of Catholic likely voters believe in the Real Presence

Carl Bunderson   By Carl Bunderson for CNA

(Image: Josh Applegate |

Denver Newsroom, Jul 14, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A poll released this week found that of Catholic likely voters in the U.S., half believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and 37% go to confession at least annually.

RealClear Opinion Research conducted an online survey of 1,757 Catholic likely voters June 15-23. Conducted in English and Spanish, the poll carries a 95% credibility level of plus or minus 2.58 percentage points.

The poll asked Catholic likely voters about their religious beliefs and practices, and their political engagement.

The survey found that 37% of the respondents go to confession at least once a year, while 28% go less than annually, and 35% never do.

Half of respondents said that they “believe in the real presence of the Eucharist.” Thirty-eight percent said they do not believe this, affirming that “the bread and wine are symbols of the Body and Blood of Christ,” while 12% said they don’t know whether they believe in the Real Presence.

It is a revealed truth that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly, really, and substantially present in the Eucharist.

It is likewise de fide that the sacrament of penance is necessary for salvation to those who, after baptism, fall into mortal sin. Annual confession is a precept of the Church, and the Code of Canon Law states that “after having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.”

John Bergsma, a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA that “Once again, this survey confirms what most practicing Catholics know from firsthand experience: that the state of catechesis in our communities is often fair to poor, and that many identify as Catholics without understanding or practicing the faith.”

He emphasized parents’ responsibility for the formation of their children, saying that “if parents want to ensure that their children are raised as Catholics in truth and not name only, they will have to do catechesis in the home, and especially model their faith for their children by their own habits of prayer and frequenting of the sacraments.”

While “some schools and parishes do a good or even heroic job catechizing the children and young people who come … parents cannot ‘outsource’ the job of catechesis—which is really the process of Christian discipleship—to others,” he said.

“The best instruction in the faith is undermined if it doesn’t have parental support and example, and mediocre religious education can be overcome by the example and teaching of parents.”

The June survey results mirror those of other recent polls of Catholics in the U.S.

An October 2020 poll of Catholic likely voters by RealClear Opinion Research, in partnership with EWTN News, found that half of respondents said they believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, with just over one-third saying they believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, and the remainder saying they are unsure.

In that poll, 40% of respondents said they go to confession at least once a year, while 60% said they go to confession less than once per year.

And a 2019 Pew Research study found that 31% of Catholics in the U.S. believe that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist, through a process called transubstantiation, become the body and blood of Jesus.

Sixty-nine percent of Catholics that Pew surveyed reported their belief that the bread and wine used during the Eucharist “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

“Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church,” Pew reported. “Still, one-in-five Catholics (22%) reject the idea of transubstantiation, even though they know about the church’s teaching.”

A small percentage of those surveyed- 3%- claimed to believe in the Real Presence despite not knowing that this is what the Church teaches.

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  1. So, is this how we Catholics are now supposed to identify ourselves i.e., as “likely voters?”

    Is that what we’ve become as a Catholic Church simply yet another political “group”?

    Sorry. but voting in American elections is nowhere to be found in the Catechism that I read. This “likely voter” nonsense is simply symptomatic of just how secularized Holy Mother Church has become. Shameful!

    I find the assumptions made by this poll and its report by the Catholic News Agency to be OFFENSIVE. The next thing we’ll be referred to by the pollsters and those in the Democrat Party regime will be “wafer eaters” (as opposed to “Tacos”).

    • Perhaps you misunderstand the article. It simply addressed the beliefs of Catholics who are apt to vote in an election. It does not equate Catholicism with one’s voting habits. Clearly, one can be a quite orthodox or self-proclaimed Catholic without ever voting, and the author here does not seem to make any claim to the contrary.

      • I think I get the obvious point of the piece. I still don’t think we should ever think of our faith in terms of a voting block.

        • But the report isn’t thinking of faith in terms of a voting block. It’s a report focusing on a voting block in terms of the same faith shared in that voting block. The two orders are not interchangeable.

    • Well, as for the Catechism, we find n. 2240: “…co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote [!], and to defend one’s country…”

      In past situations voting was sometimes prohibited in that it was interpreted as being complicit in an unjust regime intent on demolishing the Church (1868 in Italy, but the prohibition was fully cancelled in 1918). We’re not there yet, especially since a better-informed and conscientious Catholic vote can make the difference in swing districts and states, and nationally.

  2. Paul weighed in on this topic in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians:

    “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined in that we may not be condemned along with the world.” (Verses 27-32.)

  3. A poll should be taken to find out how many ordained Catholic priests themselves believe in the Eucharist. If responded to honestly, the results of the poll would shock the People of God and the world… How can the Eucharist be the center of Christian Catholic life, if it’s not the center of the priest’s life? If Eucharistic devotion is lacking in the priest’s life, it will surely be on the wan in the lives of the faithful. Jordan Peterson, the great secular prophet of our age, though not a Catholic and not referring directly to the Eucharist, gives us some sound fundamental counsel on which to reflect our own faith:

  4. Oh Would that we had Catholic ecclesial leaders like the prophetic Jordan Peterson who speak the truth with clarion boldness, integrity and sincerity in the face of the ideological lies now strangling so many!!! But “in our day we have no prince, prophet, or leader… to find favor with you”, oh Lord! (Daniel 3,38)

  5. Bindiana is quite likely correct on the lack of faith in the real presence among clergy. And that dynamic has had in kind influence on the faith of laity: secularization of the liturgy by unconventional, unlawful additions, omissions, the absence of reverence. And she [Bindiana] is correct, that avid faith in the real presence shows in the saintly composure of clergy.
    A major omission is pedagogy from the pulpit on principal Catholic doctrines, particularly the Eucharist, discard of transubstantiation as a diagram for understanding the real presence. Revitalization must flow from the apex of Church authority including ordination of bishops who know how and have the zeal to teach the faith in season and out.

  6. The problem is far deeper than transubstantiation. Why is transubstantiation any more unbelieveable than the Incarnation? God become man? Virginal conception? Virginal birth? ORiginal sin — surely that wonderful newly born child has no taint of moral corruption?
    The reality is that at least 50% of Roman Catholics — and surely this is true across the spectrum of Christians — don’t believe in an iota of doctrine. Christianity is no more or less to them than the YMCA.
    Why is this? Catechesis and evangelization have been eradicated, a quite deliberately so. You can’t have a new world order if everyone doesn’t believe in what is believable. Those who created this situation in all the Christian confessions did so purposefully.
    One questions just how many of our Catholic clergy and religious took time to recite their Liturgy of the Hours this morning — or ever. Take a gander at Saint Leo’s sermon found in Office of Readings. When is the last time you heard a sermon like this?

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