Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Good News? New Study Finds 81% of Practicing Catholics Believe in the Real Presence

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A new study has attempted to discredit the infamous pew study from 2019 which showed the dismal reality of Catholic liturgical catechesis, that even among practicing Catholics very few believe in the Real Presence.

If this new study is indeed more accurate, then this is good news!

From the Reporter:

The Pew study asked respondents what they think the Church teaches about the Eucharist and also what they personally believe, using the same question for both: 

“During Catholic Mass, the bread and wine… 

a. Actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ 

b. Are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ”

Vinea’s revised questions, taking into account the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Jesus as “truly present” in the Eucharist, read as follows:

Which of the following best describes Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for Communion? 

a. Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist 

b. Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not truly present 

c. Not sure 

Regardless of the official teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you personally believe about the bread and wine used for Communion? 

a. Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist 

b. Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not truly present

Plate told CNA that among their respondents who got the original Pew questions, 41% expressed belief in the Real Presence — slightly higher, but not dissimilar, to Pew’s result. However, among those who got the revised questions, 69% overall expressed belief. 

So according to the new study, Catholics misunderstood the wording of the Pew Study and that’s the reason for that study reflecting poorly on Catholics, but not because of their unbelief.

Is this good news?

On the one hand, for most seven-year-old First Communicants, the original Pew Study is crystal clear. No First Communicant, properly catechised with average intelligence, should have flunked that Pew Study and misunderstood their wording.

On the other hand, there are many “little ones” and “simple souls” – who give more glory to God by their pious humility than the most “sophisticated” among us – who indeed believe fervently in the Real Presence, but can easily be confused if language is not more clear. And it is true, indeed, the new study makes the questions even more clear, so that for those who can read English, it is difficult to misunderstand the question.

According to the data, it would seem to me that the Pew Study was indeed inaccurate, and this is because the new study is not the only revised study. Quoting again (op. cit.):

This study is not the first to attempt to revise the questions posed by Pew to get more a more accurate sense of Eucharistic belief; in 2023, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University conducted a study tweaking the wording of the questions and found that 64% of those surveyed “provided responses that indicate they believe in the Real Presence.” That study also found that 95% of weekly Mass attendees and 80% who attend at least once a month believe in the Real Presence.

And this brings up the other factor: what about Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly as practicing Catholics? When that is factored in, practicing Catholics scored much higher than the Pew Study had suggested (op. cit.):

Among those Catholics who say they “seldom” attend Mass, only 51% expressed belief in the Real Presence. By contrast, 81% of Catholics who attend weekly and 92% who attend more than weekly said they believe. Even among Catholics who only attend a few times a year, nearly two-thirds said they believe in the Real Presence.

If I’m right in believing the subsequent studies over the Pew Study, then I’m glad the Pew Study motivated our fathers in the Church of America – the bishops – to initiate the National Eucharistic Congress, even if the loss of belief is not as bad as we thought. For one thing, as the author of the new study says (along with Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress), there are still many, many Catholics who do not attend the Holy Sacrifice at all.

And yet more, even if 100% of Catholics attended Mass and believed in the Real Presence, a National Eucharistic Congress would always have been necessary to 1) worship God in the Blessed Sacrament and give Him greater glory which is His due, and 2) give Him more and more thanksgiving for this inestimable gift, the “source & summit” of our Faith.

The Crusade of Eucharistic Reparation will be present at the Congress, spreading the good news about the Latin Mass through our lay sodality, our manifesto and the Mass of the Ages documentary series. If any OnePeterFive readers are attending, I hope to meet you in person at our booth in Indianapolis in July.

T. S. Flanders
St. Ephraim the Syrian, Doctor of the Church

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...