How Many US Catholics Know About Transubstantiation?


Photo Credits: Reformed Forum


According to a new research from the Pew Research Center, nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.”

Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs. Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church. Still, one-in-five Catholics (22%) reject the idea of transubstantiation, even though they know about the church’s teaching.

The same research also revealed that Jews and atheists scored higher than any other group on a 32-question quiz about basic religious beliefs and even they scored 18.7 and 17.9, respectively.

Based on religious affiliation (or lack thereof), the groups that display the highest levels of religious knowledge on this survey include Jews (who get an average of 18.7 out of 32 questions correct), self-described atheists (17.9) and self-described agnostics (17.0).

The central idea to the Catholic faith is transubstantiation - the idea that during Mass, the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, the Catholic Church teaches that “the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’” The bread (which must be wheaten, and which is unleavened in the Latin, Armenian and Ethiopic Rites, but is leavened in most Eastern Rites) and wine (which must be from grapes) used in the Eucharistic rite are, in the Catholic faith, transformed in their inner reality, though not in appearance, into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Knowing one of seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic theology were instituted by Jesus and entrusted to the Church, it is unusual for a true Catholic to not know the basis of their faith.

When it comes to other religions, more than four-in-ten Americans (45%) know that most people in Thailand are Buddhists. But far fewer correctly answer that most people in Indonesia are Muslims (26%), even though Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Most Americans correctly answer the questions about both atheism and agnosticism (60%). One quarter of adults (28%) know what an atheist is but not what an agnostic is, while just 1% can define “agnostic” but not “atheist.” One-in-ten U.S. adults (11%) are unfamiliar with both terms.

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