Yes, Jesus Is Really There

Most Catholics still agree

At their meeting last June, the American Catholic bishops approved a document titled "The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers" (Origins, June 28). The bishops’ statement provides theological responses to fifteen questions "that commonly arise with regard to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist." The document was a response to the bishops’ November 1999 meeting, during which concern was expressed that "a significant number of Catholics are confused about the Real Presence."

I am interested in the role that published surveys played in the development of the bishops’ document, and I would like to review and critique two surveys in particular that prompted the bishops’ "The Real Presence." Then, I will summarize seven more recent studies, which confirm earlier indications that there has been some decline in Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence, but also indicate that Catholics, including young adults, are more likely to believe in the Real Presence than earlier studies suggested.

The first study to catch the bishops’ attention was commissioned by the Reverend Peter Stravinskas, a well-known Catholic apologist and editor of The Catholic Answer. In 1992, he obtained funds from the Saint Augustine Center Association and hired the Gallup Organization to conduct a national poll asking Catholics: "Which one of the following statements about Holy...

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About the Author

James D. Davidson, professor of sociology at Purdue University, is co-author of American Catholics: Gender, Generation, and Commitment (Alta Mira Press, 2001) and The Search for Common Ground: What Unites and Divides Catholic Americans (Our Sunday Visitor, 1997).