According to the latest Pew Research Center Survey (August 2019), of U.S. Catholics who “attend Mass weekly or more,” over one-third (37%) believe that the Eucharist is merely symbolic. If the survey was narrowed to Novus Ordo attendees only (removing those who regularly assist at the Traditional Latin Mass), the percentage of “symbolic only” believers would no doubt be higher.
When the results are expanded to include those who attend Mass monthly or yearly (or anywhere in between), the percentage of those who believe that the consecrated bread and wine are mere symbols of Our Lord’s presence swells to 75%.
While traditionalists broadly consider these results an indictment of the conciliar church, it must be admitted that post-conciliar Rome and its so-called “full communion” prelates have plainly, and for the most part consistently, taught – both verbally and in writing, even if not via their actions – the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
For example, the so-called Catechism of the Catholic Church issued under John Paul II and edited by one of Jorge Bergoglio’s favorite theologians, Christoph Schönborn, states:
The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.”201 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.“202 “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”203 (CCC 1374) [Emphasis in original]
I’ve left the footnotes in place because they are most illustrative: Numbers 201 and 202 cite St. Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent respectively, while number 203 cites the text of Mysterium Fidei as issued by Paul VI on September 3, 1965, eleven days before he opened the final session of Vatican Council II.
One notes that this citation is found in the text of Mysterium Fidei after those paragraphs wherein Montini went about listing the manifold ways in which Christ is present; e.g., when works of mercy are performed, when the Gospel is preached, and where two or three are gathered together in His name. (cf MC 35, 36)
All of this appears to be a rather transparent attempt to assure the Protestants that they also have Christ in their midst – ecumenical fervor also being the impetus for the so-called liturgical reform that gave birth to the Novus Ordo.
Concerning the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament vis-à-vis liturgy, the CCC goes on to state:
Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.” 206 (CCC 1378)
The footnoted quotation is once again taken from Mysterium Fidei of Paul VI, a text that predated the Novus Ordo by more than three years. As such, this reference to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that has always been offered and is still offered “during Mass” was most certainly true as he wrote.
Can the same be said of the Novus Ordo?
In his famous 1974 Declaration, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre wrote in part:
It is impossible to modify profoundly the lex orandi without modifying the lex credendi. To the Novus Ordo Missae correspond a new catechism, a new priesthood, new seminaries, a charismatic Pentecostal Church—all things opposed to orthodoxy and the perennial teaching of the Church.
This Reformation, born of Liberalism and Modernism, is poisoned through and through; it derives from heresy and ends in heresy, even if all its acts are not formally heretical. It is therefore impossible for any conscientious and faithful Catholic to espouse this Reformation or to submit to it in any way whatsoever.
The Novus Ordo derives from heresy and ends in heresy…
At this, one may call to mind the aforementioned Pew Research Center Survey data:
Of those who attend Mass (overwhelmingly Novus Ordo) on a regular or semi-regular basis in the U.S., 75% believe that the consecrated bread and wine are mere symbols.
Well, maybe not.
As Archbishop Lefebvre alluded in his Declaration, the lex orandi instructs the faithful as to what they must believe; i.e., the liturgy powerfully and effectively forms the faithful, whereby they are imbued with a particular manner of believing.
One not infrequently hears of simple persons who, though formed exclusively in a Novus Ordo setting, even after just limited exposure to the Traditional Roman Rite, came away utterly convinced that they were present at a true Sacrifice, that Our Lord is truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and that Holy Mass is offered in propitiation for our sins. This, in spite of having been largely un-catechized as to the true nature of the Mass; i.e., the rite itself formed and informed them, not so much concerning what the Church has to say on matters doctrinal, but, more directly, what the rite has to say of itself.
Stated another way, the objective truth concerning what is taking place in the rite presses itself in some measure upon those who participate in it.
In the case of the Novus Ordo, it is rather evident that, in spite of the contents of the conciliar Catechism and other modes of teaching that claim the Real Presence, the rite imbues a considerable number of those who participate therein with the conviction that the “consecrated” bread and wine on the altar table are only that – bread and wine.
Maybe not. After all, the lex orandi doesn’t lie.