So this morning everyone will be blogging and tweeting about the study released by the Pew Forum suggesting that atheists and agnostics are better educated on religion than religious people. In particular, the study is reported to suggest that a large proportion of Catholics either don't understand or believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation as a description of what happens in the liturgy of the Eucharist.
But if this is the case, whose fault is it? Is it simply a case of ignorance or faulty catechesis? No. The problem is much deeper. When I joined the Order, we had a couple years of internal classes on various topics. Most of these were very good, but in one of them a priest went to great lengths to teach us the doctrine of transignification, which the magisterium has judged to be inadequate. Never was it said that this wasn't what the Church taught, or that this was an experimental approach that never made it to magisterial approval. It was taught to us, whether we knew better or not, by someone presented to us as an authority.
Even more, the manner in which many priests and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion handle the sacred species reveals a lack of confidence in what the Church teaches about these most sacred things.
So if the clergy will neither teach the Church's doctrine nor behave as if what the Church teaches is the case, perhaps what is really surprising is not that some Catholics don't believe it, but that some still do.