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By C. C. Pecknold, Catholic Herald, 9 August, 2019
A generation of pastors stripped the altars and passed out the Eucharist like a leaflet
The latest Pew study shockingly states that only 31 per cent of Catholics in the United States believe that “during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” Out of the 69 per cent of Catholics surveyed who believe that the bread and wine are mere “symbols,” only 22 per cent of those understand that they are dissenting from the Church’s actual teaching. The rest are accidental Zwinglians.
It sometimes surprises students how little dispute over the Eucharist there was in the early Church. Certainly one could see how Donatism or Pelagianism or Nestorianism might touch upon Eucharistic understanding, but there were no serious disputes until the ninth century — when the aptly named Ratramnus taught Charles the Bald that the elements of bread and wine should not be regarded as “verily” Christ’s body and blood, but as “figures” which spiritually communicated the reality to us. Yet this never rose to the level of a grand ecclesial dispute.
It was really later thinkers, in the eleventh and especially in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, who used Ratramnus to advance a broadly symbolic view of the Most Holy Eucharist. Berengar of Tours unwittingly utilized Ratramnus in a dispute with Lanfranc of Bec, and he was condemned and excommunicated in 1050 for opposing the doctrine of the Real Presence. By 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council saw fit to confirm the term “transubstantiation” as “the most apt” for securing against such errors the Church’s teaching on the Most Holy Eucharist. ….