I'd guess most Americans who have spent much time in Catholic Internet haunts have come across references to the infamous statistic that 70% of Roman Catholics think the Eucharist is just a symbol.
I've always been skeptical of that number. Sure, there are bound to be some freethinkers who attend Mass, but nowhere near seven in ten, and even they have to know what the Church teaches.
Which raises methodological questions. How was the poll conducted? Were "raised Catholics" included? What were the questions? Would I have given the answer the Church gives? I've even seen an on-line piece that examines the actual poll and finds it confusing and poorly written -- at least if the goal is to get a good handle on the percentage of Roman Catholics who think the Eucharist is just a symbol.
And yet. In recent weeks I've encountered several people who not only thought the Eucharist is just a symbol, they thought that's what the Church taught. When they found out otherwise -- that "'this is my body' means 'THIS IS MY BODY,'" as Monsignor Tom Wells put it -- the reaction wasn't, "Don't be ridiculous," but, "This changes everything!"
I am reminded of Servant of God Fulton Sheen's statement that not one hundred people hate the Church, but millions hate what they think she is. There may be more than one hundred Catholics who knowingly reject the Church's most basic teaching on the Eucharist, but if there are even one hundred Catholics who don't know it, that's too many.
The solution seems to be: Tell them. We can worry about the obstinate after we've instructed the ignorant.