Catholics Need Crash Course on Communion?

The headline in USA Today announces that “US Catholics need a crash course in Church teaching on Communion. Biden gave an opening.” Opinion columnist Katrina Trinko (who most probably didn’t write the headline) has the best intentions, I’m sure, in professing her deep faith in the Real Presence. But she seems to misunderstand Church teaching when she writes:

When the priest utters those words, “This is my Body. … This is the chalice of my Blood,” Jesus Christ is truly present, as present as He was 2,000 years ago.

Actually, no.  2,000 years ago our divine Lord was literally, physically present as a human being who walked the earth. In the Eucharist, Jesus is present sacramentally in his resurrected and glorified state. There is a difference. Same Lord, but only one presence of the two is as a sacrament of the church. The mode of presence is not the same.
The distinction matters. Crude physicalism, localism , literalism – all these distort the Church’s faith, impede Catholics from drawing all that they might from this inexhaustible mystery, run the risk of idolatry, and set back ecumenical relations by needlessly increasing the divisions between Catholics and Protestants.
If the U.S. bishops go ahead with their document on the eucharist, they will have a delicate task before them in setting forth the full faith of the Church so as not to perpetuate common misunderstandings and distortions! The misunderstandings come from two directions – a reductionism on the one side that doesn’t affirm real presence; a literalism on the other side that distorts it.


  1. I need clarification – is Christ’s sacramental presence therefore less than it was when he was walking the Earth 2000 years ago? More? The author doesn’t argue that Christ is “literally” present in the exact same way he was 2000 years ago (at least not in what you quoted), but rather that Christ is just as “truly” present in a real way as he was back then. She doesn’t comment one way or the other about it being exactly the same, just that the presence is equally true or real.

    1. Jack, good question and I had your concern in the back of my mind. It is possible that the author meant what you write – different, but equally present. But if so, she should have used clearer wording. She doesn’t seem aware of the dangers of physicalism or literalism, or of the uniqueness of sacramental presence, in what she wrote, for she didn’t give any indication of avoiding widespread misunderstandings.

  2. The President is doing everything in his power to feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, free captives, protect the widow and orphan, hire the idle, safeguard the planet and bring a renewed human, empathic and even Christ-like approach to national leadership and these bishops want to deny him his rightful participation in his lifelong, deep faith.

    For four years we had to live with an inhuman, underdeveloped, psychopathic monster as President Biden’s predecessor and these same bishops were utterly silent the entire time as he and his enablers did everything in their power to make life worse for those who weren’t white and identifying, or should one say, misrepresenting, as “Christians.” … children in cages.

    This tells me all evolved, thinking people need to know about the direction of the “American church” and sheds much light on why it is understandably losing adherents. And should.

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