CNA CNA Home News Resources Tools Columns Documents Donate Follow us: FacebookTwitterYouTubeRSS

Survey on priests' dislike of Missal may be inaccurate

, May 25, 2013 ().- A survey of U.S. priests' attitudes towards the new English translation of the Roman Missal showing “widespread skepticism” may be inaccurate because of its methods, according to a polling expert.

On May 21, St. John's School of Theology, located in Collegeville, Minn., released its survey results saying that the majority of priests in America dislike the new Missal.

Of the some 1,500 priests who responded to the survey, 39 percent like the new text, and 59 percent dislike it, according to the Collegeville survey.

“All 178 Roman Catholic Latin rite dioceses in the U.S. were invited to take part in this study; 32 dioceses the period February 21 – May 6, 2013, priests in participating dioceses were invited to participate in the online survey via an email to all priests on the diocesan distribution list,” according to the survey's executive summary.

Peter Brown, who is assistant director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute, discussed polling procedures with CNA May 23. “Random sampling is the key to getting accurate poll results,” he said.

Since only a few dioceses chose to participate in the survey – just under 18 percent – and only some priests in those dioceses chose to respond, survey respondents were “self-selecting.”

“They participated not randomly, but because they were the ones that chose to respond,” Brown explained. “Self-selected samples are not generally thought of....they don't produce a random sample.”

Since polls rely on a small number of people to represent the attitudes or beliefs of a larger population, “you have to be absolutely sure that the random group is a random group.”

The Collegeville survey, Brown said, “might not meet those criteria” since its participants were self-selecting.

“It's very difficult to know exactly” in this particular case, he added, though he had noted that self-selecting samples are generally not random.

The survey's project manager, Chase Becker, is a graduate student in liturgical studies at St. John's School of Theology, and holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy. No ostensible polling experts were involved, and the survey's professional consultant was an associate professor of psychology at the institution.

The poll also had no indication of its margin of error.

The survey's results were welcomed by vocal critics of the new translation, such as Bishop Donald W. Trautman, Erie's bishop emeritus. He said the texts of the new Missal are “unintelligible and non-proclaimable” and have “lengthy sentences.”

And Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego complained that opening prayers in the newly translated Missal are “especially difficult” and said the Missal has “strange vocabulary.”

Meanwhile, Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, executive director of the group responsible for preparing the new Missal, noted that “the 1,536 priests who responded may represent less than 3.7 percent of priests in the US...a significant fact in determining just how representative this consultation can be considered.”

Jeffrey Tucker, director of publications at the Church Music Association of America, noted that the survey “lacks demographic data,” failing to break down priests' response by their age and other factors.

“I suspect a generational split is at work here. It shouldn't really be surprising that some priests of an older generation are annoyed,” he wrote May 21 at The Chant Café website. “They came (to) terms with one way, received vast amounts of catechesis along these lines, and developed a more casual liturgical style to go with it, and now they are told to do it another way.”

The new translation of the Missal, which has been in use since Nov. 27, 2011, is more faithful to the Latin original than was the translation in use since the 1970s.

In accord with a 2001 document on the implementation of Vatican II, the new translation is meant to be closer not only to the sense of the original Latin, but its structure as well, and is less informal than the 1970s translation.

A poll conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate surveyed American Catholics, not only priests, about their perception of the new Missal last September. That poll showed that Catholics in the pews have overwhelmingly been positive about the new translation.

Seventy percent of those polled agreed that “the new translation of the Mass is a good thing.” And those who attend Mass at least weekly were even stronger in their approval, at 80 percent. The poll had a margin of err of plus or minus three percentage points.

Lou VerrechioPreparing the Way
for the Roman Missal »
By Louie Verrecchio

Catholics strongly support new Mass translation after first year

WASHINGTON D.C., Nov 30, 2012 (CNA).- One year after the Church introduced revisions to the English-language liturgy, an overwhelming majority of Catholics continue to view the changes in a positive light.

A new poll finds that 70 percent of U.S. adult self-identified Catholics agree with the statement, “Overall, I think the new translation of the Mass is a good thing.”

The poll, conducted in September 2012 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, sought to gain an understanding of how adult Catholics perceived the third edition of the Roman Missal that went into use on Nov. 27, 2011.

The overwhelming majority of respondents either agreed – 50 percent – or strongly agreed, 20 percent, that the new translation is a good thing.

Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week were most likely to approve of the revised liturgy, with more than 80 percent agreeing that it was a good thing. However, even among those who rarely attend Mass, more than 60 percent approved of the new translation.

Respondents who said that they had noticed great changes in the Mass were more likely to view the new translation in a negative light, compared to those who had noticed moderate changes, small changes or none at all.

Commissioned by the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, the survey asked participants whether they have a good understanding of the meaning of the prayers recited by the priest and people at Mass, and if the words of those prayers make it easier for them to participate in the Mass.

They were also asked whether those prayers of the Mass help them feel closer to God and inspire them to be a more faithful Catholic in their daily lives.

In each case, at least three-quarters of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed.  Catholics who attend Mass more regularly were more likely than others to strongly agree with each statement.

Among weekly church-goers, there were no significant differences between the responses to these questions in the September 2012 survey and a similar study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in 2011, before the revised liturgy was in use.

The results of the new survey were first presented by Fr. Anthony J. Pogorelc of The Catholic University of America at a Nov. 9 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association in Phoenix, Ariz.

“This is a preliminary study,” Fr. Pogorelc told CNA, adding that various follow up projects could be conducted to explore why people have responded in various ways.

Those who do not see the changes to the Mass as a good thing may have a poor understanding of the new texts, he explained, or they may think that it is better to translate the liturgy using a method of “dynamic equivalence.”

This method, which was used in the previous edition, sought to translate the Latin into the ordinary “language of the people.” However, it was replaced with a more literal and accurate translation in the third edition of the Roman Missal in order to restore some of the theological meaning that may have been lost.

While every generation included in the survey demonstrated a positive view of the new translation, Fr. Pogorelc said that age difference could have an impact on how different groups are reacting to the changes.

For example, while they overwhelmingly believe the changes to be a good thing, members of the pre-Vatican II generation, born before 1943, may find the new liturgy challenging, struggling to remember the new responses due to their age, he said.

The millennial generation, born in 1982 or later, shows the highest rate of dissatisfaction with the new translation, although even among this group, nearly 60 percent approve of the changes.

While the reasons for this are not clear, Fr. Pogorelc suggested that it may be tied to findings in other studies that this younger generation is less affiliated with religion and churches in general.

In addition, he said, social factors could influence this group of Catholics. For example, the decline of the family meal could be leading to a weaker understanding of “ritual” in connection with the Mass.

“It would be interesting to explore this a bit more, now that we have this basic data,” Fr. Pogorelc said, observing that perhaps focus groups could be assembled in the future to better assess people’s understanding of the liturgical changes at a deeper and more thorough level.

In the meantime, he suggested, it is good for priests to continue preaching on the texts of the Mass, particularly when they fit in closely with the readings.

Much of the Mass references Scripture, he observed, and “integrating some of the texts of the Mass into the preaching” can show the people the close connection between the two.

“I think that kind of thing can be very helpful,” he said.

Alaska Catholics called to embrace additional changes at Mass

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, Dec 11, 2011 (CNA).- On Sunday, Nov. 27, Roman Catholic parishes across the United States and much of the English-speaking world officially began using the newest translation of the Roman Missal — the sacred text for the Mass. In Alaska, those linguistic modifications were coupled with several posture changes for the faithful and other instructions regarding the celebration of Mass.

Statements »

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Archbishop George L. Lucas Archbishop John G. Vlazny Archbishop José H. Gomez Archbishop Mark B. Coleridge Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli Bishop Christopher J. Coyne Bishop James D. Conley Bishop Peter J. Elliott Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

USCCB About the New Missal»

New Missal

CCCB About the New Missal»

New Missal
read this
Saint of the Day