2013 Survey of U.S. Priests on the New Roman Missal

Spring 2014:

Follow-up Roman Missal study from CARA, the research institute at Georgetown University

PrayTellBlog has the story

Executive Summary

The "2013 Survey of U.S. Priests on the New Roman Missal" was conducted under the auspices of the Godfrey Diekmann, OSB Center for Patristics and Liturgical Studies at Saint John's University School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota. The objective of the survey was to determine as accurately as possible the views of U.S. Catholic priests about the new translation of the English Missal which was introduced on the First Sunday of Advent (November 26-27), 2011.

All 178 Roman Catholic Latin rite dioceses in the U.S. were invited to take part in this study; 32 dioceses participated. The 32 participating dioceses are from all parts of the country and 12 of 14 Latin rite ecclesiastical regions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. States represented by participating dioceses are: CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, IL, KS, LA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NY, OH, TN, TX, WA, WI.

In 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. (Note that diocesan clergy distribution lists typically include diocesan priests as well as religious priests who are in pastoral ministry in a given diocese. For this reason, and in order to avoid religious order priests being polled more than once, religious orders were not contacted for distribution lists of religious priests.) A total of 1,536 priests responded, with a response rate of 42.5%. (By comparison, the study “Same Call, Different Men: The Evolution of the Priesthood since Vatican II” carried out by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate [CARA], had a response rate of 30% [Same Call, Different Men, Liturgical Press, 2012, page xii].)

This survey shows fairly widespread skepticism about the new Missal by U.S. Catholic priests, with strong differences in opinion between the majority of priests who do not like the Missal and the minority who do. Among the principal findings of this survey:

  • By a 3 to 2 margin, priests do not like the new text - 59% do not like it, compared to 39% who do.
  • By a similar margin, 57% to 36%, priests do not like the more formal style of language, with over one-third (35%) strongly disliking the new language.
  • Similarly, only 35% of priests think that the new translation is an improvement on the old one, against 56% who do not think it is an improvement. Over one- third of priests (34%) strongly disagree that the new Missal is an improvement.
  • Priests overwhelmingly think that some of the language is awkward and distracting - 80% agree with this statement, with nearly three out of five (59%) agreeing strongly with this negative appraisal.
  • More than three in five priests (61%) think that the new translation urgently needs to be revised, with 43% strongly agreeing that it urgently needs revision. Only 29% disagree that the new Missal needs revision.
  • Similarly, more than three in five priests (61%) do not think work should go forward translating the Liturgy of the Hours and other sacraments in the same style as the new Missal, with 43% strongly disagreeing with this work continuing. Only slightly more than three in ten priests (32%) would like to see translation work continue in the same style.
  • Most priests (55%) are not confident that priests' translation views will be taken seriously, with less than one-quarter of priests (24%) confident their views will be taken seriously.
  • Nearly half of all priests (49%) do not approve of the Holy See's leadership in bringing about the new Missal, with nearly three in ten priests (29%) strongly disapproving of the Holy See's role. Less than two out of five priests (39%) approve of the Holy See's leadership on the new Missal.

Priest respondents were given the opportunity to submit comments about the new Missal, and over half (52%) did so. Analysis of the 799 comments shows that critique of the Missal outweighs affirmation by a four to one margin. Based on analysts' appraisal of the priests' comments, it is estimated that slightly over 80% of the comments are critical of the Missal, while slightly less than 20% of the comments are affirming of the Missal.

This survey instrument is based in part upon a nonscientific survey The Tablet on January 9, 2013. Some questions (nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7) are substantially identical for the sake of comparison, one question (no. 3) is slightly revised, and some are questions (nos. 6, 8, 9) are original to this survey. Unlike The Tablet's survey, which allowed anyone in the general public to participate online, this survey was sent to only to priests, and to all the priests in each participating diocese. While this study measures only the views of priests who chose to respond to the personal invitation, the methodology of the study and the relatively high response rate increase the likelihood that this study gives a representative reading of priests' views. That the invitation to priests to participate in the survey was sent from a diocesan official in the case of 30 out of 32 dioceses may account for the high response rate.

For the most part, this survey by the Diekmann Center confirms the results of the online survey of The Tablet, which had also shown widespread rejection of the new missal, but
by a somewhat larger margin. The survey of The Tablet showed that 69% of priests do not like the new Missal and 70% hold that it urgently needs to be revised. The Diekmann Center study found that 59% do not like the new Missal, and 61% think it urgently needs to be revised. Fuller comparison of the two studies is found in Appendix 1.

This study is offered by the Diekmann Center as a service to the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, to give the best possible information to Church leaders charged with making important decisions about the liturgical life of the Church.

Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.

For ongoing coverage of this survey and other liturgical issues, see the Pray Tell blog at: www.PrayTellBlog.com.

Project Manager: Chase M. Becker
Research Assistant and Data Analyst: Audrey Seah
Research Assistant: Christina Condyles
Project Advisor: Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Professional Consultant: Dr. Pamela Bacon
Chair of the Diekmann Center: Dr. William Cahoy