Credibility and Limitations of This Study

By Dr. Jack Rakosky

This is a benchmark study and I hope it moves things forward.

Strictly speaking these results are only representative of priests in the 32 dioceses - but that is a lot of dioceses spread across the country. The 32 dioceses were self-selected rather than randomly selected. We don't know if or how the diocesan decisions to participate might have affected the results.

A 42% response rate is a good response rate in this survey-saturated world, where the most recent major studies of priests have had response rates in the 30% range.

The substantial number of dioceses (32), the large number of respondents (1536) and the high response rate (42%) in combination with the fact that the results are NOT very lopsided (39% liked the Missal) make this study very credible.

The higher response rate and strong opinions should not surprise us. Many surveys of priests have shown their liturgical roles are the most important element to their priesthood. Substantial disagreements about the new Missal could easily be predicted from Hoge's 2001 study of generational differences among priests. This study has construct validity, i.e. its findings fit well with prior research and theory.

Fully twenty five percent of the priests changed their minds about the text after using it: fifteen percent changed against the text, but ten percent changed in favor of the text. This suggests strong face validity i.e. priests are telling us their honest experiences.

A more sophisticated methodology could have established a precise confidence level, e.g. that we are 95% sure that the percentage of priests who do not like the Missal is within three percentage points of 59%. However, we not predicting a presidential election; and even Gallup did not get that right this past time!

This is the best data in town right now. It tells us the nature and gives us ball park estimates of the problems that priests experience with the new Missal. We should thank the researchers and the priests.

Jack Rakosky has an interdisciplinary doctorate in psychology and sociology. He spent twenty years in applied research and administration in the public mental health system, where his main interests were empowerment of consumers of mental health services, and evaluation of mental health outcomes. He has a masters degree from Notre Dame specializing in spirituality. This statement is his summary of his comments on the study made at Pray Tell.