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•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.
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