Lots of theories and opinions about why Catholics leave their Church. Also lots of theories and opinion about what Catholics thought of the liturgical changes after Vatican II. Some people believe that the reforms were forced upon the laity against their will, and this caused many of them to leave. The interesting question is how large this group is or was.
Perhaps this hard data will provide some illumination. Pray Tell reader Jeff Rexhausen sends in this report on a 1967 Harris survey. Some interesting findings:
- Asked of their opinion of the changes to simplify and modernize the Church, 66.7% of US Catholics thought it was for the better and 13.5% thought it was for the worse.
- In an open-ended response explaining why they felt this way (yea or nay), 48.8% volunteered that Mass in English is easier to understand and follow, and 23.6% volunteered that people can participate more and it is more meaningful. These were the two most numerous responses. 5.7% volunteered that Latin Mass meant more to them, and 2% stated that much of the worship has been taken out or you can’t pray or meditate anymore.
- 55% of respondents felt good and comfortable about the changes in the Church, but 31% thought it was watering down distinctiveness. Only 1.7% thought the changes weren’t going far enough.
- Asked in an open-ended question what the most important thing to come out of Vatican II was, apart from those who said they don’t know, the responses most often volunteered were better understanding with other religions (24.9%) and Mass and its music in English (19.9%). How many thought the changes were destroying the Church and nothing good came out of Vatican II? 0.7%.