Preliminary results of a scientific study on the attitudes of clergy and lay church employees toward the newly-translated Roman Missal show widespread skepticism about, and even rejection of, the controversial new liturgical book. The new missal was introduced in Catholic parishes and communities in Advent 2011.

The large-scale study of U.S. Catholic parishes is being carried out by the highly respected Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), with a special set of questions on the new missal commissioned by The Diekmann Center for Patristics and Liturgical Studies at Saint John’s University School of Theology•Seminary in Collegeville, MN. The final results of the study are expected to be released in January, 2014, and the Diekmann Center is now releasing preliminary survey results with CARA’s permission.

Among the preliminary findings:

  • Clergy and laity responding to the survey are divided on whether they like the new missal, with 46% disliking and the same percentage liking it. The highest percentage (36%) state that they were apprehensive before the missal was released and still don’t like it.
  • 58% do not like the more formal language of the new missal, while 40% do.
  • 75% agree (44% strongly) that some of the language of the new missal is awkward and distracting, with only 23% disagreeing (8% strongly).
  • Only 41% think the new missal is an improvement on the previous one, with 53% disagreeing (26% strongly) that it is an improvement.
  • 51% state that the new translation urgently needs to be revised, with 44% disagreeing with that statement. The largest number – 32% – strongly agree that the new missal urgently needs revision.
  • 33% like the new missal’s chant settings, while 27% do not. (The largest group – 34% – do not have an opinion.)
  • Only 41% agree that translations in the same style should be done for other rites such as marriage, confirmation, and the Liturgy of the Hours, with 52% disagreeing (36% strongly disagreeing) that other rites be similarly retranslated.
  • 47% approve of the role of the Holy See (Rome) in bringing about the new missal, while 45% do not.
  • Only 23% agree (6% strongly) that views of priests will be taken seriously in future translation decisions, with 60% disagreeing (32% strongly) that priests’ views will be heard.

These preliminary results largely corroborate an earlier non-representative survey of priests in 32 U.S. dioceses carried out by the Diekmann Center, but with slightly more support for the new missal, and slightly less rejection of it, than the earlier study. For the sake of comparison, the same questions were asked in both studies. The earlier study found that 59% dislike the missal and 46% like it, and that 60% think the new missal urgently needs revision. The more recent study shows slightly greater skepticism about whether priests’ views will be heard, with 60% thinking they will not be heard and 23% thinking they will be, compared to 55% and 24% respectively in the previous study.

The preliminary results are based on responses from 250 representative parishes across the U.S. Mary Gautier, senior research associate at CARA, emphasized that the final results of the survey will not be known until next year. “These are preliminary data only, so we cannot yet construct a confidence interval around these statistics,” she said. “They are suggestive of what we are likely to find in the final report, but not yet conclusive.” 84% of the respondents to the CARA study are clergy, but CARA is not providing a breakdown at this point of the views of clergy compared to lay employees. CARA and the Diekmann Center will release final results, with all numerical data, at the conclusion of the study, including a breakdown of the views of clergy and lay employees.

The Diekmann Center funded the missal portion of the larger CARA study with the generous support of the following organizations: The National Federation of Priests’ Councils (NFPC), The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), The Church Music Association of America (CMAA),  The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), Liturgical Press, along with several anonymous individuals.

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