Survey shows Catholic priests don’t like Mass changes

"Nothing upsets the folks in the pews as much as changing the liturgy that they’re accustomed to, and that seemed likely to be the case when the Vatican ordered revisions to the familiar prayers and rubrics of the Catholic Mass.

But now, more than a year after the changes took effect in U.S. parishes, a survey of American priests shows that they are more disturbed by the innovations than their flocks.

In fact, the poll, conducted by researchers at St. John’s University School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minn., showed that almost 60 percent of priests surveyed did not like the new Roman Missal, as the liturgical book for the Mass is known, while about 40 percent approve.

‘The high level of dissatisfaction among priests should be a grave concern for the bishops, assuming they care about what their priests are thinking and feeling,’ the Rev. Michael Ryan, a Seattle priest who started a petition to rally opposition to the new translation, told the popular liturgy blog Pray Tell.

The clergy critics also have firm opinions on the matter: one-third of priests (34 percent) strongly disagree that the new translation of the Mass is an improvement, and 80 percent say that some of the language is ‘awkward and distracting.’

That contrasts with polls from last year, which showed that 70 percent of Mass-goers thought that, overall, the first new translation in 40 years ‘is a good thing’. The approval rating was 84 percent among weekly attenders. (Polls also showed that most Catholics didn’t notice many changes.)

An online survey in February by The Tablet, a London-based Catholic periodical, found opinions among English-speaking Catholics around the world to be sharply divided about the new Mass, with clergy expressing more negative opinions than lay people.

The new translation, which went into effect in the nearly 18,000 parishes in the U.S. in November 2011, was years in the making but took longer than expected when the process was taken over by Vatican-backed conservatives who wanted to make the language sound more like literal translations of the original Latin.

That resulted in formulations that supporters said were more authentic and expressed a grandeur and mystery appropriate for the sacred rites. Critics said the new phrasings were stilted and often incomprehensible.

For example, where the Nicene Creed once explained Jesus’ relationship to God as ‘one in Being with the Father,’ the new version has believers say Jesus is ‘consubstantial’ with God – prompting comedian Stephen Colbert, a practicing Catholic, to quip: ‘It’s the creed! It’s not the SAT prep.’

In the previous version, worshippers preparing to receive the Communion host would confess, ‘I am not worthy to receive you.’ Now they say, ‘I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’

One reason that priests may take a dimmer view of the new translation is that they have to use it every day, and have many more parts to say than lay people. They were also paying closer attention to the translation process, which may explain why many of them said they were just as upset with the way the revision was undertaken and implemented as they were with the end result.

More than six in 10 of the priests surveyed said they wanted a revision of the revisions, and they are not the only ones. ‘While we don’t want to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ the new missal needs corrective surgery and this should take place without delay,’ Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego told Pray Tell.

Whether anything will happen is unclear. The new pope, Francis, appears to prefer simpler liturgical practices, but it’s also not clear that he would want to reopen this can of worms. And senior church officials in charge of liturgical matters either declined to respond to questions from Pray Tell – which is run by a priest who worked on the survey – or questioned the value of the survey.

More than 1,500 priests from around the country responded to the survey, which was conducted from February to May 2013."

Religion News Service

Translation wars would be an unintended consequence of having the Mass in vernacular. How many saw this in the 60’s?

Wow… this article was all over the place! It seems to have quoted at least three different surveys, taking a bite from this one and bite from that one… :rolleyes:

Let’s look at the methodology for the main survey cited. From the links provided:

[list]*]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.
*]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, NJ.[/list]
]A total of 1,536 priests responded, with a response rate of 42.5%.
]This means that they contacted 3614 priests.
*]There are 27,125 diocesan priests in the U.S., according to the USCCB.
]This means that the 18% of dioceses participating represent 13% of diocesan priests.[/list]]Of the respondents, 59% do not like the new language, while 39% do like it.[/list]

So, is this result statistically significant? On one hand, there’s probably some sampling bias going on – the survey was only distributed in dioceses where the diocesan leadership gave their permission to distribute the survey. There was a relatively high return rate in these dioceses (as the survey report notes, this might be due to the fact that diocesan leadership was directly asking their presbyterates to respond).

Basically, it comes down to this: 906 of the priests in the U.S. (3.3%) dislike the new language, while 599 priests (2.2%) like the new language. Not as resounding a vote of no confidence as the report makes it out to be. Given that there’s the likelihood of both sampling bias at the diocesan level and self-selection among the priests to whom the survey was distributed, it would seem that drawing any conclusions based on these numbers is problematic…

FWIW, I believe the sample size used is actually larger than a common Gallup Poll sans daily tracking during an election period. And the population size is significantly different, giving the survey even more credibility.

How many of the priests who don’t like the changes in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal consistently take liberties with the Liturgy in the first place? You know to which priests I am referring. Those who change the words around to either be “easier” for people to understand, or to be gender inclusive? I’ve sat in Masses where priests seemed to make it up as they go along, always tweaking a bit here, or a bit there. If every priest is committed to doing what is required of him, that is, celebrating the Liturgy word for word as it is in the Roman Missal, we might not have a bunch of grumpy priests. These men would have done better to do as my priest did–explain to the people week by week leading up to the official introduction, what the changes are, why they are made, and how the change enriches the Mass. I am so sick of clergy and religious complaining about faithfully performing the duties to which they all took solemn vows. This isn’t Protestantism, people! I know–I used to be a Protestant. Sorry if this is brusque, but why is it that we the faithful laypeople have to keep hearing our leaders complain about the hierarchy in the Church? There seems to be little appreciation for the hard work done by those who carefully reviewed the English translation of the Roman Missal. :banghead:

I would be willing to bet that the clergy who do not like the “new” translation of the Latin Mass to English are those who attended seminaries after V II when a fluency in Latin was no longer required before ordination.
Those of us who grew up with the Latin Mass were astonished by the “translation” that was authorized. In many of the English prayers were closer to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer than they were to a literal translation of the Latin prayers!
It was almost like someone thought they would gain converts from Protestantism by making our prayers attractive to them. Insteaad, it cause many to leave the Church because these new prayers violated what we had been taught for hundreds of years, that we were superior to the Protestents becuase we were the true believers and the Protestant cant of the “new” English prayers betrayed the Eternal Nature of the Mass prayers.
Thank G*d that Pope Benedict realized that and ordered the American, English and Australian Bishops to accept his new translation. Those who don’t like it will come to accept it, just as people accepted the change from Latin to their native languages.
Don’t you think it is somewhat strange that this problem exists only with the English language Mass?

George and a few other are right. These are priests and theologens who came out of the 'Spirit of Vatican II", who said “we don’t have to do things the old way so lets interpret and present the Mass the way we think the ‘Spirit’ leads us.” What they are really protesting against now is not the ways and words of the more recent Mass but the fact that Rome and Pope Emeritus Benedict is putting its holy foot down and saying strictly you gotta do it this way. It’s a rebellion against authority not the Mass.

When I complained to an old priest about the Vatican II Mass he wisely said “Have you read the Vatican documents? Go get yourself a set and read them.” I did and my eyes were opened to what the documents said vs what young ‘Fr. Joe Cool’ was telling us it said it said. The Vatican II documents were beautiful. The very architecture of the buildings were still valid. Who said throw out the communion rails or that women shouldn’t wear hats? Not the documents of Vat II! Where does it say that the nuns should not wear the habit? Not Vat II
Now the priests (and nuns) are rebelling against the strictness of the church. And it has nothing to do with changes in the Mass!
Peace & Prayers to All

Surveys should be conducted in the other countries where English is used in the Mass. It would be interesting to see if there is a big difference in results.

Does anyone know how many different countries use the English translation?

With due respect to the scholar Mr. Colbert, :rolleyes:, “consubstantrial,” is the LATIN translation of the Greek term defined by the Council of Nicaea, with the intent of providing a test to separate the followers of Arius from those of the Catholic Church. “Of one being with the Father,” is a loose approximation to that Greek term. I have been startled, over the years, to discover how few priests have a working knowledge of Church history. And I am old enough to recall that so many clergy had no qualms about dumping the English words of the old Mass translation for the much flatter English of the New mass translation. Never mind what those in the pews might think. But Mr. Colbert was in diapers when that happened.

Beg to differ about the similarity to the Book of Common Prayer. If only the choice of words had bee so rich. It was as if the translators had stuck with only those words to be found in the Thordike-Barnhart dictionary, assuming that their auditors had only a 7th grade vocabulary.

In all due respect, this thread begins with “survey shows,” which I found amusing, and goes on to quote several opinion polls. The Catholic Church has never based teaching or liturgy on what is “popular.”
I would venture to say that if you took a poll of Jesus’ followers on the “popularity” of his teaching that they must eat his flesh, the approval numbers would be low. How about taking up our cross daily, or being servants to others? Again, not popular.
So since the church takes the long view, let’s allow the translation to be embraced for what it is; a carefully crafted wording of our most sacred prayer, The Mass. People, even priests, as they are people, too, will continue to grumble.
When I was learning the new changes in translation, I experienced a revelation. I came across an old daily missal with the old translations (pre Vat ll), and they were nearly identical to the “new missal” wording. Seems like mother church is just taking us back to our roots. The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church; the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, despite what the polls say. Thanks be to God.

A self selecting group of respondents, not a survey. They represent nobody except those who chose to write.

Yes, I have never been happy with the change to reception of the consecrated host on the hand during Holy Communion. The priest’s hands are consecrated and newly washed - mine are not - so this old ‘reactionary’ sticks to reception on the tongue.

And - “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be healed.” is closer to the Latin and the Gospel of Luke: … When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.

The old Latin of ‘Et cum spiritu tuo’ translates better as ‘And with your spirit’.

As ‘OneHolyCathAp’ commented - ‘Seems like mother church is just taking us back to our roots’.

Problem existed for many vernaculars, some of which have also been changed recently. I know they have in the Spanish, which worldwide has many more masses than English. The worse part of it is that the ICEL were able to influence some of these vernaculars in the 60’s, so changing all of them so they all are literal translations of the Latin now becomes almost an insurmountable task.

I’m a big fan (if this is an appropriate word to use regarding a pope) of Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. He not only worked on behalf of the world-wide Church but also to help bring the US Church back to a more faithful version of Catholicism. The renewal of the English language Mass issued during his pontificate is one major example. His investigation into the American religious another. His issuing Dominus Iesus, while given to the Church as a whole, caused most of a stir in the US where it challenged a rather murkey understanding of ecuminism and called the Catholics to recognize and be faithful to what is unique to Catholicism.

Some priests don’t like the new translation of the Mass? Well . . . thank you for sharing your feelings with the group. :yawn:

This is probably true. When they read that Mass would be in the vernacular, they probably interpreted that to mean they could say the Mass however they wanted and use whatever English Bible they wanted. I guess it never occurred to them that they would have to use translations which they might never agree with.

Upon more careful examination, though, you will find many variations in the translations from handmissal to handmissal. Some of them go all the way back to Cranmer and Henry VIII and are very curious at best. For example, trespasses instead of debts. The influence of the Anglican Church was astounding.

I think most have never heard the story behind that particular translation. The ICEL wanted to translate “Dominus vobiscum/Et cum spiritu tuo” as “May the spirit of the Lord be with you/And also with you” which would have made some sense, at least theologically, but at the last minute the first part was changed (back) to “The Lord be with you,” and that itself was the problem they were trying to avoid in the first place because the Lord is already with you. So yes, although “Et cum spiritu tuo” translates better as spirit, the whole thing becomes more confusing.

I want to be respectful about this, but I need to bring in my opinion. My whole concern with the whole new translation thing is that the Church has serious problems and we spent the last decade or so parcing wording in the Missal and arguing about nitpicky things in the Mass. That was a decade not spent dealing with the corruption in the Curia and a decade spent not dealing with the sexual abuse crisis. Imagine Joe and Jane Schmo average American Catholic discussing the problems facing the Church… I think that they would be more concerned with Mahoney covering up abuser priests in LA for decades than the faithfulness of the English translation of the Missal.

LOL, you realize of course, that your statements above are like saying you are mad that the FDA’s continued work to approve drugs and regulated food has prevented the government from fixing its IRS problem. Completely different “agencies” or congregations where the exercise of one does not prevent the other from working. (Not to mention, what exactly do you want the curia to do in regards to the abuse? Much work and corrective action has already come, that you fail to see it, is not the Vatican’s problem).

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