I feel that I ought to tell you of my disappointment at attempting to answer the questions in the Catholic Herald poll. Such polls have considerable disadvantages as means of collecting mass thought as against emotional reaction or sheer statistical facts — for example: How many people live in your household?
Such polls are composed by selecting from hundreds of questions originally submitted, a few which seem to evoke consistent responses, by meaning the same things, to all the members of tests teams.
But the right questions have got to he there in the first place, or the poll will result in mediocre responses to mediocre questions, as in this case.
The poll seemed to me to be characterised by the following faults. It was not an invitation to think, but to emote, either by providing too few choices, or by vague language.
It contained _unsuitable responses, for example, by inviting approval/disapproval of a feature of the Church's life, without providing much chance for thoughtful comment upon the quality or nature of the feature.
Some questions were either difficult to interpret, or led to complete disagreement as to meaning, in our household.
May I give some examples of these faults? In three questions the expression "the Catholic Church" was used, one of them in a slightly different context than the others. The questions were hard to answer. What does one think of the Roman Catholic Church in the ecumenical movement? Well, which Church? The bishops are doing fine, the theologians are damaging the cause, and the laity have hardly started to give the matter serious thought. Try indicating that in the space provided. The question about the type of Mass rite preferred could have been amplified considerably. This is a very delicate area where too many Catholics have difficulty in thinking clearly at all.
You should have given us a great deal more opportunity to amplify our feelings. You did not want just a "gut reaction," surely? I do not expect any worthwhile results from that question.
The question of choice of schools defied divination in our house. We each answered as best we could, to a badly worded question and to alternatives/choices which we felt unsuitable "Very important?"
I would not, God willing, live where my children could not attend a good school which was also Catholic. How did I indicate that? And was that what you were asking?
I could continue at some length, but will content myself with one more example. Do I think that the changes since Vatican It have been too many/about right/too few? Some have been good, some timely, some unwise, though theologically impeccable.
To answer that one thinks that there have been too many does not represent my feelings. But that was my answer.
But how to say that the changes have been promulgated with insufficient instruction of the laity, and in language that invited from many people an almost automatic rejection founded on a negative emotional response? I very much hope that little notice will be taken of any statistical results of the poll. Messrs Gallup are too used to collecting reactions to new labels on tins of soup to cope with this sort of thing.
Finally, I do not read tabloid newspapers, and very much hope that you will not alter your very good and successful layout.
M. J. Mason Aston-le-Walls,