Thursday, May 3, 2007

Reforms to Come- Part I: Directory of Music

While we wait for the Motu Proprio to kick-start the process of restoration of the liturgy, it might be good to remember that there are other efforts already underway that are not receiving nearly as much coverage. Liturgiam Authenticam mandatedthe issuance of "a repertory or directory of texts intended for liturgical singing" by the Bishops Conferences to be submitted five years from the promulgation of LA. The five year time limit ended in 2006, and the Bishops did submit such a directory to the Holy See for it's approval after the November 2006 Bishops Conferene in Baltimore.

There was a great deal of discussion on this "directory" before, during and after the conference, but it will most likely end up being all for naught. Given the overall inent of LA and the long history of criticism of "contemporary worship music" by Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), Cardinal Arinze, the CDW and an awful lot of the Catholic faithful, it doesn't require a cryptographer to figure out what was intended by the term "repertory or directory of texts intended for liturgical singing", and what the Holy See expected from the Bishops Conference: A list of actual texts that, once approved, would be the exclusive texts used for musical settings sung during the liturgy. These texts would be drawn primarily from the liturgical patrimony of the church (as indicated in Liturgiam Authenticam) with the addition of suitable and worthy original contemporary texts. It is important to note that the directive is for a repertory or directory of texts, not a list of songs or already composed musical settings.

As the Bishops set to work on the Directory, they decided early on that , given the number of songs "already out there", it wouldn't be possible to compile an actual list of texts that wouldn't end up restricting most of the current repertoire, and as such, the best course would be to develop a Directory for Music using as a model the Directory of Popular Piety, a descriptive document that simply defines current devotional practices in the Catholic Church. This Directory for Music would put forth guidelines for Bishops to use in determing whether a given song conforms to a set of general principles making it appropriate for use in worship. There was, however, no concensus on whether these principles would be applied to already existing songs, or just to songs composed after the implementation of the Directory. The final version left open the likelihood that it would apply only to new music. Their stated reason for taking this approach was nearly identical to the reason given by ICEL for the rejection of changes to the translation of the Missal required by Liturgiam Authenticam: The faithful are so used to these songs that to restrict them as required by Liturgiam Authenticam would be pastorally insensive. This was the tactic taken by Bishop Skylstad concerning the Missal translation, resulting in the following letter from Cardinal Arinze:

2 May 2006

The Most Reverend William Skylstad;
Bishop of Spokane
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Prot. n. 499/06/L

Your Excellency,

With reference to the conversation between yourself, the Vice President and General Secretary of the Conference of Bishops of which you are President, together with me and other Superiors and Officials when you kindly visited our Congregation on 27 April 2006, I wish to recall the following: The Instruction Liturgiam authenticam is the latest document of the Holy See which guides translations from the original-language liturgical texts into the various modern languages in the Latin Church. Both this Congregation and the Bishops’ Conferences are bound to follow its directives. This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is therefore not competent to grant the recognitio for translations that do not conform to the directives of Liturgiam authenticam. If, however, there are difficulties regarding the translation of a particular part of a text, then this Congregation is always open to dialogue in view of some mutually agreeable solution, still keeping in mind, however, that Liturgiam authenticam remains the guiding norm.

The attention of your Bishops’ Conference was also recalled to the fact that Liturgiam authenticam was issued at the directive of the Holy Father at the time, Pope John Paul II, to guide new translations as well as the revision of all translations done in the last forty years, to bring them into greater fidelity to the original-language official liturgical texts. For this reason it is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past thirty or forty years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes. Where there are good and strong reasons for a change, as has been determined by this Dicastery in regard to the entire translation of the Missale Romanum as well as other important texts, then the revised text should make the needed changes. The attitudes of Bishops and Priests will certainly influence the acceptance of the texts by the lay faithful as well.

Requesting Your Excellency to share these reflections with the Bishops of your Conference I assure you of the continued collaboration of this Congregation and express my religious esteem,

Devotedly yours in Christ,

+Francis Card. Arinze
Prefect, Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments


The sections which I have highlighted in this letter are noteworthy. Clearly the Holy See and the CDW are in no mood to give recognitio to proposals that do not meet the requirements set forth in LA. Also, the claim that changes can't be made because the faithful are accustomed to the way things are is not acceptable. Lastly, this principle applies to the Missal translation as well as other important texts, like the texts intended for liturgical singing for instance.

And so, despite the appearance of conferring with experts, the long discussions about Trinitarian form in various songs, wrangling over the replacementof masculine pronouns in classic hymns and calls for more Christologically centered songs expressing "vertical" theology, the Directory for Music propose by the Bishops in November is far from fulfilling the mandate set forth in Liturgiam Authenticam, and the Bishops are well aware of it. I'm fairly certain that there will be a letter waiting in Bishop Skylstad's mailbox some day soon....


Stephen M. Collins said...

Rather than publish a list of acceptable texts, or anything else like tunes, etc., why not simply go back to R.C. "hymnals" and other published worship aids needing both "Nihil obstat" and "Imprinatur"?

Chironomo said...

I think that this was the intention of the "Directory" proposed by the Bishops in November, but in the same document, they noted that the "large volume of music" would make individual review nearly impossible.