The most recent edition of Pastoral Music (August-September 2007) is a fascinating read for those who are accustomed to the usual fare given in this publication. Nearly the entire edition is concerned with musical reform, however the concept of musical reform is never mentioned…not even once! Instead, there seems to be a movement here to make it seem as though all of these innovative ideas are coming from the minds at NPM.
Michael McMahon, President of NPM, pens a curious look at the Directory for Music suggested by the Bishops in November of 2006 in “Establishing Criteria for Liturgical Songs”. From the outset, he misses the point entirely…. Liturgiam Authenticam doesn’t call for establishing criteria for liturgical songs… it calls for establishing a fixed repertoire of liturgical texts to be used for singing. There is a huge difference, which apparently the Bishops missed as well. Giving him his due, however, he does point out that the Bishop’s document has been submitted for recognitio as required, but that “as of July 1st, the U.S Bishops were still waiting to hear back from Rome.” I think this silence from Rome speaks volumes.
I would suggest that they have heard back from Rome already, in both Sacramentum Caritatis (Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy –no.131) and in the letter to Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificam (The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.) Both of these documents were issued this year, following the Bishops submission of the Directory, and both set forth a vision of what the music in the liturgy should be (in the case of summorum pontificam, the vision is to enact what was intended in Musicam Sacram). But I’m pretty sure that the author is well aware that while these two documents were not intended as responses to the Bishop’s efforts, they answer the question nonetheless.
After examining all of the criteria set out in the Directory, and suggesting strategies for directors to build a parish repertoire using these criteria, McMahon’s article ends with a cautious note to the reader: “If and when the Vatican issues the recognitio of the Directory for Music and Liturgy, be sure to check the NPM website for information and resources.” There seems to be some doubt, as there should be, that the Directory will even be approved since it doesn’t really fulfill the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam, so it may be a little premature for them to be suggesting ways for parish directors to implement the suggestions in the Directory. And besides, all of this seems insincere since the NPM would never support the propositions in the Bishop’s Directory if the status quo were an alternative, although they are surely hoping that it will receive recognitio knowing that the alternative would be a repertoire of texts dictated by Rome. After Summorum Pontificam there are few people who are willing to say with any conviction that “He would never do that!”.