Thursday, August 23, 2007

What can we expect from The Directory for Music and the Liturgy

There has been, for some time now, a certain degree of controversy surrounding the variety of forms and styles of music used at Mass in a great many Catholic parishes in the United States, as well as other English speaking countries. Many of these criticisms are well founded, while others are more rightly matters of preference or personal taste. There is always concern among the Church hierarchy that such controversy, if left unaddressed, leads to strife and division among the faithful, and it is precisely this concern that has brought about a series of actions from the Holy See addressing the issues of liturgical music both generally and specifically.

One of the actions which you may have read about this past year in any of the widely circulated liturgical music publications such as Pastoral Music or Today’s Liturgy is the Directory for Music and the Liturgy, a series of guidelines developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and submitted this past November to the Holy See for its approval and recognitio. Reactions to this document in several of these prominent liturgy publications has been mixed, and the issue deserves some discussion, beginning with a better understanding of the document itself , some history of the issue and a look at what changes may be coming.

To address a wide variety of issues surrounding the liturgy that had arisen in the years following the Second Vatican Council, each Pope has promulgated documents called “instructions” which clarify points in the documents set forth by the Council which were either left unaddressed, or which have been found to be ambiguous. The most recent of these “instructions” was issued by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in 2001; Liturgiam Authenticam the Fifth Instruction for the Right Application of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy. This document serves as the definitive clarification of many questions regarding the 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy- Sacrosanctum Concilium. One such question which has been at the root of many of the most persistent controversies is the specific norms for composing new liturgical texts in the vernacular (English) language. While the norms for translation of approved Latin liturgical texts into English were put in place, the norms for texts composed originally in the vernacular were less clear, as was the process by which such texts would receive approval.

With the revision of the Missal in 1970 and the designation of optional choices for some of the sung liturgical texts such as the introits and graduals, an unforeseen problem arose. The question was whether or not the hymns substituted for the introits and graduals had to be drawn from approved liturgical texts as well, or since they were originally composed in the vernacular would be subject to less restriction. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was unclear on this point, and the assumption was made that they were not subject to the same law governing approved liturgical texts. Subsequent compositions of new music for the liturgy in the ensuing years made this same assumption, and lyrics to “religious songs” for Mass were not generally regarded by most as liturgical texts. However, while this view became widespread, it was not by any means universal. By contrast, a great many prominent liturgists and musicians adopted the view that since the optional texts are in fact substitutions for approved liturgical texts in the Mass, they too must be approved liturgical texts. Their view was more consistent with the liturgical norms of the Church historically speaking, where the texts sung at Mass are always designated and approved liturgical texts, and they maintained that the composition of such texts in the vernacular should require a distinct process for approval rather than simply eliminate the need for such approval.

The conflict between these two contrasting views had not resolved itself some 30 years after the promulgation of the 1970 Missal, and at the request of many Bishops as well as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Pope John Paul chose to address it specifically in Liturgiam Authenticam with the following passage:

6. The composition of new liturgical texts in a vernacular language

106. Regarding the composition of new liturgical texts prepared in vernacular languages, which may perhaps be added to those translated from the Latin editiones typicae, the norms currently in force are to be observed, in particular those contained in the Instruction Varietates legitimae.75
An individual Conference of Bishops shall establish one or more Commissions for the preparation of texts or for the work involved in the suitable adaptation of texts. The texts are then to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio, prior to the publication of any books intended for the celebrants or for the general use of the Christian faithful.76

107. It is to be borne in mind that the composition of new texts of prayers or rubrics is not an end in itself, but must be undertaken for the purpose of meeting a particular cultural or pastoral need. For this reason it is strictly the task of the local and national liturgical Commissions, and not of the Commissions treated in nn. 92-104 above. New texts composed in a vernacular language, just as the other adaptations legitimately introduced, are to contain nothing that is inconsistent with the function, meaning, structure, style, theological content, traditional vocabulary or other important qualities of the texts found in the editiones typicae.77

108. Sung texts and liturgical hymns have a particular importance and efficacy. Especially on Sunday, the "Day of the Lord", the singing of the faithful gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass, no less than the prayers, the readings and the homily, express in an authentic way the message of the Liturgy while fostering a sense of common faith and communion in charity.78
If they are used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the people may be avoided. Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. (LA 6; 106-108)

Although it may not be entirely clear to someone unfamiliar with reading Church documents of this sort, this passage very decisively sides with the second group and confirms that texts used in place of those from the editiones typicae (official liturgical texts) must also be approved texts with a recognitio from the Holy See (sec. 106). It goes a step further in section 107, clarifying that such texts must be consistent in “function, meaning, structure, style, theological content, traditional vocabulary (and)… other important qualities,” with the corresponding texts found in the editiones typicae. Lastly, in section 108, it specifies that sung texts belong to this group of texts, and mandates that the Bishops Conference “provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing.” This “directory or repertory” of English language texts would be analogous to the specified Latin texts of the editiones typicae in providing a canonical body of texts on which original compositions for use in the liturgy would be composed. This “directory or repertory” of texts is then required to be submitted to the Holy See for the required recognitio. In November of 2006, as required by Liturgiam Authenticam, the USCCB submitted the Directory for Music and the Liturgy to the Holy See for recognitio.

However, this document as submitted is not without controversy itself. A number of Bishops perceived this directive from Liturgiam Authenticam as a wholesale criticism of the vast body of music currently in use in parishes nationwide. Under a strict reading of this Instruction, the vast majority of these songs and hymns would likely be denied approval, and several Bishops suggested that due to the large number of songs in use (conservative estimates put the number at between 8,000 – 10,000 titles, including songs used that are not specifically Catholic) the process of approving them individually would be onerous if possible at all, and as such a set of descriptive guidelines for use at the local level might be more effective. However, it is precisely because of the large number of texts currently in use that Liturgiam Authenticam states “…if they (sung texts) are used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the people may be avoided.” In other words, the very large and constantly increasing number of texts is the problem, so to claim that a solution cannot be reached because of the large number of texts is a bit circular.

The final version of the Directory took a compromise position, proposing a process by which an individual Bishop would, with assistance from a national body of liturgical experts and musicians, approve those texts which are used in hymns and songs published in his Diocese through the application of a set of guidelines which would ensure that the texts are “consistent in ‘function, meaning, structure, style, theological content, traditional vocabulary (and)… other important qualities’, with the corresponding texts found in the editiones typicae.” Additionally, the Directory proposed that within three years, the USCCB would devise a “core repertoire” of essential Catholic hymns which would be required to be included in all published hymnals approved for use in the Catholic Church. The contents of this core repertoire were not specified in the Directory, and it was not specifically outlined how this repertoire would be determined.
Even the proposed guidelines are vague, and it is not entirely clear how they could be applied in a meaningful way. The USCCB issued a press release soon after the November meeting in which they specified the following guidelines to be included in the Directory:

• Individual songs should be consonant with Catholic teaching and free from doctrinal error
• The repertoire of liturgical songs in any given place should reflect a balanced approach to Catholic theological elements.
• Liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about the faith which are untrue
• The doctrine of the Trinity should never be compromised through the consistent replacement of masculine pronominal references to the three Divine persons
• Any emphasis on the work of the members of the Church should always be balanced by an appreciation of the doctrine of grace and our complete dependence of the grace of God to accomplish anything
• The elimination of archaic language should never alter the meaning and essential theological structure of a venerable liturgical song.

Even an amateur Church musician could find so much wiggle room in these guidelines as to make them practically ineffective. For instance, the second guideline concerning repertoire reflecting a “balanced approach to Catholic theological elements”. This guideline would have to be applied by the Music Director, not the Bishop, and even then, does this simply mean that the hymnal used has to contain a variety of selections that reflect this balance? What if the Director chooses to use only those selections that present one specific approach? Is the use of gender-neutral language and female God imagery a legitimate approach to Catholic theological elements that would have to be represented in all hymnals? The guideline concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity states it should “never be compromised through the consistent replacement of masculine pronominal references to the three Divine persons”. Does this mean that replacing 3 out of 5 of those “pronominal references” would be OK since that wouldn’t be consistent? Why not just say “The doctrine of the Trinity should never be compromised through the replacement of any masculine pronominal references to the three Divine persons.” It seems to me that these guidelines were written specifically to appear as though they would impose some high standards, but when actually applied to the music in question would have little, if any actual effect.

Although on its own, the Directory is a commendable document in terms of addressing many of the troublesome issues facing liturgical music, a chief criticism of the Directory is that it ignores the directives of Liturgiam Authenticam which are themselves a definitive solution to the problems presented, and proposes instead a different solution with no real plan for its implementation. This same tactic was taken by other committees within the USCCB in response to mandates from Liturgiam Authenticam regarding the translation of the Missale Romanum and other liturgical books, and on each occasions the Holy See and the CDW refused recognitio for proposals which did not follow the mandates of Liturgiam Authenticam very closely. This being the case, the question of whether the Directory for Music and the Liturgy will be approved remains open, and the longer the wait, the less likely it is that such approval will be given.
And so at this time, there are three possible outcomes to the situation, and it is the speculation concerning these outcomes that is fueling the rhetoric which has dominated articles in liturgical magazines for most of this past year. The possibilities are as follows:

The Directory is approved as is with no changes.
This would be the course of action favored by many, but would seem to be the least likely for the reasons noted above. If it were approved, its implementation would be highly problematic as well, possibly requiring something like a moratorium on new music while the vast body of existing music is reviewed, and the scope of the process would mean that in practical terms, the Bishops of Portland, Oregon and Chicago, Illinois would be given the full-time position of approving liturgical song texts since the two main publishers of music are located in their dioceses.

If the Directory were approved without changes however, the effect on music at the parish level would still be considerable. The guidelines, even as described above, would still restrict from use a large number of songs, and since the criteria were developed from a generalized summary of characteristics of traditional Sacred Music texts, the songs restricted would be almost entirely from the repertoire of contemporary liturgy music. While the Bishops letter accompanying the Directory insists that it is not intended to produce a “white list” (list of exclusive approved songs), it may in fact result in a “black list” of songs that have been in previous published hymnals but which are now restricted from use. This would be necessary since many parishes would continue using previously purchased hymnals after the implementation date of the Directory. It isn’t clear how the Directory would apply to choral music used at Mass, although it would seem to be implied that this also would be required to meet the same criteria as music published in hymnals. Parish Music Directors would be required to have a solid working knowledge of the Directory as they would be required to apply the principles in it to all music used at Mass, and a likely outcome would be a major reduction in the resources available as many publishers will simply opt out of the Catholic Music market because of the lengthy and inconsistent approval process.

The Directory is approved, but with changes indicated by the Holy See
Although it might seem that this would be a “second-best” option for those who are pushing for the first option, the resulting Directory could in fact end up being far different from what was proposed. The Holy See could approve the Directory and its overall structures, but could, for instance, insert additional criteria for evaluation. In the “Post-Synodal Exhortation on the Eucharist – Sacramentum Caritatis” promulgated in April of this year, Pope Benedict addresses Sacred Music in the following passage:

“In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that "the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love" (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything -- texts, music, execution -- ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). 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 (131).”

Since the Bishops extended the scope of the criteria outlined in Liturgiam Authenticam to include not only the evaluation of texts but the evaluation of complete songs in the Directory, the Holy See could choose to designate additional evaluative criteria addressing musical form, style and genre. This could include specific formal requirements for compositions based on whether they were to be used as Processional, Offertory, Communion, etc. Such formal requirements are already in existence and were codified in Pope Pius X’s motu proprio Tra le solicitudini from 1903, and are likely what Benedict was referring to in the above passage where he suggests that the texts, music and execution (performance) “ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons”. Other criteria pertaining to musical style could be drawn from the clear preference for Gregorian chant and the Church’s traditional musical-liturgical patrimony as is clearly indicated in Sacramentum Caritatis. The result would be a much further reaching reformation of Sacred Music and in many respects, when combined with the introduction of the new Missal translation, could effectively eliminate nearly all music currently in use.

The Holy See rejects the proposed Directory and instructs the Bishops Conference to submit a proposal that is in conformity with the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam.
Although this option would be a serious setback for all parties concerned, its appeal to collegiality and consistency with past actions of the Holy See in regard to these issues make it the most likely option in my opinion. The current situation regarding the recognitio for the Directory for Music and the Liturgy is nearly identical to that of the translation of the Missale Romanum in 2006. In the course of that project, similar concerns about the “pastoral advisability” of making such substantial changes to texts which had become customary were voiced to the Holy See and the Congregation for Divine Worship, and it was suggested that other, less disruptive criteria for translation be substituted for those indicated in Liturgiam Authenticam.

The following letter from Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to Bishop Skylstadt, the President of the USCCB regarding those suggestions provides a clear indication of the likely response from the Holy See regarding the Directory for Music and the Liturgy. Concerning the suggestion that other criteria be substituted for those indicated in Liturgiam Authenticam for the translation of the Missale Romanum, Cardinal Arinze replies in the following letter;

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 April 27, 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

In effect, this letter sets a precedent for the recognitio of all proposals originating from Liturgiam authenticam, and that precedent precludes approval of any proposals that “do not conform to the directives of Liturgiam authenticam”. The Directory for Music and the Liturgy is a far greater departure from directives than the proposed Missal translation, and based upon the Holy See’s reaction to that proposal, I find it difficult to imagine that the Directory would be approved in its current form. If this were the case, the USCCB would be obligated to submit an actual “repertoire of texts”, that is, a list of approved texts, not songs, that would become the basis for liturgical music in the English speaking Catholic Church. The result here would be a situation more analogous to that of Sacred Music prior to the Second Vatican Council, in which new compositions consisted of new musical settings of specified liturgical texts. While this would preclude a great many songs currently in existence, it would ensure a certain theological fidelity in all future liturgical music that does not currently exist.

At this time, there is no indication of the status of the Directory from the Holy See. Organizations such as NPM have suggested a voluntary adoption of the criteria set forth in the Directory in preparation for whatever reforms may be forthcoming, although this seems to be a bit premature since the eventual reforms could be quite different from what is being proposed. A more helpful approach might be a review of your parish’s music liturgy in regards to its conformity with the liturgical norms set forth in Sacrosanctam conciliam, since Liturgiam authenticam serves to clarify the norms in that document, and the eventual content of the Bishops proposal will necessarily have to conform to the “right implementation” of this document. Such a review would be an extensive and perhaps painful process in many parishes, however the result would be of greater value than the continued following of directives which could soon become obsolete.

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