Thursday, May 24, 2007

Forty Years in the Desert

When God saw the evil in men’s hearts, he cleansed the world with a deluge of Forty Days and Nights, destroying every living thing on earth, except, of course, those who were on board the Ark.

Following their captivity in Egypt, the Chosen Ones of God, the Hebrew People, wandered in the desert for Forty Years until their deliverance into the Holy Land.

Jesus, as he began his public ministry, set out into the desert for Forty Days and Forty Nights and was tempted by Satan.

There is, as any scripture enthusiast knows, a recurrence of the number “40” throughout both the Old and New Testaments, and it is usually connected somehow to a “tempering” or “cleansing” of those chosen by God. It is a little disconcerting then to find ourselves in our own “Liturgical Desert” for nearly 40 years, wondering if there is also something in store for us at the end of our journey.

In 2009, we will “celebrate” (bemoan perhaps?) 40 years of the Missal of Paul VI, and a little less enthusiastically, 40 years of some of the more obvious liturgical blunders that came about as a result, or at least began occurring at the same time. These include such widely discussed “reforms” as the almost exclusive use of versus populum, although it was presented as an option, and arguably not the primary option, the near elimination of the Latin language from the liturgy, although this too was not specified in any documents coming from either Vatican II or the new Missal, and the introduction of secular or heavily secular influenced music in to the liturgy, which had begun a few years before and only increased as any music in Latin became anathema. There are many other examples of “reforms” that were not really reforms at all, but merely changes put in place either through personal initiative arising from an agenda or through ignorance of actual regulations and reforms that were intended. These issues have plagued us for nearly 40 years now, and some have been addressed and debated from time to time, but yet they remain a part of the modern liturgy as well as the focal point of contention between the two identifiable views on the liturgy which we usually refer to as “Orthodox” and “Progressive”.

As of this time, it has been 37 years and 6 months since the Missal of Paul VI was promulgated in December of 1969. While this date is certainly not the date on which all of these “reforms” started, it is a date which can be pointed to as the turning point for the change over from “Old” to “New” liturgy, even though it is demonstrable that many elements of reform had begun some time before, or began at some time later. But a date is needed to point to as the date of the beginning. Because, while there is a scriptural significance to the number 40, there is also another more relevant significance when talking about liturgical reform.

Changes to the liturgy are, according to canon law, specifically the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary (Bishop) in accordance with the Holy See. As such, only those changes which are originally enacted by the Holy See can actually constitute legitimate law in the Church. (if I am technically misquoting something here, please let me know if you are knowledgeable in this area. I think I have it right from research I have done!). Actions outside of, or in addition to legitimate law in the Church are generally treated as custom as long as they do not violate Divine Law, in which case they are rejected as an abuse. Most of the “reforms” I referred to above would fall into the category of custom, since they cannot really be said to be morally repugnant or contrary to Divine Law, and it would follow that canon law would treat many such reforms as customs at this point. The following provisions of Canon Law are important and interesting to consider. I have highlighted specific points that I believe are important:

The true efficient cause of an ecclesiastical custom, in as far as it constitutes law, is solely the consent of the competent legislating authority. All church laws imply spiritual jurisdiction, which resides in the hierarchy alone, and, consequently, the faithful have no legislative power, either by Divine right or canonical statute. Therefore, the express or tacit consent of the church authority is necessary to give a custom the force of an ecclesiastical law. This consent is denominated legal when, by general statute and antecedently, reasonable customs receive approbation. Ecclesiastical custom differs, therefore, radically from civil custom. For, though both arise from a certain conspiration and accord between the people and the lawgivers, yet in the Church the entire juridical force of the custom is to be obtained from the consent of the hierarchy while in the civil state, the people themselves are one of the real sources of the legal force of custom. Custom, as a fact, must proceed from the community, or at least from the action of the greater number constituting the community. These actions must be free, uniform, frequent, and public, and performed with the intention of imposing an obligation. The usage, of which there is question. must also be of a reasonable nature. Custom either introduces a new law or abrogates an old one. But a law, by its very concept, is an ordination of reason, and so no law can be constituted by an unreasonable custom. Moreover, as an existing statute cannot be revoked except for just cause, it follows that the custom which is to abrogate the old law must be reasonable, for otherwise the requisite justice would be wanting. A custom, considered as a fact, is unreasonable when it is contrary to Divine law, positive or natural; or when it is prohibited by proper ecclesiastical authority; or when it is the occasion of sin and opposed to the common good.

A custom must also have a legitimate
prescription. Such prescription is obtained by a continuance of the act in question during a certain length of time. No canonical statute has positively defined what this length of time is, and so its determination is left to the wisdom of canonists. Authors generally hold that for the legalizing of a custom in accordance with or beside the law (juxta or prœter legem) a space of ten years is sufficient; while for a custom contrary (contra) to law many demand a lapse of forty years. The reason given for the necessity of so long a space as forty years is that the community will only slowly persuade itself of the opportuneness of abrogating the old and embracing the new law. The opinion, however, which holds that ten years suffices to establish a custom even contrary to the law may be safely followed. It is to be noted, however, that in practice the Roman Congregations scarcely tolerate or permit any custom, even an immemorial one, contrary to the sacred canons. (Cf. Gasparri, De Sacr. Ordin., n. 53, 69 sq.)
In the introduction of a law by prescription, it is assumed that the custom was introduced in good faith, or at least through ignorance of the opposite law. If, however, a custom be introduced through connivance (vi� conniventiœ), good faith is not required, for, as a matter of fact, bad faith must, at least in the beginning, be presupposed. As, however, when there is question of connivance, the proper legislator must know of the formation of the custom and yet does not oppose it when he could easily do so, the contrary law is then supposed to be abrogated directly by the tacit revocation of the legislator. A custom which is contrary to good morals or to the natural or Divine positive law is always to be rejected as an abuse, and it can never be legalized.”
(The Catholic Encyclopedia: Custom in Canon Law)

Certainly it can be argued from the definitions above that many of these “reforms” would actually be customs, and since they generally do not come from specific prescriptions of the local Ordinary in accordance with the Holy See, yet do not violate Divine Law, they would correctly be defined as contra legem customs. And how long does a contra legem custom have to receive the tacit consent of Church authorities before it receives the force of an ecclesiastical law?

No canonical statute has positively defined what this length of
time is, and so its determination is left to the wisdom of canonists… for a custom contrary (contra) to law many demand a lapse of forty years.”

And so here is the significance of the forty year mark. After 40 years of tacit consent from the authorities and consistent practice by the community, these customs would be given the force of an ecclesiastical law. This is not to say that such a custom couldn’t be changed after 40 years, but only that as a church law, it would require specific juridicial action to abrogate. If the promulgation of the New Missal in 1969 is considered the identifiable starting point of most of the customs in question, then there is 2 years and 6 months remaining before they become defendable as ecclesiastical laws.

It is not beyond the realm of real possibility that this issue would be brought out by those who wish to defend the progressive liturgical agenda in the event of the kinds of reforms that are currently underway. It is also not unrealistic to consider that Benedict XVI has foreseen this possibility, and is moving to head it off through frequent public statements on issues such as the versus populum posture, the need for restoration of Latin in the liturgy, the restoration of the Sacred Music tradition and a variety of other liturgy-related issues, making it clear that these particular customs do not have the tacit consent necessary to make them legitimate, and through his frequent quoting of documents on the liturgy from Paul VI and John Paul II, further demonstrates that such customs have not had consent at any point since their inception. This being the case, many of the above named “reforms” could even be considered as introduced through connivance (even if not maliciously) and would only require a tacit revocation of the legislator (Holy See) to be abrogated. In other words, the legislator, Benedict XVI, need only point out that there is legitimate law in force and insist upon its being followed, without specifically “banning” or “outlawing” any of the offending customs.

This makes total sense in light of the progress of reform during the past several years, and gives added meaning to a phrase that is often used of late by Pope Benedict when he refers to the “more correct implementation” of the documents of Vatican II. Following this line of reasoning, any reform would take the path of implementing correctly those provisions of the Second Vatican Council that have been replaced by customs which, since they do not have the requisite consent either tacit or otherwise by the local Ordinary in accord with the Holy See, are now abrogated de facto by the tacit revocation of the same local Ordinary in accord with the Holy See. And since the “
true efficient cause of an ecclesiastical custom, in as far as it constitutes law, is solely the consent of the competent legislating authority”, and the competent legislating authority for all matters pertaining to the liturgy is, in fact, the Holy See, then all actions pertaining to these customs are ultimately decidable by the Holy See.

And so, if Pope Benedict truly feels as strongly about these issues as he has indicated in past writings and more recent statements, we may not have to wander for 40 Years in the Desert as our Hebrew Fathers did so long ago to reach the Promised Land. It might only be 38 ½ Years or so…

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reforms to Come Part IV: The Latin Mass Motu Proprio

I began this blog originally as a forum for issues surrounding the Latin Mass Motu Proprio which has not, at this time, been given to us. Recent news reports seem to indicate that the day is not far off, but that has been the case so many times before that I will try not to get too excited.

I thought it might be interesting, since I will eventually be dealing with the progress and consequences of this document, to give some insight (prediction?) into how I think it will fit into the bigger picture of liturgical reform. Let me start by saying that in no way do I believe, nor would I suggest, that the Pope’s reasons behind the Motu Proprio are to merely advance a reform agenda. That would be, in essence, using the Sacred Liturgy as a tool for political purposes, and I can’t imagine that such an idea would be acceptable to Pope Benedict. This is not to say, however, that it will not play a significant role. Here’s why I think so….

Since the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI and the Novus Ordo liturgy that came from it, the question of the status of the “Old Mass” has been a central dividing line between the Traditionalists and Progressives within the Catholic Church. By Traditionalists, I do not only mean schismatic groups, such as the SSPX and other “Ultra-Conservative” movements, but also many of the ordinary faithful “out in the pews” who, after 40 years of the Novus Ordo, still feel as though something is not quite right and who would be attracted to the idea of a more solemn and prayerful liturgy whether it was a “Tridentine” Mass or even a reverently and correctly implemented Novus Ordo. I feel that this group is much larger than any schismatic group could ever hope to be, and it is these ordinary faithful, who are truly yearning for something more than what the Novus Ordo Liturgy in its current condition can give them, who will bring about real change as a result of the Motu Proprio.

This is perhaps an inappropriate figure of speech to use when speaking about the Sacred Liturgy, but if the many rumors that have been circulating are even partly true, the “devil is in the details” on this one! An article dated March 9th, 2007 of an interview with Msgr. Camille Perl, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, gave the following statement concerning the content of the motu proprio:

The web account said that Msgr. Perl assured them that “the motu proprio will have the force of law” and that Pope Benedict XVI considers it regrettable that the July 1988 [Ecclesia Dei Aflicta] document did not have the force of law, but merely invited bishops to accommodate the requests of the lay faithful attached to the Latin liturgical traditions. Speaking of the forthcoming motu proprio
  • It will be obligatory!”
  • Any priest wishing to say the Tridentine Mass will be able to do so privately. [Editor’s note: This affirms a recent statement by Msgr. Michael Schmitz, U.S. Provincial Superior for the Institute of Christ the King, who said that every Latin-rite priest currently has the right to offer the Traditional Latin Mass privately. See]
  • Any group of faithful attached to the Rite of Saint Pius V will be able to approach a local parish priest or some other priest to request this rite. The priest will be able to accept without deferring to his bishop.
  • If the diocesan priests do not want to celebrate in "the old rite", they will be able to accommodate any priest from a traditional community (such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, or others) wishing to do so.

N.B - It was unclear according to the report whether or not the priest would need to secure permission from his diocesan Ordinary to have recourse to a priest from a community which celebrates the Traditional rite of Mass and sacraments exclusively. And finally:
  • If a group of faithful requests the rite of St. Pius V, but cannot find a priest or a place to offer the Mass, nor a member of a priestly community, as being able to respond to their wishes, then this group will be able to write to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which will work directly to find a solution, a priest, or a community to assist them.

Other accounts, independent of this one, have given additional information concerning how large a “group of faithful” would need to be to petition for the Tridentine Mass in their parish. The most recent statements on this indicate that the number was reduced from 50 to 30 faithful needed for such a petition. These provisions, along with the final provision concerning direct intervention from Ecclesia Dei seem to be solely for the purpose of assuring that any faithful who might wish to have access to the Tridentine Mass will have access. This is not really for those who currently attend indult Masses (they would have no need for an alternative other than for convenience), but rather it seems to be intended for that large group of Catholic faithful that I spoke of previously. If Msgr. Perl’s statements hold true, and he would indeed be in a position to know, then the following scenario could very easily be played out.

A relatively small number of parishioners is required to get a Tridentine Mass started at a parish. There are a great many groups within a parish whose membership would be able to accomplish a successful petition: Legion of Mary, Ave Maria Guild, Knights of Columbus, Rosary Guild and other groups whose membership is primarily older Catholics who would tend to consider themselves in the “Traditionalist” camp, and who would probably be willing to support such a petition. The low number required to petition (30) is less than 1% of the population in a great many parishes in the United States. This is an important point! It takes a very small number to get the ball rolling in a given parish. And even if the priests within a parish are not willing or able to act on a petition, there is that final provision which allows Ecclesia Dei to step in and provide a priest for them. These provisions nearly ensure that within a relatively short time (this could still be two or three years) there will be at least one Tridentine Mass within easy reach of most of the Catholic faithful. Once a Tridentine Mass is established by this “activist minority”, then the much larger group of faithful who are simply looking for reverent and prayerful worship will become aware of and avail themselves of this opportunity and “fill in the pews”.

Here is where the scenario gets interesting and possibly divisive. If there are Masses established only at specific parishes within an area, but not at all parishes, there could be some migration that will take place. Even being very conservative and assuming that 1 in 10 people in a parish would eventually hear about, attend and continue attending a local Tridentine Mass (I personally think the number would be higher), this could be a 10% loss in attendance to some parishes and a 20% or 30% gain in attendance by others. This would be meaningful, and troublesome to parishes that lose parishioners. There would, of course, be all kinds of denial at first about why all of these parishioners are leaving and going to Tridentine Masses, but in the end, the numbers (and offertory dollars) would speak loudly and there would have to be some deep soul searching and discussion of the reasons.

This is how real reform will start; not by decree, but by the sort of “liturgical Darwinism” created by the introduction of alternatives to poor liturgy. And the reform would not be merely the more widespread availability of the Tridentine Rite, which will never be acceptable to some priests and even some parishes, but the gradual attention to quality in ALL liturgy that will result from the very hard lessons that will be learned through this process.

In the end, both rites will benefit from the motu proprio, and the Catholic faithful will benefit most of all. Of course, this is all conjecture right now, but I look forward to the day when it will no longer be conjecture, but will be an actual issue for discussion at parishes across the country. And lest we forget what this is all about, we need to pray constantly…..

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Reforms to Come: Part III - Benedict's Vision for Sacred Music

In the last two postings here, I have tried to briefly outline the two reforms that are simultaneously taking place regarding liturgical music- The proposed “Directory for Music in the Liturgy” and the revision of the 1972 Bishop’s Committee document “Music in Catholic Worship”. Although it might seem at first that these are two unrelated undertakings, one being a mandate derived from Liturgiam Authenticam in 2001, the other a relatively recent project undertaken by the Music Sub-Committee of the USCCB, they might actually be two distinct parts of one larger vision. Let me explain….

A cursory reading of Pope Benedict’s writings, both as Cardinal Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and as Pope, will clearly reveal an understanding of the importance of music in Catholic liturgy, as well as a stated preference for the Church’s historic and traditional musical heritage of Gregorian Chant and classical polyphony. The connection between music and worship is clearly expressed by Benedict in “In The Presence of the Angels I Will Sing: The Regensburg Tradition and Reform of the Liturgy” (1995):

"By itself, the question of the liturgy's essence and the standards of the reform has brought us back to the question of music and its position in the liturgy. And as a matter of fact one cannot speak about worship at all without also speaking of the music of worship. Where the liturgy deteriorates, musica sacra degenerates, too. And where worship is correctly understood and lived out in practice, there too will good church music grow and thrive."

And Benedict has made no secret of the fact that he believes that both the music and the worship have deteriorated! Clearly, given the insight present in his voluminous essays and writings on the subject of Sacred Music, we can assume that Benedict understands on a deep level the relationship between worship and music, and we can continue on to a more recent document for the eventual distillation of these views. In Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) he states clearly:

"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." (SC)

The implications of this passage can be easily glossed over, but a careful look demonstrates a very clear vision of the three structural elements of music in the liturgy – text, music, execution. It is also quite specific in noting that these three distinct elements – the text, the musical style and the actual “sound” (execution) ought to “correspond”, or be related to, the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the specific liturgical season. This would seem to demand a defined “canon” of texts for the sung parts of the liturgy, as well as specific texts for the various seasons of the liturgical year. While no such “canon” of texts is in use at this time, it is exactly that which is mandated by Liturgiam Authenticam:

"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.7
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)

Apparently, the Bishops meeting in Baltimore in November of 2006 did not make the connection between the concept of specified texts and liturgical tradition, and so did not submit a list of specified texts, but rather a set of guidelines to be used by Bishops in whose Diocese music is published to evaluate the suitability of songs written and published for use in the Mass. This was clearly not the intention of Liturgiam Authenticam, and is most likely the reason that the “Directory for Music in the Liturgy” will not receive approval from the Holy See. (see my previous posting “Part I”).

And so, there is a definite movement to address the question of texts to be sung. It may take some time to define what texts will be “in” and which will be “out”, but if the Holy See insists on a strict following of Liturgiam Authenticam (and Cardinal Arinze’s letter to ICEL seems to indicate that it does – see my previous posting Part I) then either: a)the Bishops will have to specify which texts will be “in”, or b) the Holy See will do it for them, in which case they could likely be the liturgical texts already indicated in the missal, as well as those in the Liber Usualis and Jubilate Deo, the book of chants published by the Vatican in 1976 for parish use.

Having addressed the issue of the texts to be used, the question of the musical style to be used comes to the forefront. Here there is historic precedent in force. The primary criticism of much “contemporary liturgical music” in use today is it’s reliance on stylisms and idiomatic conventions of popular, theatrical and Broadway music. This is not a stone being thrown by those who dislike this music… the composers themselves cite these types of music as their models and inspiration. While this music may be attractive to some, and certainly provides a simple “template” for songwriters in the church music market, it is not capable of creating the connection between text, music and action required as a part of the liturgy. Thus, the incursion of such theatrical stylings into the music of the liturgy has brought about a disconnect between the music and the rest of the liturgy, effectively destroying the organic structure of the liturgy itself, and relegating music to its current exterior role in worship.

The question of musical style and liturgical music was addresses in the motu proprio of Pius X “Tra le Solicitudini” of 1904. Sacred music was facing very much the same challenges at that time with the increasing appearance of theatrical and operatic styles in “sacred” music. Pius X addressed this problem by re-affirming the primacy of Gregorian Chant and classical polyphony in the liturgy, and by holding them up as the ideal model for all future liturgical music. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken often and admiringly of this document, particularly in relation to the Regensburg Tradition and the revival of traditional sacred music in Germany, and it is within this context that Benedict states in 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 as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy." (SC)

Not simply given “pride of place” or “esteemed” but rather “esteemed and employed”… meaning it is to be actually used at liturgy instead of the music from other “various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions.” Here, Benedict affirms the position that has been upheld for nearly 1600 years, that Gregorian Chant, as well as the closely related polyphonic styles are the authentic music of Catholic liturgy, woven into it and inseparable from it. Benedict’s vision for the future of liturgical music is certainly to move forward, create new music and add to this “treasure of inestimable value”… he has often given his support to the creation of new music, but within the idomatic and stylistic parameters established by the historical tradition of Catholic Sacred Music. This is why he has taken the approach of considering text and musical style as two different issues, to re-establish the traditional practice of creating new liturgical music with texts from an established liturgical patrimony rather than having the purpose of new liturgical music be the introduction of new liturgical texts.

It seems far-fetched to us at this point to envision a future, perhaps only a few years away, without the semi-annual packets of music from OCP and GIA boldly stamped “New Liturgical Music for Your Approval” coming in the mail, where the hymnal in the pews stays the same year after year without the annual introduction of the newest and latest trendy liturgical songs, and where musical settings can be memorized by the faithful after years of use and repetition in the liturgy. But perhaps the greatest benefit to be gained from the realization of Benedict’s vision for Sacred Music is that we will no longer have to discern whether we are singing Marty Haugen’s theology or actual Catholic teachings.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Reforms to Come: Part II - Revision of MCW

Still no Motu Proprio to comment on yet, so my attention today will turn towards another aspect of Liturgical Restoration going on “behind the scenes”.

In Spring of 2006, although it may have started even earlier, support for a “revision” of Music In Catholic Worship (MCW) began increasing among the various liturgical sub-committees of the USCCB, likely urged by the CDW in Rome and with the support, at least philosophically, of Pope Benedict. Like everything else having to do with music in the Catholic Church (although every liturgical document makes the point that music is essential / central/ of inestimable value/ of the greatest importance/ an intrinsic and inseparable part of the liturgy) the undertaking of this revision has gone largely unnoticed. The task of completing this revision was given to the Subcommittee on Music in the Liturgy, a group of Bishops and music professionals that advises the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy concerning musical matters in July of 2006. A conference session was set for October 9th in Chicago where the subcommittee heard recommendations from a virtual “alphabet soup” of the most influential persons and organizations involved in Catholic liturgical music today: GIA, OCP, J.S Paluch, NPM, CMAA, AGO, Adoremus, CanticaNova, Musica Sacra – and still a great many more on the list! The variety of opinions present in the room could well have led to a shouting match, however the conference session was excellently handled and every representative was given a 5 minute spot to give their advice.

To backtrack just a bit, it might be helpful to ask why bother revising Music in Catholic Worship? This document, originally issuing from the Bishop’s Subcommittee on Music in 1972, has been controversial since its inception. It has been praised by progressive musicians and liturgists as an official statement from the Church hierarchy (although an ad hoc subcommittee comprised of 6 lay songwriters and 3 Bishops appointed by a Bishop’s Committee from the Conference of Bishop’s is hardly “the hierarchy”) validating many of the progressive practices that have taken hold in parishes throughout the United States since Vatican II, and it has been decried by Traditionalists for it’s repudiation of Musica Sacra, it’s break with 2000 years of Sacred Music tradition, as well as it’s lack of official standing, having never been approved by the USCCB and issued as a “committee document” instead.

In spite of the lack of approval from the very hierarchy that progressives think it represents validation from, MCW has, without any doubt, become the most influential document concerning music since the Second Vatican Council. Why? Because it supports the very forms and practices that had become the new “status quo” of liturgical music – most notably praising the “progressive-folk” and other pop-influenced styles that had developed as well as the informal liturgical structures of the Folk Mass movement of the 1970’s – in short it had given legitimacy to a movement that had, up to that time, been relegated to Church basements and Masses in the Parish Hall. And so, when parish musicians, diocesan music committees, parish music committees and others concerned with liturgical music have questions regarding guidelines and instruction on liturgical music, they will most likely consult the “committee document” MCW rather than Musica Sacra, a concilliar document which carries primary juridicial force regarding the liturgy as a result of it’s unanimous approval by the College of Cardinals assembled for the Second Vatican Council, as well as the signature of the Pontiff, Paul VI. Why revise Music in Catholic Worship? It’s simple: To bring it into conformity with Musica Sacra and establish a uniform view of liturgical music within the Catholic Church that has an actual foundation in tradition and teaching coming from legitimate sources. That’s why.

On October 9th, 2006, the panel members gathered in Chicago to each have their 5 minute say regarding the revision of MCW. Some of those called to speak had very specific suggestions, while others simply extended a plea to “leave the document alone”… clearly there was some fear inside the progressive camp about where this might be heading. But one speaker stood out, and will, without doubt have the most influence over the revision of this document. William Mahrt, president of the Church Music Association of America, summarized in 5 minutes not only what needs correcting in MCW, but what needs correcting in Sacred Music in general. His “to-the-point” presentation to the panel can be read here . Following Mahrt’s presentation, there was little more that could be said, and other speakers following him cited him in their presentations no fewer than 5 times! If there was a “template” for the revision of MCW following the October 9th meeting, it was probably based on the transcript of William Mahrt’s presentation.

At this time, there has been no disclosure from the committee concerning their progress on this revision. An associate of mine who is a member of the FDLC (Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions) told me in a conversation that Music in Catholic Worship “won’t exist after next October”… meaning October of 2007. This was following a National Meeting of the FDLC in February of 2007. The FDLC had issued a statement calling for the “preservation” of MCW because of its importance in contemporary liturgy and its “stature” among liturgists and musicians. There seems to be some fear in the FDLC camp as well…

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....

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Starting Now....

Well, this blog is supposed to begin on the release day of the "Motu Proprio" , following the news and discussion in it's wake and collecting relevant documents as a resource for music ministers and other interested persons. This is still my intention, but I guess I'll have to fill the space with the usual speculative talk until there is an actual docment to comment on. The latest "date" being bantered around is May 5th, which seems as likely as any date at this point.

I think that patience is called for here... there is clearly a reason for the delay. Maybe it's not a delay at all, and the date for release has been set all along and it is simply not come yet. We'll just have to find out when it happens. When it does, I hope that we (Catholic Blogs) will provide not only space for criticism and comment, but perhaps be a resource at the "ground level" with information and assistance.

There are other topics I will be covering here, particularly the progress of the revision of Music In Catholic Worship (supposed to be completed by October 2007), the development of the Directory for Music (draft has been sent to the Holy See for approval but will likely be rejected on grounds that it does not fill the requiremets set by Liturgiam Authenticam) and the various Missal translation issues that will directly affect musicians and Sacred Music. This, combined with Pope Benedict's love for traditional (Gregorian) Sacred Music and his personal conviction that this music should be the music we are using at Mass, should make for an interesting two or three years ahead, don't you think?