Omission can be a serious matter. In reporting news, it can be used to shape the story to fit a particular agenda. It can be used to manipulate public opinion by leaving out things that disagree with a particular agenda being forwarded. We even have sins of omission. Our Confiteor contains a reference to omission when it says “I have sinned….in what I have done and in what I have failed to do”. So it might be said that omission becomes something more than just “editing” when it concerns reporting on matters relating to the liturgy. It becomes the obvious promotion of an agenda, perhaps even an attempt to deceive the intended audience.
Not that I would expect any less from our friends at OCP, particularly when it comes to reporting on recent developments in sacred music in the Catholic Church. Much of what is happening does not bode particularly well for them. It’s with this in mind that I just have to comment on the recent reviews of “New Documents” in the August-November edition of Today’s Liturgy. The subject of the review is the two most recent documents from the USCCB relating to music, the Directory for Music and the Liturgy and Sing To The Lord: Music in Divine Worship. I have been waiting for nearly two years for an OCP response to the first of these documents, and some 6 months now for them to write about the latter.
Mostly, I was anxious to see how they would approach some of the less convenient parts of these documents. The first document, with the suggestion that the number of songs, “if they are to be used widely by the faithful, should be relatively fixed”, would pose particular problems for the publishing industry. Let’s see how they spin this…
“It might be helpful to look at what Liturgiam Authenticam actually states: “If they (liturgical songs) are to be used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the faithful may be avoided”(108). Due to the rich blessing of a large number of talented and prolific composers and the tremendous number of songs available and used throughout the country, it would be difficult, if not completely impossible, to identify any one group of songs used as widely as the document presumes. Our national diversity makes the selection of a common repertoire a practical impossibility.”
Sense the terror and fear in this response? The words used to respond make the agenda clear: rich blessing, large number, prolific, tremendous number, throughout the country…. followed by difficult, completely impossible, as the document presumes, practical impossibility. The message is clear; what Liturgiam Authenticam is asking can’t be done. There are too many songs already being used by too many people in too many places to narrow it down to a stable repertoire. Further, all of these songs are necessary to accommodate the diversity present in the Church, making compliance with LA a “practical impossibility.
OK, never mind that creating such a stable repertoire would all but put OCP out of business, we are supposed to believe that they are acting in the best interest of the Church. But the particulars of the Directory frighten them… it could easily go either way and they have no control over it. They go out of their way on three different places in the review to note that this document requires approval from the Holy See, and as of yet it has not been approved. It is also noted that the document “is likely to undergo changes made by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments”, though it fails to mention that such changes would likely be adverse in their view, and could well include demands for an actual “list” of approved songs as is required by Liturgiam Authenticam. Guess they just left that one out…
The review of Sing To The Lord, however, breaks new ground in the tactical omission of particular items that disagree with your agenda. To read this review, you would think that SttL is just a re-wording of Music in Catholic Worship. I understand that SttL was not the document that it was supposed to be, nor was it all that many had hoped for, but… there is plenty in it to rejoice over, and all in all it sets the ground for the dismantling of the progressive music agenda if it were to be implemented. The reviewer must have missed most of that…
Some highlights of the review: My emphasis and comments
“In Section II (The Church at Prayer) attention is focused on those who have significant roles in the celebration of the liturgy. After mentioning ordained ministers (for 3 pages !) the document stresses (for 1 page) the role of the Gathered Liturgical Assembly, the entire people present at a celebration. Only then does it address ( for 5 ½ pages!) ministers of liturgical music as such, highlighting the various individual ministerial responsibilities. Perhaps this may not seem of great significance, but I do not agree. Sing to The Lord clearly emphasizes that music ministers are servants of the assembly, a concept that is not always understood or appreciated.”
WHAAT!! You have to stretch like Mary Lou Retton to get that out of Section II of this document. To begin with, since when is something mentioned for 3 pages, addressed for 5 ½ pages, but stressed for 1 page? Wouldn’t we ordinarily say that those topics to which more space is given are being stressed? I guess it just wouldn’t do to say that the “role of the Gathered Liturgical Assembly, the entire people present at a celebration” is mentioned, since we all know that that’s what the Mass is all about, right?
And then there is the matter of the music ministers being servants of the assembly.
(Relevant quotes from SttL, please)
Choir members, like all liturgical ministers, should exercise their ministry with evident faith and should participate in the entire liturgical celebration, recognizing that they are servants of the Liturgy and members of the gathered assembly.
The director of music ministries fosters the active participation of the liturgical assembly in singing; coordinates the preparation of music to be sung at various liturgical celebrations; and promotes the ministries of choirs, psalmists, cantors, organists, and all who serve the Liturgy.
Directors are collaborators with bishops, priests, and deacons, who exercise a pastoral ministry based on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which configures them to Christ the Head and consecrates them for a role that is unique and necessary for the communion of the Church.
So…Sing To The Lord does clearly emphasize what the role of the music minister is, and it isn’t to be a servant of the assembly. It is to be a collaborator with the clergy and a servant of the liturgy. I would have to say there is a big difference between the two, and I have a hard time believing that the author simply overlooked this point since he went out of his way to discuss it. This was deliberate. On the topic of omissions, most of what is said in the section concerning the Choir emphasizes the unique role of the Choir separate from the assembly. This section makes note of places where the Choir exercise their unique role such as:
Choirs and ensembles, on the other hand, comprise persons drawn from the community who possess the requisite musical skills and a commitment to the established schedule of rehearsals and Liturgies. Thus, they are able to enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone.(SttL 28)
At times, the choir performs its ministry by singing alone. The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church. Appropriate times where the choir might commonly sing alone include a prelude before Mass, the Entrance chant, the Preparation of the Gifts, during the Communion procession or after the reception of Communion, and the recessional. (SttL 30)
So… what this particular passage is saying is that the Choir can sing any part of the Mass by itself! The assembly does not have to sing everything… it can sit back and listen at times. This is what is meant by Interior Participation… but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The reviewer then turns to Section III of Sing To The Lord (The Music of Catholic Worship). In doing so, he moves unseen over one particular part of Section II, inconveniently titled “Latin in The Liturgy”. This section contains such gems as:
Pastors should ensure “that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin
those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”60 They should be able to sing
these parts of the Mass proper to them, at least according to the simpler melodies
At international and multicultural gatherings of different language groups, it is most
appropriate to celebrate the Liturgy in Latin, “with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful.”61 In addition, “selections of Gregorian chant should be sung” at such gatherings, whenever possible
To facilitate the singing of texts in Latin, the singers should be trained in its correct
pronunciation and understand its meaning. To the greatest extent possible and applicable, singers and choir directors are encouraged to deepen their familiarity with the Latin language.
Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered.71
When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended.
Geez… for the life of me I can’t figure how he overlooked all of this. Oh well… on to the section on instruments. The reviewer writes:
I find it very insightful that under the second heading, “Instruments”, the first one listed, and by implication the most important, is the human voice.
Yes, it is the first instrument listed. It is discussed for a total of 2 sentences in this context. The next instrument listed is the organ, discussed for slightly more than a full page. No mention of that in the review though….
But it is his statement “and by implication the most important” that I find fascinating. He seems to be saying that since the document lists the Human Voice first under instruments, it is thereby the most important instrument. Hmm… I find it very insightful that under the first heading, “Different Kinds of Music for the Liturgy”, the first one listed is Gregorian Chant, followed by The Composers and Music of Our Day. Did he miss the implications of that section? Or maybe the section on Participation, where the first type of participation listed is Internal Participation…
Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the
choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.”
Did the reviewer miss the implication that by being listed first under the heading of participation, that this is perhaps the most important kind of participation? I don’t think he missed it at all. I think he omitted it.
The end of the review draws attention to two other sections that survived from Music in Catholic Worship, the explanation of Progressive Solemnity and the Three-Fold Judgment. These are extolled as “sections that combine to set the context for music that will enable a particular community to express its faith in song in a fitting and meaningful way.” He explains that
“In simple terms, this document reminds us that what is sung and how it is sung makes a very effective and practical means of highlighting the more important liturgical days from those of less solemnity.”
Yes, that would be very simple terms… it also reminds us that the most important music sung during the Mass is the Priest’s Chants and his dialogues with the assembly, followed by the Sanctus, memorial and Amen. After that, the Antiphons and Psalms, refrains and responses such as the Kyrie and Agnus Dei, and lastly, the least important music in the liturgy are the hymns sung by the assembly. Maybe that couldn’t be explained in simple terms. Or maybe he just left it out because it doesn’t fit the idea that the assembly is the most important part of the Mass. That got omitted too.
All in all, this review is transparent. But what would we expect from OCP? Can we honestly expect them to look out for the good of the liturgy? Would they gladly put themselves out of business for the sake of the liturgy? Remember, the reviewer says that the music ministers are servant to the assembly. Incredible. One would think that a review of such an important document would point out all of those things that differ from the current norms. Instead, it talks about those things that are the status quo, and that’s it. All of the rest is omitted.
And one more thing. The reviewer…. The Most Reverend Ronald P. Herzog, Bishop of Alexandria Louisiana. He voted on this document back in November, so don’t even try to say that he doesn’t know what’s in there.