Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where did I put that Permission from the Ordinary...??

While reading the recent music guidelines from the USCCB, a thought occured to me that applies to many other liturgical documents as well.

When a document specifies that "X" can be done with the permission of the local Ordinary, shouldn't that permission be explicit? Maybe a copy of such permission posted on the website of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, or at least on file at the Chancery offices?

This thought occured to me because of the following scenario. In the past several years, and over the next few years, there will be a larger than average number of Bishops being replaced in Diocese' across the country. The "progressive" liturgical view generally holds that if a document says that "X" can be done with permission of the local Ordinary, then that permission would be extended implicitly, as though this were just some formality in the language. It is also readily observed that most of the liturgical actions modified by such permission tend to be of the more preogressive bent (extraordinary ministers, female altar servers, guitars and drums in church, outdoor Masses, etc...). Shouldn't the Ordinary's permission on these issues be a matter of public record? And shouldn't a new Ordinary be able to revoke such permission if they disagree with it?

The issue that brought this issue to the fore with me is the guitars and drums in the church. Musicam Sacram, which remains the definitive document on Sacred Music says the following, after the pronouncement of the Organ as the principal instrument for use in the liturgy, :

"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."43

63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.44

This seems to be saying that in order to use instruments other than the Organ, the "competent territorial authority, presumably the Bishop, would need to give his consent. That consent can be given "provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful." The passage then goes on to give some parameters for giving this permission, most specifically noting that instruments that are commonly considered suitable for secular music only are to be "altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions." In order to give permission for such instruments to be used, the "competent authority" would have to make a pretty persuasive argument for how guitars and drums are not commonly considered instruments associated with secular music. I would like to see that argument....

The point I'm getting at is this: Is there anywhere in the United States where a Bishop has actually issued such permission, and if not, could such permission be requested by a Music Director who wants to have such permission in hand to do his job effectively? A lot of liturgical abuses occur because we assume there is permission to do them. Maybe we should start asking for some of this in writing.


Dad29 said...

There may have been a "finesse" of the local Ordinaries by the USCC's LitWonk bunch--remember their old Music in Worship travesty?

But yah, that's a good idea--force the local Lit office to produce the signed document, or simply stop using what MS discourages.

Scelata said...

This is a question I have asked, (though not of anyone who could actually give me an answer.)
Mine was regarding that phrase that goes something like "an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of the psalms and antiphons providing that it has been approved by the USCCB or the diocesan Bishop," regarding options for the psalm between the readings.
I was being adamant about using the psalms assigned in the lectionary, and in any case, only using authorized translations of the psalter.
Others on a committee were pressing for "Shepherd Me, O God," etc.
They maintained that a piece of music being contained in the psalter at the front of Gather, and Gather being used at the cathedral, the permission was implicit.
I ended the conversation saying that even if he had permitted their use, I was not going to use them unless he also commanded their use.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Scelata said...

Another thought, IIRC before MCW was abrogated, there was a parishioner of St Blogs who when reminded it was not law would insist that it WAS law in dioceses where it had been made particular law, but when pressed to give examples of such dioceses, never did.
The claim then transmogrified to saying that MCW had been made law for the entire conference, retroactively, and the evidence was on a blog that quoted a book that quoted a footnote to a document that no one seemed to have access to.
I didn't hold my breath...

Chironomo said...

I think it would be an interesting project to write to the chancery asking for permission in writing for some of these issues that are obvious abuses. If your letter actually contained the relevant passage from a document that demonstrates why it can't really be approved, as in the case of guitars, then you could ask for a rejection in writing of your request. Hmm...

Steve Cavanaugh said...

I believe that "territorial authority" does not refer to an individual bishop, but to a bishop's conference. Most bishop's conferences are national, of course, but some cover more than one nation. So the USCC would have to give permission for something. As with the hymnal or collection of psalms, they simply have never gotten around to doing anything about most of these things; meaning that for some things like hymns at Mass, there is no permission to use them at all!

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the document that authorizes Electric guitars, basses and Electronic drum sets. This is standard fare at some of our masses. Also add to that the document that authorizes "Praise and Worship" music.

Adrienne said...

You bring up a very good point.

My husband and I refer to the wording of most these documents as having too much "wiggle room". And if you try to (very nicely) bring up these issues with your pastor you are labled old fashioned.

Besides our Bishop would give his written ok in a heart beat.

Chironomo said...

It seems that while most Bishops give their OK for such things, they are less inclined to put anything in writing. The point is not necessarily to "force them" to put something in writing, but rather to address the point that there is not some kind of blanket permission for many of these things.

Steve; The territorial authority may be the conference, but wouldn't the "local ordinary" be the individual Bishops? Many permissions are left to the "local ordinary", particularly in liturgical matters. It seems to me that the radical implication of Summorum Pontificum is that it removes that permission from the local ordinary and delegates it to the individual priest. Notice how such permission matters to them when it is taken away!