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.