Wednesday, October 04, 2006

For the Bishops Who Meet on Church Music

Happy to see that someone at MusicaSacra.com did all this homework:

In preparation for a revision of Music in Catholic Worship (1972, 1983) and Liturgical Music Today (1982), the Music and Liturgy Subcommittee called for a consultation from groups and organizations dealing with music, scheduled to take place October 9, 2006.

...Looking back at this document today, especially in light of the progress currently being made in accomplishing what the Second Vatican Council actually intended concerning music, one is struck by the notable ways in which the American document is contradicted by the teaching of Musicam Sacram, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, and the statements by John Paul II and Benedict XVI concerning music.

Three examples will suffice to make the point.

First: Musicam Sacram refers repeatedly to the sung Proper and sung Ordinary of the Mass, as does the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. But Music in Catholic Worship (paragraph 51) declares: "The former distinction between the ordinary and proper parts of the Mass with regard to musical settings and distribution of roles is no longer retained." This statement has misled musicians and liturgists that they can and should ignore the sung Gradual that the Church has provided musicians. It is highly regrettable that such a statement could have ever assumed to hold the status of an official directive. It has detached several generations for their history and provided no clear direction for the future.

Second: the same paragraph 51 continues on: "For this reason the musical settings of the past are usually not helpful models for composing truly liturgical pieces today." But such a claim runs contrary to the Council's statement that "The musical tradition of all the Church constitutes a patrimony of inestimable value, which exceeds that of other expressions of art, especially by the fact that sacred song, united to words, is a necessary and integral part of the solemn Liturgy."

In the same way, Musicam Sacram urges composers to "examine the works of the past, their types and characteristics" and "pay careful attention to the new laws and requirements of the Liturgy, so that 'new forms may in some way grow organically from forms that already exist,' and the new work will form a new part in the musical heritage of the Church, not unworthy of its past." [All the examples of "organic growth" might fit into your coffee-cup...]

Third: Music in Catholic Worship says that "style and value are two distinct judgements... We must judge value within each style." But John Paul II affirmed an uninterrupted tradition of instruction in writing that: "As a consequence, not all musical forms can be considered suitable for liturgical celebrations."

There are further problems with the Music in Catholic Worship, among which that it fails to clearly delineate the qualities of sacred music that distinguish it from other forms of music.

Whatever the reasons for the release of Music in Catholic Worship, its impact on American liturgy has not served the cause of organic development or of beautiful and holy liturgy. It has certainly not served to exclude "repertoire that cannot enter into the celebration without violating the spirit and the norms of the Liturgy itself" ("On Sacred Music," John Paul II).

A reassessment of these documents should begin with an acceptance of this foundational principle of the liturgical reform (GIRM): "All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful."

Well said. It is noteworthy that Rembert Weakland, OSB, former Archbishop of Milwaukee, was heavily involved in the formulation of Music in Catholic Worship. A large number of Catholics regard former-Archbishop Weakland as an iconoclast (at best.)

But he certainly has a legacy.

1 comment:

Jay W. said...

I had hoped I'd never hear that guy's name again!

I'll always remember him as the "archbishop" who was more interested in studying music and writing letters to his gay lover than he was about cleaning up the presbyterate in Milwaukee and doing something to help stop the deterioratoin of the city to the point now where it is one of the murder capitals of the nation for cities its size.