The USCCB document on sacred music UPDATE

Yesterday I wrote about the USCCB’s proposed document on sacred music for the Latin Rite in the USA.

There were so many amendments yesterday that Card. DiNardo asked Bp. Trautman, chair of the liturgy committee, for an updated copy.

Today Bp. Trautman said that it would cost over $3000 and 6 hours of staff time to do this.

So, Bp. Trautman asked for the bishops simply to vote on blocks of amendments the committee is recommending to approve or reject.

There was very little discussion.

I am assured by a source that this is a pretty good document, at least an improvement. 

The way it finally sailed through indicates that it is a very good document, or the tired document-shocked bishops let it be rammed through.

Considering the importance of sacred music for the life of the whole Church, every sphere, I find this rather alarming.

One thing they did is make the decision that approval of the advisory guidelines would need 2/3 majority rather than a simple majority.

The document passed 183 to 22.  88%

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to The USCCB document on sacred music UPDATE

  1. Boko Fittleworth says:

    3 grand and 6 man- (or nun-in-a-pantsuit-) hours is too much to spend
    so the bishops can know what they’re voting on? Maybe we can replace
    the upcoming CHD second collection with one for photocopying expenses.
    Win-win.

  2. danphunter1 says:

    Let us pray that Gregorian Chant is given a special place in this document and that we hear a lot more plainchant in our churches.
    God bless you.

  3. \”$3K and 6 man- (or nun-in-a-pantsuit-) hours is too much to spend so the bishops can know what they’re voting on? Maybe we can replace the upcoming CHD second collection with one for photocopying expenses. Win-win.\”

    Actually dump the CHD either way…

    But is no one tech-avy enough to have these sorts of documents either downloaded on an intranet or as an e-mail attachment immediately e-mail to all participants and attendees who would wish to view what they are voting on?

    (From there the one’s that want to print it can, the one’s who don’t won’t waste the paper – How very “green”.)

    I wish it were not the case… but I am to the point where I believe such foot dragging and stalling is disingenous.

    Does the USCCB need a an IT man? I’m looking for work… sheesh.

  4. Brendon says:

    When will the document be released?

  5. Athanasius says:

    Here is a great idea, let the USCCB be entirely eliminated, and Bishops merely implement Vatican guidelines to the letter in their own dioceses? Why is there a need to legislate everything to death? If a document is at a point where it would cost $6,000 to list the amendments something is very wrong, especially when the only Church guidelines on Sacred Music, including those of Vatican II (SC 116) clearly favor Gregorian Chant over the local nonsense. The Bishops can not have it both ways. They want each Bishop to be the moderator of the liturgy in his diocese yet they want that moderation legislated by a group of other Bishops. Which is it?
    IMHO the Bishops conference in and of itself is a more or less useless body that makes simple things inherently complicated with bureaucracy and layers of left leaning staff, not to mention wasting the money the faithful donate for charitable work on fancy hotels when board could be effected in Churches at far less of an expense. I think the Holy Father got it right in his 1984 interview with Messori (Ratzinger Report, Ignatius Press) where he decried Episcopal conferences for the havoc they let loose on Church life (I can’t give a citation because this book is in storage awaiting my move to greener pastures). If there is anything that serious, perhaps we could have a Plenary Council. When legislatures are always at work, they need to come up with more reasons to justify their work. Why do you think we have stupid and useless legislation that the faithful should stand as the priest says the orate fratres rather than when the suscipiat is done, or that this should be re-worded or the faithful should sit instead of kneel. Good grief, what do we need a Bishops’ conference for? I truly feel the Church is better off without one.

  6. Scott says:

    Father:

    Do you believe such a document is necessary? I realize it may be in the sense that the previous document issued by the USCCB many years ago, in the wake of the Council, was awful. But putting that aside, why do we need the USCCB to issue such documents when Rome has spoken with clarity on this very issue for so long?

  7. Mark says:

    If we’d know who voted against it, it would tell a lot. The numbers line up about like they do for opposition/support of S.P. so one is inclined to wonder…

  8. anne scanlon says:

    Just curious…what would it take for the USCCB to be disbanded ?

  9. chironomo says:

    I have tried three different times to make this posting, and browser keeps malfunctioning… God works in mysterious ways! I was afforded the opportunity to look at the draft version for about 25 minutes this morning. It is far worse than I had imagined. Afew ammendments are not goingto repair the fundamentally flawed tone of the document which CLEARLY maintains support for the status quo and frequently advises “caution” in implementing the use of Latin (lack of comprehension will not allow the assembly to actively participate) and Gregorian Chant (its unfamiliarity may not adequately draw the assembly into the meaning of the prayer). The section on “progressive solemnity” seems intended to confuse the reader in such a way that they decide that this point is probably not important, and the section on instruments in the liturgy regurgitates council teachings on how important the organ is, and then proceeds to extol the virtues of adapting instrumentation to local cultural tastes and NEVER ONCE mentions the guitar and / or what instruments SHOULD NOT be used in liturgy. BTW… since they decided to require a 2/3 vote to pass, did they also decide to submit the document to Rome for approval? That would be too much to hope for I guess!

  10. RP Burke says:

    Athanasius,

    The decree “Christus Dominus” called for bishops’ conferences to be created, each serving as an “assembly in which the prelates of a nation or of a territory jointly exercise their pastoral office in order to enhance the church’s beneficial influence to all.”

    So, a literal reading of Vatican II would prevent the dissolution of the USCCB, as you have advocated.

  11. danphunter1 says:

    Is the Church better off today because of the bishops conferences?
    Has the USCCB brought more souls into the Church and catechized them in an orthodox manner?
    I believe the answer is no.
    So it seems to come down to a power struggle. A group of bishops who have been given the power to legislate much of whatever they want as opposed to being obediant to the Magisterial Teaching of the Church and the Holy Fathers mandates on all things orthodox.
    If this is the case, then the bishops conference is leading souls away from Christ.
    Now we all know that God brings much good out of evil, but given the free will of the bishops, is it quite necessary that they mislead the faithful in order for this to occur?
    If the documents of VII called for these conferences they were wrong.
    I have never seen. in my life , any good fruit coming from these conferences.
    On the other hand I have seen good fruit come from the Apostolic letters and encyclicals issueing forth from the quill of the Supreme Pontiff.
    Also I have seen good fruit coming from traditional mass pastors and parishes, but not the USCCB.
    In this light what actual great good comes out of the conference sessions?
    Why not eliminate the middleman[usccb] and just have the individual bishops obey the Magisterial teaching of the Church, and the Supreme Pontiff.?

    God bless you

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    Dan: Is the Church better off today because of the bishops conferences?

    According to his remarks in an EWTN interview before becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger does not think so. I agree with him.

    He explained that national bishops conferences attempt to exercise authority that is not theirs. In usurping the authority of individual bishops, they provide cover for bishops who don’t want to make hard decisions.

    He implied (without spelling it out explicitly) that he thinks that large bishops conferences tend toward common-denominator decisions that are simply bad. (For instance, the USCCB anti-kneeling decisions that Card. Ratzinger plainly disagrees with.)

    A case in point might be the USCCB’s current failure to face squarely — as recommended by Ab. Burke — the requirements of canon law regarding politicians.

  13. chironomo says:

    “a case in point might be the USCCB’s current failure to face squarely—as recommended by Ab. Burke—the requirements of canon law regarding politicians.”

    Apparently another case in point would be the decisions regarding Sacred Music. If this is a “common-denominator” decision, it is the lowest common denominator.

  14. Boko Fittleworth says:

    Will the names of who voted for and against be made available?

  15. John says:

    So, a literal reading of Vatican II would prevent the dissolution of the USCCB, as you have advocated.

    Since much of the USCCB ignores literal translations of the documents of Vatican II, and anything from the Vatican for that matter, why not interpret them with the famous “Spirit of Vatican II?”

  16. Mary Ann says:

    I agree with Chironomo that the tone of the original is so flawed, I don’t have great hopes at this news. Six hours, especially of committee time, could hardly scratch the surface.

    I am praying for a clear, concise, document from Rome and joining in the ‘Novena to St. Cecilia’ effort at The New Liturgical Movement.

    We need a great deal of clarity as regards suitability, priorities of music and use of Latin. This must come from Rome, again.

  17. David Andrew says:

    What is even more worrisome is that the same defenders of the first round of documents from the USCCB beginning in the 1970′s will claim that these new documents are now even more relevant and authoritative than the “outdated” curial instructions (Musicam Sacram in particular), regardless any seriously close reading or appropriate vote, let alone the absence of recognitio by the Holy See. I cannot share any remote hope that the destructive, narcissistic music being peddled by the Big Three “Catholic” music publishers will be changed, curtailed or subjected to any better or more responsible scruitiny than they are now. It’s up to us to continue being a voice in the wilderness in these matters.

    Keep studying, keep singing and playing, keep learning, keep the faith!

  18. Al says:

    I think one advantage of having a unified statement for the whole conference is that it will assist the music publishers, who are serving the entire country (if not the whole English-speaking world) and not just the diocese or archdiocese in which they are located. They have done a pretty good job being faithful to directives in the past, for example I see that OCP has been careful about changing the responsorial psalms such that they conform to approved translations, and not seat-of-the-pants paraphrased versions. This statement is a similar to “Built of Living Stones,” which has been very useful in our diocese. I’m not crazy about BLS, since it lacked the dynamism of “Art and Environment in Catholic Worship,” but I can see that the effect of BLS has been good in bringing about consistency and mitigating the destructive effects of having radically different approaches from one pastor (or bishop) to another.

    I have not seen the update of the music document yet, but I think it will preserve the idea of various critiques that need to be made about the suitability of music for liturgy. In some cases, the application of these critiques may be very straight forward; but in others it will be more difficult.

    I don’t remember if Bishop Trautman said that this document required a recognitio; I think he said that the Lent/Holy Week translation require one . . . but does anyone remember if the music document does? I don’t think it does . . . but I had to take a phone call during that part of the meeting. I do think it was very wise for them to change the vote from majority to 66%, because it could cause problems later if the procedure was not followed.

    I did think it was unfortunate for there to be so many typographical errors, and I congratulate Bishop Trautman (who must have been a bit embarrased by this) for handling the problem so smoothly. He did explain all of the typos carefully, as the minutes will show, and clearly the parlimentarian did not have a problem with how it was handled, or he would have made a issue of it.

  19. Al says:

    Chironomo, I think it just takes a long time to post. Once you hit “submit,” just wait a few minutes. Also, be sure to copy your text first in case it gets lost, and you can paste it if you have to a second time.

    David, who is going to provide the “scrutiny” to which you refer? Even with critereon being carefully defined, their application is still very much a matter of taste. There may be some selections from OCP or GIA that you don’t like, but does that make them inappropriate for the liturgy? Who decides that a piece of music is narcissistic?

  20. JML says:

    Being from the Nation’s Capital, I smell a rat. When the document is “too cumbersome to reproduce”, you can be assured that a hidden agenda is being laid underfoot.

    If I was in the Chair, I would have told His Excellency to go ahead and we’ll table the matter until we all get a chance to read it.

    Then I would have fired him and sent him to missionary to the Navaho.

  21. Athanasius says:

    The decree “Christus Dominus” called for bishops’ conferences to be created, each serving as an “assembly in which the prelates of a nation or of a territory jointly exercise their pastoral office in order to enhance the church’s beneficial influence to all.”
    So, a literal reading of Vatican II would prevent the dissolution of the USCCB, as you have advocated.

    I don’t particularly care what Vatican II said, the Pope is above any council and can undo its pastoral reforms. I think like many pastoral reforms of Vatican II which have produced bad fruit, the establishment of national Bishop’s conferences was not only unnecessary but proved disastrous. At some point we have to ask the question “Has Vatican II been a failure?” If the answer is yes the Church must distance itself from those reforms, albeit gradually. If Vatican II has been a success, why did everything predicted in Gaudium et Spes turn out to be false? We know it has not been a success, therefore the Magisterium needs to separate out those reforms which have had some positive effect from those which have not and eliminate the latter. The Bishops’ conferences are at the top of my list.

  22. Athanasius says:

    David, who is going to provide the “scrutiny” to which you refer? Even with critereon being carefully defined, their application is still very much a matter of taste. There may be some selections from OCP or GIA that you don’t like, but does that make them inappropriate for the liturgy? Who decides that a piece of music is narcissistic?

    The magisterium of the Church, which pronounced the principles of Sacred Music has already done so. Pope St. Pius X said in his apostolic letter on Sacred Music:

    Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality.

    It must be holy, and must, therefore, exclude all profanity not only in itself, but in the manner in which it is presented by those who execute it.

    It must be true art, for otherwise it will be impossible for it to exercise on the minds of those who listen to it that efficacy which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her liturgy the art of musical sounds.

    But it must, at the same time, be universal in the sense that while every nation is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still these forms must be subordinated in such a manner to the general characteristics of sacred music that nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them. These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.

    On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the suprememodel for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down thefollowing rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple. -St. Pius X Tra le Sollecitudini

    Vatican II also re-inforced St. Pius X’s teaching, in Sancrosanctum Concilium:

    The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

    But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30. -SC #116, Vatican II

    Therefore, any piece that does not conform to the model of Gregorian Chant is profane, narcissistic and inherently unsuitable for the Sacred Liturgy. Note that profane does not mean a cuss word, it means not suited to worship. That would be 95% of OCP publications, which, in my humble opinion, are suited best for fueling a fire not singing at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  23. Margo says:

    “If Vatican II has been a success, why did everything predicted in Gaudium et Spes turn out to be false? We know it has not been a success…”

    Athanasius,

    Come, come, now. It’s only been 44 years since the Second Vatican Council. Over 80% of the Catholics in this country have yet to *read* the Council documents, hear them explained well, and/or begin living out the vision they express. And remember, too, that in the Church the things that last don’t happen fast.

    I don’t think anyone has sufficient grounds for claiming that the Second Vatican Council has not been a success. It hardly makes sense, on one level, to refer to it in the past tense.

    Give it at least a hundred years. *Then* I’ll take any comments on its success a bit more seriously.

  24. Kim says:

    Margo:

    Before anyone reads them don’t you think they should be accurately translatred first? If it is a bogus translation, why read them in the first place.

  25. Red Cardigan says:

    I sing in a parish choir, and thus would very much welcome true reform in liturgical music, preferably including a complete ban on about 98% of the contents of the regrettable “Gather” hymnal.

    That said, may I humbly request prayers for the repose of the soul of our choir director who died suddenly and most unexpectedly last week?

  26. danphunter1 says:

    Red,
    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord
    and let perpetual light shine upon him
    May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed
    Through the mercy of God rest in peace.
    Amen.

  27. Margo says:

    Kim,

    Where did you get the impression that the documents of the 2nd Vatican Council have not been properly translated? (I wasn’t talking about the prayers of the Eucharistic Liturgy.)

    I was going with either Flannery or the texts found at the Vatican website. Do you know of any problems with these translations such that I should not trust them to be accurate?

  28. Henry Edwards says:

    Margo: Give it at least a hundred years. Then I’ll take any comments on its success a bit more seriously.

    Same principle I use for hymns at Mass. When a hymn is announced, I turn to the page and look at the info at the bottom. If it was composed in the 20th century, I close the hymnal and do something more appropriate for the next few minutes than singing along with those less discerning in the crowd.

    I’m not sure whether giving Vatican II a century to prove its worth is a good idea, but this principle certainly works well with hymns. No problem with those that date to the 19th and earlier centuries. And in the year 2100 — if, despite the results of the fall from grace, I’m still around — I’ll be happy to sing those 20th century hymns that by then will have stood the test of a century’s passage of time and trial.

  29. Al says:

    Some of the archaic language in the 100+ year old selectings is problematic, in that they retain gender-exclusive horizontal language. Case in point, “Rise Up, O Men of God,” which is a great hymn tune, but is clearly in need of an updated text.

  30. Patronus says:

    “If it was composed in the 20th century, I close the hymnal and do something more appropriate for the next few minutes than singing along with those less discerning in the crowd.”

    Pardon me, but that is just absurd (and ridiculously condescending) – even if one is against modern music on principle. Besides the fact that there are plenty of good hymns penned in the 20th century (a selection that requires authentic discernment), such outright defiance during the liturgy doesn’t edify anyone. There have been plenty of time when I was upset enough not to sing a song that had been chosen; but one should not do something so drastic as to make it a noticeable distraction.

  31. Athanasius says:

    Al wrote: which is a great hymn tune, but is clearly in need of an updated text.

    I find your position quite laughable, not intending any offense. Why can’t people sing this? The English language, like every other language, functions with masculine priority. The masculine form covers both the plural when both sexes are referenced. There is nothing offensive in gender exclusive language except for those who are unlearned, immature and are offended by everything they are too foolish to comprehend. The times need to get to date with reality, not change and re-write every hymn to fit the tempermental, cry baby mood of modern people. The feminine gender is included in the masculine when both genders are referenced, that is how the English language, and every other language, works. I’m sorry if that seems outdated for you. We do not need to re-write the great hymns of the past.

  32. Henry Edwards says:

    There have been plenty of time when I was upset enough not to sing a song that had been chosen; but one should not do something so drastic as to make it a noticeable distraction.

    Relax, Patronus. Have no fear, I would never do anything distracting at Holy Mass.

    And be not confused. Prayer rather than song during Mass is not “outright defiance”. Indeed, it can be be most edifying spiritually, and surely is never a bad thing. And it’s certainly better than the 30-yard stare the majority of folks exhibit during camp-song music at Mass.

  33. Al: “Rise Up, O Men of God,” which is a great hymn tune, but is clearly in need of an updated text.

    Yah… like… like… “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlefolk“?

    Let’s change old hymns around! The inclusive language (which no one really cares about… really) is so much more meaningful.

  34. Athanasius says:

    Give it at least a hundred years. Then I’ll take any comments on its success a bit more seriously.

    What else should one conclude when after 40 years of inter-religious “dialogue” the Jews are offended because the Vatican re-affirms that salvation occurs solely through Jesus Christ? What has been going on for 40 years that they are confused by this? Yet Vatican II said to initiate dialogue, which is obviously failing. Perhaps the failure could be described in Vatican II’s ambiguity, and failing to clearly lay out either a plan for dialogue or define terms such as “dialogue” and “ecumenism”.

  35. Al says:

    There are many ways of adapting various texts and hymntunes by matching the metrical patterns of each. It would be a pitty to not use the hymn tune for “Rise Up, O Men of God,” simply because the text is obsolete.

  36. Dave says:

    Or rather, it would be a pity to change the words to well-known traditional hymns to comply with politically correct sensibilities

  37. Margo says:

    (How funny!: my anti-spam word to type in was “Te Deum” :) )

    Henry: I hear you. I use different criteria (are the words and tone of this song truly appropriate for where we’re at in the Mass?)(and yes, I have to ask about tone b/c our liturgist cut his musical teeth in nightclubs), but I also just say to Jesus sometimes, “Jesus, I’m sorry — some of this stuff just *bugs* me, but I also don’t want to be going through this Mass in a ‘judge-all-the-songs-’ frame of mind. You wanted me here and I know You want me to focus on You, so here: that’s what I’m going to try to do; please help me.”

    Also, re “giving Vatican II a century to prove its worth:” I wouldn’t go quite that far. One can take it right now, on faith in the Holy Spirit’s intervention, that God was indeed speaking to us through the Second Vatican Council. It has great worth, which we’re still unpacking. We’ve barely begun to unpack it, at this point.

    Athanasius: a) I’ve never seen such a well-worded case for the ridiculosity of gender-inclusive language. That smokes! (Can I quote you?)
    b)Thanks for being more specific on where you see Vatican II ‘failing’ (ecumenism, dialogue with the Jews). I have not followed that situation enough to make any comments on it, besides, perhaps this: What I meant was that we haven’t finished unpacking the riches of the Council, and so a definitive claim of failure in some area may be premature.

  38. Al says:

    Athanasius, I am aware of how the English language functions, as are those much more expert than you or I who have formulated the style manuals of every professional, academic, scientific or journalistic body in the U.S. for the past 25 years who would tend to disagree with your assessment. Inasmuch as gender exclusive language is offensive to many, and is also easily avoided, there is no reason to utlize it. This is a simply matter of charity and justice.

  39. Al: style manuals of every professional, academic, scientific or journalistic body

    But this has nothing to do with singing our traditional songs and hymns. This has nothing to do with our legitimate use of our cultural patrimony.

    To bowdlerize Hamlet, or God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, or risk altering the content of divine revelation (by shifting Scripture and/or Mass texts) because of some passing fad or questionable claims of “being offended”, is simply daft.

  40. Athanasius says:

    those much more expert than you or I who have formulated the style manuals of every professional, academic, scientific or journalistic body in the U.S. for the past 25 years who would tend to disagree with your assessment.

    All the more reason why I am right. These same \”experts\” have destroyed our education curriculums in that time and churn out filth and call it literature. I take the majority of what they have to say cum granu salis

  41. Margo says:

    “Inasmuch as gender exclusive language is offensive to many, and is also easily avoided, there is no reason to utlize it. This is a simply matter of charity and justice.”

    Al, you may be caught in a web on this one. If you would, allow me point out a few holes in the theory that ‘gender inclusive language is simply a matter of charity and justice.’

    I’m not sure how truly offensive “gender exclusive” language is to anyone, let alone many. I have a subjective objection to it on those grounds alone: I’ve never seen any stats on who or how many whos think that English pronouns as they have developed to this point are currently being used in an offensive manner. Maybe it’s a matter of someone trying to push an agenda.

    Secondly, what you’re calling ‘gender-inclusive language’ is not easily avoided. Making all the changes it calls for undoes many a good rhyme, stilts one’s writing style, and distracts the many of us who are used to the male pronoun doing double duty for all of mankind. Is this a matter of charity and justice, or is this, perhaps, a matter of advancing an agenda?

    Three, there is an important social reason to use it, just as there is a significant social reason to use language excised of its masculine priority (as Athanasius put it). It is customary, for instance, to speak of “brothers and sisters.” Using this word order says nothing in particular. Saying “sisters and brothers,” however, is not customary English, and signals that the speaker quite likely is trying (his? her? their? see how it can be awkward?) darndest to communicate that he/she/they (again, that’s awkward construction) have some sympathy with the more aggressive elements of the Women’s Liberation movement. There’s that agenda again, it would seem!

    As to justice: I do not see that what is due to anyone is being violated by the use of normal English. If they choose not to learn or keep in mind the history of our language, including the fact that ‘man’ stands for all us humans, they may be due some charitable education. But no one is getting cheated of what their dignity as a child of God is due when normal English language is used.

    What about justice to the Word of God? So many connections we are meant to catch are lost when the word ‘man’ is changed to ‘one.’ How will we be reminded of the Son of Man when we read the word ‘one’ in biblical texts and in hymns?

    Re charity: Charity is to serve another’s best interests. To make the truth about God and His children clear is to serve anyone and everyone’s best interests. Changing our patrimonial hymns and texts to suit a passing linguistic fad doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests, and would therefore not be charitable.

    My main point is this, Al: don’t let the lies suck you in! They’re easy to swallow, but they’re poison. Truth might not taste as sweet, at first bite, but it really does bring goodness and life.