The plenary session of the USCCB just jammed through a document of guidelines on sacred music, a document which was reclassified so that it didn’t need a recognitio from the Holy See.
In Rome, however, things in Rome are heating up over the issue of musica sacra, which the Council described as pars integrans in the liturgy.
In the Italian daily La Stampa there are several articles of great interest. La Stampa has a liberal bias. The way Italians use the term "teocon" is not the same as in the USA. In the USA "theocon" points to religious people who share part of the neocon agenda (e.g., Novak, Weigel, etc.). In Italy, "teocon" refers to people who are not really religious, but who share some common ground with Benedict XVI concerning politics and the public role of religion. In the liberal mind of the Italian journalist, "teocon" is pejorative. For Italian liberals the is usually sharply defined in templates. In the poltical sphere, for example, you must be anti-American and you must hate President Bush. If you don’t, you must a little stupid. When we port this paradigm approach over to the Church scene, your vision of the Church is an entity marginalized from the public square, which might be useful only as an agent of social change, and not too intellectual, but rather very populist. That is the enlightened way to see the Church. If, however, you are interested in a Church with a strong voice in the public square, traditional and vigorous expressions of teach and liturgy, etc., then you must be rather shallow, sort of a neanderthal. Thus, even traditional clergy get lumped into the "teocons".
La Stampa is quite worried about the return of conservatives within the Church, these "teocons", because it signals a deeper involvement of the Church in public life. After last years referendum and the enormous "Family Day", that is nothing less than terrifying. Thus, the issue of sacred music is going to make these liberals crazy, because it heralds something far more threatening. The tables are being turned on the progressivists in the Church, and the progressivists are freaking out because the people being brought in are actually competent. That must be scary.
But let’s get at a couple of the piece in La Stampa.
Canti gregoriani invece di chitarre … Gregorian chant instead of guitars
This whiny article laments the arrival of Catholic "teocons" on the scene. They are lumping into "teocon" men like the new papal M.C. Msgr. Guido Marini. The idea is that they are not really deep thinkers. They are interested in dressing up, having pretty music according to their tastes, etc. The ouster of (deep thinkers, forward looking visionaries like) Msgr. Piero Marini suggests to the jittery writers of La Stampa and their ilk that other men are at risk of losing their jobs, namely, Msgr. Guiseppe Liberto, Master of the Cappella Sistina.
Liberto has sytematically been replacing more traditional chants and pieces with his own schlocky compositions. He an Piero Marini were in synch. La Stampa reveals is bias about the threat of a return to traditional liturgy and music. The article basically says that if there is a return to more a traditional style of things (which clearly the writer thinks is going to happen) frogs will fall from the sky and active participation will be no more because of the selfish imposition of personal tastes on the universal Church by a few reactionary "theocons". Attend: the opening of the article mentions that the 1st Sunday of Advent could be important for those watching sacred music matters.
An interesting point: The first question is: Per chi stona il coro della Cappella Sistina…. This si a bit hard to put into English. "For whom is the Cappella Sistina singing out of tune?"
There is a another piece, "Oggi pensano a fare soldi con i dischi… These days they just want to make money off of CD’s"
This is a brief interview with the Maestro Emeritus of the competing choir at the Vatican, the Cappella of the Basilica of St. Peter. Msgr. Colino, a nice fellow but not the greatest choir director, was at least a proponent of Gregorian chant who had to battle against the current established by Piero Marini and his minions. Colino lost, like Bartolucci, and got the boot.
This interview is pretty bitter. Colino blasts what is going on at the Lateran Basilica (under the charge of the Vicariate of Rome) where the goopy music of Msgr. Marco Frisina reigns supreme. They record a lot of his stuff with the Diocesan choir and sell CD’s all over Italy where this music is lapped up like the cloying Karo-syrup it is and imitated in cathedrals and parishes. Colino says that the proof of the terrible state of sacred music is demonstrated at the Lateran where "abominable things are happening. Maestro Marco Frisina has zeroed out sacred music and rendered it all light, inconsistent and useless. Frisina isn’t really player in the field of sacred music, even if thanks to the media everyone thinks he is a great composer." There is more of the same. Frankly, one can pick this up in nearly all major cities with cathedrals. But I digress. Colino is looking toward the 1st Sunday of Advent. (Sound familiar?) Colino sees Benedict, with moves like Summorum Pontificum to be trying to revive the Church’s tradition of sacred music. At the end, Colino mentions the "theocons": "If the ‘theocons’ have set up their ideological banner so much the better: that can only be good for the Church."
Then there is a piece quoting Liberto himself, the man whose job is probably on the line: "L’epurato: ho fatto dialogare le culture… The man who’s been sacked: I started a dialogue between cultures". The word "epurato" comes out of the political economic struggles in Italy: it means someone who was "purged" from a party or a worker who was fired. This whole thing is being framed in political terms. This piece is an apologia pro vita sua: "I composed a great deal of music, for nearly every large pontifical ceremony." He then recounts what he thinks are his triumphs. Personally, I remember nearly writhing through them in an endurance test between my sensibilities and the ability of the Sistine screamers to shatter my composure. But I digress. "I always wedded my fresh new work with Gregorian chant. I tried always to join the liturgy to living language, because of the challenge the Council bequeathed to us – so-called "aggiornamento" which consists exactly in opening the past to diverse cultures". Do you see how this fellow was hand in glove with Mons. Piero Marini? A nearly perfect paradigm of how sacred music is pars integrans in the liturgy.
We also read here a brief interview with Mons. Miserachs Grau of the Pontificial Institute for Sacred Music. He is also the Maestro of the Cappella at St. Mary Major, one of the places in Rome with the longest and most distinguished musical tradition, along with St. Peter’s and St. Johns. This fellow, in my opinion, is matter to Liberto’s anti-matter as far as theory of sacred music is concerned. I have heard him speak and he is great.
The title of the piece: "Everyone has created for himself his own repertory: thus, the destruction of the spiritual life."
Again, La Stampa sticks to the "theocon" issue. This is the point La Stampa is trying to hammer home with the average person. They are shaping the readers view in anticipation of the changes that they sense are coming.
"Q: What do you think about seeing classical music become part of the patrimony of the theocons.
It seems to me there is emerging a sense of guilt over the obvilion tradition was thrust into. Theocons have made this a point of an ideological battle. This is seen also in the connection made between the defense of sacred music and Mass in Latin [NB: he probably is referring to the TLM here]. I appreciate their intentions, even if our position is not bound strictly to the old rite.
Q: Do you see in embracing the theocons any risk of being used?
No. For us it is a question of art and faith. Even if for them it is only a question of aesthetics, I can be a user fellow traveller, above all in at a time when those who were in control open the way to every sort of abuse.
Q: What are you referring to?
"The damage done to sacred music which has been tolerated for years at St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome. In the Lateran Basilica you hear absurdities, like arranging Gregorian chant with four voices. If you can believe it, they suspend the music program during summer. Everyone is creating his own repoertory for himself and up to now there has been only one result: the destruction of the spiritual life."
You can see, the war is joined.
And the USCCB is going to put out its guidelines on sacred music. The document was reclassified so that it would not have to go to Rome for a recogitio.