My first look the new USCCB document on Sacred Music.

I am beginning to read through the new USCCB document on sacred music.  While I am still framing my impressions, I was struck by the following.  This seems to be a very new approach to music from the pens of the bishops:

My emphases and comments.

11. Within the gathered assembly, the role of the congregation is especially important. “The full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.” 

12. Participation in the Sacred Liturgy must be “internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace.”  [Exactly.  Internal first and foremost.  That is the starting point.  In fact, the baptismal character is the starting point!]

Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the choir, the assembly continues to participate actively [Note this: the document says that people participate "actively" by "listening".  They are getting away from the out of date cliche that listening is "passive".] as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.” “In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. [It is hard to listen with true attention!] Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.”

13. Participation must also be external, so that internal participation can be expressed and reinforced by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes, and by the acclamations, responses, and singing. The quality of our participation in such sung praise comes less from our vocal ability [Except in the case of some music, which requires by its very nature a certain expertise or at least proficiency.] than from the desire of our hearts to sing together of our love for God. Participation in the Sacred Liturgy both expresses and strengthens the faith that is in us.

14. Our participation in the Liturgy is challenging. Sometimes, our voices do not correspond to the convictions of our hearts. At other times, we are distracted or preoccupied by the cares of the world. [Right.  It is possible to sing and sing but have your mind a thousand miles away.] But Christ always invites us to enter into song, to rise above our own preoccupations, and to give our entire selves to the hymn of his Paschal Sacrifice for the honor and glory of the Most Blessed Trinity.  [That is what active receptivity produces.]

I will remind you that I was very skeptical about this document when it was presented at that last plenary of the USCCB.  I wrote that on this blog. During the meeting itself, on a phone call with someone on the inside there, I was assured that I would find it pretty good.  I continued to wonder with a measure of anxiety.

However, here is a little homework project for you. 

Compare the excerpt above with a sermon I gave in Camden, NJ a year or so ago.  You can listen to the sermon here.

http://www.wdtprs.com/medi/audio/06_08_15_JTZ_Assumption.mp3

In the USCCB doc, in par., they cite the same quote I used, from St. Augustine, cantare amantis est.

Do you hear the same themes?  Never did I think to read these ideas in a USCCB document, frankly.  I am encouraged.

The key in the excerpt above is the emphasis on interior active participation.  Interior active is placed first and foremost, which comes to externalized activity.  This is an important building block in the document, because then ever after there is a constant repetition of the phrase "full, conscious and active", almost to the point where it is weakened through exaggeration.

However, there is a problem.  I think there are some problems with the section on choirs.  Here is an excerpt:

The Choir

28. The Second Vatican Council stated emphatically that choirs must be diligently promoted while ensuring that “the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs. . . .” The choir must not minimize the musical participation of the faithful. The congregation commonly sings unison melodies, which are more suitable for generally unrehearsed community singing. [Right.  This brings that sort of music essentially to the lowest common denominator.  That doesn’t mean it has to be banal or tasteless.  It just has to be easy enough for pretty much every one to sing.  That can cetainly be said of the responses such as "Et cum spiritu tuo", for example.]  This is the primary song of the Liturgy. [I am not sure I like that distinction.] Choirs and ensembles, on the other hand, comprise persons drawn from the community who possess the requisite musical skills and a commitment to the established schedule of rehearsals and Liturgies. Thus, they are able to enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone.  [It could be that this needs deeper thinking.  Sacred music, especially that which is truly art, is pars integrans in the liturgy, an "integral or integrating part" of the liturgy.  It isn’t mere ornament, on a secondary level to the simple things the whole congregation can attain.]

29. Choirs (and ensembles—another form of choir that commonly includes a combination of singers and instrumentalists) exercise their ministry in various ways. An important ministerial role of the choir or ensemble is to sing various parts of the Mass in dialogue or alternation with the congregation. [I wonder if this doesn’t treat a choir rather like, say, a pipe organ, that sustains congregational singing.  Perhaps not… I don’t know.  I just wonder how this will come to be read in parishes.]  Some parts of the Mass that have the character of a litany, such as the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, are clearly intended to be sung in this manner. [Fine. But what about settings intended for a true choir?  Does this eliminate the possibility of using the whole of a Palestrina Mass?]  Other Mass parts may also be sung in dialogue or alternation, especially the Gloria, the Creed, and the three processional songs: the Entrance, the Preparation of the Gifts, and Communion. [What implications does this have for a schola cantorum using the Graduale Romanum?  An chorus and orchestra singing a Schubert Mass?]  This approach often takes the form of a congregational refrain with verses sung by the choir. Choirs may also enrich congregational singing by adding harmonies and descants.  [Choir as add on to the congregation, which by its nature sings the most simple of melodies.]

30. At times, the choir performs its ministry by singing alone. The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich [I will soon hate that word.] the Church. [WATCH CAREFULLY: This is where a serious stumble occurs.]  Appropriate times where the choir might commonly sing alone include a prelude before Mass, [before] the Entrance chant, [That would be the Introit.] the Preparation of the Gifts, [That would be the Antiphona ad Offertorium, which doesn’t exist in the Novus Ordo?] during the Communion procession [Would this be the Communion Antiphon?] or after the reception of Communion, [filler?] and the recessional [after]. Other appropriate examples are given in the section of this document entitled “Music and the Structure of the Mass” (nos. 137-199). The music of the choir must always be appropriate to the Liturgy, either by being a proper liturgical text [Which is always attained by using the Graduale Romanum.] or by expressing themes appropriate to the Liturgy.

 

The problem with this is that, while on the one hand there is reference to the Church’s treasury of sacred music, by the model of alternative singing of choir and congregation, much of that music is excluded.  Example, if you are going to sing a Mass using a Mass by Palestrina or with and orchestra and Mozart’s Coronation Mass, you might have to chop the music up and sing only parts of the Mass, inserting other pieces in a completely different style for the sake of congregational singing. 

The solution could be in this: Having one Mass on a Sunday where people participate listening to the Ordinary of a great choral work, by no means violates the principle that the congregation has its own role.  First, they sing those parts pertaining to them, such as responses, acclamations, etc.  However, there are all sorts of other Masses when they can sing more alternatively with the choir.  The point is that having some Haydn Mass or Mass by Josquin doesn’t mean that the principle is being violated because people participate by listening.

There are some other fairly good points, for what they are worth.  For example, cantors should pretty much be heard and not seen if people know the tunes and mikes should be turned down if people are singing well.  (I would just as soon have he cantors seen and not heard most of the time.)   The organ is given high relief and nary a mention is given to the ghastly use of the piano or guitar.  Professionals should be well-formed and paid decent wages. 

The section on music in schools falls down rather badly, I’m afraid.  This was a chance to assert the need for formation in what the Council asked for: Latin and Gregorian Chant.  In this document zero.

But there is a section on Latin.  Let’s take a look:

 

61. The use of the vernacular is the norm […] in most liturgical celebrations in the dioceses of the United States [Nooo… the use of Latin is the norm for dioceses everywhere.  The vernacular is the exception which is permitted in the Latin Church.  That said…]  “for the sake of a better comprehension of the mystery being celebrated.”  However, care should be taken to foster the role of Latin in the Liturgy, particularly in liturgical song. [Okay.] Pastors should ensure “that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” [That’s Sacrosanctum Concilium.] They should be able to sing these parts of the Mass proper to them, at least according to the simpler melodies.  [More honored in the violation than the observance.]

62. At international and multicultural gatherings of different language groups, [UGH.  Not another word about parish life?  Schools?] it is most appropriate to celebrate the Liturgy in Latin, “with the exception of the readings, [On the other hand, yesterday I had a most interesting conversation with Archbp. Ranjith who argued that even readings could be in Latin.  I agree.  But I’ll get to that in another entry.  ENOUGH of the blind dogmatism of vernacular readings!] the homily and the prayer of the faithful.” In addition, “selections [Just selections?  Teach people chant and EVERYONE could sing the whole Ordinary!  I’ve seen it done in a superbly multicultural parish as a matter of course because for years the pastor, who didn’t consider people to stupid to learn it, did what the Council asked.] of Gregorian chant should be sung” at such gatherings, whenever possible.  [It’s always possible, Your Excellencies.]

 

That was rather thin soup, even though they properly mentioned the requirement of the Council Fathers that pastors of souls need to teach their flocks to sing and speak those parts of Mass that pertain to them in Latin and also the vernacular.

Let’s go on:

 

63. To facilitate the singing of texts in Latin, the singers should be trained in its correct pronunciation and understand its meaning. To the greatest extent possible and applicable, singers and choir directors are encouraged to deepen their familiarity with the Latin language.  [Fine.  Perhaps the bishops who wrote this could step up to the plate and have Latin Liturgy in their cathedrals?]

64. Whenever the Latin language poses an obstacle to singers, even after sufficient training has been provided—for example, in pronunciation, understanding of the text, or confident rendition of a piece—it would be more prudent to employ a vernacular language in the Liturgy.  [Do you remember what I said above about not thinking people are too stupid to learn?  People can do this if they are a) given the chance and b) someone leads them.]

65. Seminarians should ["must" according to the Code of Canon Law.] “receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant.”  [When will that be starting?  Perhaps also in response to their desire to make use of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum?  That is the 500,000 lb gorilla in the background, isn’t it.]

66. In promoting the use of Latin in the Liturgy, pastors should always “employ that form of participation which best matches the capabilities of each congregation.”  [And let’s not underestimate them.]

"But Father!  But Father!", you may be about to type. "Isn’t there anything decent about Gregorian Chant?"  Here we go:

Gregorian Chant

72. “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” Gregorian chant is uniquely the Church’s own music. Chant is a living connection with our forebears in the faith, the traditional music of the Roman rite, a sign of communion with
the universal Church, a bond of unity across cultures, a means for diverse communities to
participate together in song, and a summons to contemplative participation in the Liturgy. NB: "Contemplative" here must not be reduced to "silent".  Congregations also can sing simple chants.  Nor is listening "passive".] 

73. The “pride of place” given to Gregorian chant by the Second Vatican Council is modified [Here we go!] by the important phrase “other things being equal.” These “other things” are the important liturgical and pastoral concerns facing every bishop, pastor, and liturgical musician. In
considering the use of the treasures of chant, pastors and liturgical musicians should take care
that the congregation is able to participate in the Liturgy with song. They should be sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity
and peace.  [Isn’t it nice that Gregorian chant transcends those differences?  But that seems not in fact to be what this paragraph is trying to say.  It sounds like they are trying to say: "If people don’t know chant, use what they know instead." Or am I wrong?]

74. The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the
Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin.
In many worshiping communities in the United States,
fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not
sung it before. While prudence, pastoral sensitivity, and reasonable time for progress are
encouraged to achieve this end, every effort in this regard is laudable and highly encouraged[How about: "DO IT NOW!"]

75. Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of
which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as
Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants
have been mastered.  [This is all doable.]

76. “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Proper of the Mass as
much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.” [OOPSS!  Not so great.  Remember that a Schola cantorum has its place!] When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum
might [must] be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. [People… this is chant… not quantum mechanics.] As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended.  [UGH!!  NOOOO!  THEY’RE NOT!  AWFUL IDEA!  BLECH!] Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to “unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings.  [Yes.]

77. The Entrance and Communion antiphons are found in their proper place in the Roman Missal. Composers seeking to create vernacular translations of the appointed antiphons and psalms may also draw from the Graduale Romanum, either in their entirety or in shortened refrains for the congregation or choir.  [Just don’t force English translations into Gregorian chant melodies.  YUK.]

78. Gregorian chant draws its life from the sacred text it expresses, and recent official chant editions employ revised notation suggesting natural speech rhythm rather than independent
melodic principles. Singers are encouraged to adopt a manner of singing sensitive to the Latin
text.   [Translation: "Sing it right."]

79. Missals in various languages provide vernacular chants inspired by Latin chant, or other melodies, for sung responses between ministers and people. For the sake of unity across the Church, musicians should not take it upon themselves to adjust or alter these melodies locally.  [If it isn’t in Latin, it ain’t Gregorian chant, folks.  Just leave the Latin alone and sing it.]

80. Whenever strophic chant hymns are published with Latin or vernacular texts, their
melodies should be drawn from the Liber Hymnarius.

 

Okay…. I’m tired of this.   I can do more another time.

Suffice to say that I am fairly pleased, though not entirely.  I think there was an attempt on the part of some of the writers to do the right thing.  I am imagining the pressure to attenuate many of the good points here.  Still, the message is pretty good.

I am only concerned that there is also communicate a bit of an attitude that people aren’t really capable of much and that Latin is so very very hard that it must be treated with greeeaaaat caaauuuution.  By also means use it, but be caaaarrrreeeefullllll.  

Latin and chant are like the nuclear energy of the liturgy.

Still… I am pretty positive about this.  The task is now for pastoral musicians to get hold of this and start pushing the good points before the bad spin can start.

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.

45 Responses to My first look the new USCCB document on Sacred Music.

  1. keith says:

    Fr. Z:

    Thanks for this review of the new document. Many of us here in this particular seminary are interested to see where the Bishops conference takes us, both liturgically in general and musically in particular.

    Just an FYI, this particular seminary has added Ecclesial Latin to the curriculum this year. YAY!

  2. Jason in San Antonio says:

    Latin and chant are like the nuclear energy of the liturgy.

    Mushroom clouds going off every Sunday in our parish. Kaboom.

    Sad to be moving soon,

  3. dcs says:

    More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered.

    Gloria VIII is “difficult”? Mass VIII (de Angelis) is one of the easiest Gregorian Mass settings in existence. The children’s choir at my parish can sing it.

  4. techno_aesthete says:

    Gloria VIII is “difficult”?

    dcs, that was my thought, too. There was a discussion on the NLM blog a while back about how Mass VIII is a relatively modern creation and isn’t true Gregorian chant. Anyway, I would recommend Mass XI (Orbis Factor). Let people know that there is a variety of Gregorian ordinaries.

  5. Patrick T says:

    It seems like they have said many good things…but also built in some nice loopholes for priests and bishops who want to avoid the use of any Latin at all. I wonder if those loopholes would have been deleted had this document gone to Rome for approval. They say nice things like: “Everyone should learn chant and Latin…unless of course for ‘pastoral’ reasons they don’t.” The “pastoral” reasons sort of gut the document. It supports those who want to change for the better and supports those who want to continue with “Here I Am, Lord” and “On Eagle’s Wings.”

  6. Brian Jilka says:

    At my home parish we are starting to see a little more Latin here and there, but it definitely needs a little help. We have a more “progressive” choir and a crusty, set-in-their ways choir that is a little more traditional, but quite tonedeaf. The ability is definitely here, but needs some direction and some divisions which have apparently formed need to be healed (plus some help with the pronunciation of Latin!). Unfortunately, being in college, I am not usually able to go to Mass there or be involved with the parish, but I could really see our parish starting to use Latin more.

    We usually have the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin, so I am hoping we can do the Kyrie as well on Sundays (time to get Father on board…) and the Gloria and Credo would be nice at least on major feasts like Christmas and Easter.

  7. RichR says:

    I’m in a men’s GRegorian chant group. When I started singing, we had to know many pieces by heart. so, I would walk around the house singing these chants out loud. My 2 year old listened intently. One day, I was working on the computer and heard a voice in the next room start singing. It was the 2 year old singing In Paradisum. He got all the words and notes right….and he was 2. After that, I worked with him on various chants, and by age 3 he had about 20 memorized – words, notes, all of it. So, when people say, “I can’t speak Latin,” I smaile and say, “Don’t worry, my 3 year old can teach you.”

  8. chironomo says:

    Fr. Z;

    Many of us have already begun to work in this direction, and many have been doing so for quite a while. The biggest problem with this document, other than not actually being what was called for, is that it merely points out what is already the Church’s teachings on Sacred Music, although even in that respect it attempts to create some exceptions that don’t exist (you pointed many of them out above!). In other words, all of this is already true, and has been for 40 years. What is needed is the flip-side of the coin: a “mandate” of some sort that these policies be carried out, not as mere “possibilities” but as the normative musical structure of Catholic Worship.

  9. dcs says:

    Anyway, I would recommend Mass XI (Orbis Factor). Let people know that there is a variety of Gregorian ordinaries.

    Since it’s Advent, why not Mass XVII? That’s pretty easy to pick up too, especially if one uses Kyrie B.

  10. Jonathan Bennett says:

    I wonder how many parishes will care.

    I apologize if I sound a little negative, but I am having difficulty seeing those many parishes where the purveyors of Haugen and Haas and guitar Masses have managed to entrench themselves as music and liturgy directors caring about this document.

    Even more implausible, in my mind, is the idea of this document being enforced by more then a minority of bishops. From what I have seen of it, this document merely gives a watered-down version of what Rome has been saying for years. The bulk of the American bishops have not shown much, if any, resolve to enforce previous Papal and curial directives regarding sacred music and the liturgy, so I cannot see them enforcing this.

    Besides, though this document may contain many improvements over previous liturgical directives in the United States it still contains its share of those little passages about the need for sensitivty to \”culture\” and the abilities of the congregation, and the use of the often-misunderstood term \”active participation\” without any solid definition, that many a liturgical director can defend themselves with when challenged as to why certain parts of the Ordinary have been replaced by hymns that only bear a small resemblance to the original prayer and why Luther\’s \”A Mighty Fortress is Our God\” is being used nearly every Sunday.

  11. WFW says:

    Another important point concerns the use of the cantor. They say that the cantor should NOT be heard over the congregation in communal singing such as hymns and the sung parts of the ordinary. If this is implemented it could have major consequences because it will foster a renewed emphasis on the organ leading hymns as well as using settings that do not highlight the cantor’s role as much (i.e. cantor sings verses and congregation sings refrain). Thomas Day in his great book “Why Catholics can’t sing: the Culture of Catholocism and the triumph of bad taste” spends a lot of time on this and advocates doing what the bishops seem to have done with this new document.

  12. John Paul says:

    I’m with Jonathan Bennett on this one. While each little snapshot of progress
    brings us hope, in the end it appears that our little circle of traditional-
    minded priests and faithful is just that, a little circle in the greater
    Church. In my diocese, we still only have the two chapels that offer the
    Traditional Latin Mass. I believe I’ve heard of a Latin N.O. Mass here and
    there. I’ve heard the Kyriae sung in Greek at a couple Masses. But the rest
    of the 25% or so attending Mass are blissfully singing their sacro-pop tunes
    (complete with swaying and hand-clapping to the “Lamb of God”) and nobody is
    going to dictate to them how to “celebrate Liturgy” in their Christian Community.

    This is real progress?

  13. Tom S. says:

    A couple of points to ponder:

    First, this document by itself is one thing, but if you look at it in terms of a “hermeneutic” of recent events (Sacramentum Caritatis, Summorum Pontificum, the Holy See’s new interest in music, etc.) it seems to me to be one more step on the way to goodness.

    Second, how many people, five years ago, would have expected this? I dare say, if we could transfer the document back in time, and give it to you, you’d probably swear it was bogus. Think about it – Latin… Chant… USCCB… Hard to reconcile, ain’t it!

    Yes, there are loopholes, and there will be people who abuse them, yes it could have been better. But I suggest that a GOOD document with a few loopholes is better than a bad document any day. Also, it seems to me that it gives a lot of help to those of us who want good music, and an opening for us to pursue that would not have otherwise been there.

    And remember Father Z’s R.O.E. #5 regarding Summorum Pontificum.

  14. Dan says:

    My parish will ignore this document but even if it didn’t what would govern would be the following sentence: “The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church.” In other words: you can go ahead and continue using the nauseatingly eclectic mix of gospel, folk and other music outside the Catholic tradition.

  15. David Andrew says:

    I have several problems with this document.

    First of all, it was pointed out by someone at another blog (over at CMAA) that it reads as though it was written by at least two different people, one who appears to be up to speed on Benedict’s “Marshall Plan” and another who is taking last feeble grasps at elements of the reform, much like a drowning man clutching at a razor blade.

    While I found much of what was said to have glimmers of hope, so much of it seems to be equivocal and self-referencing. The “party line” on “full, active and conscious participation” comes very early, and later on there seems to be an active attempt to kick the door of personal preferences clean off its hinges.
    As early as paragraph 11 we’re set up with the “party line” translation of No. 14 from Sancrosanctum Concilium. From that point it becomes the excuse for manipulative inculturation.

    The door is left wide-open for music like polka or mariachi settings all in the name of cultural inclusivity. It seems to dance around rather than concretely define, without equivocation, that the music should be closely tied to the liturgy and stand apart from time, history and culture. There’s lots of reference to “appropriateness,” followed by references to “pastoral sensitivity.” (See beginning around para. 126)

    In section IV.B. there are multiple references to collaboration: pastor, music director, liturgists, planners. (I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the words “liturgist” or “planner” used in a Roman or curial document, though I could be wrong.) Everyone gets to weigh in with their opinion. So the identity of music for the liturgy no longer rests with the liturgy, it gets pushed about by issues of relevance: “Is this particular piece of music appropriate for this use in the particular Liturgy?” Para. 126.

    The characteristics of the particular “gathered assembly” at that time have weight, and each liturgical celebration is viewed as an isolated, one-time event: “Each particular liturgical celebration is composed of many variable verbal and non-verbal elements: proper prayers, etc., . . .the socio-economic context in which the particular community is set, or even particular events impacting the life of the Christian faithful.” Para. 123.

    I can now see why they decided to vote on this as a set of “guidelines” which do not require the recognitio of the Holy See. I think that serious scholars of liturgical music are being sold down the river, and I also think we should guard against capitulation. If so many bishops have been able to make a hash out of something as weighty and important as the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by engaging in actions and issuing statements that misinterpret or entirely misrepresent its content, blocking its implementation, contrary to the wishes of the Holy Father, how can we possibly expect them to issue a solid, orthodox directive regarding music and liturgy for the Church in America?

    As for me, I’m not willing to give this a pass.

  16. TNCath says:

    This document reads very much like some of the constitutions and rules of some of those religious orders. They say all the right things to get approval from the Sacred Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, but then contain words and phrases such as \”should, \”are encouraged to,\” \”pastoral sensitivity,\” and \”prudence. These are all used to nuance key elements in the document. It took one religious order of sisters in the United States 20 years to get their constitution approved by the Vatican and nothing essentially changed in their community. They are dying a slow death. Had this document gone to Rome, Lord knows how long they would have played games with it. And would it ultimately have had any effect on diocesan music departments? Only if there are strong bishops who would insist upon the document’s implementation.

  17. CDB says:

    Whenever the Latin language poses an obstacle to singers, even after sufficient training has been provided…

    If Latin presents an obstacle to singers, it seems to me that by definition the training has not been sufficient.

  18. John V says:

    We probably should not forget how this document arrived at its present form. As I recall, after a series of “consultations”, the music subcommittee came up with a draft, which was then revised by the BCL at an “extraordinary” meeting in mid-August. The revised draft was then sent to the USCCB Administrative Committee with the recommendation that it be presented to the full body of bishops for a vote at the November meeting. The intention was that the final document be submitted to the Holy See for recognitio. In the two months or so that the bishops had to consider the document, there were hundreds of amendments proposed. These were grouped into those the committee recommended be accepted and those it recommended be rejected. The bishops voted to go along with the committee’s recommendations as to these blocks of amendments. Cardinal DiNardo then asked if they could see the document as amended before they voted on the final document. According to Bishop Trautman this would have involved many man-hours and thousands of dollars of photocopying costs, so the cardinal withdraw his request. As a result, the bishops voted to approve a version of the document they had never actually seen in final form, which contained numerous amendments to the version they had seen. The original draft was not made public (or at least was not widely available), nor were the proposed amendments. Thus it is impossible to tell what suggestions the committee recommended be rejected, or how the final version compares with the draft.

  19. dad29 says:

    Father, you’re a lot more panglossian than I am about that document.

    It’s the Economist: “On the one hand…..on the other hand…”

    Sure, someone managed to insert language which actually is correct according to the mind of the Church.

    Immediately following that, however, is the truck-sized hole.

    The document mentions “instruments” but never defines WHAT “instruments” are actually appropriate–nor does it do much in terms of “acceptable styles.”

    It’s hash, Father.

  20. Mark Jacobson says:

    Loopholes. Equivocations. Nuances. Hedges. Excuses.

    I see nothing in this document that will make anyone change anything.

    And there is (as far as I can see) no mention of the TLM. Considering the quality of the document, I guess I should be grateful for that.

  21. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Mass VIII (de Angelis) is so beautiful in its relative simplicity, and I’ve only heard it via MIDI files!

  22. Dave Wells says:

    I think many here are too pessimistic about the document. We should all remember the warning about that which is perfect being the enemy of that which is good. Sure, we all would like to have seen it go farther – but we all know it could have been worse – and what good there is in the document is a step in the right direction. We should also remember that this is a first step, not a final step. With the greater exposure of many to the TLM, with the revised translation of the Mass (when we actually get it), and with the implementation of many of the ideas in this document, we will begin to see a greater shift toward the “reform of the reform” in the Church.

    I for one plan to discuss the document with the director of the diocesan Worship and Liturgy Office, who happens to be an associate pastor in my parish. As traditional Catholics, we should always “Think Globally, Act Locally” (can anyone translate that into Latin?).

  23. Deborah says:

    “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” at the traditional Roman rite and pray for those of you working to reform the modern Roman rite.

    This music document will encourage the Catholics of good will and the others who don’t care (the majority) will simply go along ignoring it. The good I see in this is that it will encourage those who need encouragement.

    The reform will only come about when the current liturgical structures die off and when Rome makes a glaciel move.

  24. Fr. Z:

    I agree with your assessment.

    It is certainly an improvement over prior documents, without question. A lot of folks who are disappointed are comparing it with what they know to be the full norms, and what is eminently doable and has been done; from that perspective, yes it is a disappointment.

    However, compared to prior documents from the bishops, it is a big step forward. For one, it validates many of the points being made by priests, music directors and choir leaders who are pushing for “reform of the reform.” I have had people contest what seems the plain meaning of Vatican II documents on chant and Latin, as well as the norm of singing the Mass; well, this spells it out. This is good ammunition for those who want to use it moving in the right direction.

    Yes, of course others will resist it, cite it selectively, or ignore it.

    But realize that there is a shift at work among the clergy and among those engaged in music programs in parishes. It’s not happening all at once, it’s happening slowly, but it’s coming. And this will be useful ammunition in seminaries, as well, and in music circles. It may not score a touchdown, but it moves the ball in the right direction.

    Others have made the point before me, but — I think this is a transitional document.

    First, we have a new crew coming in, among the bishops, for matters liturgical.

    Second, we have a new crew and new interest in Rome.

    Not sure when, but there will be more on this, from the U.S. bishops and/or Rome, and it will move the ball further along.

    Be patient, but be encouraged.

  25. Donald Casadonte says:

    I have a question that has been haunting me for a long time. In the text that Fr. Z quotes early on, it said:

    Choirs (and ensembles—another form of choir that commonly includes a combination of singers and instrumentalists) exercise their ministry in various ways. An important ministerial role of the choir or ensemble is to sing various parts of the Mass in dialogue or alternation with the congregation.

    I am quite serious in asking this question on a professional basis: when did the tradition of a choir singing, “in dialogue or alternation with the congregation,” come into use in the mass? I know of no tradition of this occurring in Catholic Church music. This is a Protestant development. Catholic Mass music, to my knowledge, has always been sung either by a schola or choir alone or by the congregation (sometimes with choir), but not alternated. This alternation has only been done in High Renaissance polychoral music between two choirs, not a choir and the congregation.

    I know of no Church document on music in history that addresses this matter. Please, could someone help me on this?

    I am not a beginner in this area by any means. I have ten years of Ph. D study in musicology (my areas of specialization are medieval and twentieth-century music) and I have a doctorate in instrumental performance. I started the first chant tutorial on the internet (back in 1991).

    I really do not know what sanction there is for this form of Mass music. Could anyone, politely, help. I have been tempted to write the Bishops and explain this to them, but before I consider it, I wanted to ask here, since there are many people with more knowledge of the Liturgy than I.

    Donald Casadonte

  26. Donald Casadonte says:

    The sentence in my last post: This is a Protestant development, should read:
    I think that this is a Protestant development (perhaps in the 17th or 18th century)

  27. Patricia Boyens says:

    What about opening up most hymns to be from the St. Gregory Hymnal? Once learned, like most Latin responses, are learned forever.
    They are so beautiful and for the most part, sooo much easier than the songs the choirs attempt to have the congregations sing. Thankyou, pattyb

  28. michigancatholic says:

    They think we’re idiots. I think that’s called “projection.”

  29. Diane K says:

    The second paragraph under point 12, in part, reads:

    “In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.”

    Hmmmmmm…….. where have I read that before?

    Oh, yeah. That is a quote by Pope John Paul II in an ad limina address on liturgical abuse out west in 1998 (see point 4; paragraph 2).

    I’m delighted to see that the USCCB has made use of the late Holy Father’s words of wisdom on the topic of active participation.

    Anyone unfamiliar with that address should read the entire piece as it is quite a charm. It’s amazing that it has taken nearly 10 years to influence a document such as this.

  30. Tom says:

    Year after year during the Pontificates of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, documents and statements were issued by Rome and bishops that parallel the USCCB document on sacred music: documents that included bits of Tradition but featured loopholes.

    The Church is mired in a deep crisis of faith and we can pretend that bits of Tradition will change the situation, but the crisis of Faith will be with us until we return fully to Tradition.

    I know that I will be told to be patient and less pessimistic. But reality is reality.

    Based upon the pattern that we’ve seen during the past 40 years, I doubt that the new USCCB recommendations on sacred music will restore any sense of Tradition to the Church in America.

    The restoration of Tradition is linked inexorably to the restoration of the TLM.

    I will believe that our bishops are serious about erasing the Church’s crisis of faith only when they make the TLM the centerpiece of their plan to restore Tradition to the Church in America.

    Our bishops must explain the TLM to their people; explain why the restoration of the TLM will lead us to the new liturgical and spiritual “springtime” which we as Catholic desire; attempt to instill a love of the TLM into the hearts and minds of their people.

    Post-Vatican II bishops used their collective office to push liturgical “reforms” on their people. Bishops used their newspapers and media to inform Catholics that the liturgical revolution was in the best interests of Catholics.

    We need that same determination among the bishops to explain to Catholics why the restoration of the TLM is vital to the life of the Church.

    The bottom line is that when our bishops promote, promote and promote the TLM, then, and only then, will the true restoration of Tradition will begin.

    Until such time, documents that include bits of Traditional with large loopholes will keep us on the same road that we’ve traveled during the past 40 years.

  31. Francis says:

    “I am quite serious in asking this question on a professional basis: when did the tradition of a choir singing, “in dialogue or alternation with the congregation,” come into use in the mass?”

    Well, I’m not quite sure, but this is a practice that you often see in plainsong Masses. For example, chant Kyries are often sung alternating between a few singers from the choir and the congregation. I’ve also seen the lines of the a chant Glorias and Creeds sung this way. I don’t have a liber in front of me, but I seem to remember somewhere it mentions alternating lines of the Gloria between choirs; in this case one small choir and one big one (which includes the congregation). I don’t know if the people who wrote this had this kind of music in mind though.

  32. David O'Rourke says:

    Father Z: [Just don’t force English translations into Gregorian chant melodies. YUK.]

    There is nothing inherently wrong with chant in English if it’s good English. Anglicans have used English chant for decades and perhaps for that reason use a lot more chant than Catholics did even before Vatican II. I’m not by anymeans saying cut out Latin chant but in the right circumstances English chant can be very helpful, e.g. in the Collects and even the lessons of a Novus Ordo Mass. The failure to recognise this together with the dreadful ICEL translations largely destroyed the sung liturgy in the Post VII Church.

    As for Mass vIII, it was hugely overdone. It is relatively modern and is in a mode that sounds much like modern music. That was why it was so popular in the old days among a people who, frankly, thought that all Gregorian chant sounded like a funeral.

  33. Dear Donald and Francis,

    Francis is right that the use of antiphonal singing of parts of the
    Ordinary (and other chants) is very old, perhaps going back to
    the earliest execution that can be reconstructed for plainchant in
    early middle ages. It remained the “normal” manner to execute the
    chant until the 1960s and continues to be used today.

    It is not quite correct, however, to understand this as alternation
    between the choir and congregation. The original form, when we first
    see it in the high middle ages was between two semi-choirs. This is
    the practice in the Office to this day. The alternation of choir and
    congregation is probably much more recent, dating to the
    period after Pius X encouraged congregational singing of the chant.
    It does seem to work fairly well with a “congregation” that does
    not attend a choir practice every week. Indeed, it is how the Mass
    chants are sung at the Angelicum in Rome, where I am currently living.

    I do not think that one should trace this practice to
    immitation of Protestant singing, however. The Post-Pius X execution
    of the chant seems home-grown Catholic. I do think that it was
    this model of the chant that the document writers had in mind, at
    least because they are speaking of the Ordinary. I do not rule out,
    however, that what inspired them any have been the Responsorial
    Psalm model, or that of the Litanies, which they do mention.

    In my research and writing on music and liturgy in the high middle
    ages, the only place I can find the “dialogue” practice between
    choir and people are the Litanies during the Rogations. People
    did sing the Kyrie (at least in Italy) but they did so without
    “dialogue” and they did it to ratify the Credo after it was sung
    by the choir.

  34. “That would be the Antiphona ad Offertorium, which doesn’t exist in the Novus Ordo?”

    Not quite. It does form part of the newer form of the Roman Rite; however, the texts aren’t in the Missal (an oddity, and, in my opinion, an error). I have just finished my thanksgiving after concelebrating an OF Mass at which at the offertory antiphon was sung, as it is every day here in my monastery.

    “revised notation suggesting natural speech rhythm rather than independent melodic principles”

    This seems pretty meaningless. Speech rhythm is one thing, melody another. I think they meant to say “rhythmic” rather than “melodic”, in reference to Dom Mocquereau’s “Solesmes method” that Solesmes no longer promotes, although the Graduale still contains the rhythmic signs (ictus and episema). The Liber hymnarius, following the manuscript tradition, uses the episema. The new edition of the Antiphonale monasticum uses neither, which I think is a mistake. The US bishops would have done well to steer clear of the whole question, as the way they raise it makes clear that they have no idea what they’re talking about.

    Fr. Augustine Thompson mentions alternation between the two sides of the “liturgical” choir. Although it is indeed “not quite correct … to understand this as alternation between the choir and congregation”, it is not entirely false either. In monasteries, the congregation is essentially the monastic community. At solemn Offices and at Mass on greater feasts, a tradition going back to Cluny has four cantors in copes (a small schola) alternate the chants with the rest of the community (the congregation).

  35. Dom Christopher is correct.

    Even in the Dominican liturgy, we had and
    have the practice of a group of cantors (1 on feria, 2 on minor feasts,
    4 on major feasts) singing the verses of the Officium (Introit),
    Responorium (Gradual), Alleliua, and some other chants with the
    “congregation,” i.e., the friars. This slipped
    my mind.

    But he is also right that this is was only a practice
    where the “congregation” was made up of trained (more or less)
    singers like monks, nuns, and religious.

  36. TNCath says:

    As for Mass vIII, it was hugely overdone. It is relatively modern and is in a mode that sounds much like modern music. That was why it was so popular in the old days among a people who, frankly, thought that all Gregorian chant sounded like a funeral.
    Comment by David O’Rourke — 6 December 2007 @

    For parishes that have limited musical abilities, Mass VIII is perfect for feasts, solemnities, or even general usage. The Missa Orbis Factor is ok too for general usage, but is actually not as easy as the Missa de Angelis. For Advent and Lent, the Mass used for Requiem Masses works well. I speak from experience in a parish where we sing these settings all the time.

    Does that fact that Mass VIII is “relatively modern” (15th-17th centuries) really make that much difference? It’s Latin, it’s chant, and it’s popular. What’s wrong with that? Sounds like a good combination to me, much better than the Mass of Creation or any of those other “modern ditties” out there.

  37. Henry Edwards says:

    I will believe that our bishops are serious about erasing the Church’s crisis of faith only when they make the TLM the centerpiece of their plan to restore Tradition to the Church in America.

    Our bishops must explain the TLM to their people; explain why the restoration of the TLM will lead us to the new liturgical and spiritual “springtime” which we as Catholic desire; attempt to instill a love of the TLM into the hearts and minds of their people.

    Post-Vatican II bishops used their collective office to push liturgical “reforms” on their people.

    We need that same determination among the bishops to explain to Catholics why the restoration of the TLM is vital to the life of the Church.

    So well said and true, Tom, that I wanted to boldface it. It occurs to me also that we’ll know bishops are serious in their talk about evangelization when they begin to emphasize the traditional Mass that evangelized much of the world, right up until Vatican II.

  38. Michael Mueller says:

    “The supplicatory chant Agnus Dei accompanies the Fraction Rite. It is, “as a rule,
    sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; or it is, at least, recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the fraction and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as
    necessary until the rite has reached its conclusion, the last time ending with the words dona nobis
    pacem (grant us peace).”156 When the Agnus Dei is sung repeatedly as a litany, Christological
    invocations with other texts may be used. In this case, the first and final invocations are always
    Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). – MDW, 188

    Maybe someone can explain why the “powers that be” continue to press for troping the Agnus Dei, when it appears to me to be a blatant violation of current liturgical norms (cf. GIRM 24, 83, 366)? Besides, the way it is done in the United Staates isn’t even a proper “trope” to begin with.

    Fr. Z, can you give us your opinion on the use of so-called “tropes” for the Agnus Dei?

  39. TNCath says:

    Tropes are annoying anyway. It seems to me that if the “Fraction Rite” can be accomplished at St. Peter’s Basilica in the time it takes to sing the Agnus Dei without troping it, the run-of-the-mill parish can do it it just as well. I think it’s just another example of silly “liturgical innovation” that gives composers opportunities to invent “Christological invocations” that often border on the heretical. The one I particularly love to hate is the one from the Holy Cross Mass setting which goes something like this: “Wi-i-i-i-ine of Peace, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.” You should hear it sung down South!

  40. Tom says:

    “So well said and true, Tom, that I wanted to boldface it. It occurs to me also that we’ll know bishops are serious in their talk about evangelization when they begin to emphasize the traditional Mass that evangelized much of the world, right up until Vatican II.”

    Thank you.

    Traditional Catholics are sometimes chided as being “hardcore” when it comes to the Faith. That is fine with me.

    We need an army of “hardcore” bishops to follow the path paved by Saint Athanasius, who suffered at the hands of his brother bishops.

    We need “hardcore” bishops, priests and laymen to attach themselves at all costs to the TLM.

    We need to stop spinning our wheels when it comes to extricating ourselves from the crisis of faith in which we are engulfed.

    The practice of handing out bits of Tradition alongside loopholes designed to suppress Tradition is old and tired.

    We need bishops who will move us full-steam ahead to the TLM or else have the honesty once and for all to announce that they are not interested in promoting Tradition.

    The “ordinary form” of Mass spruced here and there with a few bits of Tradition won’t lift us from the crisis of faith.

    A state of emergency exists within the Church and the restoration of the TLM is the only way out of said state of emergency. Therefore, give us the TLM or stop playing games.

    If we are serious about ending the crisis of faith, then wean us from the Novus Ordo.

    I realize that many Latin Church priests have failed to study Latin. Therefore, the practical immediate solution is to allow such priests to celebrate TLM in the vernacular. But said priests would be required to study Latin until such time that they are able to celebrate the Traditional Mass in Latin.

    The study of Latin would be required at seminaries (as Vatican II teaches) to enable future seminarians to celebrate the TLM at the time of their ordinations.

    I am leery of introducing the vernacular into the TLM. However, extraordinary measures are required at this time to end the crisis of faith that has engulfed Holy Mother Church.

    Besides, the TLM in the vernacular is superior to the Novus Ordo…and the vernacularized TLM would be in place for but a few years as we transfer from the Novus Ordo to the TLM.

    Have I just delineated a pipe-dream? Perhaps.

    But what if someday the Holy Father announced that the time of transition from the Novus Ordo to the TLM had arrived?

    What if a few brave bishops announced that at the very least, they desired an equal amount of TLMs and Novus Ordo Masses be celebrated within their dioceses?

    That may be a pipe-dream today. But it will be reality tomorrow.

    Simply put, the vibrancy of the Western Church is linked to the full restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

  41. Donald Casadonte says:

    Dear Fr. Augustine,

    Thank you for the information. I was aware of the antiphonal nature of plainchant in the Middle Ages, but it was, as you point out, usually between either two small choirs or between a cantor and the congregation (each substituting for a choir). Later Renaissance Polychoral Masses used much larger forces.

    I was talking more specifically about alternation between a choir and the congregation. There are verse-refrain types of responsories in the Divine Office and parts of the Mass during the Middle Ages, but these were usually song in alternation with a cantor and a monastic community. A day-to-day congregation would not have had access to the part books (and most could not read either the written word or music, anyway) and would likely have had to learn any responses by heart over time. There are some books written during the period containing comments on contemporary performance practices, so perhaps I should look these up so that I don’t put forth any misleading or false information.
    The Credo was never sung in a verse/refrain manner during the Middle Ages, as far as I know. It was a relatively late addition to the Mass and usually sung straight through.

    Has the Gloria been sung, historically, in the verse/refrain model I have heard in some American Masses, today (the Gloria being repeated after every stanza)? The Gloria could be somewhat florid and as time developed it did include points of imitation, but these were exclusive to choirs. I think the verse/refrain model of the Gloria is of relatively recent vintage. Did it exist before Vatican II?

    As for the Protestant accretions of alternating choir/congregation, I was thinking in this case, more of the contemporary non-Chant music used at Mass, much of which is patterned on Protestant hymns (this is what I may have mistakenly thought the Bishop’s guidelines were referring to). There are a lot of complex adaptations of the Ordinary written for choir by talented composers, such as Schubert, which uses imitation and antiphonal writing and much of this is adaptable for use in the Mass, today.

    The use of choir/congregation antiphonal singing in extra-liturgical music (if I may use the term to designate music not associated with Chant) seems to be of a more recent vintage. Did this sort of music exist for Mass before Vatican II in the Catholic Church? It certainly did in Protestant settings and this was the primary basis for my comments.

    Donald Casadonte

  42. david andrew says:

    Fr. Martin Fox said:

    [quote] It is certainly an improvement over prior documents, without question. A lot of folks who are disappointed are comparing it with what they know to be the full norms, and what is eminently doable and has been done; from that perspective, yes it is a disappointment.

    However, compared to prior documents from the bishops, it is a big step forward. For one, it validates many of the points being made by priests, music directors and choir leaders who are pushing for “reform of the reform.” [end quote]

    With much respect, I say it’s hardly an improvement.

    First of all, the bishops themselves didn’t even have the courage to vote on it as a legislative document. Rather, they reduced it to “guidelines”, which while requiring a two-thirds majority vote, still doesn’t need to be subjected to recognitio from the Holy See. One must wonder why. After all, they submitted the “Directory for Music and Liturgy” which nobody seems to really know anything about, way back in November of 2006, and still the Vatican hasn’t ratified it. By the way, portions of the alleged “Directory” is quoted in STTL. (Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”)

    It’s really no wonder the USCCB ratified STTL as “guidelines”. It’s full of contradictions, apologies and equivocations. As I’ve said before, too many doors are more than left open, they’ve been kicked completely off their hinges. Others have pointed out that many things are left undefined, such as the kinds of instruments that are “legitimately admitted.” There’s plenty of talk of tambourines and Moses and the Israelites singing and tibrels and dance. OK as far as it goes, but if I quote some of this to the volunteer leader of our “contemporary” ensemble, she’ll have them singing the stuff from Michael Card and Twila Paris in no time at all, and on and on it will go!

    Does anyone remember the gospel passage, “Zeal for my Father’s house consumes me”? The music of the Mass has been hijacked by the consumeristic, “American Idol” mentality that needs to be told, over and over again, “Not everything that is outside the temple is fit to be brought through its doors”; a quote from Paul VI, the same Vicar of Christ who gave us the 1970 missal, by the way.

    I’m tired of being told to be patient. I’m tired of being told, “It’s not so bad.”

    Nothing in the world is so bad as something that’s not so bad.

  43. Deborah says:

    ….opinion on the use of so-called “tropes” for the Agnus Dei?

    Tropes are not permitted for the Agnus Dei according to the GIRM which simply says it is to be \”repeated\”.

    If tropes were to be inserted into the Agnus Dei then the GIRM would state it explicitly as it does for the Kyrie Eleison \”a trope may precede each acclamation\”.

    The Kyrie Eleison

    52…As a rule, each acclamation is sung or said twice, though it may be repeated several times, by reason of the character of the various languages, as well as of the artistry of the music or of other circumstances. When the Kyrie is sung as a part of the Act of Penitence, a trope may precede each acclamation.

    The Fraction

    83…The supplication Agnus Dei, is, as a rule, sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; or it is, at least, recited aloud. This invocation accompanies the fraction and, for this reason, may be repeated as many times as necessary until the rite has reached its conclusion, the last time ending with the words dona nobis pacem (grant us peace).

  44. John V says:

    Deborah makes a good point. It’s also interesting to note that the first two sentences of “Sing to the Lord” No. 188 are essentially a reworking of GIRM No. 83, including an extended quotation duly noted. The third sentence, however, stating that “Christological invocations with other texts may be used” comes out of nowhere, and no authority is cited for the proposition. One wonders whether the original draft contained only the first two sentences, with the third sentence being one of the collected amendments approved en masse.

  45. Pete Christie says:

    It has been asserted here (and with much support) that “…the restoration of the TLM is vital to the life of the Church.” Would someone speak a bit more on this? Truly, the link between the two escapes me and would be grateful to hear more about this statement. Thanks!