QUAERITUR: Non-Catholic choir singing at St. Peter’s Basilica

From a reader:

In your valued opinion, and those of your readers, is it permissible/proper/desirable/good for a Protestant choir to sing at Mass in St Peter’s Basilica? Certainly the controversy over bad Catholic choirs being allowed to sing for Mass was addressed by the directives of the Prefect of the Musical Chapel  issued in December of 2006 (cf. http://musicasacra.com/pdf/vaticannorms.pdf). But do the norms assume that non-Catholic choirs that meet the criteria are eligible to sing? I ask because the choir at our Lutheran affiliated institution is advertizing that they will be "participating" in Mass at St Peter’s next January. I have two doubts: 1. that the choir has been in touch with the proper authorities at the Vatican and 2. that  Protestant choirs are allowed to sing at all in the Basilica.

 

I don’t have a problem with a non-Catholic choir singing in St. Peter’s or any other church.

So long as they sing what needs to be sung and sing well, what’s the problem?

Professional musicians are often non Catholic.

Musics sometimes are moved to want to know more about the Church.

And non-Catholics who are at Mass do participate to a degree, particularly if validly baptized.  Their participation may not perhaps be the fullest they could have, but if they are there with good will and tuned in and reverent… that’s a start. 

That’s good, right?

What’s not to like?

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52 Responses to QUAERITUR: Non-Catholic choir singing at St. Peter’s Basilica

  1. Professional musicians are often non Catholic.

    I believe members of the superb choir at Cincinnati’s St. Peter in Chains Cathedral are non Catholic. The music isn’t any less beautiful.

  2. Andy F. says:

    1. Catholics can’t sing. Haven’t you heard the Sistine Screamers?

    2. This protestant sang in St. Peter’s Basilica in a protestant choir. That was in the spring, I was in RCIA by the fall and was baptized, confirmed and received Holy Communion at the following Easter Vigil. FILL UP St. Peter’s with protestants, says I.

    Now for a Tangent, I sang more of the Church’s music as a Protestant than I have as a Catholic it was actually a great disillusionment for me.

  3. TNCath says:

    I have met representatives from many a non-Catholic choir who have sung at St. Peter’s at the daily Mass at the Altar of the Chair. Many of the choirs are quite good albeit a little confused and bewildered at times as to what is going on, but, nonetheless, they are always very respectful and often in awe to be actually able to sing in such a magnificent setting.

    Honestly, I have found that most of the musical selections done by the Protestant choirs are of better quality than those by Catholic choirs, the latter of whom often cannot resist throwing in something hokey like “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” or “All Are Welcome” as one of their selections. The behavior of non-Catholic choirs and their friends and family in attendance in the basilica is often better as well.

    As an aside, I always find the interaction between the organists/choir directors of these choirs and the officials in charge of the music at St. Peter’s to be quite amusing to watch before these Masses begin.

  4. david andrew says:

    I was a member of, then director of, a community-based choir of boys, girls and adults not directly Catholic, but committed to the advancement of Western liturgical music, that sang for public Masses at San Marco, Venice, the Gesu and at the Altar of the Chair of Peter. We also sang choral vespers (loosely based on the modern LotH, but employing Latin chant and the propers) for second vespers for the Feast of the Chair of Peter (according to the old calendar) at the Lateran church.

    The director was told that foreign choirs were not permitted to sing for liturgical celebrations at the Lateran church, but the director, a committed and serious-minded orthodox Catholic, stood his ground. As we entered the afternoon we were to sing, the tour director was protesting rather vocally, making her objections to our presence and singing at the Lateran known. Then, as she heard us chant the “Deus in adjutorium” and the first psalm, she began to weep, saying it was the most beautiful singing she’d ever heard, and was moved by our reverence and care for what we were doing and where we were doing it.

    Unfortunately, there is one domestic tour company in the US that has a lock on choir “pilgrimages” to Italy, and they encourage the giving of “concerts” at churches, but discourage and fail to understand how important it is for good liturgical choirs to be permitted to sing in liturgical settings and not just give “concerts.” On the other hand, many of the Catholic choirs from the US are so unfamiliar with or incapable of executing the music of the rich patrimony of the Church that “concerts” are just about the only proper thing they can participate in.

    Case in point: during a “familiarization tour” to Rome being given by the aforementioned tour company, for the directors of groups planning tours, a group of directors entered a church in Rome that was being suggested as a venue for a “concert.” Several of the directors asked, out loud, surrounded by marble and statues, and in the shadow of a pipe organ, “where’s the grand piano? Our group can’t possibly perform without a grand piano.”

    I personally know a group of Catholic parish choirs that put together a tour, and gave a concert in the area before going to Rome. Their instruments included hand bells, congas, miscellaneous percussion instruments, piano, jazz soprano saxophone (yes, that’s right . . . jazz soprano saxophone) and the ubiquitous guitar . . . make that guitars. So far as I can remember, they didn’t even plan music that called for organ.

    By the way, the administrator of the community group I sang with and then directed, felt that I was trying to make the group “too Catholic” and after I resigned hired a couple of musical theater types as music directors. I have no idea what the group is doing now, but I can pretty much guarantee they’re no longer committed to the advancement of music of the Western liturgical tradition.

  5. catholicmidwest says:

    I have no problem with a church choir that’s not catholic singing in a catholic church, as long as they sound decent. The odds of them sounding better than we do are pretty high. Catholics generally sound terrible when they sing. [They have this dirgy thing they do. Grrr.]

  6. Andrew says:

    Well, let me step into the ring and try to play the devil’s advocate here and see how long ‘till someone delivers that devastating k.o. that knocks me down to the canvass with my head spinning to the roar of the surrounding mob while “adducentur supercilia, extendetur brachium; iratusque Chremes tumido desaeviet ore dum consurgent proceres adversus sententiam meam; turba matronarum detonabit, me magum, me seductorem clamitans, et in terras ultimas deportandum.”
    So here it is: a celebration of Holy Mass is not a concert. It is a liturgical action. The choir along with all others are participants. In fact, the choir more so in a way than the silent bystanders: therefore one should strive not to employ “musicians for hire”. You cannot hire someone to worship the Almighty. Didn’t Pope St. Pius X write somewhere that even women were not to sing at Masses and instead young boys should sing their parts? So now we should subscribe to not only allowing women, but even protestant women to sing at such a holy place? I say: you want to go to a nice concert, go ahead and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle choir or anyone else, but for a Holy Mass in Rome please don’t turn it into a show.

  7. Athanasius says:

    So long as they sing what needs to be sung and sing well, what’s the problem?

    Communicatio in Sacris, contrary to the 1st commandment and the Tradition of the Church, therefore it is wrong.

    What is sung is not merely a musical performance, it is also a prayer, and the Church has never historically permitted worship in common at Mass between Catholics and non-Catholics.
    There were a string of Holy office decisions between 1622 and 1939 to that effect. See here.

  8. So… you don’t want spoils of the Egyptians?

    Anyway, if you’ve got a Catholic group with non-Catholic members, clearly it’s an attempt to convert the non-Catholics by long hours of exposure to God’s presence and correct worship. Nobody forbids non-Catholics from sitting in the pew and saying the Our Father, so it’s logical to allow non-Catholics to sit in the loft and sing the Our Father. Having them sing (non-heretical) motets is even less of a problem.

    Now, if you’re talking a really truly liturgical choir up in the sanctuary in choro, taking the role of priests in a way, that’s maybe something different.

  9. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Their instruments included hand bells, congas, miscellaneous percussion instruments, piano, jazz soprano saxophone (yes, that’s right . . . jazz soprano saxophone) and the ubiquitous guitar .\\

    Speaking as a woodwind major, I don’t know what is intrinsically “jazz” about a soprano saxophone. I have heard sax ensembles (soprillo down to sub-contrabass) play with a sonority rivalled only by a well-voiced organ.

    I have no objection to ANY of these instruments if well played. In fact, if they are well played, I’d rather have them than a toy spinet organ with just an octave of pedals played by a left-footed organist with mittens on her hands.

  10. Jayna says:

    Are they better than the Sistine Chapel choir?

  11. Oh, and Athanasius? I think you’ll find that those Holy Office decisions were overwhelmingly about Catholics doing stuff in heretical or schismatic churches, or participating in their prayer, not the other way. Obviously you don’t want a Protestant minister running a Catholic Mass. Other than that, it’s good for the souls of non-Catholics to come and pray with us.

  12. Fr. Basil says:

    BTW–the first saxophone invented by Adolphe Sax was the bass saxophone. He intended them to be orchestral instruments.

  13. Tim Ferguson says:

    Andrew, I will attempt a reply – there’s nothing in the documents that speak of not employing a professional choir at Mass. Why should the choir be any different than any of the other artisans that contribute to our worship of God? The architects, stained glass artisans, goldsmiths, silversmiths – not to speak of the plumbers, electricians, and workmen that create our churches – they all are worth their hire.

    It would be ideal if everyone contributed, free of charge, their talents toward the worship of God, but that’s just not practical – and hasn’t been so for centuries. Singing, and playing instruments, is for many a profession – not merely a hobby. Our worship is enhanced by professionals (both Catholic and non-Catholic) who dedicate years to develop a talent and hours to keep their talents keen. It’s only just that they be provided with a salary commensurate with their work.

  14. “so it’s logical to allow non-Catholics to sit in the loft and sing the Our Father. Having them sing (non-heretical) motets is even less of a problem.”
    “Why should the choir be any different than any of the other artisans that contribute to our worship of God? The architects, stained glass artisans, goldsmiths, silversmiths – not to speak of the plumbers, electricians, and workmen that create our churches – they all are worth their hire.”
    As arguments go, the above two are not very good, unfortunately. The difference between a non-Catholic sitting in the pew and praying and a non-Catholic as a member of a choir is that the choir is performing a ministerial function. Keep in mind that the reason scholas traditional wear choir dress is that they are taking the place of clerics in those churches which do not have a sufficient number of clergy to form a schola.
    As for the artisans’ argument, the equivalent of the architects, goldsmiths, etc, are not choir members, but composers. By all means, take anything of value from those composers who are not Catholic (that would be a true example of spoiling the Egyptians).

    I am not myself opposed to non-Catholics in choirs, although I do not like the idea of a professional choir for Mass. But if there are to be arguments in favor, use good arguments.

  15. Athanasius says:

    Other than that, it’s good for the souls of non-Catholics to come and pray with us.

    I’m sorry, but the purpose and aim of the liturgical action is the glorification of God, not merely that it is good for us, that is an effect which is good, but not the aim. Even at that, if people without the same faith are praying hymns in God’s sacred action it actually offends Him. Look again at the various decisions of the Holy Office I referenced:
    “Furthermore, one cannot participate in schismatic prayer, even if there is nothing contrary to the Faith.11 Again, the Holy Office said that it is not so much a matter of whether the prayer contains anything objectionable to the Faith, but the very fact that one participates with schismatics. For this reason the Holy Office said that by participating [in schismatic and heretical worship], Catholics give exterior signs of segregation [from] and disapproval12 [of the Catholic Church] by unifying themselves with those who disapprove or segregate themselves from the Catholic Church, since participation in liturgical actions constitutes a sign of unity.13″ (source)(emphasis added)
    Frankly, it is not good for their souls to participate in an action that expresses a faith contrary to what they believe because they a) cannot pray it and offend God by praying something that they don’t believe (sin against faith, 1st commandment etc) b) by committing the sin identified in the moral manuals of dissumlatio saying one thing but doing another.
    Without unity of faith you can’t please God, who is the aim of the liturgical actio.

  16. Tim Ferguson says:

    But Athansius, the Church permits – and has permitted – albeit with great caution, the marriage of Catholics and Protestants. These marriage take place – and have taken place, during the liturgical ritual of a sacramental marriage (even in the days when mixed marriages were performed through a simple rite at the side altar or in the parish rectory, the very act of marriage between two baptized persons is a sacramental act).

    One of the primary reasons for permitted mixed marriages is “spes conversionis” – the hope of converting the non-Catholic. The same could be said of allowing, or even encouraging non-Catholics to participate in our choirs. I believe that even our gracious host here was drawn deeper into the bosom of Holy Mother Church by singing the liturgical treasures of our Church.

  17. Tim Ferguson says:

    Steve, professional choirs have been part and parcel of our Catholic tradition for centuries – at least back to the Middle Ages. This modern concept that volunteers are somehow more pure than musicians that get paid for their talents is somewhat alien to our tradition.

    Are you similarly opposed to the priest receiving a stipend for offering the Mass?

  18. Athanasius says:

    One of the primary reasons for permitted mixed marriages is “spes conversionis” – the hope of converting the non-Catholic. The same could be said of allowing, or even encouraging non-Catholics to participate in our choirs. I believe that even our gracious host here was drawn deeper into the bosom of Holy Mother Church by singing the liturgical treasures of our Church.

    Quite the contrary, the object of marriage is for the union of the man and wife with the witness of the Church. It is not necessary to the union to be of the same religion though it is better and preferable. While indeed a mixed marriage does entail a non-Catholic making a vow before God, he is not himself required to take part in praying at the Mass. He may, but then he is not apart of the official worship at the Mass. A vow rendered is not apart of official worship.

    A choir that sings is absolutely worshiping God, so the above considerations apply, whereas they do not to a non-Catholic/non-Christian making a vow towards his wife to be, or vice versa. See again the Holy office decisions above. Participation in liturgical actions (making a vow for a sacrament concerned first and foremost with the union of man and wife is not a liturgical action even though it can occur in the context of the liturgy) constitutes a sign of unity. If there is no unity it is an act of dissimulation, which is sinful. What liturgical actions are we talking about? Functions formerly carried out by clerics. Having non-Catholics sing as a choir is no different than non-Catholic altar boys making the responses with the priest, which again would be sacrilegious.

    Rather than a spes conversionis it gives the idea that oh, I sing at Catholic Churches, Lutheran Churches, Presbyterian Churches, they’re all the same. If you exclude them you are saying there is something different about our worship from yours which is important enough that it must be restricted to ourselves.

    You have to remember that the work of a choir is not to make music, it is to make a prayer musically, and if they do not have right faith, that prayer is offensive to God. That should be our first and foremost thought. If we want people to convert, we should pray and fast for them, offer them the evidence for the faith, etc., it is not necessary to invite them in our choirs.

  19. kelleyb says:

    Maybe our parish should hire a good protestant choir. I just might petition the parish council…..and then run-for-cover. I could hide in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

  20. Sam Schmitt says:

    Athanasius,

    The quotation you cite deal with Catholics participating in non-Catholic worship.

    Isn’t it a *good* thing to invite your non-Catholic friends / spouse to mass (as long as they don’t receive communion?) In fact, non-Catholics are encouraged to go to mass if they are preparing to receive baptism.

  21. Athanasius says:

    The choir along with all others are participants. In fact, the choir more so in a way than the silent bystanders: therefore one should strive not to employ “musicians for hire”. You cannot hire someone to worship the Almighty.

    Andrew, I might consider Pius XII’s via the Congregation of Rites’ instruction the KO punch deportando in terras ultimas (sed sperem ut ad illam non veniat)

    It would be ideal, and worthy of commendation if organists, choir directors, singers, instrumentalists, and others engaged in the service of the Church, would contribute their talents for the love of God, and in the spirit of religious devotion, without salary; should they be unable to offer their services free of charge, Christian justice, and charity demand that the church give them a just wage, according to the recognized standards of the locality, and provisions of law. -De Sacra Musica et Sacra Liturgia, Sacred Congregation of Rites 1958

  22. Athanasius says:

    The quotation you cite deal with Catholics participating in non-Catholic worship

    Then perhaps you can tell me how the principle fails with a non-Catholic participating in Catholic worship? The exact same thing is going on, it constitutes Communicatio in Sacris according to what the Church has always understood. As I right these replies I am increasingly convinced that this is the correct view since no one can refute the argument ad rem but continues shifting the burden of proof off of Communicatio in Sacris toward something else.

    Isn’t it a good thing to invite your non-Catholic friends / spouse to mass (as long as they don’t receive communion?) In fact, non-Catholics are encouraged to go to mass if they are preparing to receive baptism.

    You’re mixing the categories of the discussion. We are not talking about people coming to Mass, and we are not talking about non-Catholics praying and seeking God (which is good), we are talking about non-Catholics fulfilling a liturgical office, very different. If these people want to come and see the Pope, or hear what they ought to be hearing, Gregorian chant and Sacred Polyphony, excellent. I’d buy them the ticket. That has nothing to do with whether they should be performing a ministerial role in worshiping God, something that only a Catholic with right faith can do properly.

    Furthermore, why is a non-Catholic allowed to come to Mass but not receive communion? Because his presence there is passive with respect to the liturgical actio at the ministerial level, he is not a minister participating in the sacrifice of God (what the priest, server or choir do) he is adding his prayers, presumably, which doesn’t affect the official liturgy. The liturgy happens with or without the faithful (not to suggest they are irrelevant or shoudln’t be there by the way) As soon as he receives communion, he has assisted at that sacrifice in an official manner, offering up sacrifice in the Church’s liturgy to God when he is not a member of the Church and thus able to do so, much like the man at the banquet in the Gospels without the wedding garment (baptism). That effects the Mass, offends God, lessens the grace you and I receive and affects his soul. Likewise when someone participates in the choir without right faith (i.e. not being a member of the Church).

  23. Athanasius says:

    Moreover, the Holy Office did officially address this issue, the entire discussion from the source is not only dealing with Catholics at non-Catholic worship but vice versa. I intended for people to click the link rather than filling up the combox, but oh well:

    As for non-Catholics coming and participating in Catholic worship or receiving sacraments from Catholic priests, the Holy Office made several statements and observations. As to the reception of the sacraments by Greek schismatics, the Holy Office appears to restrict Catholic priests to administering only the sacrament of penance and only in the “case of extreme necessity.”52 Presumably the operative principle is salus animarum suprema lex est (salvation of souls is the supreme law).

    In Catholic funerals, schismatic priests are not to be tolerated, except, perhaps, if they offer a purely material presence (passive presence, i.e. they do not participate in the worship) and a civil ministry.53 Non-Catholics are to be tolerated at Catholic worship provided they offer a mere material presence for the purpose of civil honor to the dead and they do not mix in with the prayers and rites of Catholics.54 Moreover, heretics cannot sing in our churches nor serve at the altar at Mass.55 Protestants can come to Catholic Baptisms but they cannot participate (communicatio in sacris)56 and non-Catholics can be tolerated at Catholic weddings provided they do not participate (communicatio in sacris) and there is no scandal.57 The Holy Office also stated that Catholic missionaries are forbidden under pain of suspensio a divinis ipso facto58 to invite schismatic government officials, offer them blessed water when they enter and to exhibit any kind of honor, when some feast is celebrated.59 (source)

    Notes from the article:

    53. Collectanea S. Congregationis de Propaganda Fidei seu Decreta Instructiones Rescripta pro Apostolicis Missionibus (Ex Typographia Polyglotta, Roma, 1907), vol. I, p. 263, n. 411, ad 2 (1758).

    54. Col., vol. I, p. 642, n. 1176 (1859).

    55. Col., vol. I, p. 692, n. 1257 (1864).

    56. Col., vol. I, p. 286, n. 447 (1763).

    57. Col., vol. II, p. 76, n. 1410, 1 (1874).

    58. A suspensio a divinis ipso facto is a canonical penalty in which a priest is stripped of his faculties and his ability to exercise his priesthood. A suspension is ipso facto when the priest is suspended by performing the very act to which the suspension is attached and not based upon a judgment of a superior.

    59. Col., vol. I, p. 230, n. 388, 5 (1753).

  24. scribbly says:

    I have to agree with all the “Mass is not a concert” comments… how can a protestant sing of any of the uniquely Catholic traditions with faith? And if they are not using their faith, how can I join mine with theirs in worship?

    Although I love good singing, I do not go to Mass to listen to good singing, I go to participate; and even though it’s a stretch for my musical appreciation, I’d prefer an out-of-tune Catholic Priest officiating instead of some in-tune non-Catholic something –AND — an out-of-tune Catholic choir (or no choir at all) instead of a musically perfect non-Catholic choir.

  25. Hans says:

    Perhaps it’s my blindness as a mere sycophant with all these coats blocking my view, but I wasn’t aware that ‘Rome’ took any role in sanctioning blogs. I suppose they might in some limited instances, but I’m unaware of it.

    Of course, I’m puzzled by many things, mostly as a result of my 30+ years of education.

    But I really only have one question for now:

    Does this mean we get rabbit stew soon?

  26. Clinton says:

    Athanasius, your 9:04pm comment was excellent. Of course, if we think of choirs as only making pretty background music, then it
    wouldn’t be a problem if all the members were atheists, Wiccans, or even Satanists. But if we look at the choir as something integral
    to the Mass, as you say ‘making prayer musically’, chanting the propers, then it is important that what is sung is indeed prayer and
    not mere lip-service and dissimulation.

    Hans, like you I am overwhelmed by all of the coat-holding I’ve got up to, and in my delirium I hit upon the crazy notion that those
    who host blogs do indeed have a right to post their own viewpoints without allowing commentary and to delete comments as they
    see fit. I believe that when visiting a man’s blog I ought to act with the same courtesy I would show if I visited him at his house, and
    that commenting is a privilege, not a right. But then I am a fellow sycophant, Hans…

  27. Joe in Canada says:

    I think the distinction between non-Catholics participating in Catholic liturgies and Catholics participating in non-Catholic liturgies will be diluted by allowing the first. If the choir of St Olaf’s down the street is invited to sing at St Maria Piazza, it would be rude for the choir of St Maria Piazza to decline the resulting invitation (and sing at the Lutheran eucharist). I don’t agree that that is a significant theological justification, but it might be unavoidable in today’s climate.

    Another question: if we are indiscriminate, on what basis are we to allow this group of Protestants and not that group? Why allow the choir of an orthodox Baptist parish but not the regional LGBT choir of the United Church of Christ (or the Wiccans, etc, of Clinton’s post)?

  28. Hans says:

    But then I am a fellow sycophant, Hans…

    Ah, but the rabbit stew is lovely, though I hate it when I get my head stuck in the rabbit hole …

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Living in England for years and attending Mass either at the Brompton Oratory or Westminster Cathedral, I cannot explain how wonderful it is to have a professional or semi-professional choir. Such excellence does seem worthy for worship to God and helps those at Mass to pray and lift their minds and hearts up to God.

    The Vatican Choir, which I heard in person, is less than excellent. I applaud a protestant choir, if the choir sings Catholic chant and Catholic music. The music at our little Latin Mass is not very good, and distracting in its “badness”.

  30. jkarpilo says:

    I, as a musician & music director strongly discourage non-Catholics from singing during the liturgy.

    The Magisterium has given us some general norms regarding music and specifically, the choir:

    Taking into account the layout of each church, the choir should be placed in such a way:
        …
        (b) That it is easier for it to fulfill its liturgical function;
        …
    (Muscam Sacram, §23).

    Also:

    “Besides musical formation, suitable liturgical and spiritual formation must also be given to members of the choir, in such a way that the proper performance of their liturgical role will not only enhance the beauty of the celebration and be an excellent example for the faithful, but will bring spiritual benefit to the choir-members themselves,” (Musicam Sacram, §24).

    And finally:

    “The priest, the sacred ministers and the servers, the reader and those in the choir, also the commentator, should perform the parts assigned to them in a way which is comprehensible to the people, in order that the responses of the people when the rite requires it, may be made easy and spontaneous. It is desirable that the priest, and the ministers of every degree, should join their voices to the voice of the whole faithful in those parts which concern the people,” (Musicam Sacram, §26).

    Taking all of this into consideration, it is clear that the choir performs a liturgical function and the choir members are actively participating in the liturgy.

    With love and respect to our non-Catholic brethren, I think creating a situation wherein we ask them to lie through their words and actions is one of the least charitable things we as Catholics can do. For example, at the conclusion of the great Prayer of Consecration the choir and congregation respond, “Amen.” Asking a non-Catholic to say, “It is true,” to something they don’t necessarily believe is indeed asking them to lie and lying definitely does not seem to be a path that brings “spiritual benefit” to anyone. Some people are in favor of creating such a situation because non-Catholics have “better” voices than Catholics. This is simply not true. We need to remember that each of us was created by God and when we lift up our voice in prayer to Him, He is pleased.

    It seems to me that asking people to lie is a very strange way to make our liturgy a more beautiful reflection of the divine liturgy celebrated in heaven.

  31. Ioannes Andreades says:

    At my college Newman center, I knew of an EMHC who, though Catholic, did not believe in the true presence. I think we’d all be fairly heavily bothered by that. Now if members of choirs perform genuinely liturgical functions, as Sac. Conc. teaches, it seems clear to me that they at least need to be Catholic but hopefully also a little more than just nominally Catholic.

    I guess one issue I’m having is that it’s not even clear to me that Fr. Z thinks that the choir member needs to be baptized. What if we had atheists in the choir, singing for a salary (am aware of this scenario too)? Should we ask them to bow out of singing the Creed? Is there anything that they can’t do?

    I’ve thought for a long time that there needs to be some papal clarification, preferably an encyclical, on the nature of ministries and liturgical functions, and I guess I’d prefer that it come from this pope. I believe that most problems in the O.F. derive from such situations.

  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    On the one hand, if you’re going to be serious about producing excellent music for the glory of God, you had better have competent staff — at least one staff singer per voice part. And they have to be there every Sunday or provide a substitute. That as a general rule requires payment.

    And if the congregation isn’t in the habit of singing, somebody has got to lead if you ever want them to sing. Again, that requires staff.

    On the other hand, it does seem a bit jarring for unbelievers to be providing music for pay. My experience however is that staff singers in Catholic parishes tend to be Catholic — and those who are not are mainline Christian, not unbelievers. So in singing the Creed, etc., they are not affirming anything they do not believe.

    Plus you have to consider that some of them will wind up being converted. We’ve had two sign up for RCIA.

    An excessive concern over “unsanctified choristers” strikes me as far more of an evangelical preoccupation. If you read some of the “Christian novels” by the likes of, say, Grace Livingston Hill, she spends a lot of time contrasting the whited sepulchre of the fashionable church with the heartfelt and sincere no-frills evangelical prayer service. She usually gets in a dig at beautiful but insincere choir music – as opposed to the heartfelt expression of the a capella (though she’d never use that term) evangelical hymns. Of course, her hero or heroine always has a beautiful voice that holds the congregation spellbound . . . . as the Church Lady would say, “How conveeeeenient!”

  33. robtbrown says:

    So here it is: a celebration of Holy Mass is not a concert. It is a liturgical action.
    Comment by Andrew

    I tend to agree.

    The basis for the concert approach is devotio moderna, in which spirituality (and in this case, liturgy) is intended to arouse the affections.

  34. Well, if you go back to the Temple’s biblical precedent, the singers and musicians of the Levites (who were the heads of families and their sons) stayed at the Temple all the time and were exempt from all other work. They were clothed in fine linen and got all their food and stuff from the people’s offerings.

    So clearly, not only is the laborer worthy of his hire, he’s worthy of full-time pretty darned nice hire, plus room and board, plus free outfits, plus somebody to wash, iron and starch all that linen. :)

  35. Re: non-Catholic choristers and musicians, this is perhaps a bit unfair to point out. But we owe both Father Z’s Catholicism and vocation to the holy Msgr. Schuler, who brought him into the music program at St. Agnes in hope of conversion. People talk a lot about being pastoral and talk nonsense; but the fruits of giving people prudent amounts of leeway can be remarkably good.

    Of course, it should be high on our priority list to teach all Catholic people to sing at least a little, as Vatican II commanded; and anybody sensible could see before then, that it should be part of any Catholic’s religious education. Most parishes foolishly dropped it; we have to pick it up again. It would be logical to include music in RCIA, for example.

    Anyway, if Catholics are silent and do not praise the Lord, we have good authority that the stones themselves would cry out — and of course God can raise up a people to Himself out of stones, just like He did out of clay. So unless we want to put God and rocks to a lot of trouble, it’s probably better to let Protestants and atheists praise Him. :)

  36. UbiCaritas says:

    In a similar vein, is it appropriate for a Catholic to sing distinctly Catholic liturgical music at a Protestant service?

    I’m in the rather bizarre position of being expected to perform some Catholic polyphony (Catholic both by tradition and by the expressed doctrine of the work) in a Methodist church during a Methodist service. I’m of two minds about this: on the one hand, I certainly agree wholeheartedly with the doctrine and if the Methodists don’t mind my singing about the Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity of Mary in their church, I don’t mind singing about it. On the other hand, I wonder if it’s somehow wrong to sing something so inherently Catholic in a Protestant service–does it somehow imply approval of Calvinism? Thoughts, anyone?

  37. AnAmericanMother says:

    Ubi,

    “Go ye into all the world and preach.”

    Who knows what fruit your singing will bear?

    (Besides, Methodists are really Episcopalians, who are just One Step From Rome. At least they used to be. You’d be surprised what sort of Marian hymnody is lurking around even in the Methodist hymnal.)

  38. JPK says:

    If Protestant singers refrain from singing On Eagles Wing, or Gather Us In (or whatever it is called)what is there not to like? Our former Bishop loved to have Luther’s “This is Our Victory” sung during the High Mass on Easter Sunday.

  39. thesheepcat says:

    I’m with Suburbanbanshee above, in that one of many factors that drew me into the Catholic Church was to sing for a year and a half with a choir (composed almost entirely of cafeteria Catholics) that performed traditional sacred Christian music in a concert setting. The repertoire was Catholic with a few exceptions such as Messiah.

    We did sing at Mass at least once (for the funeral of a member’s father), and–pace jkarpilo–so far as I can recall I wasn’t ever pressured to sing or say something I actively disbelieved. Having spent time in some quite heterodox environments, I was already accustomed to remaining silent when I was unsure I could honestly say amen to a particular prayer.

    All that said, I’ll also remark that I do experience it as a special blessing when fellow choristers truly believe what they’re singing.

  40. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I find it interesting to note that while the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1143) cites Sac. Conc. 29 (“Servers, lectors commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function.”), John Paul II 2003 chirograph cites the earlier Musica Sacra in using not the phrase “liturgical function” but “ministerial task”:

    8. The importance of preserving and increasing the centuries-old patrimony of the Church spurs us to take into particular consideration a specific exhortation of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Choirs must be assiduously developed, especially in cathedral churches”[22]. In turn, the Instruction Musicam Sacram explains the ministerial task of the choir: “Because of the liturgical ministry it exercises, the choir (cappella musicale or schola cantorum) should be mentioned here explicitly. The conciliar norms regarding the reform of the Liturgy have given the choir’s function greater prominence and importance. The choir is responsible for the correct performance of its part, according to the differing types of song, to help the faithful to take an active part in the singing. Therefore,… choirs are to be developed with great care, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries and in religious houses of study”[23]. The schola cantorum’s task has not disappeared: indeed, it plays a role of guidance and support in the assembly and, at certain moments in the Liturgy, has a specific role of its own.

    I would ask, in what other ministerial tasks is it permimssible for non-Catholics or even non-Christians to perform?

  41. jkarpilo says:

    . . . so far as I can recall I wasn’t ever pressured to sing or say something I actively disbelieved.

    If a non-Catholic choir member doesn’t believe in the real presence but yet sings the Great Amen he/she is objectively lying (the same would be true if Catholic were to do so but that isn’t the point of this discussion). One reason for not admitting non-Catholics to Communion is the very same: they would be, by their actions, bearing false witness that they profess communion with the Catholic Church and all it teaches.

    I really feel that it is in our best interests to not place people in a position wherein they need to bear false witness (whether they realize they’re doing it or not).

  42. Athanasius says:

    I’m with Suburbanbanshee above, in that one of many factors that drew me into the Catholic Church was to sing for a year and a half with a choir (composed almost entirely of cafeteria Catholics) that performed traditional sacred Christian music in a concert setting. The repertoire was Catholic with a few exceptions such as Messiah.

    Then let them sing in a concert choir in a concert hall. Yet at Mass only Catholics should be singing in a ministerial capacity. The teaching of the Holy Office (supra) was very clear about this, and nothing magisterial has superseded it. Catholics are bound by that teaching, end of story. For protestants to sing in a choir performing at Mass is communicatio in sacris, sinful and offensive to God. We might feel a certain way about it, but doctrine is not determined by us but by the Magisterium which God put in place. All the arguments that can be drummed up against this are rather useless to the fact that it detracts from the worship of God since you have people singing who do not believe that which the Church believes and proposes to glorify God with at her sacred liturgy. Outside the liturgy or outside of the choir/clergy there is no question of a ministerial role and any considerations of dissumlatio are subjective and ex parte operante, so they don’t affect what is being done objectively. If so many would be converted by being able to sing things they don’t believe, then the solution is a special choir concert performed somewhere at certain times of the year, not to offend God to please men.

  43. Athanasius says:

    Anyway, if Catholics are silent and do not praise the Lord, we have good authority that the stones themselves would cry out—and of course God can raise up a people to Himself out of stones, just like He did out of clay. So unless we want to put God and rocks to a lot of trouble, it’s probably better to let Protestants and atheists praise Him. :)

    Tell that to Catholic Tradition, the Holy Office, and the saints who know better about these things than any of us (including myself) know. You are still grasping at straws to get around the clear teaching of the Holy Office that participation in the choir at Mass, which is a ministerial role, by non-Catholics represents communicatio in sacris and is thus offensive to God. Misapplying scripture does not help the case. If God is going to raise stones up to praise Him they will do so with right faith since without that you can’t please Him, objectively speaking.

    Now granted, I strongly dislike the American attitude that low Mass is the normative Mass and High Mass is something foreign or to be avoided, but for most of history outside of a Cathedral or a religious house such as a monastery there was not any kind of real choir nor High Mass. While the Church had attempted to promote a stronger emphasis on the sung ceremonies in the early 20th century, it never said that was so important that we can ignore the fact that God is the aim and purpose of the liturgy, not making the members in the Church feel good. It is just like people who complain that a woman taking her crying baby out during Mass disturbed “her” Mass, its not her’s it is God’s. The solution is not to contravene this or the Holy Office’s teaching to get choirs in, better to have no choir than one without right faith. The solution is to set up centers of music to train people, and re-introduce real music into American life at the level of the parish school, parish associations, etc. If Bishops actually funded centers for music instead of ostentatious and wasteful (not to mention useless) meetings in fancy hotels in expensive cities twice a year we might produce some musicians. If parishes spent money on trained Catholic musicians rather than lesbian avenger days or OCP missalettes which are fit only to burn, there might be money for these things. I’d rather go 100 years without music than see God offended at His liturgy.

  44. Are you similarly opposed to the priest receiving a stipend for offering the Mass?

    Well, I didn’t say I was opposed, Tim, I said I wasn’t in favor of. While I wouldn’t be opposed to a free will offering, I would be opposed to a required payment.

    E.g., we have been trying to form a new choir to sing the propers, etc. at a monthly Latin Mass south of Boston. A friend of mine who is an organist had been invited to play, but because the money is insufficient, he refuses. I am in no way opposed to an organist receiving pay for his work; on the other hand, building up a choir and through it a new Latin Mass community, is necessarily a bit of a charitable project. I myself spent many more hours teaching this group and preparing music than the organist would have, and I am happy to do so without pay.

    I am not in favor of professional choirs being brought in from the outside for regular parish Masses (which is how I had read the previous comments). If a parish can pay its choir members, or a core group who would also, one expects, be spending considerable time learning and rehearsing music, all well and good. But I would prefer that these be members of the parish. And that is because I don’t think that “ministers” which, as subsequent comments have brought out is really the type of role musicians play, should simply be hired hands. As last night’s lesson at Evening Prayer pointed out: Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.

  45. AnAmericanMother says:

    Steve,

    All the organist has to feed his family is his fingers and his brain. If he is willing to give what amounts to a donation to the parish, well and good. But, as you say, “not by constraint but willingly” because he is giving up time and talent that is not limitless.

    I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but: Getting Catholics to sing in the congregation is difficult enough. Actually getting them into the choir is harder still. And they will leave in a heartbeat if they are overfaced. If you don’t have the core group of staff singers to lift the volunteers over the hard bits, your choir will stumble to an embarrassing halt in the middle of the Mass. It’s never happened to us (please heaven may that continue) . . . but I’ve heard it happen elsewhere and cringed inside for the singers and the director and everybody who had to listen. And staff tenors at least don’t grow on every bush — we had a Catholic one, but he got a scholarship to Juilliard.

    Athanasius,

    I think the problem is that you’re treating Protestants, even the liturgical Protestants like Piskies and Lutherans, as though they were howling atheists or Wiccans or something. The latter tend to find other outlets for their musical interests — the last place you’ll find them is in any church. I’ve sung in various choirs for 50 years, and I don’t believe I’ve ever met an atheist or a pagan there.

    Most Protestant staff singers I’ve met in Catholic parishes are at the very least tending towards Catholicism. And the Church teaches that, although they do not have the fullness of Truth, they have some truth. And while in the reception of the Eucharist they would be eating and drinking their own damnation (as St. Paul saith) because they do not recognize the Lord, as choir singers I don’t believe they go that far. 99 percent of what is sung is believed by most liturgical Protestants — including oddly enough most Marian devotions. Even the “Great Amen” could be a “be it so” rather than an absolute affirmation of belief. . . at least I would charitably construe it so.

  46. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Athanasius (or anyone else),

    Is there clear evidence (historically)with respect to, e.g., catechumens, and people under penance, and ‘sorts’ or ‘degrees’ of ‘participation’?

    And where do people whose Baptism is recognized, but who (also) worship (or sing) in ‘schismatic’ churches/’ecclesial communities’, fit in? (E.g., are they considered as automatically self-excommunicated?)

    Should people in some sense recognized as members of the Church by virtue of Baptism, and not otherwise individually put under some penitential sanction, behave as if the Mass (or Vespers, etc.) was a concert, e.g., not only not vocally but not mentally joining in the sung Pater Noster, etc.?

  47. david andrew says:

    Somebody best contact the Oratory in London and let the music director know that most of his professional choir needs to be sacked. Oh, and don’t forget to call over to Westminster Cathedral. But before that, call the Madeleine School, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Shrine . . . have I forgotten anyone?

    All of these programs hire musicians to sing for Masses and the like, and I’ll lay long money odds that many of these mercenary musicians aren’t Catholic, and probably don’t live in conformity with Church Teachings.

    So, let’s all take level aim at our foot and shoot our big toe clean off, shall we?

  48. Clinton says:

    The objection to the idea that a choir in a Catholic liturgy should be in fact composed of Catholics seems to boil down to “do not let
    the perfect become the enemy of the good”. David Andrew’s comment above is a case in point. Yet no one disagreeing here with the
    ‘Catholics only, please’ position has truly engaged the points put forward by Athanasius and jkarpilo above.

    Is it really so wildly impractical to have choirs of Catholics, paid or unpaid, at Mass?

  49. Athanasius says:

    Should people in some sense recognized as members of the Church by virtue of Baptism, and not otherwise individually put under some penitential sanction, behave as if the Mass (or Vespers, etc.) was a concert, e.g., not only not vocally but not mentally joining in the sung Pater Noster, etc.?

    The only problem is that the theological tradition prior to 1965 unanimously affirms the opposite. Someone is a member of the Church by baptism, but it has always been taught that once someone baptized after the age of reason (including those who are in schismatic sects or raised in false churches) who refuses to believe what the Church has always and everywhere believed is no longer a member.

    The problem that people are not seeing, is that good will is not sufficient, one must also have right faith. Good will is not enough to save a man, neither is it enough to perfect him. That is Pelagianism.

    I think the problem is that you’re treating Protestants, even the liturgical Protestants like Piskies and Lutherans, as though they were howling atheists or Wiccans or something. The latter tend to find other outlets for their musical interests—the last place you’ll find them is in any church. I’ve sung in various choirs for 50 years, and I don’t believe I’ve ever met an atheist or a pagan there.

    Not at all, everything I take is from the teaching of the Church, I have no authority to say one way or another because I’m a layman. The clear teaching of the Holy Office (supra) that non-Catholics cannot ministerially participate in Mass (sacred ministers, servers, choir) is directed first and foremost at the Orthodox and Protestants, and by consequence to non-Christians, not the other way around. There is no place where I said that protestants are equivalent to atheists, what I said is they do not have right faith. Because they themselves do not have right faith they cannot officially (that is ministerially) worship God in His liturgy. That is what the holy office is saying. That does not mean it is impossible for a protestant to live a good and virtuous life (I know several who do), or that it is impossible for them to please God by perfect contrition. I do not mean they are the eternal objects of God’s torment, but rather that their faith is not that of the Church, yet the Church worships and sings with faith, what we pray is what we believe. It is not a matter of well what protestant could argue with “kyrie eleison”? It is rather in the totality of the act, they are committing (or asked to) the sin of dissimulatio, saying or doing something contrary to what they themselves believe. They don’t believe in the Mass, yet they are singing in its worship of the creator, that is an affront to God Who is to be worshiped in spirit and truth.

    What is more important is that the Holy Office’s teaching concerns faith and morals and has never been withdrawn, it is part of the ordinary magisterium and we are bound to it. I love good music, I listen to very little composed after about 1910 and I know protestants who sing classical choral music better than Catholics, but the theological principles, not the practicality are what govern the worship of God. Some say its good for them, but according to the Holy Office its not good for God, who is the prime focus not us.

  50. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Athanasius,

    Thank you! Will you indulge me again so courteously if I ask you if you could clarify further (according to your knowledge)? You focus on the “totality of the act”. Do I correctly understand you to mean that the ordinary magisterium is that, say, someone in complete agreement with ‘Nicaea’ on Trinitarian and Incarnational theology could prayerfully sing the Gloria or Pater Noster outside a Mass without affronting God, but not join in, during a Mass?

    And that this also applies to, say, someone under the Ecumenical Patriarch or one of the sorts of Anglicans whose Eucharistic theology per se does not differ from the Holy Office’s?

    Thus,’right faith’ can include no cognizance of any or all of the actual (and actually, considered in themselves distinctly, orthodox) dogmatic beliefs, touching the Eucharist, the Trinity, the Incarnation, of such a person?

    And, if I may repeat my question which I did not undertand as fully answered in your answer, should such people – if suffered to be physically present (especially after the point corresponding to the dismissal of the Catechumens in some liturgies) – not participate by mental intention, either, but should attmept to regard all with an inner distance analogous to – or greater than that – at a concert?

  51. Athanasius says:

    I a non-Catholic subjectively participates at Mass (that is, they are not in a ministerial role) in singing say, a hymn that asks Mary’s intercession, but they do not believe in Mary’s intercession, or moreover sing a Eucharistic hymn, but do not believe in the Eucharist, they commit sins of simulation. It is different from the question at hand, whether they are allowed to participate at the ministerial level (clergy, servers, choir) which is a no for the objective reason.

    The differences are manifold, the act itself (i.e. Mass) is not displeasing to God when someone subjectively adds prayers in a sinful manner (i.e. simulation, saying something other than what he believes). That is what is meant by the act itself.

    Lastly, beyond other considerations, it is irrelevant whether we speak of someone who is orthodox or angligcans with the appropriate theology, or low church protestants, they do not have the same faith. To have unity we must first have right faith. St. Margaret Clitherow was adamant that some anglicans who felt the decision to martyr her was unfit, should not join her prayer. She said “Neither shall I say amen to your prayers, and neither shall you say amen to mine.” It is deeper than they have it right on this issue and not on this, they are not members of the mystical body and we cannot have communion with them until they are of right faith, which we hope and prayer for. This is the principle by which Pope Pius XI condemned the ecumenical movement in Mortalium Animos. If protestants or others are so desparate to sing at Mass, which their theology (except for the orthodox) teaches is an abomination, let them abjure their errors and join the Church.

  52. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Athanasius,

    Belated thanks for your latest answer! I had taken (and indeed do take) ‘the question in hand” to include the matter of “It [being] desirable that the priest, and the ministers of every degree, should join their voices to the voice of the whole faithful in those parts which concern the people,”(Musicam Sacram, §26). How do the voices of those (e.g., Orthodox, Anglican) visitors who affirm (or even, as AnAmericanMother seemed to suggest on 14 Sept., affirm ‘conditionally’, in, as it were, an ‘if this indeed be so – which I do not confidently deny, so be it’ sense)and who are not convinced they are “not members of the mystical body”, ‘fit in’?

    And not only the voices of such, but their mental intentions?

    You distinguish “not in a ministerial role”, but in how far does “Musicam Sacram, §26″ do that?

    If their vocal act does not differ from their mental intention (based on conscientious theological judgement), then I do not see any act of “simulation” qua the content of a particular prayer (e.g., invoking intercession, joining in a Eucharistic prayer).

    Obviously, refraining from vocally joining in, need not be dissimulation, either – though one might falsely concluded they disbelieve in such intercession.

    But my question as to mental intention seems to me still incompletely answered: may they (as you understand the ordinary magisterium) join their mental intentions with those “of the whole faithful”?