Espresso: Italian Church imposing discipline on liturgical music [POLL ALERT]

The affliction many people experience each week in church from the music choices and choosers is not limited to the Anglophone world.  You should hear the stuff they play in churches in Italy.

You feel like you are drowning in Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

There is an article on this issue in Espresso, the Italian language "news" magazine.  The article has a poll which may interest WDTPRSers.

This is about greater liturgical discipline in church and perhaps banning guitars and pop tunes for Mass. 

The Italian Bishops Conference has been looking at rules for music.

"’Repertorio nazionale per i canti della liturgia’, è già stato compilato, e la pubblicazione è attesa entro settembre…. ‘A national repertoire for songs for liturgy", has already been compiled, and it’s publication is expected before the end of September."

The article by Tommaso Cerno is rather tendentious, offering a rather condescending view of the more traditional position.

Here is my translation of the poll page:

Baglioni out of churches.
What do you think?

The Vatican prohibits guitars and profane folk tunes.
What do you think?
LISTEN to a list of banned songs.
READ the article.

According to you…

  • Right, let’s leave the tunes in the juke box
  • This is absurd, it’s only another chance to drive away young people
  • A return to discipline, could make sense, but guitars during Mass is surely a minor problem.

Here are the results at the time I am writing.

My personal vote was for the first choice: "E’ giusto, le canzonette lasciamole ai juke box"

Listen to the tune by Baglioni mentioned at the top of the poll and article (Fratello Sole Sorella Luna) by Claudio Baglioni.

There is a list of approved songs.

Do WDTPRSers have an opinion?

You can vote if you want.  I picked the first option, but choose as it pleases you to choose.

UPDATE 22 Sept 2152 GMT


Hey! Look!

UPDATE 24 Sept 1947 GMT

Interesting, no?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Oleksander says:

    Voted for one. I didnt know, having never been there, Italy had music problems.

  2. Oleksander says:

    On second thought I guess it makes sense. If France has horrible why not Italy? sigh how the mighty have fallen

  3. TNCath says:

    There is some really syrupy music in the parishes of Italy, especially in the small towns, with some of the worst organists I’ve ever heard in my life. The singing is often led by a well-meaning, zealous old pastor, microphone in hand, who barks out songs that could put you in a diabetic coma. Running close behind is the music in parishes in Ireland, that is, WHEN they bother to have music at all.

  4. TNCath says:

    Oh, almost forgot. I voted for #1 for sure! However, I have a feeling the Italians will cancel my vote a hundredfold.

  5. Fr. John Mary says:

    I experienced the Italian parish Mass in Orvieto (the place of a Eucharistic miracle) last October…interesting…the one thing I can say is that the Italian language sounds so beautiful (as opposed to the idiotic English most contemporary Church music has), even if the music is well, substandard, and I did not know what exactly the words meant. It was surreal to be worshipping in an ancient cathedral with all kinds of Catholic history and not hear Gregorian chant or polyphony. Stupid me.

  6. Re: the tune referenced — It’s a pretty tune, but it sounds more like a “reflection” motet, or something to play before Mass (possibly in the car), than a real hymn.

  7. Jayna says:

    I voted number 1. There’s a time and a place for guitar, and Mass ain’t it. I think it’s absurd that people think using proper music would drive away the younger folk. It pulls in the old and the young – the in between, well, they just don’t get it (most of them anyhow).

  8. berenike says:

    I would go with the third option. Guitars per se are not actually evil.

    And I think that Sequeri thing is rather nice, the words tres devotional and apt for a post-communion. Certainly (miles and miles) less soupy than “To Jesus’ Heart All Burning”, and similar in sentiment to Anima Christi.

    I love “To Jesus Heart All Burning”, Anima Christi, the German version of this “Tu sei la mia vita”. And I think basically there should be nothing at Mass except unaccompanied chant.

    Bring back parish devotions in the English-speaking world! :-D

  9. JoeGarcia says:

    FWIW, as of 45 seconds ago option #1 had 713 votes and #2 had 1181.

  10. Greg Smisek says:

    See the bottom of this page for an English translation of this song, remotely inspired by St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun.” It was composed as part of the film score for Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which portrays St. Francis as the patron saint of hippies.

    Clearly, if there is any merit to this music, it falls into the category of “religious music” (De musica sacra [1958]):

    54. The type of music which inspires its hearers with religious sentiments, and even devotion, and yet, because of its special character cannot be used in liturgical functions, is nevertheless worthy of high esteem, and ought to be cultivated in its proper time. This music justly merits, therefore, the title “religious music”.

    55. The proper places for the performance of such music are concert halls, theaters, or auditoriums, but not the church, which is consecrated to the worship of God. However, if none of these places are available, and the local Ordinary judges that a concert of religious music might be advantageous for the spiritual welfare of the faithful, he may permit a concert of this kind to be held in a church, provided the following provisions are observed….

  11. merrydelval says:

    The Italian music situation is much worse than the American one. In most parishes, you to go to Sunday Mass and get a badly xeroxed piece of paper with guitar chords and four songs screeched out by people into badly attenuated microphones. The priests hardly ever sing any of the Mass. There is little attempt to form real choirs, there are few paid musicians, and the Masses are taken over by teenage guitarists with no training. During a parish mission, I led a group of seminarians in singing the Mass of the Angels and the Jesu, dulcis memoria in organum. The people sang their hearts out and the pastor was so angry he forbade us to have anything to do with the liturgy for the rest of the mission. We did have piped in rock music and a filmstrip during Mass. This was in 2004, by the way. Marco Frisina is the only Italian-language musician who has moderately acceptable music, and he is the Joncas/Haas/Haugen of Italy. Funny thing is, though, that he is aghast that the parishes don’t do Latin. He was shocked when he tried to teach us seminarians his version of Credo IV and I was the only seminarian who knew it. One of the guys piped up. “But all we sing is your stuff all the time; when would we ever learn chant?” There are many young people who are serious musicians in Italy, and they have often been alienated by their priests because they actually like serious music.

  12. Gregory DiPippo says:

    The estimable merrydelval is absolutely right. The music in Italian churches is drivel, beyond embarassing. Everything uncomplimentary thing that Fr. Rutler says in his book about bad church music is ten times as true in Italy.

  13. MikeM says:

    I picked choice three. I’m all for more reverent music at mass (and I am twenty years old and have felt the same way for awhile, so I donm’t buy the “bringing in a younger audience” stuff.) At the same time, in rare circumstances, a guitar might be the best option for musical accompaniment (if you have a small community and no organist or pianist, for example…)

    If the music is appropriately selected, the guitar itself isn’t a big deal. If the music isn’t properly selected, the instruments used don’t really matter.

  14. chironomo says:

    My vote went for #1….but…. the article (as far as I could tell) never says what the Bishops conference has done in regards to music. It boldly says in the title that the “Vatican bans guitars and profane music”. OK, as far as I know that hasn’t really come to pass. Is the Italian conference actually putting forwards a “repertoire” of songs as is called for in Liturgiam Authenticam? If so, they will have accomplished what the USCCB was unable to do in 2006 when it punted in favor of guidelines for approving songs which were then never approved. My question is this…Is something actually happening there to stop the abuses and mandate the use of approved music, or is this just another set of “suggestions” as seems to be the favored motus operandi here in the US?

  15. chironomo says:

    Pardon my Latin… “modus operandi”

  16. Rob Cartusciello says:

    At the canonization of my g-g-g-g-g uncle, St. Gaetano Errico, SS.MM., thousands of people from his church in Secondigliano (Naples) attended. At one point during the overture to the Mass, the chorus sang a hymn written by him to the Virgin Mary. It is a uniquely Neapolitan melody in the Neapolitan dialect.

    As the song began, the thousands of Secondigliani began to sing and wave pale blue flags with saint’s image. It was a song of hope and faith amidst the crushing poverty of Secondigliano, a terrible slum north of Naples shot through with the Camorra (Neopolitan mafia). They all knew the words, and it was beautiful.

    Here is a small clip of the song at the ceremony. Sorry for the audio quality:

  17. Rachel says:

    I’m sick of hearing that lame modern music is for the sake of young people.

    First, what young people listen to outside of church is nothing like the music that’s supposed to appeal to them in church. Unless you’ve booked Beyonce or the Jonas Brothers for Mass, you’re not playing the music most young people listen to. Your guitar-and-tamborine choir can’t measure up and sounds cheesy in comparison.

    Second, young people are just as capable as old folks of appreciating the beauty and effect of fine music.

    When I was in college the Christian club would meet and sing hymns a capella. We’d take turns calling out suggestions of hymns we wanted to do. We were all between 18 and 23 years old, and we picked nothing but well-written old hymns with meaningful words. We scorned the new stuff.

  18. Dave N. says:

    I was SO hopeful that our new Pope, great lover of great music that he is, would fix this dismal situation. What a wonderful legacy that would be to the world!

    Take the Sistine Choir…please. And work your way out.

  19. chironomo says:

    I am very interested in learning whether the “list of approved songs” has been, or is going to be, implemented as a mandate. It seems to be what was called for in Liturgiam Authenticam, and if it is an exclusive list, then this would be incredible news. It is also significant that at least so far as the Ordinary settings, it is remarkably similar to the chants proposed by ICEL for inclusion in the new Missal translation…a choice of either the Gregorian setting in Latin, or a vernacular text set to an adaptation of the Gregorian melody. If this is being proposed in Italy as the only approved option, is it too much to suggest that the same may become the case in the US as well?

    Without samples of the music, it’s difficult to tell what the other selections (hymns, psalms, Antiphons)on the list sound like, but lacking “composer” and publisher info, I am supposing that these are more traditional selections? If anybody “on the ground” in Italy knows more about this, perhaps you could fill in some of these blanks…

  20. Supertradmom says:

    Voted and thanks for introducing me to this website.

  21. mpm says:

    I can’t speak for the Italians.

    Frankly, I don’t approve of hymns at any point in any Mass (OF OR EF, Latin or vernacular). By this, I do not mean an entrance hymn or a recessional, I mean between the signs of the Cross.

    I find the hymns selected for the offertory of the Mass to have nothing whatsoever to do with uniting my daily life (or any one else’s) with the gifts that are to be consecrated, and at Communion the last thing on earth I need is to have my brains blown out by an organ and wanna-be soprano (even if the hymn itself is appropriate). At Communion specifically, what I appreciate is a) silence, or b) a non-vocal, very low-toned motet rendered by the organ, or c) if words are necessary, a very low-toned rendition of a similar motet as in “b”. In other words, “lower the volume”. By “motet” I mean such traditional hymns as “Pange, lingua”, “Adoro te devote”, “Ubi caritas et amor”, and other traditional ones of that sort. Preferably not in the vernacular, and not with the multimedia speakers set on “full blast”.

    I have only this opportunity to commune on an intimate level with the Lord Christ, please don’t take it away! I need His strength here, not somebody else’s words.

    Gregorian chant (Latin or vernacular) (especially a cappella or with a minimal assist from the organ) is not the same as a hymn, and does not have the same effect on me. And the proper Antiphons do not go on, and on, and on, ….

    Where those hymns are very uplifting (especially in the original Latin) is during Eucharistic processions, and Benediction.

    I think it would be of great benefit to the whole Church (whatever the form of the Rite) to sort this stuff out. I would urge our musicians, and choir directors, etc., to continue their implementation of the true Catholic tradition of music at Mass.

    And, if I were a “young person” I would point out to my “elders” that “anything you can do, I can do better”! And then, do it!

  22. Hidden One says:

    Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
    And with fear and trembling stand;
    Ponder nothing earthly minded,
    For with blessing is His hand,
    Christ our God to earth descendeth,
    Our full homage to demand.

  23. Melody says:

    Most young people listen to classical and modern stuff like rock, not Haugan and Haas.

  24. Frank H says:

    More evidence of the power of WDTPRS to influence polls! As of a few minutes ago:

    Answer 1 – 2633 votes

    Answer 2 – 1264 votes

    Answer 3 – 446 votes

    (4343 total)

  25. Tom in NY says:

    The “Approved List” wouldn’t fill a OCP-GIA-WLSM book in the States. Nor would it have filled the St. Gregory hymnal from pre V-II days. And a look at the St. Gregory would show influences on American (English-speaking) church music from English- and German-speaking traditions, as well as the Latin standards.
    There’s relatively little music in American churches from Italian influences that didn’t come via Latin. And it appears there are few non-Italian influences on Espresso’s list.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  26. RichR says:

    Why do I vote for these silly polls. They mean nothing, and they prove nothing (other than the power of WDTPRS readers in number). How many Italian chanceries are going to look at these numbers and actually change policies simply because some blog readers in another country stormed the polls and skewed the data?

    The problem with polls is this: if we didn’t vote, and the results went the other way, we’d be afraid that the polls would be cited to justify the liturgical wackiness that is the status quo. So, we’d rather create a result that the liberals ignore than give them something to confirm their novelties.

    Is that mental, or what? LOL!

    BTW, as a member of a men’s Gregorian chant group, I absolutely had to vote #1 on principle…..and fear!!!! LOL!

    Ah well, back to drilling on peoples’ teeth.

  27. Lori Ehrman says:

    What I love is how this helped flip the results! I voted for number 1 b/c Father Z recommended it.

  28. Sandy says:

    Voted for #1 also, Father. What I wonder about is the statement that “the Vatican prohibits guitars and profane folk tunes”. Is that true for the U.S. and, if so, why do we hear both guitars and profane folk tunes?! When I was able to go to the EF, hearing the choir and organ, and holy music, would enhance my prayers, especially after Communion. What usually happens now is that as I hold my head to pray after Communion, (OF) my thumbs discreetly plug my ears so I am able to enter more deeply into prayer without as much distraction.

  29. mibethda says:

    Judging from the comment box attached to this poll, it was begun earlier this summer and most of the comments there date from before August. Do you think that the staff of the paper might wonder why a nearly dormant poll suddenly found its second wind?

  30. chironomo says:


    I think the “Vatican Bans Guitars” was supposed to be a catchy headline, not a statement of fact. However, I have yet to find the place where guitars were permitted in the liturgy, and since they were certainly explicitly dis-allowed by Tra le sollecitudini, they should still be dis-allowed. There is a really muddy “permission” to use other instruments in the liturgy, as long as they can be “made suitable” for sacred use. How can one make a guitar suitable for sacred use? Turn it into an organ perhaps?

  31. chironomo says:

    Oh… and this may be of interest. From CWN:

    ROME ( – The Italian bishops’ conference on Monday issued a new list of music approved for use at Mass, dropping all music influenced by contemporary styles, often referred to as “rock and roll” music.

    Choir directors and music ministers now have a list of 360 songs from which to choose, with a heavy emphasis on traditional music. The list is a result of a four-year process by the bishops’ conference to reclaim the Church’s musical heritage.

    Sounds good enough.

    Oh… the date of this article?

    May 09, 2000

    Seems this is an ongoing issue lacking an adequately forceful solution.

Comments are closed.