Friday, October 26, 2007

The Revision of Music and Catholic Worship

Here is a letter sent to a local Bishop about the impending replacement of Music in Catholic Worship with a document that we can only hope will more fully reflect Church teaching. Perhaps others will send letters, not to lobby but merely to draw attention to a very serious problem that is crying out for a solution.

This letter is prompted by the news that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be voting next month on a draft document to revise the document Music in Catholic Worship. It is my hope that the revised guidelines on Catholic sacred music for the United States could be modified to conform better to the principles and guidance on sacred music provided by the Second Vatican Council and the Holy See.

In my experience with Catholic sacred music over the last 25 years, I have noticed inconsistencies between Music and Catholic Worship (MCW) and the Instruction from the Holy See Musicam Sacram. This inconsistency necessitates that parish music programs choose (consciously or not) which guidelines to follow. It can also lead to instability in music programs when new pastors or music directors are assigned who follow different guidelines. I have witnessed the unhappy results of this instability several times over the years.

An article by William Mahrt, President of the Church Music Association of America, Toward a Revision of Music in Catholic Worship, very ably lays out the major differences between the Roman and American guidelines. This article appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of the journal Sacred Music, and is also available on the Internet site, specifically here.

The essay is based on comments that Dr. Mahrt delivered to the USCCB consultation on Music in Catholic Worship in October 2006. Dr. Mahrt commented: “Perhaps the most important issue is the relation of MCW to Sacrosanctum Consilium and the Second Instruction for its implementation, Musicam Sacram…Some of the points of conflict in MCW are the place of Gregorian chant, polyphony, and the organ; the overall purposes of music; and the role of the proper and ordinary of the Mass.” Dr. Mahrt goes on to list a number of specific differences between the Roman and American guidelines.

As you and the other bishops of our country consider the draft document (which I have not seen), I ask you to consider the importance for our American guidelines to be more consistent with those provided by the Holy See.

With my continued daily prayers for yourself and the Diocese of ________, I am,
Respectfully yours,

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