Monday, October 19, 2009

Theology and Rock, Redux

One of the authors of the article I severely criticized in this post is urging me to make retraction on grounds that their article in America, while it passionately defended rock on theological grounds, never actually urges it to be used in Catholic liturgy.

The point is well taken. My title, then, is misleading as to the substance of what they argue explicitly. However, I wrote my correspondent as follows:

It's not that I somehow fear making a retraction. Believe me, I've done this many times, and I often find myself regretting that the speed I read and process information can come at the expense of subtlety in comprehension. My problem is that I'm not entirely sure in this case, and, believe me, I've spent an inordinate amount of time thinking through this particular case.

What's more, I'm not entirely sure that you would be happy with what I would write. I've been trying to think of analogies here. Nothing fits quite right, but it is a bit like writing a manual on bomb making and then, following a bombing, protesting that you never intended anyone to make or use one. The analogy isn't quite exact, but you get the point. A Catholic defense of rock on theological grounds, published in a Catholic magazine, is going to make liturgical waves. To not even address this point suggests naivete at best.

Your last paragraph [in private correspondence] about Freebird vs. William Byrd, for example, caused my jaw to drop. You presume that a Director of Liturgy, when presented with your article, would quickly see that rock doesn't belong in liturgy and would continue to push music of the Renaissance rather than rock. How can I put this? This scenario just doesn't reflect the reality of parish life.

For forty years, the liturgy has been rolling pop music into its structure and this trend has proven disastrous for the structure of the Mass itself, not to mention what it demands in terms of solemnity. We are at a crossroads right now: do we go further in this direction or do we cut the nonsense and sing the music that is embedded in this rite itself? For America to publish a passionate theological defense of rock right now adds weight in the wrong direction.

If I had it to do over again, I would post something along these lines, and perhaps you would be more pleased with it. But I'm not at all convinced that your project and the attention given to it by the leading Jesuit publication is benign as regards Catholic liturgy and Catholic life today.

Thank you again for being so civil in light of my intense criticisms of your piece. I'm grateful for that, and I hope that I can follow that model in any response I write.

One final note. The authors' blog is sponsored by the Liturgical Press.

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