Friday, August 02, 2013

The Morphing Church

Watch this RR video entitled, "Wide Range of Music played during WYD in Brazil", well it might be a wide range but none of it strikes me as being 'Catholic', if we understand 'Catholic' music in the terms defined by the Missal and the VII documents, it all sounds incredibly Protestant or at least Charismatic.
A friend of mine who works in an area where there is a strong and active Orthodox presence spoke to me recently of Catholics who were converting to Orthodoxy because the Church was morphing into something quite 'un-Catholic'.
I can't help thinking that one of the reasons why the Church is loosing members very quickly in Brazil and South America and actually slightly more slowly in Europe, is because of a loss of 'Catholic identity'. Great damage was done when the 'Church' started teaching and something different that held and passed on by men and women in the pew.
I put up a post on the impact of St Ignatius of Loyola a few days ago trying briefly to show how the counter-Reformation Church differed in some ways quite radically from the pre-Reformation Church.
Is the same thing happening now but to a much greater extent?
The question we need to ask is what exactly is 'Catholicism'. Is it just a series of credal statements, is it a culture, is it certain moral way of understanding man's relationship with God, is it a particular way of worshipping God? In the past we could simply define being a Catholic as being in Communion with the Successor of St Peter but the last Papacy with its tortuous negotiations with the SSPX, its insistence that they were not in schism and its finding Catholicism within Anglicanism seems to have back-peddled that somewhat.
If the Church is morphing, is it from God?


Gerald said...

It was painful to see Msgr. Guido Marini at that praise-n-worship Eucharistic adoration. I've been in that situation before, and the sappy guitar music drives me to distraction! What is the problem with silence before the exposed Blessed Sacrament? To my view, distracting many of the adorers with that stuff, making it impossible for them to tune it out, is much more intolerant and inconsiderate than the Franciscans of the Immaculate's favouring the traditional Mass! In fact, the whole novelty-ridden Novus Ordo regime is intolerant to Catholics seeking dignity and reverence in worship, forcing them to travel long distances to find it or else suffer in silence at the shenanigans in their parishes. And how about faithful religious in Modernist-dominated orders, suffering under the tyranny of heresy and novelty? Why do these orders continue with impunity while the FFI gets decapitated with an iron fist?

And why are modern churchmen so desperate to drop our hallowed and beautiful traditions and imitate the trendy, tacky and often vulgar trends in other ecclesial communities and the wider secular popular culture? Do they have that little confidence in Catholic culture and in a Church that used to lead the wider culture rather than follow it?

And what about Pope Francis's emphasis on simplicity, poverty and humility? Why are traditional trappings of Catholicism dropped while the expensive, elaborate and tatty displays and productions like those seen at WYD continued? What could have been humbler, simpler, and poorer than staging these mega-masses in a field without the sci-fi structures and rock-concert accoutrements, instead providing them with a choir to sing Gregorian chant (as called for by Vatican II!)?

The Church certainly is in the midst of an identity crisis. As for my Protestant friends, they are uninterested in joining a Church that seems so desperate to abandon her traditions in a vain effort to ape their own Evangelical communities. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is said, and my Protestant friends are too flattered by today's Catholicism to consider joining us.

Cosmos said...

It's so, so sad.

I really think its unfair that the Church leadership over the past 50 years believed that they had the right to do this to the Church. They are just so self-assured about their foresight and wisdom, and are always confident that thier judgment is synonymous with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. "Sure the numbers are terrible, but you can imagine how much worse it would have been had we not done all this."

I believe that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, but I don't believe that everything the Church does is wise or beneficial. Remember that in John 6, right after Peter asks "where else can we go, you have the words of eternal life," Jesus informs them that he has appointed a betrayer amongst them. I always took this to mean that despite God's provision and plan, we can expect things to get very bad within the Church at times. Israel remained Israel even in the midst of its apparent loss of all faith, the prophets were not instructed to find new chosen people.

This imposition of a populist protestanism (with the sacraments as a bonus) from the top is one of those bad times. But the worst part for me is listening to all the good Catholics who strain so hard to pretend that it all makes sense.

RJ said...

Going to an Orthodox church because the Catholic Church is thought to be 'un-Catholic' doesn't make much sense to me, since the Orthodox church is question would not itself be Catholic. One would be leaving the Catholic Church in order to find it.

Having said that, there are elements of the Catholic Church outside the Church, and it may be that these are, at any given time, better expressed outside the Church. Isn't that what Vatican II taught? That would make sense of there being some elements attractive to Catholics in other churches/ecclesial communities.

I don't believe the Church can lose its identity.


Is it from God?

I ask myself this. Despite the fact that I was a WYD supporter up until last week I would have to say then if we look at the actual words of Vatican II which was guided by the Holy Spirit then we have to say that WYD Rio was as far removed from Vatican II as you can get.

So I am of the opinion that it is not of God.

Also, (as many know) I am at one of the most overtly liberal parishes in the country and when we turned around and said enough was enough and we started to help put the tradition back, peoples eyes started to light up and there were even tears. We even had a comment "The church was as if it were part of the body again".

There is nothing anyone could tell me that 'nuchurch' is of God.

When the curtain was torn in two on the sanctuary, God never said it could be stripped bare. Even Vatican II does not say it can be stripped bar (far from it).

Supertradmum said...

At one time, the Catholic Church created one of the most beautiful cultures in the world. And the music reflected such beauty-Gregorian Chant, Byrd, Tallis, de Victoria, Bach, Bruckner, Dvorak, and so on. We have lost the ear for transcendence and beauty because, imo, we have lost reverance for God and the fact the He deserves proper worship.

The music is all about emotion and me, me, me.

I remember a comment by the Pope Emeritus when asked why the piano was not an appropriate liturgical instrument and the organ was.

He said that the piano appealed to the emotions and the organ to reason, the higher faculties of thinking and believing.

Sigh...all too late, I am afraid, to turn back, but souls will be lost because they cannot come to God in musical chaos.

Jacobi said...

“The question we need to ask is what exactly is 'Catholicism'”.

If the Church is morphing, it is not from God. The idea that He would wait over two thousand years to correct a major misconception of his Mystical Body on Earth is just, well, daft.

Nevertheless it may be going astray, not for the first time.
To answer the question “what is Catholicism”, being Catholic is seeking Redemption in Christ, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, by means of Christ’s Redemptive Death and Resurrection on the Cross for the salvation of Mankind. The instrument of this redemption is the re-enactment of this Sacrifice in the Holy Mass, and also his reception, Body Blood Soul and Divinity under the appearance of bread and wine, in Holy Communion, as instructed, when we are properly disposed. We are required to attend Mass circa 56 times a year and Holy Communion at least once a year and that at Easter or thereabouts.

Catholic devotions, particularly those related to Our Lady, who continues to stand at the Cross while Christ continues to hang there for the sins of Man, are a parallel and supportive instrument of salvation.

Anil Wang said...

I don't understand how this could be a reason for converting. Latin Rite Catholics can always request a change or Rite and become Eastern Catholic, or simply attend Ordinariate masses, or simply exclusively attend TLM. When it comes to the doctrines of the faith, nothing has changed. Orthodoxy isn't free of issues. Two different jurisdictions can't even agree which Catholic sacraments are valid (some require rebaptism, some but not most accept Catholic confirmations, some but not all accept Catholic weddings, Romanian Orthodox-Catholic even have intercommunion, etc). If they can't even agree on the sacraments and there is no way for the Orthodox to call an Ecumenical Council, and they can't even area what makes an Ecumenical Council valid (e.g. why is the Council of Florence invalid, but the Council of Chalcedon which rejected Copts valid), something is seriously broken.

Yes, the NO mass as practised in most Catholic parishes is a rupture...but it's not the first or even longest widespread rupture. Widespread Arianism/Nestorianism and pseudo-Arianism/Nestorianism for centuries made all such masses invalid since if Jesus is not fully God and not fully man, the mass is not a sacrifice in the Catholic sense. The entire history of the Church is riddled with ruptures that healed. IMO, one of the signs that the Catholic Church is the One True Church is that is has these irreparable ruptures that miraculously get repaired and end up strengthening the Church.

For instance, the Trinitarian heresies gave us the Nicene Creed and greater Marian devotion. The Iconoclasm heresy gave the Eastern Catholics a far greater appreciation of icons than the Latin Church (which never experienced this heresy until recently). The Eucharistic heresies of the Protestants gave Catholics a greater appreciate of the Eucharist to the extend that Eucharistic adoration is common in the Latin Church, but foreign to the Eastern Catholic church (since they never fell into heresy).

Given history, I am certain that not only will the NO crisis pass, it will result in a far deeper appreciation of the mass than existed before Vatican II.

Physiocrat said...

Latin, and the modal Gregorian chant music that go with those texts, are both a sign of the unity of the Catholic church and a means by which that Catholicity are maintained. They also provide a direct link to the Jewish antecedents of Catholicism. Protestant metrical hymns were consciously composed IN OPPOSITION to the music of the Catholic church and has no rightful place in the Mass. There is a need for firm guidance on this matter. If people want to sing it, they should be given the opportunity in some kind of extra-liturgical non-denominational Songs of Praise type event.

This is something we in the Catholic church have to stay inside and fight for. It would be illogical to follow the Orthodox path when the Orthodox churches have long abandoned one of the markers of Catholic universality ie the use of a shared common language.

WYD is unfortunate as it makes it more difficult to argue for Catholic music at a local level when it seems as if WYD type music is approved at the highest level.

There is a bitter battle ahead, I am afraid, and things are going to get worse before they get better.

In the meantime, I would suggest praying the Rosary regularly in Latin.

Fr. Jay Finelli said...

The music was atrocious. We need to be forming our youth into adult Catholics. We feed them this garbage and when they no longer get it, they go to an Evangelical church that gives it to them.

Gratias said...

Physiocrat is right. Learning the four most necessary prayers in Latin is not that difficult (and easy if you know Spanish or French). Learn the Paternoster, Ave Maria, Apostles' Creed and Gloria. I am glad I did.

Supertradmum said...

Another comment, I went to Notre Dame and remember a survey that came out at least 10 years ago if not more, which did a follow up on students who attended student led and popular liturgies while at university. When I was there, there were Masses in most of the dorms, Masses in the Basilica and Masses in the Crypt. One could attend any number of Masses with popular songs, sitting on the floor, etc.

The survey revealed that 50% of the students left the Church within a decade of graduating and one of the main reasons given was that they could not adjust to ordinary NO Masses without the youth emphasis.

What the survey showed me was that these specialized youth oriented Masses do not create a love for the Mass or even understanding of the Mass. As long as youth are singled out as a special group with special liturgical needs, this will happen.

I grew up in the TLM, as the NO was not brought in until late high school. By college, the abuses had already begun. In grad school, at ND, we use to sit around and talk about the worst liturgies we have ever attended. Things have not changed and I have, for the record, never been a WYD fan, as this just spreads the false need for horrible music and the lack of respect to another generatioin

Physiocrat said...

Monster open air celebrations of Mass should probably not be happening at all. They create huge logistical and organisational problems. Once there are more than a few thousand present it is impossible to maintain contact and involvement - everything is too far away. Mass is essentially an intimate affair.

A better format would be to have smaller Masses in different locations across the city, and gather afterwards for a Papal blessing and homily.

It would be nice if this was the last time the event took this form. It needs a re-think. And the carbon footprint is horrendous, to say nothing about things like keeping everyone supplied with food and water and toilet facilities.


Father, The Church has been morphing for the last two thousand years...

RJ said...

Correction to my earlier comment: I said that certain Catholic elements can be found outside the Church: I should have said "outside the visible confines of the Church". Through these elements, I would say there is already some degree of communion with non-Catholic churches and ecclesial communities and they impel toward unity.

Chloe said...

Dear Lord! Save us from more of this! Alexander VI, the Church has not "been morphing for two thousand years". Gradually, a very little at a time, small things have been added where the Holy Ghost inspired. Until VII! then we had an explosion of novelties! Too many, too fast, almost all of which were ill thought out and detrimental. Wisdom and prudence have gone out of the window causing previously loyal Catholics to go out of the door. Enough! Please God! Enough!


Amfortas said...

Supertradmum, Bach was a Lutheran, which is not to say that his music doesn't reach great spiritual heights.

James C, it is easy to be nostalgic about pre-conciliar liturgy. There is a view - and it's a convincing one - that the pratice of the liturgy in the run up to the reforms often left much to be desired in terms of reverence.

The problem is not the Novus Ordo but the culture and theology that flourished after V2.

I love the Latin mass, both OF and EF, and it is possible for the former to be celebrated with dignity, beauty and reverence. The OF is not intrinsically flawed although that is what your post seems to imply.

Some weeks ago I attended a mass at Westminster Cathedral set to music by James MacMillan. His Westminster Mass, now updated for the new translation, is simply stunning. An wonderful example of what can be done with the Novus Ordo.

Physiocrat said...

Amfortas, from the perspective of the pew, the NO is not intrinsically flawed, but as lay people we are not in a position to answer for the celebrants, for whom the experience of the two forms is, I would assume, very different.

The NO can be celebrated in a way that no reasonable person would take exception to ie Ad Orientem and mostly in Latin, with Gregorian chant and Polyphony. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case, and the guidelines are so loose that it becomes extremely difficult to argue that the Mass is not the place to sing Lutheran or Anglican hymns, or worse.

Amfortas said...

Plenty of Anglican hymns at Ordinariate masses.

Unknown said...

The music is appalling. But I read this in the context of a panic reaction on the part of the Church in Latin America, faced with the advance of evangelical sects; they believe that they can 'stem the tide' by apeing the evangelical style. This did not work in Europe - those attracted back to the Catholic Church by its more 'contemporary' and trendy disguises soon fell away when they found out the demands and real struggles involved in being a faithful Catholic - faithful to prayer, to the tradition, and to the grimy reality of being a serious Church with a serious and reasonable message to the World. I don't think it will work in Latin America either, and I fear that Benedict would have seen through this more readily than Francis. But time will tell.

Supertradmum said...

Amforas, should have said Catholic heritage.

Supertradmum said...

PS also omitted Purcell, another non-Catholic but in the Catholic tradition, and of course, Monteverdi, who was a Catholic and my favourite of all. But, the purists may not like polyphony

Sadie Vacantist said...

The battle is lost for the moment. My parish praised the "wonderful inspiration" of Pope Francis this morning when in eight years he never mentioned Benedict XVI once even when he was over here. The average British diocesan priest disliked B16 and everything he represented - it's 1972 all over again in this part of the World.

Kneeling Catholic said...

on a bright note, Father, there was this...

Miss Viana gives us a good juxtaposition of the sublime in the midst of banalities.

I really wish people who worry about feelings would ask themselves: Is anyone going to be scandalized or put off by worship music? if so, it must be forgone. It should offend no-one. Miss Viana's passes that test!

Physiocrat said...

I think we should take a more relaxed view about Pope Francis. He is, in the nature of things, not going to be Pope for more than about a decade or so, which is nothing in the overall scheme of things. It is worth remembering the case of General de Gaulle. It was only a conservative who could stand up to the conservatives in Algeria who wanted it to remain French.

Likewise, it will have to be a Pope who is perceived as liberal to set the limits of liberalism, and possibly also to re-integrate SSPX into the main body of the Catholic church. A "conservative" such as Benedict was always going to be vulnerable to criticism from the liberal wing. We should watch, wait and pray.

As for the Jesuit order itself, whilst it gives the impression of being stuck firmly in the year 1975, that position will become increasingly difficult to sustain in the light of contemporary developments in the sciences, including cognitive psychology, anthropology and neuroscience. I would expect the mid-20th century "liberal" position to collapse within a decade. It is already under attack from academics such as Catherine Pickstock. Unfortunately the damage will continue in the meantime.

This discussion of Post-Modern worship has a bearing on the matter, I believe.

Deacon Augustine said...

The cult of entertainment is as much to blame for the decadence of Catholic worship as is any coherent theological reorientation of the Church.

It can be seen in the attitude of parents who won't prevail over their children to do anything unless it fits their criteria of not being "boring". Nothing has value any more unless it is "entertaining" and can hold a disordered attention span for more than 5 minutes.

The introduction of naff pop-type, folk music into the liturgy is nothing more than the furtherance of this cult in the forlorn quest for a misguided "relevance" - as if the Mass, properly understood, could ever be irrelevant!

All the bleeding hearts who say "But this is what we need to keep the next generation." are so far removed from understanding children that they are dangerous. Any child can tell them that the Church will never be able to outdo Top of the Pops or even Evangelical Praise and Worship sessions when it comes to entertaining disordered senses. Children quickly realize that they are being patronized by the likes of the embarrassing uncle who always dances at parties, and go to seek their entertainment elsewhere - where it is cool! They do not need entertainment from the Church, they need vibrant, saving relationships with God.

Unless we start to teach children and childish adults that things have value in themselves quite apart from any subjective entertainment value, then we are destined to continue this narcissistic drift into the cesspit of banality.

Concentrate on what only the Church can do - worship God in the way He desires in accordance with apostolic tradition.

Physiocrat said...

@Deacon Augustine - the worst of it is that traditional Catholic worship is as charismatic as worship can get. A couple of years ago I went on a course given by a monk from Solemnes which showed this.

Unknown said...

Are you wishing to turn away the church of today? Are you wishing to stick to a somber church where the youth feel like they have no place to worship? Surely as a church we want to encourage faith, belief and heartfelt worship? Catholic means 'universal' have you ever listened to African church music? Is this unholy? Uncatholic? Ungodly? I worship and pray from the heart, the Lord accepts me because I worship him the ways I can. Just because one person can worship in one way doesn't mean that all christians believe that this is the way that they can come closer to God. What works for one may not work for all. My young sister has down's syndrome and she cannot sit still in somber prayer, she does not have fall understanding and yet, she says she loves christ, she says Jesus is in her heart, and she dances with arms raised down the aisle in church smiling an praising the Lord. I feel maybe you need to read the psalms "Sing to the lord, you who do what is right; honest people should praise him. Praise the lord on the HARP; make MUSIC for him on a TEN-STRINGED LYRE. Sing a NEW song to him: play well and JOYFULLY!" (Psalm 33:1-3) "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his temple; praise him in mighty heaven. Praise him for his strength, praise him for his greatness. Praise him with TRUMPET BLASTS; praise him with HARPS and LYRES. Praise him with TAMBOURINES and DANCING praise him with STRINGED INSTRUMENTS and FLUTES. Praise him with LOUD CYMBALS. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. PRAISE THE LORD!" (Psalm 150: 1-6) Are we saying that today's church is uncharismatic? That we should not have joy and character in our faith? That we should not dance and sing for the Lord if we believe that is what the Holy spirit is moving us to? The people thought that the apostles were mad when they came running out on Pentecost speaking in tongues filled with the fire of the holy spirit, would you have been one of those that rejected the early church because of its radicalism and joy?

Physiocrat said...


You are right. People should be free to pray in whatever way they want. However, the Mass is for everyone and people should not have other people's preferences forced on them. It is the official and public prayer of the church and in fact the choice of music for the Mass is governed by Sacrosanctum Concilium and the General Instruction for the Roman Missal.

What we are seeing is disobedience against the norms laid down by the church.

polycarped said...

Supertradmum said: "The music is all about emotion and me, me, me."

Yes, I believe this is the heart of the problem: self-worship. The critical issue though is that I don't believe the vast majority of people realise that's what's happening - and that's the nut that needs to be re-cracked. I can't see any improvement under Pope Francis, sadly.

Unknown said...


I think you will find, reading both the Sacrosanctum concilium, the General instruction for the Roman missal and other parts of Vatican II that, in fact, the music at WYD was more than approriate. May I first point out to you that no matter what mass or service you go to, you will be unale to go to one where another person's preference has not been forced or impossed upon you, as someone must make a choice as to which songs and hymns are performed, this is already deemed as someone elses preference (I have recently done a performance module at universtiy studying the auto/biographical, if you wish to know more I'll happily send you my essay on the 'self')

I would like to call your attention to the opening of the Sacrosantum concilium which discuss how we are to take into consideration the 'modern' time and the 'times which we are in' and to adapt accordingly. Vatican II, the Sacrosanctum and the general instruction for the roman missal are very open to the acceptance of 'modern' and 'new forms' of music "All means must be used to promote singing by the people; New forms of music suited to different mentalities and to moders tastes"

"The following come under the title of sacred music here: Gregorian chants, sacred polyphony in its various forms both ancient and modern, sacred music for the organ and other approved instruments, and sacred popular music, be it liturgical or simply religious"

Also, the church does not wish to prohibit anyone or any form of sacred music within the church as long as it is within keeping with the true purpose of sacred music, "which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful"

The church openly takes into consideration those they are opening the hearts of God too, and who they are moving too. As previously noted, taking into consideration the mentalities of that groups, as well as age and region and social and cultural attributes. "Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples." The lord told us not to hide our talents away, not to hide our light under a basket, if someone has a talent for prasing the lord through song than who is to judge him but the Lord?

As a chruch we must also be encouraged to understand and acknowledge when some areas of church documentation (and note this is not Law) becomes outdated and need to be revised others as a chruch we may be unable to move forward. As a church we must remember we follow Christ and are moved by the Holy Spirit, As a chirstian and catholic and do not follow man, I follow and have faith in christ and what the lord is calling me to do. If in my heart it is christ calling me and that must mean I must disagree with what man tries to impose upon me that is what I must do.

Unknown said...

in addition to my last comment, let us remember the most important thing in all this - 3 million young people coming together to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the catholic faith - surely this itself is what we should be holding onto and worth celebrating! God is good!

polycarped said...


"May I first point out to you that no matter what mass or service you go to...someone must make a choice as to which songs and hymns are performed..."

But surely this is a key issue in this discussion - so often it seems to be about 'performance' rather than worship? I've had to suffer through numerous Masses at a Parish relatives of mine attend where the 'music group' are not only sat up on the same level as the altar but also facing the congregation, rather than facing the sanctuary. They cannot resist filling every opportunity for silence with some additional 'performing', presumably so we don't get bored...

Gerald said...

"in addition to my last comment, let us remember the most important thing in all this - 3 million young people coming together to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the catholic faith"

Isn't that precisely the problem? "Sacred mystery" was missing from the anthropocentric, performance-based pop liturgies on display. Too much imminence, not enough transcendence, too much subjectivity, not enough objectivity, too much trendy didacticism, not enough mystery. Where was the offering of the Sacrifice on the altar? It was there, but hidden underneath layers of banal novelty. I say we get ecumenical and do what Muslims and Orthodox do, and stop dumping our ancient worship traditions in an effort to be "relevant" to contemporary popular culture. And this is not my mere opinion: You'll find plenty of support for it in the papal magisterium and even in Vatican II. Or are they also "outdated"?

Physiocrat said...

@ JaneAyerlandz

We are no longer in the modern time, and so the presentation of WYD was as dated as a Gary Glitter song or a computer running DOS. We are in the Post Modern time, and have been for the past thirty years. Post Modernism itself arose out of the ruins of Modernism, whose theoretical basis was dismantled in the 1960s by anthropologists such as Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. In the past two decades we have had huge advances in understanding in linguistics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Building on this, philosophers such as Catherine Pickstock have demonstrated the unwisdom of tampering with the liturgy, and this is confirmed by empirical observation of the contemporary success of the Orthodox church, spectacularly in Russia.

Culture needs fixed points and the liturgy is one of them. A familiar and trivial example is the design of the Marmite jar, which has scarcely changed since the product was launched. It is now owned by Unilever, who employ advertising agencies who, unlike contemporary "liturgists", have to sell things and do so by using all the knowledge currently available. You can be sure that if they thought it would sell more Marmite, Unilever's advertising agency would have recommended a re-design, but they did not.

The Catholic church previously had what in the commercial world would have been described as a strong brand image, an identity sustained by bringing into play all the arts. No commercial agency would lightly throw away such a strength.

As regards the music of the Mass, there are specific sections dealing with this in GIRM and Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Unknown said...

I didn't say you couldn't sing and praise in the way you want, but noone has a right to deny others that, even, as I have shown, the church acknowledges this. Traditional worship can be just as self-absorbed as 'modern' worship and self-satisfying and self-praising, as people can believe they are 'holy' than others due to their piety and solemnity. We must find a way to acknowledge and understand God in a contemporary setting, in a society that is expanding and developing as it has done for millions of years. Even Christ himself developed and moved on from the teachings within the old testament from "an eye for and eye" to "turn the other cheek." I am not saying we should throw away all tradition, but we must be able to understand and engage those around us and allow everyone the opportunity to celebrate and worship in the way they feel like they can in their hearts. You have no place to say that they were not celebrating the sacred mysteries for you do not know what is in their hearts and their souls. You have no place to play God and judge their worship, as I have no place to judge yours and your prayers to God. I am not saying replace tradition, I am saying we able to embrace both equally. This is not a matter of undermining or throwing away tradition, but giving it a new life.

Unknown said...


You are right, but this doesn't just refer to those whom play more 'modern' 'pop' based music, equally I go to a very traditional church where the choir 'perform' on the sanctuary facing the congregation their gregorian chants and their latin songs, where as the evening 'music group' with their guitars and drums and flutes, play their worship facing the sanctuary within the congregation. We must acknowledge error on both sides.

polycarped said...

"We must acknowledge error on both sides".

Yes of course (…although we could debate the implication that the 'sides' are equal) - but I think it’s arguable that the more modern musical practices in the liturgy which fall outside of the 'traditional norms' offer more opportunities for such errors to take place, perhaps because there is an inherent 'entertainment dynamic' within some of the more modern styles. In most cases, they have essentially been imported from popular culture into a non-entertainment setting (arguably via a protestant influence which is incompatible with the nature of the Holy Mass).

I'm not sure that popular styles of music ever became integrated into liturgy in times gone by - this seems to be a post 1960s phenomenon, no? Folk music, for example, is as old as the hills but was never, as far as I'm aware, adopted as a musical style within the liturgical setting.

I say this as someone who is a Catholic and a musician who has 'been there, done that, got the t-shirt, reflected deeply and put the t-shirt back in the bottom drawer without daring to quite throw it away'. I'm all for the use of more 'modern' musical forms (imprecise terminology here but hope you follow) in non-Mass settings (e.g. praise and worship, prayer groups, retreats, etc, etc) and am active musically in this sense.

Coming back to Fr Ray's main point, I believe there's a correlation between what could be described as the 'protestantisation' or secularisation of Catholic liturgical style and loss of Catholic identity/core beliefs.

Cosmos said...


SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM para. 116 states quite clearly:

"The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services."

The only possible justification for the introduction of the various musical forms we have all grown accustomed to is the Second Vatican Council. However, only a determined lawyer with a predetermined end could claim with a straight face that the Council actually called for the current situation. AS stated above, VII made make quite clear that we are to favor Gregorian Chant. So if this is what the Church tells me to do, how am I guilty of being (god, forbid) judgmental?

In fact we do have a place in judging other people's worship, not only as those following the lead of VII, but perhaps more importantly, as those entrusted with the traditions of our fathers and mothers. How can you claims to recieve what is handed down to you ("tradition") without recieving it as superior, or at least set apart? What was given to us by our beloved anscestors, and that which was tested over centuries in varying contexts, clearly deserves a different level of respect than mere novelties. If we don't believe this, if we don't recieve our great traditions with a heightened respect, are we really even Catholic anymore? Our faith becomes something that was fabricated rather than recieved. We are protestants with an absolute monarch.

In another sense, the traditions of the Church are precisely what keep us from judging ourselves better than those around us by imposing our own tastes. Like it or not, Gregorian chant has the seal of approval.

IanW said...

Pope Benedict didn't find Catholicism in Anglicanism, Fr. He provided a means to encourage Anglicans who concluded they couldn't find that to become Catholics, bringing with them parts of their heritage which can enrich our culture.

Unknown said...

I never said it did not, @Cosmos, you should read my posts more carefully. Everything I have posted is from the general instruction fro the roman missal, VII and sacrosanctum concilium. All I am saying is that, no you do not have the right to judge, my heart shall be judged by the Lord and not man. "What was given to us by our beloved anscestors" then we should be saying the mass in Hebrew or aramaic and NOT in Latin which was only imposed by the Roman government. I do not wish to argue, I merely wish to appeal that all music and worship has place, and that none of you have the right to judge how 'catholic' I am due to my, and my peers desires as to what we feel and believe is appropriate to the mass. We never sing or play anything that is inappropriate or liturgically incorrect. I believe maybe you should all take an inward look as to what 'self gratification' is. I do not sing or pray for self gratifying means or for the pure sake of it. I pray and praise the lord as my heart and soul and god himself calls me to do. I am not dismissing tradition, but saying that a contemporary world and the traditions of the church can live as one, you do not have to separate them, as you are then deeming the church for an 'elite' and not for all. The Lord said the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children, then let us be like the little children and with innocence accept all those in communion with God and to allow those who long to praise the Lord and eat at his table to come to it. Christ never turned anyone away, and if we are true Christians we would do the same.

Unknown said...

And as 'Catholics' what I must believe in is what the apostle creed tells me, I must believe in the virgin birth, the immaculate conception, the Resurrection, the true presence etc. Deny me my 'Catholic' beliefs purely because I wish to worship with music you do not agree with or is not to your 'taste' as catholic. The early church would not have know gregorian chants, or latin songs, they would sing the psalms and jewish prayers. They would have sang purely to praise the Lord. It is often the 'holy than thou' attitude that turns people away ffrom the church. Open your arms and accept those who can't sing, who can sing, who sing at the top of their lungs, those who sing in whispers, those who sing in english or french, those who bang on african drums or the keys of a piano, those who greet the lord with trumpet blasts, those who greet the lord with the strings of a violin. Let us enfold into our flock the outsiders, those on the edge of society, those who struggle to pray, those that forhours can sit in the presence of the lord. Let us be thankful for all those who long to come into communion with christ and the catholic (universal) church. Let us be thankful who are like Peter, and struggle to always understand, those who doubt, as Thomas, let us praise the Lord for all those who just want to praise him without understanding or seeing, but with pure faith that he is present and he has saved us.

Maryrose said...

I am one of the great mass of the 'unwashed' and 'non-intellectual' 'ordinary' catholics. I have been reading through your recent postings on this blog and I am shocked at the constant stream of negativity aimed at Pope Francis. I find it strange that a priest would conduct such a forum and allow comments calling the Pope an ass to be posted. I know you objected but the comments should never have been allowed on your blog in the first place. Like it or not God has seen it fit to give us Pope Francis at this time and we owe him our full support as he faces the battle between good and evil that is so evident in the world today. I for one find his simplicity refreshing, but then what do I know I am not an intellectual catholic. I believe from my heart.

Physiocrat said...


If the parish decides to have one form of music at their main Sunday celebration, then they are inevitably not just depriving those who do not want that type of music from having it, but they are also being forced to listen to they would rather not have to hear. If they were at home and heard it on the radio, they would turn it off, but there are no "off" switches in church.

For this reason, what happens in churches - and this extends to the architecture and furnishings, needs to avoid addressing one social group at the expense of another; the same issue arises in relation to all shared public spaces, such as street landscapes and everything associated with public transport. If you read the relevant passages in SC and GIRM, you will see that this will inevitably direct the worship in accordance with tradition.

As regards the use of Gregorian chant - this music is very much older than Christianity itself. It was brought into the church by the first Jewish converts and Gregorian tunes remain in use within Judaism.

There is of course nothing magical about Latin, but the open vowels which characterise the language make it easy to sing, in contrast with the Slavonic languages which are consonantal and the Germanic ones characterised by mixed vowels such as Ø. Try singing that - a sort of O-E sound.

The use of a single liturgical language throughout the Catholic church is both a sign of Catholic unity and a means by which that unity is sustained. It is as much as anything a matter of practicality. I will give an example of what happened this morning in my local church in Sweden, which demonstrates the problems caused by the vernacular, and, incidentally, the Novus Ordo Mass itself.

Priest - Lebanese, celebrating in lightly accented Swedish 90% understandable.
Concelebrating Priest - Polish with heavily accented Swedish. 70% understandable.

First reader - Heavy local dialect, 20% understandable.
Second reader - Swedish with English accent but read too fast - 40% understandable.

60% of the congregation were also immigrants from at least a dozen different countries. The church has a heavy echo, which does not help, and the sound system leaves a lot to be desired. It is just a strain trying to hear what people are trying to say and in the end a lot of people probably give up trying. In these circumstances, the entire liturgy would have worked a lot better in Latin, and in the Tridentine form, so that everyone could have followed the texts in their missals in whatever language they chose.

Genty said...

As regular readers and contributors know, Fr. Blake's blog is essentially an examination of how the Catholic Church is and should or might be in the 21st century. Discussions are often robust and disagreements profound, sometimes mistaken.
On music in the liturgy, I agree it's always better to have the musicians hidden so as not to detract from the core intention, which should never be a performance but an intrinsic part of the liturgy, rather than a free-for-all-what-I-fancy adjunct. With regard to the Mass, it depends whether you think it's a celebratory meal or the recreation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The former will point up joy, the latter solemnity.
As to "what Jesus would do or say", the evidence appears to be that in the Temple He was serious, in His teaching frequently severe. He was not Jesus meek and mild. He didn't jazz the message up to make it more palatable or frame His appeal to what people wanted to hear, which is why so many turned away. To become like little children in the matter of faith in Him as Son of the living God, yes. But to be wholly adult in our dialogue with Him, absolutely.

parepidemos said...

Apparently, Latin Americans are leaving Catholicism to join Pentecostal groups which use the style of worship and music that is criticised in this thread. If this is so, how can the Catholic Church's use of this very same style of worship and music be responsible for the exodus? There is a definite lack of logic in the approach of some commentators, who also seem to be stuck in a very euro-centric view of Catholicism.

Somehow I very much doubt that a Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form with accompanying Gregorian chant would have brought 3 million young Latin Americans to the beach to listen to the Bishop of Rome - and I speak as someone who loves both the EF and chant.

Jane @ 8:48 and Mary @9:46, I completely agree with your comments

Physiocrat said...

@ parepidemos

"Apparently, Latin Americans are leaving Catholicism to join Pentecostal groups which use the style of worship and music that is criticised in this thread. If this is so, how can the Catholic Church's use of this very same style of worship and music be responsible for the exodus?"

Here is a possible explanation. If Lex orandi, lex credendi applies, then a couple of generations have had little in the way of orthodox Catholic formation. They might take the view that if you want evangelo-pop, you might as well go to the source and get the genuine article. Seems reasonable.

Just a thought. And I cannot imagine many people wanting to go to a Tridentine Mass celebrated in front of a monster crowd on a beach. The idea is grotesque when there are churches and priests available.

Cosmos said...


The idea is not what is older is better--that is, in fact, that protestant falacy has been used to undermine a lot of traditional practices. The idea is that what is handed down over generations of believers becomes sacred. We don't pridefully reinvent the wheel every generation. This was a dominant theme of Pope Ratzinger's papacy--surely I don't have to throw him off now that we have a new boss? Surely it matters that the liturgical reforms were authorized by VII, but are not in line with that authorization?

As far as for the "holier-than-thou" attitude, that certainly cuts both ways. Go back and read your posts... you seem to be pretty darn confident about the righteousness of your position as well. Modern music = openness to sinners and other cultures. Traditional music = close-minded, pharisaical elitism. It seems pretty clear that you feel like holiness is on your side.

I am simply arguing that we can't throw out what is handed down to us as if we are the standard of all things. We have to respect our ancestors and our traditions. We can't assume we always know better.

We are all friends here, but as you would obviously agree based on your posts, not every opinion is equally valid or equally Catholic!

Cosmos said...


Pope Benedict had over a million pilgrims in Germany. I tend to think that the huge numbers that Francis drew was based on the fact that he was the first S. American Pope and visiting the largest Catholic country in thw world. I doubt it was the music. If it was, we lose. We will not beat the Pentecostals at the emotional music/grand production. They can always take it up a notch.

It was not the music that drove people off. The issue with Pentecostal music and worship is that it arguably obscures the liturgy and theology of the Church--according to many, many prominent theologians including Pope Benedict. It also gives the impression that the differences are not important, which makes it easier for people to leave the Church without giving it real thought. Clearly some many people do not think that this is the case, and others do not think its a huge deal. Some people do. Who is right?

Supertradmum said...

Worse and worse, look at this

Delia said...

In the light of some of the above comments, i think it's worth listening to this interview with Cardinal Ranjith l(apologies, Father, if you put it on your blog before!)

Delia said...

Sorry, and this associated interview:

Long-Skirts said...


All the world's
A beach
And all the men and women
Merely players…

For volley-ball
Flash mob call
Swaying hands
In the stands

Picnic up
Party down
Plastic people -
Molded town -

Well choreographed
This plastic mold,
Hollow containers
Are humbly bold

And to choreographer
Their eyes look up
But where is Jesus...

Anonymous said...

If they were at home and heard it on the radio, they would turn it off, but there are no "off" switches in church.

Exactly. The Sunday obligation forms a kind of "captive audience". Consider that there chant recordings that have sold millions and are appreciated by even non-Catholics. There never will be successful "Greatest Hit of the Gather Hymnal". In fact, without the captive audience and the cabals of publishers, chancery and parish offices artificially keeping a stranglehold on liturgical music, it would die a richly deserved death like a fruit fly.

Unknown said...

Thought this might be of interest?

Physiocrat said...

@ JaneAyerlandz

The piece referred to in that link is spinning the texts of the relevant documents to thereby make a case for musical anarchy. It gives strength to the case made by Bishop Schneider for an authoritative interpretation of the V2 documents, the lack of which is currently splitting the Catholic church so bitterly.

The author glosses over the sections on Gregorian chant and Latin and goes on to argue the case for the use of the guitar, an instrument like the lute, which works in intimate spaces and which, without artificial amplification, could hardly be a less suitable choice for use in the Catholic Mass.

One of the reasons for the persistence of support for the Tridentine Mass is that it avoids argumentation over what should be sung and what kind of music is appropriate, since it is all given.

People should be free to worship in whatever way they want, and people should also be free not to have to listen to music they find objectionable, and since the Mass is an obligation, the Mass is not the place for the exercise of personal taste. People can do their thing at separate praise and worship services.

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