Saturday, 19 November 2011

Good priests are ignoring the requests of the Holy Father

I know of quite a few priests who do this routinely. In this equation the Bishops must also stand up to be counted although, in this instance, the power to obey the Pope lies firmly within the hands of the Parish Priest.

Back in 2006 the Holy Father made a statement concerning the secular music forms being presented at Masses around the world today.

He asked that full attention be given to abiding by the strictures of Vatican II that strongly stated that traditional plainchant and the organ should be the main base of church music.

Why, then is Pope Benedict's more than reasonable request being ignored?

I can only make a guess as to why and that is, the power of the parish council or, if there is a nun in charge of church liturgy, then, almost certainly, she will be the root cause.

The issue of church music is a touchy one. Some years ago when I attended the NO Mass I was asked to write a short piece for the parish mag.
I thoughtfully wrote a few hundred words that carried the heading "Heavy Metal or Choirs of Angels?"

It was a sensitive piece in my usual style (?) but it was promptly consigned to the round file never to appear again.

Parishioners want to be the arbiter as to what takes place musically at Mass and all too often the PP is afraid to stick his head over the parapet and say "No."

You may write your own caption to this one!

Yet the Holy Father has quite clearly said that he wants an end to guitar Masses and to modern 'unliturgical' music, while being fully in favour of modern music in church provided that it reflects the purpose of its use.

Here is the report from 2006 as it appeared in The Daily Telegraph..........

Silence modern music in church, says Pope

The Pope has demanded an end to electric guitars and modern music in church and a return to traditional choirs.
The Catholic Church has been experimenting with new ways of holding Mass to try to attract more people. The recital of Mass set to guitars has grown in popularity in Italy; in Spain it has been set to flamenco music; and in the United States the Electric Prunes produced a "psychedelic" album called Mass in F Minor.
However, the use of guitars and tambourines has irritated the Pope, who loves classical music. "It is possible to modernise holy music," the Pope said, at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. "But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music."
His comments prompted the newspaper La Stampa to compare him with Pope Pius X, who denounced faddish classical and baroque compositions and reinstated Gregorian chants in 1903.
The Pope's supporters argue that the music played during Mass is a vital part of the communion between worshippers and God, and that medieval church music, with the liturgy, creates the correct ambience for perceiving God's mystery.


So just what part of "Don't do it" do parish priests not understand?


  1. Electric guitars, "psychedelic music" and flamenco masses are doubtless newsworthy because they are, thankfully, rare. My own impression of what happens musically in parishes is that it has a lot more to do with the type and quality or cultural background of those who volunteer their services than with any wish on the part of parish priests to promote a particular agenda. Often the education of priests in this area is inadequate and, even where there is a good choir, as for example in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Liverpool, the celebrant lacks the "bottle" to intone a "Gloria in excelsis Deo" or even "The Lord be with you". It is to be sincerely hoped that the introduction of the new Missal with its integral chants together with the easy availability of recorded exemplars will go some way towards improving the musical culture of the clergy.

  2. Patricius...please let me know in which part of the land you live.....wherever I have gone to an OF Mass in the past forty years I have been surrounded by dismal guitarists and tibetan nasal flute players.
    God bless.

  3. Richard- Please excuse my witholding details of my personal circumstances. While I value the freedom afforded me by the blogosphere to share personal views and opinions I do not wish to give scandal- which could all too easily happen. What I can say, however, is that I tend to be pretty picky about where I attend mass. So much so, in fact, that my tendency to go to Mass in a neighbouring parish- in my youth- led one parish priest to compare me to King David after he had done for Uriah the Hittite and nicked the fellow's missus! Frankly, I still don't get how going to Sunday mass in a parish other than one's own compares with murder and adultery but that is some priests for you! He seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that most of my contemporaries from school had ceased going altogether! I agree that sometimes one comes across guitar players and ghastly hymns but outside my home parish over the last eighteen months, for example, I have been at Sunday masses in ordinary parishes in Clifton, Lancaster, Liverpool, Wrexham and Birmingham dioceses. Some had choirs. Others had not. At none of them did I hear a guitar. All had organs- or some approximation of that instrument. Some effort was being made to sing something of the ordinary of the mass in almost all of them. Things musical were often far from perfect - apart from a responsorial psalm one rarely hears a proper chant- but I seem to have avoided the worst abominations in my travels. G.K. Chesterton once said that if a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly. I don't think that is an excuse for making a poor effort. Rather it means doing the best one can with the resources one actually has. To return to your point: I don't think there are many priests deliberately going against Pope Benedict's wishes- just that they have to work with the resources both personal and, if you will excuse the pun, personnel they inherit-and personnel for whom they have a pastoral responsibility.
    God bless you.

  4. Sorry Patricius, it was a rhetorical question. I am heartened by your experiences.

  5. If the Holy Father would cease "requesting" and begin ordering then maybe these incessant banalities would go away.

    Governing does not mean requesting; it means ruling, something the Vicar of Christ was commanded to do by Our Lord Himself.

  6. Well some of us are trying to reintroduce chant as a regular feature in our parish masses but we have to go slowly because there is a lot of predudice and ignorance out there. Grudging support is the best you will usually get from the parish priest who usually hasn't a word of Latin and no musical training. The funny thing is that the Africans , Indians , Poles etc love it. For them it's inclusive and they know a lot of the common chants.