Liturgical music under evaluation
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
by Ann Rodgers Copyright © 2006 AP Wire
BALTIMORE -- Although their words about sex grabbed the headlines at their meeting last week, the nation's Catholic bishops also spent some time on singing.
Acting under Vatican orders, they approved a plan to check the theological orthodoxy of all songs sung at Mass.
They also agreed to compile a core repertoire of 60 to 100 songs that would be included in all Catholic hymnals, along with a variety of other songs approved by individual bishops. "Music is an essential ingredient in a Mass celebration.
I see it as extremely important in catechizing our people," said Bishop Donald Trautman, of Erie, Pa., chairman of the committee in charge of the project. He said the bishops would consult with music experts in choosing the core songs.
The focus is on choosing doctrinally sound lyrics. While they worked to get Catholics to sing the same songs, the bishops were not always in tune with one another. Behind their lopsided votes on hymns and other issues lay sharp exchanges, as those who wanted strict enforcement challenged those who favored a more welcoming approach to Catholics who don't follow church teaching.
In the music debate, some bishops wanted a central office to create the list of approved hymns. Instead, the endorsed plan, which has to be approved by the Vatican, leaves it to each bishop to approve songs published in his diocese. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, of Boston, would have preferred a list of approved songs.
"The only way we are going to have real community participation in the liturgy is if we have a corpus of hymns that most of our people know by heart," he said. The core repertoire is supposed to serve that purpose. Trautman suggested "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" and "Silent Night" as two classics that would certainly be included, but he would not speculate beyond that.
There are quarrels in the church between those who prefer contemporary music and those who advocate time-honored hymns and chant. Some traditionalists complain that modern songs are theologically and musically insipid.