Friday, May 27, 2016


As the local attention has turned to FestPac for another week or so, I am going to save my nuclear bombs for later. Meanwhile, I'd like to return to what I consider to be the central issue: the Liturgy.

It is not for naught that this fight with the Neocatechumenal Way began over - and continues still - with the differences in the celebration of the Liturgy (aka Sacred Liturgy, the Mass, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist...).

The Liturgy is the central act of Faith. It is, as Vatican II describes it, both the Source and the Summit of our Faith. Thus, and rightly so, the Magisterium of the Church reserves its regulation to itself, meaning: no priest or even a bishop can make the slightest change to it without the approval of the Pope himself, albeit usually via the responsible Congregation, the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW).

This is why Ground Zero for what has escalated into an all out war was what happened on January 9, 2006: Archbishop Apuron publicly declared that he would NOT obey the liturgical directive of the CDW demanding that the NCW abandon its communion rite and return to that which was prescribed in the Liturgical Books. (Audio here. Transcript here.) 

In doing so, Apuron rejected the absolute authority of the pope since not only is it the pope who holds absolute authority over the governance of the liturgy, the CDW directive actually began with the words: "The Holy Father wishes you to know..."

However, one of the reasons we have been so ineffective in waging this war against the errors of the Neocatechumenal Way is because (I believe) our own errors hinder the Holy Spirit from helping us. 

As oft noted in this blog, many of our Masses are littered with liturgical variances which are neither prescribed nor permitted - making us not only no different than the obstinately disobedient Kiko Arguello and bishops like Apuron, but often worse.

I realize that few really care about this like I do and that most can't wait for the next shame and scandal post, but I will press on with what I know MUST be fixed if our efforts are ever to produce anything more than a brief respite between the current crisis and the next one.

While I have addressed several matters previously such as communion in the hand (permitted only as an exception by Memoriale Domini) and the centrality of Sunday MORNING Mass (vs Saturday and Sunday night Masses which were only "permitted" for those who could not attend Sunday Morning), with this post I would like to address the thing that is most obvious and therefore the most disturbing: the role of music in the liturgy.

The very first chord of the very first bolero-like strum on a kiko-guitar is the very first red flag the uninitiated will notice when they get anywhere near a neo-eucharist. The wailing and banging which soon follows quickly leaves one wondering if one has mistakenly stumbled into a Spanish fleamarket or half-time at a bullfight.

However, as shocking as this is to the soul intending on worshiping God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is not often far from the usual fare dished up at any Mass where "the band plays on."

At this point, given my well known proclivities for a Mass filled with solemnity and reverent silence (it's wonderful, by the way), you might expect me to launch into a lecture on a return to Masses with Gregorian Chant (which, by the way, Vatican II required - SC 116). But i shan't.

I simply want to refer ALL, I mean ALL, that is priest and pastor, liturgists, choirs, choir directors, musicians, and normal pew sitters to EXACTLY what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church requires and has required since 1967 as regards music and the Liturgy.

The first document produced at Vatican II (1962-1965) was the Constitution on the Liturgy. And it was FIRST for good reason: the Sacred Liturgy, the Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is CENTRAL to everything else. And amongst the arts which contribute to an ever more glorious celebration of the Source and Summit of our faith "sacred song" was said to be PRE-EMINENT, "greater than any other art":
112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.
Like many things addressed at the Council, the details relevant to more generally prescribed norms were left to the various Vatican Congregations, Dicasteries, and Commissions. In the case of "sacred song," a Consilium was established within the Congregation for Divine Worship to work out the more intimate prescriptions. The work of the Consilium was published and promulgated in an Instruction on March 6, 1967, entitled Musicam Sacram (Sacred Music).

And as far as I know, in the 50 years since its promulgation, no one has ever read it. I can say that with confidence because I have never been to a post-conciliar Mass where its norms were evident!

And it is my GREAT HOPE, that, given the Kiko-scourge that has descended on our Church, that we will at last pay attention to (and OBEY) the liturgical prescriptions of the authentic Magisterium of the Catholic Church, especially since the Kiko's so obviously and demonstrably and provably reject that same Magisterium.

Let's see if we can do better.

First, let us read the first three paragraphs of this Instruction so you know by what authority it was issued:

1. Sacred music, in those aspects which concern the liturgical renewal, was carefully considered by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. It explained its role in divine services, issued a number of principles and laws on this subject in the Constitution on the Liturgy, and devoted to it an entire chapter of the same Constitution.

2. The decisions of the Council have already begun to be put into effect in the recently undertaken liturgical renewal. But the new norms concerning the arrangement of the sacred rites and the active participation of the faithful have given rise to several problems regarding sacred music and its ministerial role. These problems appear to be able to be solved by expounding more fully certain relevant principles of the Constitution on the Liturgy.

3. Therefore the Consilium set up to implement the Constitution on the Liturgy, on the instructions of the Holy Father, has carefully considered these questions and prepared the present Instruction. This does not, however, gather together all the legislation on sacred music; it only establishes the principal norms which seem to be more necessary for our own day. It is, as it were, a continuation and complement of the preceding Instruction of this Sacred Congregation, prepared by this same Consilium on 26 September 1964, for the correct implementation of the Liturgy Constitution.

It is clear from the outset that the Congregation for Divine Worship is the highest authority in the Church on this matter and it is issuing the Instruction on Sacred Song subject to the "Constitution on the Liturgy."

Before we proceed (for those who still care) I want to re-emphasize that it is critical for every pastor and person responsible for the use of music in the Liturgy to know and understand the principle norms of this Instruction. And it is just as critical that we all know them so we, the people in the pews, can exercise our responsibility and rights as citizens of the Church in holding those responsible for the right implementation of these norms to account - something we are just learning to do in another area of this war on "abuse."

So, after the "short course" below, come back and read the whole thing here.

5 March, 1967

Now, the short course:

According to the Instruction, there are two kinds of Masses: a Mass which is "read" and a Mass which is "sung." A "read" Mass has NO music. It is simply "read." If music is to be employed at all, it is then a Sung Mass, and it MUST conform to the following norms outlined in the Instruction

Now, don't worry, you are still going to get to do your favorite songs and solos, and no one is going to make you put your guitars away, but the following MUST be followed or we might as well lay down our arms and turn the church over to the Kikos. 

Are you ready? Okay. Jumping right into the meat of this thing, let's go:


27. For the celebration of the Eucharist with the people, especially on Sundays and feast days, a form of sung Mass (Missa in cantu) is to be preferred as much as possible, even several times on the same day.

28. The distinction between solemn, sung and read Mass, sanctioned by the Instruction of 1958 (n. 3), is retained, according to the traditional liturgical laws at present in force. However, for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing. (May I emphasize that? "The second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first.)

29. The following belong to the first degree:

(a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

(b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

(c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

(So let us once again note: NOTHING else is to be sung unless these things belonging to the first degree are sung: "The second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first.")

30. The following belong to the second degree:

(a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;

(b) the Creed;

(c) the prayer of the faithful.

31. The following belong to the third degree:

(a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;

(b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;

(c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;

(d) the song at the Offertory;

(e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.


Now, was that so bad? No. You still get to do all of your favorite tunes, but ONLY when when the THIRD DEGREE is reached. And the only thing necessary to reach the Third Degree is that One and Two have been satisfied. Make sense? Okay.

So do you see how beautiful this Instruction is? Do you see with what great care our Holy Church cares for its Holy Mass? It is the Mass ITSELF which is to be sung. And guess who the primary soloist is: THE CELEBRANT. 

The First Degree requires him to sing:

  • the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people
  • the prayer.
  • the acclamations at the Gospel.
  • the prayer over the offerings
  • the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus
  • the final doxology of the Canon
  • the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism
  • the Pax Domini
  • the prayer after the Communion
  • the formulas of dismissal

And, do you see it? Almost all of these are interactions with the people so guess what: THE PEOPLE SING TOO! (Example: "The Lord be with you. And with your Spirit.") 

This is what Vatican II meant by "active participation." It did not mean we were supposed to sing the entrance, offertory, communion, or recessional songs. It meant we were to be ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS with the Celebrant himself in the solemn participation of Christ offering himself to his Father through the actions and words of the priest!

We can still sing all that other stuff, but if we are going to sing at all, our Church FIRST requires us to sing...THE MASS...and NOT "the songs!"

Now, as for priests who think they cannot sing, get over it. The bare minimum is a "johnny-one-note." It's already very common in the liturgy. Example: the priest intones on a single note: "The Lord be with you." And the people respond on the same note: "And with your Spirit." 

Done. Easy. And Father, if you still think you cannot do it, then get some help. Practice. The Holy Spirit would not require you to do something He would not give you the power to do. 

It's time to get serious about this folks. And pastors, it's time to stop feeling intimidated by the choir. Sorry choirs, but my liturgical music roots go back to 1977 (I was the part of Bob Hurd's group in Los Angeles and sang the first ever performance of Hear I Am Lord with Dan Schutte from a draft that was still in pencil) and I am very well aware of the authority we think we have when it comes to music at Mass. And you know what: WE ARE WRONG.

But as I hope you can see, the Instruction does NOT tell you which songs to sing or what instruments you can use (though we certainly could use better discernment in that regard), it simply requires in what order things are to be done. 

The reason most of us do not know this is because the man tasked with knowing this Instruction and implementing it in a diocese is the Bishop, the primary guardian of the Liturgy. And just because our own doesn't care about his job doesn't mean we shouldn't care about ours. 

So let's get to it. We cannot accuse the NCW of liturgical aberrations if we participate in them ourselves. Let's get our Sacred Liturgies sacred again. Then maybe we will "get our Church back." (Maybe.)

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