Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

21 June 2006

A comparison of two popes on sacred music

We read with great interest today John Paul II's letter on sacred music. It was written on the 100th anniversary of our document on sacred music, Tra le sollecitudini. It is not our intent to attack a former pope and saint. However, there is no human, or saint, who is free from error or who should be completely shielded from legitimate criticism. After reading John Paul II's letter, we find that he needs to be taken to task on two specific points.

JPII writes, "The special attention that is proper to reserve to sacred music, recalls the holy Pontiff [St. Pius X], derives from the fact that it, 'as an integral part of the solemn Liturgy, participates in its general end, which is the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.' Interpreting and expressing the profound sense of the sacred text to which it is intimately bound, it is capable of 'adding greater efficacy to the same text, so that the faithful [...] are better disposed to receive the fruits of grace which are proper to the celebration of the most holy mysteries.'" Thus, JPII cites us to show his agreement over the importance of sacred music. However, he follows up the aforementioned quotation with the following: "On several occasions I have also recalled the valuable function and the great importance of music and of song for more active and intense participation at liturgical celebrations, and I have emphasized the necessity to 'purify worship from ugliness of style, from distasteful forms of expression, from uninspired musical texts which are not worthy of the great act that is being celebrated [St. Pius X]', in order to ensure dignity and integrity of forms to liturgical music." With all due respect, what the heck are you talking about? We have witnessed some horrible liturgies at which you presided. Pope Benedict XVI almost immediately started reigning in your personal liturgist because he could not stomach what was occuring at papal liturgies. World Youth Day is a great event overall, but it is a prime example of not only horrendous liturgical music, but also a flagrant disregard for our instructions to train the faithful in sacred music. Enough of this point, onto issue number two.

After asserting that Gregorian Chant followed by Classical polyphony holds primary place for sacred music in words less strong than ours, he discusses the necessity of allowing for modern forms of music in the liturgy. He writes on modern compositions, "With regard to liturgical music compositions, I make my own the 'general law' that Saint Pius X formulated in these terms: 'A composition for Church is sacred and liturgical insofar as it approaches Gregorian melody in flow, in inspiration, and in flavor, and so much less is it worthy of the temple insomuch as it is recognized as departing from that supreme model.' Evidently, this does not mean copying Gregorian chant, but rather seeing to it that new compositions be pervaded by the same spirit that gave rise to and so molded that chant. Only an artist profoundly immersed in the sensus Ecclesiae may try to perceive and translate into melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy." This is a complete revision of what we wrote! JPII correctly quotes us in the above passage; however, when we wrote about music that follows "Gregorian melody in flow, in inspiration, and in flavor" we did not mean that it "be molded by the same spirit that gave rise to and molded that chant." By this broad reasoning, JPII can justify the music of Haas, Schutte, Joncas, et al. What the heck does it mean to compose music in the same spirit as those who composed Gregorian Chant? It almost sounds as if JPII is saying that if intentions are good, the music is OK. In short, there is not much objectivity to his guidelines for sacred music. That much is confirmed by his liturgies.


Anonymous said...

No comments yet?


boinky said...

Well, the problem with Schutte etc. is that they write lousy music.
Why did we allow priests to write music instead of asking modern musicians? Mass by Elton John? Why not? If a promiscuous Mozart and a Lutheran Bach could write masses, why not?
And if they want "modern" music, why not use melodies from other countries?
I live in the Philippines. Music is modern and beautiful. Ditto for many Spanish masses in the US (watch EWTN). And in Africa? After years of European hymns they now are allowed to use their own style of song.
Personally, I had to study and sing Gregorian chant as a kid and it still sounds all the same to me.

Raindear said...

Music has a profound moral influence on the soul. This was accepted for centuries by pagans and Christians alike, but in recent years, society has ceased to acknowledge or care about it.

As Fr. Basil Nortz points out, art imitates nature and "the motion of musical sounds...are capable of imitating man's own inner passions or emotions." Not only does music imitate these moral states, if you will, but it tends to produce them in the listener. Plato said, "Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul." (Republic, III, 401.D)

The western tradition provided two basic standards for judging music: the order of the parts to each other and the order of the whole to its object.

The different parts of music (rhythm, harmony, melody) effect different parts of the soul. Basically, rhythm corresponds to the concupiscible appetites, harmony to the irascible appetites, and melody to reason. The order of the parts to each other should reflect the order of a virtuous soul, where reason rules the concupiscible appetites, aided by the irascible appetites. So, in music, the rhythm and harmony should serve the melody. This is one problem with rock music; often the driving rhythms take over the song, stimulating listeners to sensous and animalistic behavior.

A song can also be disordered when its object is bad. For example, songs may be ordered toward despair, hatred, or lust. In other cases, the melody may be unreasonable, as in atonal music.

Finally, even music ordered toward a good end is not always fitting for liturgical purposes. The liturgy is our foretaste of the heavenly banquet, of the Beatific Vision, when we will "see" God with the eyes of our soul, with the intellect. In Gregorian Chant, the emphasis is on the melody. It quiets the soul, ordering it toward contemplation of the divine mysteries.

In short, the liturgy has a purpose and music has a purpose, and the purpose of the music chosen for Mass must correspond to that of worship itself.

Papa Beatus Pius IX said...

Raindear, you're the man.

How would you like to be our Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites?


Papa Beatus Pius IX said... I listen to Mozarts Requiem...

::walks away ashamed...::

Raindear said...

Papa Beatus Pius IX,

I'm very honored and perhaps I might accept, if I were really a man. (:

In all seriousness, though, everyone should listen to Father Nortz's talk, "Music and Morality." It's available on tape or cd from Opus Sanctorum Angelorum and provides arguments from philosophy, history, and music theory.

Ma Beck said...

The difference between Mozart and the like (Papa, honestly! I'm shocked! Have you fallen in with that crowd?) and Haugen is that when Mozart wrote a Mass, it had a FORMULA.
Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus...etc.
There was no 'wiggle room'.
Haugen is free to write all day about 'Bread' and 'Wine' and 'Us'.
Back in the day, it didn't matter if a man was a straight atheist. If he wrote a Mass in 1700, it was exactly the same formula as if Palestrina had written it.
Now, one may disagree with me that Mozart's Masses are sublime (although I don't know how), but one could never state that his Masses were theologically incorrect, which I could blather about Haugen being all day. And that , my friends, is really what makes Haugen the uber-suck of 'church music' - not his crap rhymes and lack of melody.
Yours in the Spirit of Vatican I,
Ma Beck

Papa Beatus Pius IX said...

Similar to Papa Pius X, we enjoy Mozart's music, yet also agree that its use in the liturgy is highly suspect - but as you say, not as suspect as heretical music. We would prefer Mozart's Requiem mass to a mass with all Haugen music ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

Papa Sanctus Pius X said...

We second Papa Pius IX's remarks. At any rate, we would welcome Mozart if it meant an end to Haugen.

Ma Beck said...

Grazie, Papas.
While I get uncontrollably excited before one of Herr Mozart's Masses, and remain his devoted and loyal fan, I'm perfectly fine with your argument.
Because you hate the air Haugen breathes, too.
And that makes you okay in my book.

Emily said...

In case you haven't seen this yet:

(Scroll down to the second story on the page.)

Ma Beck said...

One would certainly think that it could have been written at a Drive-Thru.

Papa Sanctus Pius X said...

I thought all of his songs were...

Ma Beck said...

Marty Haugen's mission in life is to figure out how to further undermine Catholic theology by seeing how many times he can insert the word 'bread' into a ditty.
Dang Unitarians.

Raindear said...

Look what I just found here:

Gather Us In

Here in this place, our comfortable parish,
All of the statues carried away,
See in each face a vacuous visage,
Brought here by guilt or by R.C.I.A.

Gather us in, by Bimmer or Hummer,
Gather us in, so we can feel good,
Come to us now in this barren Zen temple,
With only a shrub and an altar of wood.

We are the young, our morals a mystery,
We are the old, who couldn't care less,
We have been warned throughout all of history,
But we enjoy this liturgical mess.

Gather us in, our radical pastor,
Gather us in, our unveiled nun,
Call to us now, with guitars and bongos,
Hang up your cellphones and join in the fun!

Here we will take some wine and some water,
Whether it changes, we really don't care.
But when the Sign of Peace comes, our pastor,
Jumps from the altar and hugs like a bear.

Gather us in, the privileged and snobby,
Gather us in, the liberal elite,
Help us to form our personal Credo,
Give us a choice between white bread and wheat.

Raindear said...

That page also links to this. hahaha

Papa Sanctus Pius X said...


That is hilarious. We thank you from the bottom of our heart. Made us laugh for 10 minutes.

Papa Beatus Pius IX said...

"It reminds us that God really regards his entire creation, and especially us, with wonder.”

This is crazy. Although the quote's authenticity is to be severely questioned, he WOULD say something like this...completely backwards.