I sent my previous post, "Shadows and Fog", in the form of an email, to OCP's Spirit and Song division. Inasmuch as I wanted to receive a response from Ken Canedo, I heard back from Robert Feduccia, the General Manager for Spirit and Song.
The response left me somewhat befuddled. It reminded me of that old Genesis song from the 1980s, "No Reply at All." Below, is the text of his email. I leave it to you, dear reader, to assess the situation. In a subsequent post, I will lay out my response to him.
I do not wish to dismiss you. You obviously love the Church and you obviously love our Lord. As a disciple, I want to first thank you and say to you that what binds us in unity, the Eucharist and the Universal pastor, is greater than anything that divides us, liturgical music.
The documental footing that we stand on is Sacrosanctum concilium, General Instruction on the Roman Missal, Sing to the Lord.
First to set the tone, the Roman Missal has a two-fold characteristic. It is Roman and imbued with Roman Culture. For example, Gregorian Chant is proper to the Roman liturgy just as Byzantine chants are proper to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. It is for this reason that the Church rightly preserves that which is proper to the liturgy. As the General Instruction on the Roman Missalstates it's first two of four options for music at the liturgy:
(1) the antiphon from The Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting
(2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual
These options are there to preserve the patrimony of the Roman Rite.
The uniquely Roman character proper to the Roman Missal is the first characteristic. The second characteristic of the Roman Rite is that it is a universal rite. It functions as both the Roman Missal and the Missal for the Universal Church. It for this reason that the General Instruction on the Roman Missal provides the next two options for music:
(3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms
(4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan Bishop.
The Church provides other options for music besides that which is proper to the Roman Missal as she says in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal:
“All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.”
The two paramount requirements are 1) the fully conscious and active participation of the faithful 2) correspondence to the spirit of the liturgical action.
Please know, that understand the issue you have is the stylistic nature of contemporary music. It is not whether or not the lyrical content corresponds. It is, by it's very nature, the music does not correspond. I do understand that and I'm getting there :-) I just want to lay out the linear nature of our thought.
The fully conscious and active participation of the faithful requires prayer and song. Sacrosanctum concilium states in paragraph 7 “Praesens adest denique dum supplicat et psallit Ecclesia …” The English the translation is that Christ is present when the Church (supplicat) prays and (psallit) sings. As an aside, the Latin verb for sing in this paragraph literally means to sing to an accompanied plucked instrument. That's not part of my argument, but I do find it interesting. My point is this. There is a presence of Christ that is called for by the dogmatic constitution that is dependent upon people's prayer and people's singing, their prayerful singing. It is a very pragmatic requirement.
Prayerful singing that corresponds to the spirit of the liturgical action is the focus of everything we do. Again, the Roman Rite is both Roman and Universal. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal say, "All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy." The unstated question is, "Equally does what?" The answer is, "Equally leads to the participation of all the faithful." There are many who are trying to raise the dignity of chant in order for it to be on equal footing as other forms of sacred music as described by General Instruction on the Roman Missal. I do not believe it is as we talk today. I also would not be of the opinion that we should stop the publication of other forms of sacred music.
To speak anecdotally for moment, the number of vocations that have come from the Life Teen movement is staggering. As a movement, they have fostered an unparalleled love for the authentic and orthodox teaching of the Church within the young people they serve. I must admit I get befuddled by the number of priests who are against the use of contemporary music despite the fact that their own evangelization came through the use of such contemporary music during praise and worship, Eucharistic adoration, and at the liturgy itself.
But back to the doctrinal sources, Sacrosanctum concilium 37-39 states the following:
D) Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples
37. 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. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.
39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.
Such cultural considerations are vital to the work of evangelization. This is particularly true in missionary lands, but it is also true in our land, the land of the New Evangelization. It is for this reason that we at Spirit & Song see ourselves as a ministry of the New Evangelization. Our Roman Missal is Roman and is to preserve the Roman patrimony. It is also Universal and adaptable according to the pastoral need of the people. It is for this reason that Sacrsanctum concilium upholds the entrance of art, music and customs from the local culture. I was recently in Africa and experienced the power of the Roman Rite accompanied by drums and dancing. That certainly looks profane to the Western eye, but this aided the Church's work in evangelization in Ghana. The Roman Rite allows such flexibility and adaptation.
The definition of that which is profane lies, according to Sacrasanctum concilium 22, with the territorial episcopal authority:
22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
Our territorial body is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their document, Sing to the Lord, serves our nation as the guidepost for music in the liturgy. They recognize the tension in which we live, the tension between the preservation of the Roman Rite's patrimony and the pastoral nature of the liturgy. That pastoral nature includes the work of evangelization. We see that Spirit & Song is able to aid in the work of evangelization and that the songs, even in their style that considers the local music as allowed by SC 39, has the ability to draw people into prayerful participation that is demanded by the sacred liturgy.
Blessings to you!
Robert Feduccia, general manager Spirit & Song
The reply really did not address anything. It seemed to me that he completely ignored the issue raised by the Fathers of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist when they wrote their concerns about the music used during “Youth Masses.” As I indicated earlier, I will, in a subsequent post, put forth my reply to Mr. Feduccia.