Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Bishop Alexander Sample's pastoral letter on Music in the liturgy! Kudos to the Bishop for his reform in continuity insights into music in the Mass--it is here to stay no matter who is in charge!

Pastoral Letter: Rejoice In The Lord Always by


Hammer of Fascists said...

After skimming this document (which is all I have time to do), I think it is well-intentioned. But it typifies a major problem that Church documents have had since VII.

If a bishop, pope, or council gives short, imperative directives in concrete language, those directives tend to be clear, and the authority of those directives is obvious, especially if some sort of penalty is attached for non-compliance. Additionally, the short directives are more accessible to a wider audience (like the laity) who, as I do, have no time but to skim.

By giving long, rambling explanations, as is the case with this document, one interjects all sorts of loopholes and room for interpretation and subjectivity. For instance, here the bishop talks about the "elevated musical quality" of some of the mandated music (well, I assume it's mandated--since there are a lot of "shoulds" rather than "musts" in this document, maybe someone can validly argue otherwise.) So if I believe that Kumbaya is of elevated musical quality, I can use it and claim I'm in compliance with the document. Same goes for the word "beauty." Ear of the beholder and all that.

The long documents also create the impression that if the reasons the author gives for his decision are wrong or irrelevant, then his decisions aren't binding. There are many ways of doing this. I could be a professional musicologist and claim that the bishops' technical and historical understanding of music, as evinced by his writing in this document, are severely flawed, and that his directives thus have no force. I could be a canon lawyer who could claim that he speaks to matters that are arguably reserved to Rome. I could be a linguist who claims that the syntax says something other than what it appears to say. i could be laity who says "Well, that's _his_ opinion, but we are Church." None of thee things is liely to happen with a one-paragraph command to "Do this or you will be penalized. Because I'm the bishop, that's why."

In short, these long explanatory documents create ambiguity and water down authority, thus creating the conditions for modernistic dissent to flourish and to flout authority. In this instance, for example, we would be much better served by a pithy list of musical works, by name, that the bishop allows to be used, concluding with an explicit statement that all other musical works are banned, with music directors and pastors facing sanctions for disobedience.

If you're explaining, you're losing. The VII documents, and a ton of documents since VII, contain entirely too much explanation. That's one of the big things that have gotten the Church into such a mess to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Post-Conciliar documents have largely failed because they say so much that they say nothing. That, I think, is what you are saying, Anonymous 5.