All are Welcome - USCCB Statement on Hymns
  • davido
    Posts: 418
    It suggests One Bread, One Body and Seed Scattered and Sown as appropriate communion songs.
    DOA.
    Thanked by 1Brian Michael Page
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 134
    One Bread, One Body has a great text. Apparently the style is not appreciated by some on this board.
  • It's not a great text by any means, and certainly not a "hymn". To compare it to the depth of thought of a truly great Eucharistic hymn like Schmücke dich would be the height of absurdity.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 134
    Most of One Bread, One Body is directly from scripture, which is where Vatican II says the lyrics to our music ought to come from
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    One bed, three bodies, ménage à trois...
  • There is so, so much more to making a great text than just arbitrarily throwing in Scriptural references to make the author seem knowledgeable - especially hymnody, which is a poetic genre unto itself. If that's all it took, we wouldn't need poets as long as we all had an English Bible by our side to snip and paste quotations into the pop song du jour to make it suitable for Mass.
  • You need to read the article fully, then get your hands on the document from your Bishop.

    It is much easier for Bishops to judge and eliminate BAD hymn texts than bad music.

    But so much of the bad hymn texts are sung to bad music. For those here who have been here and watched and waited for 15 years, this is a step forward, a logical step forward.

    Or better said: A STEP BACKWARD.
  • Jackson, to be honest, I'm not surprised - despite the best efforts of Winkworth &c., Lutheran hymnody has not achieved a lasting status in the repertoire, at least on this side of the border. I would wager most of the bishops have never heard it; I've never seen it programmed in Mass even once.

    That being said, the number of more well-known English-language hymns in the common repertoire that wipe the floor with their selections in pretty much every conceivable metric is damnably high.
  • jclangfo
    Posts: 134
    My reading of Vatican II is that is specifically does not encourage poetic interpretations of the text but encourages the straight text from the Bible to be set to music
  • Great, then sing the Propers instead of pop ditties. Welcome to the CMAA by the way.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    but encourages the straight text from the Bible to be set to music


    Didn't the Calvinists already do that?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,474
    I'm so pleased to see that the recommendations included several Latin hymns, confirming that they are perfectly appropriate musical fare for mainstream parish use.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    Is the document available anywhere on the internet? I can only see cursory summaries rehashed from CNA.
  • Chonak, this brought me joy too.

    While I'm usually quick to accuse the USCCB of sitting on their keisters, I'm glad they've made a positive statement for once. One glaring omission, however, is the fact that they've made no reference to the recent scandal. I'd have expected them to also include a footnote that some songs, while "theologically correct" might trigger abuse victims due to their compositional provenance. This, I suppose, would have been a more delicate thing (and perhaps subjective) to navigate.
  • I think that has nothing to do with the compositions themselves, or their content, and everything to do with the acts of one despicable man. To me, it wouldn't factor into a discussion of the objective textual quality of liturgical works.
  • I agree with you in principle; I'm just observing that if they are going to promulgate a document clarifying which hymns should be admissible to the liturgy, it would have perhaps been not entirely out of place to address that potential qualifier as well. But in general, I agree with you.
  • Cultural change tends to be gradual, with periods of upheaval and chaos followed by a slow return to order. Liturgical reform had been ongoing for close to a century before Vatican II. After Vatican II, was a period of great upheaval and chaos in the liturgy. Since the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul the Great, the 'dust' has been settling and order is slowly being restored. This latest missive from the USCCB is another step in restoring order and should be applauded as such. Remember, the Church thinks and moves in centuries, not days, weeks, and years.
  • This is definitely a step in the right direction. My fear, however, is that the only people who read this document are those who already ignore the disapproved songs. I think that the contemporary churches might keep doing these songs even though the bishops don't want them sung. We will have to see how strict individual bishops are when it comes to enforcement.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,289
    I think it's notable that the review was done by the doctrinal rather than liturgical office. What a wonderful expression of the Bishops' recognition of the power of hymnody to express and nourish faith.

    I'd be interested in seeing the document itself.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    The title is Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church, which is a much larger topic than Propers of the Mass. A hymn book like The Westminster Hymnal from 100 years ago contained nothing intended for use at Mass. Benediction, Holy Hour, Vespers, Processions, School Assemblies, ..., in England people sang at all these enthusiastically, but not at Mass. In formal liturgical worship the official text is paramount, the loss of Popular Devotions had, IMHO, a key role in our woes post VII.
    Like Kathy I would like to see the document.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 457
    Quite a few Marty Haugen songs were mentioned as having lyrics that do not accord with Catholic faith.
  • davido
    Posts: 418
    Hopefully this document has an effect on what is published in Breaking Bread, et al, as that is the way to effect change at the parish level.
  • I've finally received a copy from our diocesan music director. I do not feel that I am betraying any confidences by sharing this since this is a public letter being promulgated to our entire diocese (and I imagine most/all dioceses in due course).


    To quote the preface:
    We hope that this resource will be helpful for bishops as they evaluate the suitability of hymnals proposed for use in their diocese. We also hope that it will be helpful for composers and hymn publishers as they create hymns and gather them into hymnals. We therefore encourage bishops to share this resource with composers and hymn publishers in their dioceses. You may also wish to share it with diocesan worship offices, pastors, and parish musicians.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 457
    Thanked by 3Chrism Kathy CHGiffen
  • mahrt
    Posts: 514
    I think it is useful to speak of most of the disapproved pieces as "songs," as Nathan does. They are really not hymns.
    Anyway, why not begin to replace them with real Mass propers?
  • The conclusion is a little disappointing, after the strong analysis: "guidance". Still, the use of real examples helps make this more convincing, and puts the examples squarely in the crosshairs.
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • MarkB
    Posts: 457
    It has to be merely "guidance" because the Committee on Doctrine doesn't have the authority to make decisions about the permissibility or prohibition of specific songs. That's up to a local ordinary to enact in his own diocese, if he chooses, or up to a pastor to decide for his own parish in a way that doesn't conflict with diocesan policies.

    Properly speaking, just as many have pointed out that "Sing to the Lord" has no authority, neither does this committee document. It's up to each bishop to use the principles in those texts as a basis for establishing authoritative norms in his own diocese. Yet very few bishops have opted to provide specific local instructions regarding liturgical music.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • I don't think that music is that important to many bishops.
    Thanked by 2mattebery marymezzo
  • MarkB
    Posts: 457
    Forum poster melofluent posted this years ago, which was his own catalogue of liturgical songs with notes about their acceptability or deficiencies:
    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/uploads/FileUpload/c0/5e62d8a6fbdc55332eeebc3e66dd5e.pdf

    Here's the thread:
    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/12129/has-anyone-created-a-white-list-for-their-parish/p1
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    I don't think that music is that important to many bishops.


    I don't believe some get much seminary training in music. They are like everyone else, they know what they like.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,289
    I used to write this blog which mostly discussed hymns. http://hymnographyunbound.blogspot.com/?m=1

    I wrote a lot there about discerning the truth in hymns. This was back when I was a DM and doing an STL at the same time, so theology and hymnody were very much in my thinking.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,474
    Here's a summary of the document:
    http://www.chantcafe.com/2020/12/doctrine-committee/
    with a link to a full copy, OCR'd to make the text searchable.

    Out of clemency, the document does not name any of the authors of the deficient texts, but I found the various works and listed them.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    I don't believe some get much seminary training in music.
    Whatever happened to the Spirit of Vatican 2? -
    SC 115. Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in the novitiates and houses of study of religious of both sexes, and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music.
  • jcr
    Posts: 93
    I had a choral professor who used to say of many who had "opinions" on the quality of music that "They don't know what they like, they just like what they know." I think this is often the situation and it is a terribly hard thing to break through.
  • davido
    Posts: 418
    It’s funny, the Taize “Eat this bread” is on the white side of this list, but we have had it discouraged by diocesan music/liturgy presentations as being inappropriate Eucharistic terminology.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,289
    jcr, this is an old survey that backs you up. "Familiar melody" is the PIPs' most important criterion.

    http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2007/01/what-makes-people-sing.html?m=1#.X9QnrjNlAwA

    Very interesting differences between the choir and the congregation on these matters! Reminds me of an old survey where Protestant ministers were asked for several kinds of input on inclusive language. When the congregants were asked the same questions, their #1 response was, "What's inclusive language?"
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I agree that some of the lack of attention that individual bishops give to music could have to do with music training. My bishop, for example, is a pianist (I think he might have played the organ at one point, but I'm not sure). He cares about music and makes sure that we have people good with music in the liturgy office. I think part of it might also have to do with time. Bishops have a lot of responsibilities. I think that music might just be something that falls through the cracks. Now whether bishops are giving music the priority it deserves is a separate question- one that this group cannot answer from a purely objective standpoint. Not bashing us, just pointing out that we have our own bias on this matter.

    On Eat This Bread, I'm guessing the reason they approved of it is due to the fact that the text is almost a direct quote from scripture. I think if it was a human invented text, it would probably on the blacklist. Since it is scripture, it is considered acceptable.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 313
    This is really, truly a golden moment for this to come out, as hymnals/missalettes have been taken out of pews everywhere for fear of transmitting the virus, and it will be some time before they can be put back.

    But, without concrete action, I don’t see what good it does and suspect the Big Three Two will want to go right back to selling hotcakes. I would like to see the following:

    1) Resolution by all American bishops to accept this document and jointly, give it the force of law in their dioceses
    2) Joint apology of bishops who put their little + in the front of the offending books
    3) Public censure of the editors of the offending books, who failed to exercise good judgment (as the doctrines referenced in this paper are not novel, and should obviously have been taken into consideration by anyone making a Catholic hymnal)
    4) Require that all worship resources used from X date on entirely conform to this memo and bear an imprimatur, and require publishers of deficient books to supply corrected ones at no cost to parishes, or forfeit imprimatur
    5) If Big Two are ruined by 1-4, then in 2022, we can have a press release saying “oh no! The USCCB recognizes a great pastoral need and promulgates The AmCath Hymnal and Kyriale, to fill the need left by the unfortunate bankruptcy of fine Catholic publishers.”


  • 1. They had to go light on doctrine sometimes in order to include hymns that the Protestants would be comfortable with or would have already known. Many of our hymnals used in Catholic Churches are also intended for potential use in Protestant ones. It’s a nod to V2’s notion of ecumenism.

    2. We don’t need an “Am Cath Hymnal,” we have the Graduale Romanum.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 434
    A very nice summary Chonak.

    It will be interesting to see how this document will be addressed at the Diocesan level (edit: I also meant to say at the Parish level). Some of the examples of the approved songs could stand a little more scrutiny especially those in the "I" and "You" category.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    Let's revisit this in a year and see if it made any difference.
  • I find it extremely telling that the document is--apparently--unavailable on the USCCB website itself. Thanks to those who posted it or provided links. Surely this document was significant enough to warrant at least a brief press release.
  • but encourages the straight text from the Bible to be set to music
    ... Many propers would not qualify.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    Many propers would not qualify.
    Are you referring to the chopping up of fragments, as in one of this weeks OF Communion antiphons "You have prepared a table before me, and how precious is the chalice that quenches my thirst"? Perhaps you could enlarge on this thesis.
    I have just spent several hours reading analysis of the Offertories in the Graduale, suggesting plausibly that the origins of the melodies can be discerned by looking at the source of the texts in different Latin Psalters from before Jerome's work.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 213
    I popped in to say that I don't feel bad anymore about how nit-picky I am with text. I began to wonder if I was too stringent in my music choices. I feel validated. I even seem the bishops point out the same objections I have had to specific lyrics and hymns. I have also had the same concern re one dimensional reiterations of sacramental theology (esp Eucharist). Let's keep this momentum going.

    Re some on here who scoff at the songs suggested- the preface clearly states "While there are a number of factors that affect the suitability of hymns for use in Catholic liturgy, such as singability, beauty of language ,poetry, etc., in this resource we are concerned with their doctrinal content." (emphasis mine)
  • Polska Piano,

    In effect, the document says "we rule out anything which is clearly, unambiguously ambigious or heretical, but we won't rule out anything else; that's someone else's job".... or "Heck, it's a target rich environment, and we had to start somewhere!"
  • From a heretical point of view, a text that's not clearly orthodox is ambiguously unambiguous. But from an orthodox point of view, a text that's not clearly heretical is unambiguously ambiguous.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,289
    Schoenbergian, well used hymnals like thecSt. Michael Hymnal are chock full of Lutheran hymnody, and i would program it every week.
  • Rhetorical question: why was it necessary for the bishops to say we can't sing anything heretical during mass?