Women and the Extraordinary Form
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    I've received this question in an email. Authoritative responses appreciated:

    Is there a foremost authority on church teaching regarding liturgical music?

    For example, my priest who says the latin mass (extraordinary form) says women are not allowed to be in scholas--that scholas are only for men unless a woman is in a convent. Is that true? I suppose it has been historical practice, but is there actual church teaching that prohibits women from singing with men in a schola or singing in their own (I don't mean choir, I mean a gregorian chant schola)?

    Also, is there church aurthority that says women not allowed to sing gregorian chant during the extraordinary form of the mass? What about the introit and the offeratory?

    What if a parish of limited resources has men and women who both want to sing chant during mass, can they sing together during the extraordinary form?
  • I'll repost here what I had written here some time ago and welcome corrections

    St. Pius X had forbidden women to sing in scholas in his
    1903 encyclical but Fr. Anthony Ruff's new book Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform demonstrates two very important points with regard to this prohibition.

    1) The prohibition against women singers was completely ignored all over Europe and especially the United States. The encyclical itself had a huge impact on the Catholic world but for this narrow point. In fact, "indults" to depart from the letter of the law were being issued by the Pope personally just days after publication, and ever more leniency was in effect within a few years at the hands of legislative bodies overseeing the liturgy.

    It was nowhere enforced, and one can tell that just by looking at pictures of chant classes conducted by Justine Ward in the United States: more than half the students were girls and women. Indeed, women were at the forefront of the movement. The tradition of women singing at Mass has always been integral to life in a convent, and there are extensive records of women singing polyphony in England. As for the Vatican itself, its practice of using only men and boys to sing reflected a long-standing tradition and not so much an adherence to doctrinal norms. Later, as is well known, Pius XII legislated in favor of permitting women to sing, legislation which didn't change the practice much either since the original edict had not had much effect in any case.

    2) Fr. Ruff further demonstrates that the edict of Pius X had nothing to do with discrimination but rather stemmed from a widely held position of the Cecilian movement that the choir performed a clerical roll in the liturgy and hence it should share as closely as possible in the features of the clergy. The Cecilians believed that the singers should be men because the priesthood was limited to men; they further hoped that the vocation of schola member would be lifelong and that singers would, for example, under the ideal, receive tonsures.

    And why did the Cecilians hold this view? They were responding in excess to what they saw as the pervasive low view of the choir's role as merely adding a soundtrack to liturgy. They hope to heighten the role of music to being part of the liturgical structure rather than merely an addendum to it. To push this idea further, they latched onto this idea of the clerical purpose of the singing and pushed it as far as it could go. In other words, this view stemmed from a strategic consideration fashioned into a plausible theological one.

    Of course this view was later backed away from with another view that was similarly taken too far: the postconciliar view the schola is part of the people. This view led to the critical problem in modern times of viewing the choir and its parts as having no distinct role at all. Here Fr. Ruff is very strong in arguing the contrary case.

    Fr. Ruff discusses this back-and-forth tendency to go from one extreme to the other while arguing that the real role of the choir does not have a literal analogy to any other role in liturgy apart from the most ancient view that the choir stands in proxy for the choirs of angels. The issue of women, then, has long proven to be a great distraction from this more substantive issue, and Fr. Paul (of St. Peter's, Rome) is certainly to be commended for pushing progress here both in the direction of using the best musical forces available to him as well as fully embracing chant and the classical repertoire.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159

    Musicae Sacrae
    On Sacred Music
    Pope Pius XII

    Encyclical Promulgated on December 25, 1955

    Schola Cantorum

    99. It is highly desirable that a choir or schola cantorum be established in all cathedral churches, in parish churches, and all other churches of importance where the liturgical functions can be carried out as described in paragraph 93a, and c.

    100. Wherever such a choir cannot be organized, a choir of the faithful, either mixed or consisting only of women or girls, can be permitted. But such a choir should take its place outside the sanctuary or Communion rail. The men should be separated from the women or girls so that anything unbecoming may be avoided. Local Ordinaries are to issue precise reg
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    Many people share that pastor's opinion, and many places have all-male scholas, so it is at least an established local custom. There is an undeniable preference in the universal law for male singers at the EF (thanks for the citations, Mr. Z).

    This preference does not prohibit good music, but rather prevents doctrinaire feminists (many of whom--both male and female--have office in the Church today) from ruining good music in pursuit of their agendas. For example, it is forbidden by law to eliminate a musically competent all-male schola cantorum and replace it with a group of women who can't read music simply to be politically correct. Such an act would violate the right of the parishioners to the EF.

    The phrase "can be permitted" in De Musica Sacra 100, cited above, does not mandate the pastor to permit it. The faithful can be gravely scandalized by liturgical changes, and it is the pastor's responsibility to care for his flock. The EF is provided, in part, to care for people who have been gravely scandalized by liturgical changes.

    I interpret De Musica Sacra 100 to allow women's scholas to exist alongside men's scholas if the men are only capable of singing well half the chants at Mass according to the melodies in the Graduale. It is my opinion that in such a case that the men and women can divide the work.

    The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei responded to a letter on this topic a while back, in which they relied on custom and usage.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    "The Dead" is the only place I have heard of this prohibition being honored.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    G, What do you mean?
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    This is an aside, and is merely a further clarification of something you are correctly touching on, Chrism:

    The term "doctrinaire feminist" is often used in cases like this by what I might incorrectly or insensitively call "doctrinaire anti-feminists." To assume that a woman without any ability might be assigned to sing the propers is really a gross misrepresentation of what feminism means. It is akin to assuming that every white southerner is a racist, or that every African american would do better to stick to old time gospel and spiritual tunes.

    It is an insult to women musicians and music directors who have the training and ability to read (not only music, but also church documents) AND to make sound decisions regarding correct liturgical practice. Just because a group of women might end up singing the propers in some instances does not necessarily mean that they have been assigned to do so for politically correct reasons.
  • Just so that we are clear, the Vatican's letter here expresses no preference for men over women or women over men etc. The letter speaks of both contributing to the sacred liturgy.

    While I've never encountered in my personal experience a case of a women's schola keeping a men's schola from singing on political grounds, I've known many of the opposite cases: struggling men's scholas dominating the singing while competent women are pretty well shut out based on a wide variety of issues. In fact, probably once a week I receive a note concerning these cases, notes from concerned men and women. I always find it disturbing.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592

    Thank you for citing that letter, which I feel speaks for itself.

    I think it makes sense to point out that Pius X was legislating for his time, and now we have to follow the current Pope's legislation. Other examples of this would be holy days of obligation and fasting before Mass rules, all of which have been modified.

    And since the official letter cited (above) says to simply look to musicasacra.com for the answers, anything I post on this forum automatically becomes binding liturgical law!!! Right?

  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Just on a theoretical level:

    Pius X, with his staunch admonitions against the heresy of all heresies, i.e., modernism, would recoil at the thought of a "time sensitive" aspect to his pronouncements. Along the lines of Jeffery T. very fine fleshing out of this issue, we might want to grant to Rome the right of outlining a pronounced "ideal" to which we strive for with an unspoken understanding the we "bend" certain aspects according to local or circumstantial concerns, but I would think this "of this time only and not for all times" aspect would be anathema to his way of thinking along this line. IOW, we should guard against any hint of the idea that the expansion of roles of the laity in general, or women in particular, is the result of some sort of epoch related enlightenment, IOW, progressivist thinking.

    AOZ is correct in saying one should not distrust women's motives concerning liturgical matters just because they are women. The expansion of "actors" roles afforded the laity inside the liturgy, of both men and women, has not been a particularly positive development in the Roman rite IMHO. I would think most here could think of many examples so I will not bore anyone with the local cases I know of that outline how egregiously this can play out.

    One of the reasons I find so much solace within the Eastern rite that I attend is that these liturgical issues are more or less settled, having remained in place for centuries; there are no liturgical wars being fought, especially gender related. Women do sing in the choir, if anyone might have been wondering, but that is about it. I see no evidence of disgruntledment on the part of women, quite the contrary, it would seem, though I haven't seen any polling on the subject.
  • Yes, and what happens here is that traddies go back and read PX (not a bad impulse) and take everything literally and apply it to today, even though, as Ruff demonstrates, it was not even applied in his own time!
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    Chrism, there's a James Joyce story, "The Dead," set in 1904 or so, where the way women have been suddenly turned out of the loft after years of service, (by the recent motu proprio,) is part of the conversation.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Yes, JT,

    I was amending my writing, after having read more closely your original offering, just as your post was coming on - so this reflects a little more of that more nuanced understanding. Thanks for that.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Pius X, with his staunch admonitions against the heresy of all heresies, i.e., modernism, would recoil at the thought of a "time sensitive" aspect to his pronouncements.

    I am afraid you are mixing apples and oranges. Pius X had no problems changing DISCIPLINES of the Church. You might be very surprised to learn about the changes he made in the breviary. But you are mentioning things that pertain to DOGMA, which do not change. Heresy is still heresy. Doctrine cannot change, but disciplines can. An example: we can eat meat on Fridays now, as long as we make some other sacrifice. This has nothing to do with doctrinal changes.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Point well taken, Jeff O.
  • June Ely
    Posts: 46
    "...struggling men's scholas dominating the singing while competent women are pretty well shut out based on a wide variety of issues"
    While I personally have not experienced that, I have seen it and I too find it disturbing. Thank you for being a voice of reason, Jeffrey.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Hey, he's my Confirmation saint! I gotta stick up for him.... ;-) ;-)
  • As yet another aside, this delicate matter was one factor which Wendy and I encountered when going to our first local EF, which I believe I described in another thread. In this circumstance, there is a modest, capable schola of three vested gentlemen who assemble within the sanctuary "within" the altar rail. As I mentioned, this compelled us to decide whether it was appropriate to sing the Ordinary, beyond merely the responses. We (and others) obviously do not constitute a "choir" under provision #100 (and as there is a schola, there presumably is no need for one) so, as described, issues of ownership and active participation can be a bit dicey when you're not a home, and in someone else's Rome. I don't want my lyric soprano to feel she has to sing spinto tenor in the EF, wink wink, nudge nudge.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    It seems the request needs clarification for several items (distinguish and define terms).
    The history timeline should encompass all relevant material 1903 through 1962 (is there more recent EF material?).
    The request is for the rules, so rules should be given, not rule-breaking anecdotes.

    Location: sanctuary, transept, nave, loft.
    Membership: male only, female only, adults, children, mixed.
    Music: gregorian propers, gregorian ordinary, motets, hymns, dialogues.

    Can all these combinations (did I overlook any items?) be represented neatly in a table?

    There probably should be a separate table for each environment
    (parish, religious community with guests, etc).
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    I would just like to point out that my woman's intuition tells me that eft94530 has a clearly gender-based fondness for spreadsheets. :)
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • In Tra le Sollecitudini St. Pius X wrote the following (adoremus.org translation).
    12. With the exception of the melodies proper to the celebrant at the altar and to the ministers, which must be always sung in Gregorian Chant, and without accompaniment of the organ, all the rest of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir of levites, and, therefore, singers in the church, even when they are laymen, are really taking the place of the ecclesiastical choir. Hence the music rendered by them must, at least for the greater part, retain the character of choral music.

    By this it is not to be understood that solos are entirely excluded. But solo singing should never predominate to such an extent as to have the greater part of the liturgical chant executed in that manner; the solo phrase should have the character or hint of a melodic projection (spunto), and be strictly bound up with the rest of the choral composition.

    13. On the same principle it follows that singers in church have a real liturgical office, and that therefore women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form part of the choir. Whenever, then, it is desired to employ the acute voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church.

    It wouldn't appear to me that this was intended to be merely a discipline, but I'm certainly no specialist. I would be somewhat deliberate in thinking that the teaching in it was invalid simply because people didn't follow it; the same can be said of Humanae Vitae today.

    One idea that perhaps hasn't been touched upon in this thread is the idea of the "choir of (L)evites". In Temple woship, the priests performed the sacrifice. All of them were descendants of Aaron, a descendant of Levi. The other members of the tribe of Levi had other tasks, including that of singing psalms in Temple worship (helpful but out of date: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=574&letter=P), and had a separate function from the members of the other tribes of Israel in Temple worship. We ask ourselves whether the role of the choir is essentially clerical or congregational. I don't know if using a tripartite scheme based on the Temple is of the Cecilian shool or Pian in origin, but makes us rethink the minister/congregation dichotomy. The current pope has written about the idea that the mass is not simply based on synagogue but on Temple as well. Am not really in favor of its being adopted, but it deserves a discussion within the simplification of minor orders and creation of ministries post Vatican II.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    mjb, yes, I like spreadsheets.
    It might be a guy thing to create them.
    So far only CMAA guys with Google accounts have revealed spreadsheets in the forum.
    You can blame or praise @aristotle for starting the trend! :-)

    The spreadsheet layout is compact and complete.
    Google Documents help to collect and organize and share data that will be
    available from work and home and elsewhere, and are automatically backed up.

    Information gathering and presentation for this Discussion is not done yet (assistance welcome!),
    but, to fulfill your secret desire, lest you and other forum readers be disappointed ...

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I find it amusing that some may be able to exclude people who can sing because of gender. I have never had enough singers to have that problem. Must be nice!
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    As far as DISCIPLINE goes, when the Church abolishes a pious disciplinary rule that proves too difficult to keep in present circumstances (war, plague, etc.), she will usually exhort the faithful to keep the former practice if they can, which remains a sort of ideal form. This is the case with fasting, which we could get into detail about. This is also why St. Pius X in 1903 recommended clerical choirs--which had gone out of fashion during the Black Plague--while not requiring them.

    The response from PCED cited by Jeffrey and me above does not purport to abolish the "strict requirements" of the law related to sacred music effective in 1962 which applies to the EF today, but rather tolerates its modification based on custom contra legem and usage. This does not abolish the ideal--clerics and boys who might some day become clerics. The response exhorts that "some way" be found for all to contribute. There is a lot of wisdom there.

    Reading Jeffrey's comment about "struggling men's scholas dominating the singing", I wonder if discussion of this issue isn't sometimes masking an underlying power struggle between factions at a particular parish. The PCED response ought to provide a way forward. If only the groups involved can agree on an acceptable arrangement for both to contribute, then spiritually damaging putsches and schisms can be avoided.

    AOZ is right that there are doctrinaire anti-feminists in the world, and I would end by suggesting that they might have more cultural influence in Alabama than, for example, Berkeley.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Hi Chrism

    Your comment about Alabama and Berkeley is very astute in ways you might not even realize. There are probably about as many practicing Catholics in Berkeley as there are in Alabama. Nevertheless, I was speaking in general terms with no mind to geography or demographics.
  • Vis., "There are probably about as many practicing Catholics in Berkeley as there are in Alabama."

    Not going there, no way, no how, in any world of feminism or Catholicism.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,183
    The concept of a clerical choir seems hard to realize with the current understanding of ministerial roles: priests and deacons are urged to exercise their orders fully in the Mass, which seems to militate against their remaining in choir; and the minor orders were suppressed.

    It seems that the choir is meant to be a role of service proper to the laity now; or could the clerical choir be somehow reinterpreted and implemented as a choir of men in the permanent ministries of acolyte and reader?
  • 1143 For the purpose of assisting the work of the common priesthood of the faithful, other particular ministries also exist, not consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders; their functions are determined by the bishops, in accord with liturgical traditions and pastoral needs. "Servers, readers, commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 29.)

    This quote from CCC certainly reinforces the main division as that between the ordained priesthood and that of the common priesthood, and that the choir assists the work of the common priesthood. To that extent, it seems hard to justify forbidding women from being in the choir, or even from serving at the altar, as the common priesthood is a calling given to us at baptism, and in baptism there is no woman or man.

    But even if one prefered the Levite middle ground, it is not altogether clear that those who perform that function must be male. Although it is not clear that Pius X intended his statement to be merely of a discipline nature (like not eating meat on Friday; pace Chrism), neither did he pronounce it ex cathedra. I think it's pretty clear to say that the question of roles and functions in the liturgy was unclear even before Vatican II, and it certainly seems even less clear in the days following it. At least the Pian understanding of roles had some objective form to it based on previous practice and consistent with the theology of the action of the liturgy. I'm not sure I see much else that does.

    Having attended Berkeley, I would say that there may be more practicing Catholics than in Alabama if you count all the students there Aug-May.
  • Hope they're going to St. Ambrose.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Do the documents of Vatican II affect Traditional Mass following 1962 Missal too?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    I work in an OF parish, and am therefore ignorant of EF details,
    but am looking at this as an opportunity to investigate and learn and share.
    Last night I created the spreadsheet, re-read the documents (1903,1928,1947,1955,1958),
    started copying relevant sentences into the spreadsheet, to detect the pattern, and progress.

    In 1928 it is clear there were three groups (schola, choir, congregation) that ought to be heard.
    The 1955 paragraph 74 gives permission to girls/women under certain circumstances,
    and so it must have been: schola-membership men-only, choir-membership men-and-boys-only.
    The 1958 paragraphs 99-100 encourage "choir or schola cantorum", but permit "choir of the faithful".

    miacoyne, Thanks for trying to get us back on topic.
    When suggesting a spreadsheet, that was the question I asked in my first post:
    "(is there more recent EF material?)".
    I was hopeful that there would be an answer until the morning-coffee-drive-by comments started. :-(
    I will continue looking over the weekend.
  • miacoyne, for all practical purposes, no. The EF follows the 1962 rubrics exclusively. The only issues that arise are due to calendar conflicts in a parish.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    To jump fully into the clerical tangent...

    Ioannes Andreades, when I read the word "assists", I didn't take it to mean necessarily that these ministries are a function exclusively or properly of that common priesthood, but rather that they aid that priesthood, much as "the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood" (CCC 1120). Later on in the passage you cite it is said that their functions are "determined...in accord with liturgical traditions."

    chonak implies that there are roles at Mass "proper to the laity", which I take to mean more appropriately performed by laypeople than clerics. Perhaps that is so under the GIRM regime as regards lectors, but nothing in the rubrics of the EF assumes this. For much of the last millennium, it was not common for a Solemn Mass to have anything less than 3 priests, even though the roles allow for a deacon and a subdeacon.

    Also, I'm not sure how Vatican II has changed the understanding of the priesthood and the diaconate. The 1917 Code of Canon Law required priests to celebrate at least one Mass per day under pain of sin; this has since been relaxed. Before Vatican II, the only "permanent" order was the priesthood. In spite of those conditions, St. Pius X still felt called to mention clerical choirs as a real possibility. Is a choir of instituted acolytes and readers (often, seminarians) more perfect than a choir of uninstituted laypeople? I believe so.

    But my opinion is if there is an available bishop (other bishops already taking the higher roles at the Mass), and if he has the ability to do so, he really ought to sing in choir rather than simply sit in choir, because he should have the highest place of honor possible.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,225
    The 1955 letter of Pius XII was also called "The Christmas Gift to Musicians"...

    The Milwaukee Archdiocese interpreted the letter to allow women as members of the 'choir of the faithful'; at that time, (and until about 1975) Milwaukee was a fastidious liturgical environment.

    MEN were the 'schola,' singing the Propers; women (and men) sang Ordinaries, motets, etc. In the typical parish setting, the choir of the faithful would be in the loft, and the men of that choir would serve as the schola.

    That was also the interpretation in St. Paul, where Mgr. Schuler used exactly the same scheme.
  • interesting!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I think it makes sense. I was going to ask whether it would be ok to have the choir in the loft, and men and women sit speratedly, and men sing Propers. The entire choir can join in other parts.
  • Chrism,

    You stated, "For example, it is forbidden by law to eliminate a musically competent all-male schola cantorum and replace it with a group of women who can't read music simply to be politically correct. Such an act would violate the right of the parishioners to the EF."

    I am precisely in such a situation. I have an experienced all-male schola cantorum capable of singing all of the propers, but we are not being allowed to sing at all because the incumbent mostly-female choir (which sings very little chant) feels threatened, and the pastor (who does not celebrate the EF Mass at which we would like to sing) is sensitive to their complaints. The priest who celebrates the EF is meeting with the pastor to make our case, and I'm trying to give him plenty of ammunition going into this meeting. Can you cite the law which explicitly forbids the situation you cited above? Thanks so much, and please keep us in your prayers!
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Perhaps Musicae Sacrae could be such a citation:

    74. Where it is impossible to have schools of singers or where there are not enough choir boys, it is allowed that "a group of men and women or girls, located in a place outside the sanctuary set apart for the exclusive use of this group, can sing the liturgical texts at Solemn Mass, as long as the men are completely separated from the women and girls and everything unbecoming is avoided. The Ordinary is bound in conscience in this matter."[26]

    The assumption outside this was that the schola would be men.
  • But this assumption is no longer. Ecclesia Dei has clearly stated that "if a parish is so well provided for as to have both a men's and women's schola cantorum, that would seem to be a true 'embarassment of riches' and surely some way could be found for them both to contribute to the singing of the sacred liturgy."
  • I'm not sure that the assumption would no longer apply. Ecclesia Dei's statement is non-binding and simply an opinion (albeit it should be given due consideration because of its official capacity, but even the way Monsignor Perle phrased his response is lacking in force). What seems most important here is liturgical principle. Both historical practice and official statements (some of them binding) of the hierarchy express the notion that the schola cantorum is a clerical entity, and that laymen filling this role act as a sort of pseudo-clerical class (similar to the role fulfilled by lay altar servers). This keeps consistency with the ideal that Pius X expressed when he spoke of the "choir of levites," an ideal which, in turn, keeps continuity and consistency between the NT liturgy and the OT liturgy.

    This is not to say that exceptions, born of necessity, cannot be made, or that women should be utterly excluded from chant. But there does seem to be a clear precedence that must be given to the all-male schola (assuming it is capable of fulfilling its office worthily). It seems fitting that mixed choirs sing all of the Ordinary chants of the Mass and any devotional hymns that might be added. But where a dedicated schola cantorum is available, the propers (i.e. prayers that are only said by the priest at the altar and not recited by the faithful) ought to be their exclusive domain.
  • Allow me to toss in my two cents worth....

    As the full-time choir director of an exclusively Trad Rite/EF parish, I cultivate women and men, as well as choristers (boys AND girls) for the SCHOLA to sing the propers. Indeed I have an "embarassment of riches" and I feel that for a schola to be really a schola (i.e. a school) that the Church is only served by having everyone able to sing the more difficult chants of the propers. How can one teach the Chant properly if one has never been allowed to sing the propers? I am counting on the fact that many of my female schola members will be the teachers of tomorrow, as well as the young men. While the full schola numbers around 30 (the full choir is about 55), there have been times on some of the weekday feasts that it has indeed been the treble schola which has saved the day. As the only full-time choir director in North America (or so I am told by the Superior General) of an exclusively trad parish, you can imagine if there was anything irregular with the situation it would have been corrected years ago as I and my choir are extremely visible in the Trad Mass/EF world.

    I believe we need to be absolutely missionary about the Chant and to teach it to all who would learn, male or female so that they can carry it on. While things have certainly improved in regards Gregorian Chant, we should not believe for a second that we have "enough" at this point! Far from it. We need to think not only of our musical needs today, but about the future teachers of the Chant to those who come after us, and in my opinion, we can NEVER have "enough".
  • alrtree
    Posts: 26
    Absolutely missionary. Yes!
  • Absolutely, Jeffrey. And this issue of the clerical status of singers, well, we've been down this road before, with the Caecilians and their views that singers should really have a special clerical character and should have tonsures and take vows. At least it is a consistent view but it was and is a truth gone mad. It is true in a monastic setting but it is not true for the singers of liturgical music generally. It is not a clerical position and nor are singers merely proxies for the people, as certain modernists would claim. The true view is a third conception of the choir as standing in for the chorus of angels in holy scripture - a role set apart from other roles. It only makes sense that sex/gender would have nothing to do with this. So the existing view -- it took many years to dig out from that old Caecilian perspective -- is really much more balanced and consistent with the desire for excellence.
  • rbjmartin,
    So, let me see if this is correct. There is a group of singers who don't intend to sing Gregorian Chant that is precluding an all male schola from singing the proper chants for the E.F.? Does this parish choir even want to sing the E.F. propers and know how sophisticated they are? This may not be the "embarassment of riches" scenario cited above.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    priorstf found the quote. Also see De Musica Sacra #93c, 99 and 100. It's important to remember that the restriction on women was not born in 1958 either, but is traced back to the 1903 motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini (#13). The original restriction, which appeared to exclude women entirely from any singing whatsoever, never really caught on and within a few years was officially interpreted to allow women to participate chorally as needed.

    There is a clear preference in all music legislation for the Propers to be sung according to the approved Vatican books--the Graduale Romanum. Therefore, if the women are incapable of singing from the Graduale, and there are sufficient men who are so capable, then the parish does not have an embarrassment of riches but rather another form of embarrassment. Likewise, if women were capable of singing from the Graduale and men were not, it could be argued that De Musica Sacra 100 would kick in and kick out the men. What are the women singing from now?

    There are exceptions to this. First, if a mixed choir can sing Polyphonic Propers, especially Renaissance polyphonic Propers, then it would appear that a men's Gregorian chant schola could lose out (De Musica Sacra #17)--whether this means simple fauxbourdons on Psalm tones (or, shudder, Tozer) would beat out melismatic Graduals and Alleluias, I don't know. Second, due to the length of the particular chant or rite (De Musica Sacra #21c), the choir may only be permitted to sing Psalm tone or recto tono--if the Tridentine Mass is under a time restriction, this may apply. Third, the men may be found personally defective under De Musica Sacra #93b, #97, #98c.

    I assume we are talking about Sung Mass, correct? If all the Masses are Low Masses, then the question would arise, why is there not a Sung Mass every Sunday? (De Musica Sacra #26, although this is not often implemented) But I'm not sure what sorts of gender rules would apply at Low Mass.

    I will pray for you and would encourage you to treat the situation with tact, patience and charity. Perhaps a new chant Mass could be started on a weekday night, or else the men can sing Vespers or Tenebrae...these are stepping stones to parochial acceptance. The pastor is vulnerable to political realities and needs to be able to sell a change to his parish, and also to achieve it with minimal loss of parishioners. These things do sometimes have devastating consequences for people's lives, not just those of musicians.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    it took many years to dig out from that old Caecilian perspective

    Did it happen before 1962?

  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    Another question, rbjmartin, would be: how long have the women been singing that way and where? Is this an independent community that formed after Vatican II and was brought into regularity under a motu proprio?
  • That passage on sex from the MP of 1903 was never applied in the U.S.; indeed it was widely ignored. In Europe too: the Pope himself granted indults immediately. Again,, I'll cite Fr. Ruff here. I think I need to write more on this.
  • Jeffrey T, I gather the 1903 MP was never applied here in the US as permission had been given over 100 years before as we were a missionary country and Men and Boy choirs, though the traditional liturgical choir, was considered too difficult to cultivate. Hence the countless churches in the US without the choir in the sanctuary where it had been traditionally, and the almost national adoption of the choir "loft" or gallery in order to keep women far enough away from the sanctuary. Curiously, the Anglicans continued to cultivate men and boys in their parishes in the US, though I am not sure if this was exclusively. The movement of the Church's thoughts about this developed through the the 20th century as evidenced by the final document on sacred music before Vat II issued by PIUS XII, and then by Vat II itself, which it must be remembered, was written for what in essence WAS the trad/EF Mass and not the Novus Ordo as it was still some years away from being conceived. The 1903 MP did nearly nothing to revive men and boy choirs on the continent where they had disappeared by and large. I am happy that the tradition of men and boys has been preserved in some places, mostly cathedrals, and I definitely would like to see more, however, they should NOT be cultivated with the idea that girls/women cannot sing, certainly when it is a question of the choir not singing from the "great choir" (i.e. the sanctuary).
  • It is striking that many of today's newbies to the EF, suspicious of anything not 100 years old or older, are digging up this one passage and reapplying it in ways it was never even applied back then - having no knowledge of the historical context or application.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 869
    The MP of 1903 was never applied in the U.S.

    That contradicts the American anecdotes I've heard of the "changes" that came from the Pope's 1955 "Christmas letter". I'd imagine it was read but widely ignored, which is a 200-year custom of the American hierarchy. Locally, I know that full scholas of men and boys were in place at 3 major churches, and of the 2 other churches I sing at which were built before 1950, both had men's choirs who would perform the chant from the Graduale.

    In any event, I have sometimes run into people--including some effeminate men--who do not want to learn chant, because it is "too hard". After a lot of coaxing, they remain stuck in their decision. These poor wretches should be pitied, but they have no right to sing Rossini over a chant schola. Missionaries do sometimes have to let their peace return to them, shake the dust from their feet and move on. And if this comes across as politically incorrect and gets me tarred as a misogynist, so be it.
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