How to refute the "it's approved" argument?
  • Hi all,

    We've likely all come across this argument at some point:

    "Such-and-such hymn, psalm, or Mass setting is "approved" by the Conference of Catholic Bishops (perhaps by virtue of being in a popular hymnal), so what's wrong with singing it at Mass?"

    For example, take Dan Schutte's "Mass of Christ the Saviour" (http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/2014/feb/13/Dan-Schutte-Mass-of-Christ-The-Savior/)

    How do you convince someone (i.e. priest, music director, or parishioner) that just because a piece of music is "approved" for use, it doesn't mean that you should use it?

    It seems that we can talk as much as we want about the primacy of chant and the necessary qualities of sacred music, but how do we approach the fact that a sea of secular-styled, non-liturgical music is technically approved for use, without coming across as being ultra-conservative and traditional?

    I have a pastor who cannot afford for all his other choir directors to quit, but that would be a likely outcome if he were to impose any further restrictions on their choice of music, beyond requiring that everything be "approved for liturgical use." They would likely make the claim that musical style is a personal preference, and if there were something wrong with singing secular-styled music at Mass, the Bishops would not have approved it.

    I would appreciate any thoughts, resources, or links to past threads on this topic.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    "It's not technically illegal" is the weakest possible justification for action --- like defending you being a jerk to people because of constitutional freedom of speech.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Ask the question differently. You can't win the "it's approved" argument, in part because it's a conclusion and a premise masquerading as an argument.

    Ask instead: is this the best way we can worship God? Your desire (and theirs) should be to worship God with all that you do. When you discover their utter indifference to whether something worships God, because they are interested only in what they want.

    Next phase: prepare for all sorts of accusations... but be of good cheer, because you will be persecuted for righteousness' sake.

    All throughout: pray for them. Pray for a miracle. Pray for a new job if you can't be allowed to stay.

    Thanked by 2soarmarc Gavin
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,324
    The USCCB does not judge the quality of, or approve, the musical component of hymns, psalms, and Mass settings. The only concern of the USCCB Liturgy Secretariat is that any texts from liturgical books that have been approved for liturgical use by the Latin-rite members of the USCCB are presented faithfully in their musical settings. It is the responsibility of users and potential users of musical settings to judge whether the music is good or appropriate.

    Diocesan bishops in whose dioceses hymnals intended for use by Catholics are published must grant permission for publication (formerly called an imprimatur). That permission is based upon their judgment that there is nothing contrary to Catholic faith and morals in the texts contained in the hymnal. They do not review the texts taken from approved liturgical books (the USCCB Liturgy Secretariat has already done that).

    A permission to publish is not the same as an approval for liturgical use. Only the Apostolic See and the Latin-rite members of the USCCB can approve something for liturgical use.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,757
    There's no silver bullet for this one.

    However, fwiw, I think a different approach may be fruitful, if one is patient. It appeals to the values of curiosity, pluriformity and informed consent that are commonly held on by sincere folks within the progressive wings. (They do exist; it does no good to paint progressives as monolithic than it does traditionalists.)

    So it goes something like this: the Church gives us these options for the entrance, offertory and communion songs/chants, but why do we only use one of them? If it's because it's what's familiar, how on earth can the people in the pews become familiar with and make an informed decision about the value of the other options? Why are clerics and ministers making assumptions unilaterally? (Many progressives will agree that pastoral councils and liturgy/music committees are *not* representative in a meaningful sense as a voice of the faithful, but tend to become echo chambers of the established order plus with some tolerant pastors a handful of hearty gadflies.)

    As a though experiment, what if the *other* options were used in some regular rotation? Why regular? Because the objection will be that it disrupts the ritual repetitiveness...so if you suggest some periodicity to it, that lessens the power of that objection...

    This is a stronger approach because it puts on in the position of asking questions, offering ideas, but not being pigeon-holed into being egoistically insistent on having your way. It also doesn't get into circular blaming, always a useless exercise. It's curious, rather than resentful. Any time you start from a foundation of open or implied resentment, you are starting on a false foundation.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    The USCCB does not judge the quality of, or approve, the musical component of hymns, psalms, and Mass settings. The only concern of the USCCB Liturgy Secretariat is that any texts from liturgical books that have been approved for liturgical use by the Latin-rite members of the USCCB are presented faithfully in their musical settings. It is the responsibility of users and potential users of musical settings to judge whether the music is good or appropriate.

    Diocesan bishops in whose dioceses hymnals intended for use by Catholics are published must grant permission for publication (formerly called an imprimatur). That permission is based upon their judgment that there is nothing contrary to Catholic faith and morals in the texts contained in the hymnal. They do not review the texts taken from approved liturgical books (the USCCB Liturgy Secretariat has already done that).

    A permission to publish is not the same as an approval for liturgical use. Only the Apostolic See and the Latin-rite members of the USCCB can approve something for liturgical use.


    This explains everything.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    It is the responsibility of users and potential users of musical settings to judge whether the music is good or appropriate.
    ...and anything else (besides music) that is shoved into the liturgy at personal whim or preference. This is why the NO will not stand the test of time.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Francis, presuming the Parousia is nigh upon us, and we're both relegated to the same existential locale, I'd wager you're wrong. ;-)
    However, given the two plus millenial history of the Church, your prognostication is an easy call.
  • Actually, random hymns, psalms, and mass settings are technically illegal -- but this is surely ignored universally.

    * Hymn texts must be approved explicitly by the Bishops' Conference, see GIRM #48 etc; this has been discussed numerous times.

    * Psalms must be taken verbatim from the lectionary (GIRM #61.; Lectionary Intro. #111), although in the US apparently other psalm settings have been approved. (The OP is in Canada, though, where currently the CBW Grail psalms are allowed in practice, along with the approved NRSV lectionary.)

    * Mass settings are subject to the approval of the Bishops' Conference. (GIRM #393)

    All this is very "technical" of course, and therefore eminently ignoreable.
    Thanked by 2melofluent CHGiffen
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,324
    * Hymn texts must be approved explicitly by the Bishops' Conference, see GIRM #48 etc; this has been discussed numerous times.

    But for the USA the USCCB has decided that diocesan bishops who grant the permission to publish hymnals will have the responsibility for judging the doctrinal soundness of hymn texts. And this decision of the USCCB has been confirmed by the Apostolic See.

    * Psalms must be taken verbatim from the lectionary (GIRM #61.; Lectionary Intro. #111), although in the US apparently other psalm settings have been approved. (The OP is in Canada, though, where currently the CBW Grail psalms are allowed in practice, along with the approved NRSV lectionary.)

    For the USA the USCCB has approved for liturgical use the Revised Grail Psalms. And so that psalter may be used in addition to the psalms from the New American Bible.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,757
    That said, we should remember that *sung* responsorial psalms in the USA may use other translations than those two, to which *recited* responsorial psalms are limited. GIRM 61 for the USA prudently grandfathers translations previously approved for liturgical use, which helps avoid bigger ruptures in repertoire. Until such translations are abrogated for such use, which to my knowledge, such as it is, has yet to happen (especially now that we know that abrogration requires more than merely publishing a new edition of something...).
  • That said, we should remember that *sung* responsorial psalms in the USA may use other translations than those two, to which *recited* responsorial psalms are limited. GIRM 61 for the USA prudently grandfathers translations previously approved for liturgical use, which helps avoid bigger ruptures in repertoire. Until such translations are abrogated for such use, which to my knowledge, such as it is, has yet to happen (especially now that we know that abrogration requires more than merely publishing a new edition of something...).


    Could someone write this out in simple English? [not kidding]
  • So, while texts must conform to those approved by the USCCB, the published and marketed musical settings thereof are strictly up to our mendacious and unprincipled publishers, who will print literally anything that will add a dime to their coffers.

    The import of this is that our bishops care (as they should) about the words we sing, but quite a few of them, seemingly, couldn't care less (although they should) about the quality of music to which we sing them. This is endemic in our culture: most people care about what they wear, how they look, what they look at, what they eat, having the best of this, that, and the other, what they read, knowing the 'right people', and on and on, but they are astonishingly undiscriminating about what they listen to and clueless as to its mental and moral worth, or lack thereof.

    In a culture such as this, one can only argue the liturgical appropriateness and quality of this music over that, and hope that he is talking to a person who is capable of comprehending the truth of his premise. Some are, some aren't.
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 455
    You can destroy every argument in the book but at the end of the day, banal music survives by means of argumentum ad baculum.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    melo

    the only question i will have for God at the end is, 'why did I have to live through this nonsense?'

    of course God will probably say, 'I picked you for this time'.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    francis, for perspective and not just for you,
    I just got back from doing Rite of Election with bishop. His homily was extraordinary, relating the martyrdom of the 21 Copts in Libya to the catechumens and candidates, asking the "newbies," "Do you know what you're signing up for?" Brilliant.
    So, risking the barbs directed at C.Francis George, we may be "martyrs" for authentic worship and liturgy, but it can't compare to what those brothers and all martyred saints endured.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    true
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    In a culture such as this, one can only argue the liturgical appropriateness and quality of this music over that, and hope that he is talking to a person who is capable of comprehending the truth of his premise. Some are, some aren't.


    And some don't give a fig, especially if it affects parish collections.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    we may be "martyrs" for authentic worship and liturgy,


    Yes.
    Thanked by 2kevinf francis
  • How do you convince someone (i.e. priest, music director, or parishioner) that just because a piece of music is "approved" for use, it doesn't mean that you should use it?

    Not so much refutation, but questions for reflection that extend beyond matters musical:

    The high priests and Sanhedrin—save perhaps Nicodemus and the Arimathean—approved of the arrest, false accusation, torture, mockery, and condemnation to death of Jesus Christ, Who Himself consented to enduring all that evil for the sake of our redemption.

    With whom do we stand? Caiaphas or Joseph?

    Do we approve of Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ?

    How sure can we be about our answers?
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Wow, Aristotle, that's deep.

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    With whom do we stand? Caiaphas or Joseph?

    Precisely, my dear brother (how are you doing up in cold Madison?)
    There are grave issues facing our mega/merged parish that have been brewing for years and are now surfacing ominously, including some that have burnished the liturgies in very subtle yet disturbing ways. So, I have pondered whether if by remaining the "good, obedient soldier" and fulfill my responsibilities to the people with the standards I've maintained for 23 years also implicitly links me to people and situations that appear to contradict all that "church" stands for?
    It is difficult to "be sure" about much in this era, world and even The Church.
    Hold fast to Him, the Way, the Truth and the Light....He who is faith, hope and love.
    Thanked by 1Aristotle Esguerra
  • TCJ
    Posts: 632
    My old pastor's answer in response to the question about something being in a hymnal:

    "They are all about money, not the Faith."
    Thanked by 2francis hilluminar
  • I wonder if a schola couldn't garner more interest in chant by having a chant concert or recital outside the liturgy. Use the opportunity to introduce some key chants of each liturgical season. Use some chants from the current day's liturgy. Maybe that would help create a demand, getting parishioners to start asking "why can't we hear this in our Mass on Sunday" or "pity we never hear chant in the Mass any longer".

    In our own schola we've had more luck by rotating from parish to parish in our small city, every month. One parish is our "home base" as it were, allowing us to rehearse in the church, and we usually chant for them about twice a season, but the other months, we go from parish to parish. It's then seen as more of a special event. We did for a time always stay in the same parish and had the usual squabbles in the parish about Latin, bad old days vs. good new times, good old days vs. bad new times, etc. We had a supportive and very orthodox priest but they got to him even. We were kicked out of the parish and not long after the priest himself got so fed up he resigned and became permanent chaplain of a large chronic care hospital. From where he invited us to chant a Mass presided by the archbishop :-)
  • ronkrisman:

    "But for the USA the USCCB has decided that diocesan bishops who grant the permission to publish hymnals will have the responsibility for judging the doctrinal soundness of hymn texts. And this decision of the USCCB has been confirmed by the Apostolic See."

    There was a recent dispute on the issue of the GIRM requiring that other suitable songs (in place of the proper for entrance, offertory, and communion) be approved by the ordinary, and in the responses from the USCCB liturgy office, the claim you make was not made, which seems curious if in fact it is true, rather the defense offered by the liturgy office relied on tacit permission as being equivalent to explicit permission.

    I do not dispute that the bishop of the place has the authority to authorize the publication of hymnals (and that such approval is good for the entire USA), what I question is that such authorization also authorizes the liturgical use of all of the contents of that hymnal at the pure discretion of the musicians of every parish in the land.

    (I have had the odd experience of frequently hearing the Gospel Canticle from the Liturgy of the Hours replaced with an alternative version taken from the hymnal, with the defense being that it is published in an approved hymnal and is in the section of the hymnal labeled as being for use in morning/evening prayer, so clearly the USCCB has approved the substitution.)

    It seems to me the ideal is that hymns are not just to be approved as being free from error, rather the ideal seems to be that bishops and conferences of bishops should create something like the hymn version of a Gradual, something that specifically approves hymns as liturgically suitable for a particular season or day or liturgical action. The "we approve every hymn for any such use as you choose to put it to so long as said hymn is not blatantly heretical" seems rather alien to the Church's tradition of liturgical music. (I am mindful of MS's provision that hymns in liturgical use should not be "merely Eucharistic" but should be suited to the liturgical action or season as memory serves.)

    I agree it would be unrealistic to expect an immediate creation of some list of which hymns are approved for which specific liturgical use, but if bishops are to truly be the chief liturgists then they must at some point take up such a task. I am willing to accept state of necessity arguments for continuing the present situation for now, but not indefinitely.
  • In Canada we have such a list, taken from our approved official hymnal.

    It's not an enforced list, and I cannot imagine a world in which it would be. But we have an official approved hymnal and officially specified songs from it to "replace" the proper chants, for all the Sundays and Solemnities of the year.