What We Profess, by Msgr. Richard Schular

This moving editorial by Msgr. Richard Schuler appeared in the Fall 1975 issue of Sacred Music. These were obviously dark times, and in such times, people become lost and confused. But Msgr. Schuler was a visionary. He could see the light when no one else could, and he knew how to get there. This statement was crafted to provide that clarity of purpose and the road map forward.

With a change of editors it is perhaps a good time to restate the policy of Sacred Music as a journal dedicated to fostering the liturgy and music of the Church in accord with the authentic decrees emanating from the proper ecclesiastical authorities. The policy of Sacred Music cannot be described by the words conservative or liberal. Rather it is Catholic — Roman Catholic — bound to the directions given by the Church. Nor can it be called traditionalist or progressivist, since it upholds the directives of the Second Vatican Council that the traditions of the past are to be maintained and fostered at the same time that new directions and styles are encouraged. Nor is it committed to the old and not the new, or the new and not the old in music.

In primacy of place always we put the Gregorian chant as it has been ordered by the council and re-issued in the latest Roman chant books. Likewise according to the direction of the council, we value and foster the polyphonic developments in music through the thousand years that the Roman Missa cantata has been the focus of great musical composition, both in the a cappella tradition and with organ and orchestral accompaniment. We heartily encourage the singing of our congregations as the council demands, but we just as energetically promote the activities of choirs as the council also ordered. Finally, as men of our own century, we welcome the great privilege extended by the Vatican Council for the use of the vernacular languages in the liturgy along side the Latin, and so we encourage the composition of true liturgical music in our own day in both Latin and the vernacular.

We see no necessary conflict between Latin and English, between the congregation and the choir, between new and old music; there cannot be, since the council has provided for both.

Knowledge of what the Church wishes and has decreed, both in the council and in the documents that have followed its close, is of the utmost importance to both composers and performers, to musicians and to the clergy. So much of the unhappy state of liturgy and sacred music in our day has come from a misunderstanding of what the Church in her authentic documents has ordered. Too much erroneous opinion, propaganda and even manipulation have been evident, bringing about a condition far different from that intended by the council fathers in their liturgical and musical reforms. Sacred Music will continue to publish and to repeat the authentic wishes of the Church, since the regulation of the liturgy (and music is an integral part of liturgy) belongs to the Holy See and
to the bishops according to their role. No one else, not even a priest, can change liturgical rules or introduce innovations according to his own whims.

But beyond the positive directions of the Church for the proper implementation of her liturgy, there remains always the area of art where the competent musician can exercise his trained judgment and express his artistic opinions. While the Church gives us rules pertaining to the liturgical action, the determining of fittingness, style and beauty belongs to the realm of the artist, truly talented, inspired and properly trained. Pope Paul himself made a very useful distinction on April 15, 1971, when he addressed a thousand Religious who had participated in a convention of the Italian Society of Saint Caecilia in Rome. The Holy Father insisted that only “sacred” music may be used in God’s temple, but not all music that might be termed “sacred” is fitting and worthy of that temple.

Thus, while nothing profane must be brought into the service of the liturgy, just as truly nothing lacking in true art may be used either.

To learn the decrees of the Church in matters of sacred music is not sufficient. Education in art — whether it be in music, architecture, painting or ceremonial — is also necessary. For the composer talent alone is not sufficient; he must also have inspiration rooted in faith and a sound training of his talents. When any one of these qualities is missing, true art is not forthcoming. So also the performer, in proportion to his role, must possess talent, training and inspiration.

A quarterly journal can never attempt to supply these requirements for true musicianship. It can only hope to direct and encourage the church musician who must possess his talents from his Creator, his training from a good school of music, and his inspiration in faith from God’s grace given him through Catholic living. But through reading these pages, information on what is being accomplished throughout the Catholic world, directions from proper authorities, news of books and compositions can serve as an aid to all associated with the celebration of the sacred liturgy.