What Happened?

I’ve had the opportunity to give some talks on fundamental principles of sacred music and an introduction to the Traditional Latin Mass over the last few weeks.  In all the sessions, the following question came up:

“What happened?”

It’s a question I’ve asked myself on a number of occasions.

Reading about Mrs. Justine Ward and the 1920 Gregorian chant congress with thousands of children chanting the Mass – How did this phenomenon evaporate?

Music in Catholic Worship by the USCCB – How did this document ever get published?

Who ever thought the hootenanny Mass was a good idea?

Fortunately, the CMAA’s patrimony includes the heroic efforts of Msgr. Richard J. Schuler, the longtime president of the CMAA and editor of Sacred Music, the CMAA’s journal. Msgr. Schuler saw it all, and endured it all, often standing with only a few others in the cause which the CMAA still champions. 

One of his most significant literary contributions to the cause of sacred music is this article entitled “A Chronicle of the Reform: Catholic Music in the 20th Century.” This essay is a must-read for anyone who to avoid the mistakes of the past and move forward with prudence.  See for example this excerpt:

Typical and perhaps most interesting of the innovations engineered through the Music Advisory Board by Father McManus, Father Diekmann and Father Weakland was the “hootenanny Mass.” The scenario began in April 1965, when Father Diekmann delivered an address entitled “Liturgical Renewal and the Student Mass” at the convention of the National Catholic Educational Association in New York. In his speech, he called for the use of the “hootenanny Mass” as a means of worship for high school students. This was the kickoff of a determined campaign on the part of the Liturgical Conference to establish the use of profane music in the liturgy celebrated in the United States. Universa Laus had already begun a similar effort in Europe. In September 1965, the Catholic press began to carry reports of the use of hootenanny music by those in charge of college and high school student worship. In February 1966, the Music Advisory Board was called to meet in Chicago, with an agendum that included a proposal for the use of guitars and so-called “folk music” in the liturgy. It was clear at the meeting that both Fr. McManus and Archabbot Weakland were most anxious to obtain the board’s approval. The Archabbot told of the success of such “experiments” at his college in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where, during Mass, the students had enthusiastically sung, “He’s got the Archabbot in the palm of His hand.” Vigorous debate considerably altered the original proposal, and a much modified statement about “music for special groups” was finally approved by a majority of one, late in the day when many members already had left. But once the rubber stamp had been applied, the intensity of the debate and the narrow margin of the vote were immediately forgotten. The Music Advisory Board had fulfilled its function; it had been used.

The press took over. American newspapers, both secular and ecclesiastical, announced that the American bishops had approved of the use of guitars, folk music and the hootenanny Mass. Despite repeated statements from the Holy See prohibiting the use of secular music and words in the liturgy, the movement continued to be promoted in the United States and in Europe. Deception played a part, since American priests were allowed to think that the decision of the Music Advisory Board was an order from the bishops themselves. In reality, an advisory board has no legislative authority, nor does a committee of bishops have such authority. Decisions on liturgical matters need the approval of the entire body of bishops after a committee has received the report of its advisors and submitted its own recommendations to the full body. The hootenanny Mass never came to the full body of bishops; it did not have to. The intended effect had been achieved through the announcement of the action of the Music Advisory Board and the publicity given to it by the national press. It was not honest, and further, it was against the expressed wishes and legislation of the Church.

There are other examples of the introduction of the ideas of Universa Laus and the progressive liturgists that involved confusion and even deceit. The gullibility of the American clergy and their willingness to obey was used. A confusion was fostered in the minds of priests between the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy and the Liturgical Conference, which indeed had interlocking directorates. As anticipated, most American priests failed to distinguish between the releases that came from them, taking the proclamations of both as being the will of their bishops. Meanwhile, the official directives of the post-conciliar commissions in Rome rarely reached most American priests. They knew only the commentaries on them provided by the liturgists both nationally and on the diocesan level. As a result, the altars of most American churches were turned versus populum; choirs were disbanded; Gregorian chant was prohibited; Latin was forbidden for celebration of the Mass in many dioceses; church furniture and statuary were discarded. These innovations which distressed untold numbers of Catholics were thought to be the orders of the Second Vatican Council. Rather, they were the results of a conspiracy whose foundations and intentions have yet to be completely discovered and revealed.


And Msgr. Schuler’s solution planted the seeds which we see sprouting in some places today, and flourishing in others:

What must be taken as the basis for putting the reform back on the track in this country? Simply, a full and impartial acceptance of all directives, conciliar, papal and curial. That means the use of Latin as well as the vernacular, the fostering of choirs as well as congregational singing, the acceptance of the distinction between sung and spoken liturgy, the creation of new serious music as -well as the use of the great works of the past. Above all it means that the distinction between sacred and profane must be held to, along with the admission that a professional judgment must be made on the artistic merit of musical composition. In a word, the reform must be put in the hands of educated, professional musicians who are dedicated to carrying out the wishes of the Church as expressed in the documents. The same malaise that afflicted, this country when the reforms of Pope Pius X were promulgated still persists. It is still a question of education, an understanding of what the Church wants and a willingness and an expertise to carry it forward.

In the 2013-2014 season, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, which Schuler founded and directed, will celebrate its 40th season of residency at Saint Agnes Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  The parish has served as an incubator for vocations for the Archdiocese (including a few [arch]bishops) and carried on Schuler’s legacy of commitment to the Liturgical Movement and authentic vision of actuosa participatio in the sacred liturgy and her sacred music.

The CMAA is hosting a conference celebrating that legacy on October 13-15, 2013 at Saint Agnes and Saint Paul Cathedral.  We hope you’ll join us as we look forward to the future with profound thanksgiving for Monsignor’s work. 

To find out more about the conference, visit the conference page here: www.musicasacra.com/st-agnes

13 Replies to “What Happened?”

  1. It was this nonsense which was ridiculed by Tom Lehrer in the "Vatican Rag". It is a common argument in liberal circles that there was little chant before V2, and those who imagine otherwise are reinventing the past. While it is true that not all parishes aspired to the full use of the Liber Usualis, there was chant and a basis for building on it which was ruptured in the 1960s, largely as the result of over-hasty vernacularization. My late mother trained as a teacher in the north of England on the eve of the Second World War. All the students were required to learn, and be examined on, Gregorian chant, so that they could teach it to their pupils. I still have her certificate, awarded by Solesmes. The cheap two-volume 'Plainsong for Schools', first published in the 1930s, was a sell-out and remained in print for at least another twenty years.

  2. "As a result, the altars of most American churches were turned versus populum; choirs were disbanded; Gregorian chant was prohibited; Latin was forbidden for celebration of the Mass in many dioceses; church furniture and statuary were discarded. These innovations which distressed untold numbers of Catholics were thought to be the orders of the Second Vatican Council. Rather, they were the results of a conspiracy whose foundations and intentions have yet to be completely discovered and revealed." I believe it's important to distinguish that Msgr. Schuller's "results" likely depict accumulative accretions and indiscretions over several years and inconsistently throughout the catolic geosphere. This result was not accomplished, as they say, on a turn of a dime. I'd be very much interested if this, in fact, was a true "conspiracy" in the U.S. alone, rather than a protracted conclusion similar to Dobszay's chronicles. Msgr. did not make mention of the effect of the cadre of Baltimore seminarians Wise, Miffleton, Repp, as well as Schultes managing to go beyond mimeograph ersatz hymnals into an alternative, "hip" marketplace. One has to consider the times, and how cultures not only clashed, but in some cases melded. And, like a virus or metastasizing cancer, the spread and effects weren't coherent, as different bishops took no action, refused to acknowledge or allow the changes to become normative, while others (like Begin and Cummins) took their cues from Weakland and jumped into the new waters. I think we have to also consider whether out of this upheaval and revolution that if objective forensic analysis were to be applied to the "de fructibus test," some of the results (not mentioned by Msgr.) have been healthy for the church's welfare in specific ways. We are inclined to want our explanations boiled down to an easily consumed product. I really don't think that's possible. We do need, in Searle talk, to remember (the past, but) into the future and keep moving forward, not get bogged down in causality navel gazing.

  3. The words of Msgr. Schuler in this essay have also been used against the use of chant,etc. I once attended an FDLC meeting and this essay came up in discussion. Many of the participants were surprised by his words and inveighed a type "hermenuetic of suspicion" attitude. They thought him to be so out of touch with reality (as presented in 2001) that he certainly could not be taken seriously.

  4. I would like to refocus my remarks above to simply point out:
    1. I was in no way refuting the analysis or conclusions of Msgr. Schuler;
    2. I wasn't challenging the notion of a "conspiracy" of liturgical deconstruction he portrayed;
    3. I wasn't endorsing the debasements he listed, rather just speculated that they accumulated in different ways and times during a span of years;
    4. I certainly wasn't "celebrating" the havoc that resulted from this imposition of values by Weakland et al that has "self-evidently" ravaged the liturgy and damaged the Church in so many ways;
    5. Lastly, I wasn't advocating that recording these historical testimonies was of no value, rather that we not continue to obsess over all of it to the point of division and rancor being the only result.
    Thank you.

  5. I lived through the hideous post-Conciliar "reforms", rather perversions is a more accurate description. I was young and was thoroughly trained in singing the Mass in the Church's mother tongue. Our parish was the epitome of the Liturgical Movement. Our normative Mass was the MIssa Cantata which the congregation sang, in Latin,both the propers and the ordinary. I was horrified when the changes came. It was the older folks in their 50s and 60s who were enthralled with the changes. I detested them and felt they were a total contradiction of Sacrosanctum Concilium. But left-wing "catholics" in collusion with a corrupt, anti-Catholic media supported the liturgical revolution. I am grateful to have lived to see the day that the worst excesses of that evil time are finally being undone

  6. It is my recollection from being hip-deep in this back in '65-68 that Ray Repp was a St. Louis seminarian when he came up with "Mass for Young Americans." As I argued 18 years ago in Culture Wars, the "folk" (really lite rock) phenomenon of that time was a result of a huge early-Boomer population in their late teens in seminaries and religious houses being mentored by a very wimpy set of directors then in early middle age. Frankly, we should have been swatted down. Most of us left the seminaries or religious orders within five years or so of that date.

  7. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Msgr Shuler, whom my wife and I hosted in our home many years ago when he and another priest visited South Texas for some conference. He kept the faith for so many years while the cold winds blew through the Church. But we should not forget that early efforts at adapting the chant to the vernacular were vigorously resisted by him and many others in the CMAA. If there is any doubt about this, refer to the various booklets from the symposium "Gregorian Chant in Liturgy and Education" from June of 1983. It was a Ward Center conference at Catholic U. That set us back twenty or thirty years.

  8. Monsignor Schuler's account is indeed basic reading and very moving, as well, because of his direct participation in this history. Another excellent account, and one that goes into even more chilling detail, is the well-researched series of five articles, "Buried Treasure," by Susan Benofy. These articles originally appeared in the Adoremus Bulletin and can be found now at the Adoremus website (adoremus.org).

  9. I remember Msgr. Schuler describing his role as Secretary at these meetings. If he hadn't witnessed and written it down, it would almost be stranger than fiction.

    How did Dom Diekmann travel to such an opposite position after Vatican II? He was foremost in pushing Gregorian Chant before that time, and a key mover in the Liturgical Movement (in a good way). Were there indications before Vat II that he had another agenda, or some other factor that would make him completely change a position to follow Church teachings and then no longer follow the teachings, but just a "spirit" or personal interpretation. If one reads the documents there isn't evidence to support these hootenanny nonsense.

  10. Msgr. Schuler is a hero for having held to the "full and impartial acceptance of all directives, conciliar, papal and curial," and a both/and attitude to Latin vs. vernacular and the other cited positions. The lesson to be learned is persistence: hold to what is best for the liturgy in the face of whatever fad may come along. In the present situation, we see a great development of English chant and the adoption of the singing of the texts of the Propers of the Mass, which are a very positive development. Still, we must also persist in the fundamental role of Gregorian chant in the liturgy, and I mean the authentic Gregorian–the propers and ordinary as given in the Graduale Romanum. Whether these chants will be successfully adapted to the vernacular is yet to be seen; the best way to insure the success of this project is to continue to sing the Latin chants as well, for the project must be based upon a fundamental acquaintance with these chants.

  11. Jennifer, I can't speak to Dom Diekmann specifically. However, the phenomenon that you describe is what, I believe, Msgr. Schuler called "what 'the losers at Vatican II' did." There already were some noises in the liturgical movement in the 1950's condemning the treasury of sacred music. I don't think these people ever seriously had the opportunity to get their views presented at the Council, but it didn't matter because they simply presented their views through what Pope Emeritus Benedict called the "Council of the Media." Claiming 'noble simplicity,' getting rid or 'accretions,' and 'inculturation' (all concepts in Vat. II) they were able to claim that the hootenanny Mass was in the "Spirit of Vatican II."

  12. Charles speaks for me in large part, especially #3 and 5.

    Some of Msgr Schuler's analysis strikes me as subjective. I don't recognize my experience in it, but then again, I'm also aware the implementation of the pastors I knew 1970-1981 was far better than average.

    I'm not sure why Ms Donelson dropped the bomb of MCW–did I miss its mention in the Schuler quotes? Does she realize it was based on church teaching in the post-conciliar documents, especially Musicam Sacram?

    Musicians and composers have been doing a lot of good work outside of the "hoot" circuit for the past fifty years. Those who deny it rather paint themselves as obsessive about what they perceive to be lost. What's wrong with just working on the good and promoting that?


  13. I went to the link to review Msgr Schuler's piece, particularly what he had to say about Music in Catholic Worship. I confess I find it hard to embrace a man as a "hero" who gets so much of the story so wrong. I hope the mischaracterization of the post-conciliar era is revealed to be yet another fad.

    I knew personally two of the people who were on the MCW committee. These men are now deceased. One was my employer and pastor before his retirement. The other was a teacher and mentor and example of scholarship and hospitality. One was an organist of skill and a composer occasionally. The other I knew to be one of the more joyful proponents of Gregorian chant through the 80's. As priests, these people were certainly knowledgeable about liturgy. But to characterize them as liturgists in opposition somehow to musicians is … well, silly.

    Msgr Schuler may well be a fine priest and Christian. I can't tell if he is intentionally obtuse about liturgical reform. Or if his own experiences were so horrific he lacks a catholic perspective. If his chapter on MCW is so unreliable, I would have to caution any reader to take the rest of the paper with serious skepticism.


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