Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine addresses hymn texts

The USCCB Committee on Doctrine has offered some help in evaluating hymn lyrics for use in Catholic worship. The paper, “Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church” (PDF), lists several kinds of deficiencies that are apparent in the texts of some songs, and gives examples from a few hymns selected out of the 1000 that the committee’s members read.

The bishops’ work takes its model from a 1997 project in which an ad hoc committee led by Abp. Daniel Buechlein examined catechetical materials and described ways in which they were presenting the Catholic faith in a vague, imbalanced, or misleading way. Following the example of that report, the Committee on Doctrine listed these weaknesses in hymns:

  1. Deficiencies in the presentation of eucharistic doctrine
  2. Deficiencies in the presentation of trinitarian doctrine
  3. Deficiencies in the doctrine of God and His relation to humans
  4. A view of the Church that sees her as essentially a human construction
  5. Doctrinally incorrect views of the Jewish people
  6. Incorrect Christian anthropology

Here are some ways that texts fall short in these areas:

  • In eucharistic doctrine, texts that speak of receiving “bread and wine” without expressing that they are changed into the body and blood of Christ
  • In trinitarian doctrine, texts that avoid speaking of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but instead speak of “God”, “Christ”, and “the Spirit”, as though Christ or the Holy Spirit were not also God; as the committee report frankly puts it, this is Arianism
  • In the doctrine of God, expressions that obscure the transcendence of God and seem to make him come into being as a result of human actions
  • In ecclesiology, texts that speak of human beings creating the Church, rather than the Church as God’s creation
  • In relation to the Jewish people, songs that imply falsely that the entire Jewish people rejected Christ, something which the Church does not believe or teach.

The report quotes from thirteen hymns as examples of these defects, including works by Owen Alstott, Mary Louise Bringle, Sydney B. Carter, Ruth Duck, Delores Dufner, Bernadette Farrell, Fred Pratt Green, Marty Haugen (1, 2, 3), Bob Hurd, and Carmen Scialla.

In regard to eucharistic doctrine, the area which the report says had the most common and most serious deficiencies, the report also listed examples of hymns that avoided such errors. While some of them have their own weaknesses of text or music, I’m pleased to see that the committee was in effect confirming among them that the Church’s heritage of Latin hymns is suitable for mainstream parish use:

  • Ave Verum Corpus (Pope Innocent VI, c. 1362)
  • Taste and See (Moore, 1983)
  • Gift of Finest Wheat (Westendorf, 1976)
  • Seed Scattered and Sown (Feiten, 1987)
  • I Am The Bread Of Life (Toolan, 1966)
  • One Bread One Body (Foley, 1978)
  • Eat This Bread (Taize/Batastini, 1984)
  • Look Beyond (Ducote, 1979)
  • At That First Eucharist (Turton, 1881)
  • O Sacrament Most Holy (Udulutsch, based on the Raccolta, 1958)
  • O Salutaris Hostia (Thomas Aquinas, c. 1274)
  • Adoro Te (Thomas Aquinas, c. 1274)
  • At the Lamb’s High Feast (Campbell, based on Ad regias Agni dapes, 1849)

Thanks to the Committee on Doctrine and its chairman, Bp. Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne – South Bend) for this helpful contribution to the Church’s liturgical work.

Comments?

Discovering Langlais

Professor Ann Labounsky, a great interpreter of Langlais and Tournemire, is celebrating her 50th anniversary at Duquesne University by offering her recordings of Jean Langlais as a gift, a collection of performances spanning over 20 years and seven great organs. The blind composer, with whom Dr. Labounsky studied in the 1960s, drew inspirations from Breton airs, French noels, and of course Gregorian chant.

This performance of the Te Deum from his “Trois paraphrases grégoriennes” (as early as Opus 9!) is from 2009, at the closing Mass of that year’s Sacred Music Colloquium, in the Madonna della Strada chapel at Loyola Chicago University:

Comments?

New from CMAA: Método completo de canto gregoriano

(0,0,0)

The newest book from CMAA is a companion to one that we have carried for years. Alongside the English edition of Dom Gregorio Suñol’s chant instruction book Gregorian Chant according to the Solesmes Method, we now have the same book in the original language, Spanish, as Método completo de canto gregoriano.

Dom Suñol, a monk of the abbey at Montserrat and the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sacred Music in Rome, wrote his chant teaching book in 1905, and for years it was expanded in numerous editions and translated into several languages. This new offering is a reprint of the eighth Spanish edition, from 1943.

The book is a thorough and methodical presentation based on the Solesmes method, which he praised in these words:

My teaching, I can say, is not mine. The school of Solesmes has served the Church so magnificently, restoring her chant to her, authentic, beautiful, serious, and suited to her holiness; it burst forth one day by inspiration of the Holy Spirit from the hearts of her most enlightened sons.

Comments?

Black Friday Savings on CMAA reprint books

Our partner for print-on-demand books, Lulu, is offering 30% off purchases made this weekend: that is, from November 27 to 30, 2020, so a lot of CMAA’s reprint editions will be available at a great price; just use the coupon code BFCM30 at Lulu’s checkout:

Chant editions:

Music instruction

More books about Gregorian Chant

We even have one more instructional book coming out soon! I’ll announce it as soon as I inspect the proof copy that’s in the mail on its way to me, but I wanted to give you this note about the ones already available.

“Introduction to Liturgical Mystagogy”

This evening Deacon Daniel Galadza gave the first in a series of lectures on Eastern Catholic theology, and spoke about the ways in which the Byzantine liturgy includes commentary on itself, with sung elements that instruct the faithful about the meaning of the rite while it is happening.

A fine example of this is the “Cherubic Hymn”, sung as the priest begins the offertory procession called the “Great Entrance”.

We who mystically represent the Cherubim
and sing the thrice-holy Hymn
to the life-giving Trinity,
let us lay aside all earthly cares
that we may welcome the King of all,
invisibly escorted by angel hosts, alleluia.

Dr. Galadza, associated with St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church near Toronto, was a prime mover behind 2019’s “SingCon” practicum for Ukrainian Catholic musicians, which was also reported here at Chant Café.

The talk begins at about 15 minutes into this video, prefaced by an introduction to the Chicago-based Lumen Christi Institute, which is presenting the series; and by a prayer for the late Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ, a scholar in biblical languages and a friend of the Institute; I remember him for his contribution to pro-life efforts during his studies in Boston, and I commend him also to your prayers.

Upcoming: Anthony Esolen on music and Catholicism

Photo: screenshot of interiew with IL Family Institute, via youtube

The Institute for Catholic Culture, a fine adult-education program based in Virginia, is presenting a lecture soon about the state of music in the Catholic Church in the U.S. On Tuesday, September 15, the poet and translator Prof. Anthony Esolen (Magdalen College) will speak on “Music and the Corruption of Catholicism“.

Dr. Esolen has written before on music and Catholic life. His book Real Music: a Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church includes a demonstration CD produced by one of the admirable choirs of St. john Cantius parish in Chicago. And for a sample of Dr. Esolen’s thinking on classic hymns, here’s an article from 2018 in Crisis Magazine.

The lecture on September 15 is to be streamed with live video starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, and registration is required.

Charles Cole on The World Over

Charles Cole, director of the London Oratory Schola Cantorum, was interviewed by EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo this week concerning singing in the time of the Coronavirus. He is doing important work in getting choirs to sing again.

CMAA President William Mahrt tells us that Charles is working with a committee of the CMAA to establish a statement of what needs to be done, as an answer to the negative statement of the NATS and the ACDA.