Talk:Contemporary Catholic liturgical music

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Should this page be expanded? deleted? renamed?[edit]

I expanded this page a bit. I also added some material to the St. Louis Jesuits regarding the controversies about this music.

The fact that this music has become so widespread in American Catholic churches is certainly encyclopedic. (I have lived in suburbs of Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Bay Area, and I'd say that over the past decade more than half the music I have heard at Mass has been from this crowd). And the controversy over this kind of music seems important enough to be in the encyclopedia as well.

But where should this information go? The danger of Wikipedia is that someone will write a paragraph about this controversy on the Dan Schutte page, and someone else will write a paragraph about it in the St. Louis Jesuits article, and someone else will write a very different thing on the Marty Haugen page. I suggest that the major issues should be consolidated on one page.

To me, the major issues are:

  • the fact that this music has partially replaced the older music (and is this just in the suburbs? or is rural America also singing these songs?)
  • the fact that liturgical 'liberals' and 'conservatives' have strong opinions on whether this is good
  • the connections (if any) to the Liturgical Movement, Vatican II, and the Novus Ordo Mass
  • and maybe some generational issues (the composers are all baby boomers, many of them born around 1950)

But where should this page be? Should it be on the St. Louis Jesuits page where it is now? That seems wrong, since that page is not about this music in general but only about certain composers. Should it be on this page? Probably, but I think this page is misnamed, because I don't believe that the term hymnody includes anything but hymns, and these songs are not hymns.

Suggestions? - Lawrence King 07:23, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

A concrete proposal[edit]

So far, no one has replied to my original comments above. So I will make a specific proposal. If no one objects, I will make edits based on the following three principles:

1. This page should have its title changed from "Contemporary Catholic hymnody" to "Contemporary Catholic liturgical music".

2. This page should contain information about the contemporary disputes regarding this music -- whether it is appropriate to the liturgy, whether it is singable, etc. Obviously this isn't a forum for individual opinions, but the fact that the "music wars" or "liturgical wars" often involve debate about this music is itself encyclopedic.

3. Everything about the "music wars" that currently appears on the Dan Schutte, Marty Haugen, and St. Louis Jesuits pages will be moved to this article, because all of the comments on those pages actually apply to this whole genre, not just to one composer.

4. In the future, if someone adds material about the "music wars" to an individual page, it will be moved to this page (unless it clearly refers to a single composer's work).

Objections? Agreements? Comments? - Lawrence King 02:18, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

Agreement, since this issue is not specific to either the group St. Louis Jesuits nor the individual composers. And you are completely right, the liturgical controversy inspired by these songs is completely encyclopedic; it just needs to be discussed in a centralized location. -Fsotrain09 03:20, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

This is very well done. Clear and fair to the competing views. Time to scour up some sources. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

This is a biased article and needs to be written in a neutral format to meet Wikipedia's standards. Facts based by verifiable sources would be most welcome. This article also primarily pertains to this idiom of music in the United States, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia covering the entire planet. Christopher McGilton 04:18, 26 August 2007 (UTC)


Now that this material has been centralized in this article, we need to find references. Without those, many of the statements, especially about the "music war", sound either NPOV or downright ORish. -Fsotrain09 15:39, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

I agree. However, I'm unsure of the practical limits of no-original-research. One of the points in this article is that the blogosphere has a lot of debate about this; does the blogosphere count as an encylopedic source, or as raw data? If it's just raw data, then an attempt to "summarize" this data is arguably original research! So I think the NPOV criteria is the more important of the two, although both are important.
FWIW, I don't have enough spare time to round up all the citations needed.... - Lawrence King 22:46, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Celtic Alleluia[edit]

... was written by the late Fintan O'Carroll. There's an edition published by GIA just in his name, under the title "the Irish Alleluia". Christopher Walker's contribution was the verses adapted from the Te Deum. So I've suggested Laudate Dominum as Walker's best known piece. Is that right? There's a case for Because the Lord is my Shepherd or Veni Sancte Spiritus, I guess.C0pernicus 23:17, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

I suspect that we will never know for sure unless we can find a giant survey of the most commonly sung songs in parishes in the English-speaking world. But probably "Veni Sancte Spiritus" would be a confusing choice, because I've heard the chanted version of that far more often than I've heard the modern version. - Lawrence King 23:27, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

The "blurb" on each composer's page[edit]

(This is continuing a discussion that began at User talk:Lifeindfastlane.)

Currently, each individual composer of contemporary Catholic liturgical music has the following blurb on their Wikipedia article:

Controversial aspects of his [or her] music
Main article: Contemporary Catholic liturgical music
[Name] 's music, along with that of several other musicians who compose music in the same or similar styles, is commonly used in the Mass and other Catholic liturgies today throughout the English-speaking world. The style of this music, along with its widespread use, engenders strong feelings both for and against this music. For many years there has been a lot of controversy regarding the quality of this music and regarding its suitability for Catholic liturgies.

The question has arisen -- more than once -- of whether this blurb should be revised. The specific issues are:

  1. Is it NPOV?
  2. Is it too long?
  3. Does it distort the articles to have this blurb there? User:Lifeindfastlane argued that this is especially a problem when the article on a composer is itself very short, because then this huge blurb about "controversy" tends to dominate the article.

Hopefully we can work out a better, and clearer, and shorter, text that makes all parties happy. And it should probably become an actual template, so that it can be centrally edited instead of having to retype it on each person's page. — Lawrence King (talk) 06:42, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

How about something like this?

His [or Her, Their] music in contemporary Catholic culture
[Name] is one of many musicians who compose "modern" music for the Mass and other Catholic liturgies today. For information on this music in general, as well as the controversies that have sometimes surrounded it, see Contemporary Catholic liturgical music.

It's shorter and perhaps a bit less jarring. Reactions? — Lawrence King (talk) 22:46, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

My concern with the shorter version would be that we are to avoid refering to other articles explicitly, as in "See here for more information". It is a guideline, and therefore not as binding as NPOV and no original research, but if we can find a way to be neutral, "unoriginal" and avoid self-reference, that would be best. --Fsotrain09 00:45, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Would it be more acceptable if we didn't make an explicit reference to the other article, but instead chose a suitable phrase (possibly one wordsmithed for this purpose) to link to the article? --Mwalimu59 01:42, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

How about this?

His [or Her, Their] music in contemporary Catholic culture
[Name] is one of many musicians who compose contemporary Catholic liturgical music. This music has enjoyed widespread success throughout the English speaking world. There have also been a number of controversies surrounding this music.

The first sentence places the composer in a wider context, with a link to the CCLM page. The second sentence points out the success of this music in general. The third sentence mentions the controversies, with a link to the "controversy" section of the CCLM page. — Lawrence King (talk) 08:39, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

An afterthought.... Is "controversies" really the best word? Or should we refer to "disputes surrounding this music", or "disagreements surrounding this music"? — Lawrence King (talk) 08:49, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

I have done this task. — Lawrence King (talk) 21:44, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

Inclusion of discussion of "aesthetic deficiency" in controversy section[edit]

Should it perhaps be mentioned that some do indeed like the prospect of contemporary music at Mass, but from composers less influenced by popular music (e.g. Arvo Part, Richard Proulx). Some direct discussion of the Snowbird Statement would be most appropriate.

Logical error in discussion of congregation-focused music[edit]

Those who appreciate "we-focussed" music point out that that Sacrosanctum Concilium recognized that Christ "is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings."

This statement is a non sequitur. The quotation from Sacrosanctum Concilium, and, for that matter, the entire constitution on the sacred liturgy, does not address the question of music that praises the congregation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:13, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

Controversies surrounding this music[edit]

Recently, an editor removed a significant portion -the most valuable portion - of this article with little justification. Rather than get in a fruitless revert war, I have copied the deleted text below for editors to work on. It needs better referencing. Please work on the text below.02:42, 29 April 2009 (UTC) Tobit2 (talk) 02:45, 29 April 2009 (UTC)

      • Start of Text***

As evidenced by the number of parishes which use this style of music, and the number of publishers that make it available, Contemporary Catholic liturgical music has become widespread throughout the English speaking and American Catholic Church. Still it sometimes draws negative reactions from professional, classically trained pastoral musicians, most notably members of the American Guild of Organists and from a lesser extent from those who feel the mass should return to its pre-Vatican II roots.

Music for worship, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as by their qualified and appointed pastoral musicians, is to be judged by three sets of criteria: pastoral, liturgical, and musical. How contemporary Catholic liturgical music fares by these three criteria is a matter of training. [1]

Interpretation of these criteria are a place of much debate among pastoral musicians and their communities where often the issue becomes more about style; "high-church cathedral/classically trained musicians" versus "suburban parish/faith based volunteer musicians". Most bishops realistically know that most parishes could not afford full time, classically trained musicians and this style of music, usually being more accessible to lay musicians and their communities, is an appropriate form of music with proper guidelines.[citation needed]

      • Theological viewpoints favoring this music ***

Some of those who favor this music[who?] argue that it can reach out to Catholics in what they regard as the inclusive spirit of the Second Vatican Council. They[who?] argue that this music is in keeping with the vision of liturgical reform and renewal set out by the council, and that this musically direct and accessible style places the participation of the gathered assembly higher in priority than did the aesthetic values which characterised earlier sacred music, perhaps best exemplified in the polyphony of the Renaissance.[2]

Some[who?] also point out that this style is supposed to be written to be sung by the assembly,[citation needed] unlike some forms of pre-Vatican II music which were written more for performance by trained musicians or those in sacred orders. On the other hand, many of the popular hymns in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century were in the vernacular and were sung by the entire congregation, and these more traditional hymns have also vanished in many parishes largely because local musicians can no longer perform them.

Many of those[who?] who favor late 20th Contemporary Catholic liturgical music point out that these songs contain many direct Biblical quotations, and at times are Biblical passages adapted so that they can be set to music. Many contemporary composers favor the scripture based emphasis of the lyrics of these songs

Some of those who favor this music[who?] argue that it is a proper outgrowth of the Liturgical Movement.[citation needed]

      • Theological viewpoints opposing this music ***

Some of those who oppose this music[who?] argue that the adoption of popular musical styles is profoundly alien to the Roman Rite, and weakens the distinctiveness of Catholic worship.[2]

Certain songs in this genre speak from God's point of view in the first person (for example, Suzanne Toolan's "I Am the Bread of Life", and the verses of "Here I Am, Lord" by Dan Schutte). Some[who?] argue that this is inappropriate, since the congregation traditionally sings to God rather than in the place of God.[3] In rebuttal, supporters[who?] point out that in order for such settings to directly paraphrase scripture it is necessary for them to be in the first person. It is also notable that musical settings abound from the high Renaissance of such texts in the first person as Ego sum panis vivus (from chapter 6 of St John's Gospel) by composers such as Byrd and Palestrina, or from 20th century classical sources like Maurice Duruflé's "Tu es Petrus". In the official chant book of the Roman Catholic Church, Graduale Romanum, there are a number of examples of texts in the first person.

However, none of these pieces were intended to be sung by the assembly, but rather to be sung by a schola, choir, or even individual chanter, and to be heard in order to further contemplation on God's word by the congregation.

Others[who?] have found fault with this music for lack of a scriptural basis (in opposition to Sacrosanctum Concilium [citation needed], the Vatican II document on the liturgy that strongly urges such a basis). However, as mentioned above, defenders of this music[who?] point out it uses direct quotations from Scripture far more than traditional hymns do, although Gregorian Chant and Renaissance-style sacred music almost always are direct quotations from scripture.

Some critics[who?] object to the fact that some songs -- such as Marty Haugen's "Gather Us In" and Tom Conry's "Anthem" -- are about the congregation gathered in the church rather than about God.[citation needed] Those who appreciate "we-focused" music[who?] point out that that Sacrosanctum Concilium recognized that Christ "is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings", although that is only one of His four presences in the liturgy, and by no means the primary one; which, in Catholic theology, would be His Real Presence under the forms of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament.

      • Dispute about musical quality ***

Supporters and detractors of this music agree that significant parts of liturgical music should be relatively easy for an untrained congregation to sing [citation needed]. But they disagree about whether this type of music is in fact easy to sing largely because the folk idiom is generally technically untrained and not easily appropriated for mass performance.[citation needed].

Some church musicians, especially those who are trained in composing and performing classical music [citation needed], consider the music of late 20th century popular composers to be shallow and trite (as Archbishop Weakland argued in America Magazine in 1999). Some supporters of this music [citation needed] have defended its quality, while others, focused primarily on their view of liturgical and pastoral judgments, argue that musical criticism is irrelevant to the music's purpose as a vehicle for the sung prayer of the assembly, most of whose members are not trained musicians. In rebuttal, the musically trained critics insist that there are musical standards even for an untrained assembly, and that this music fails to meet them — unlike, for example, the hymn tunes and folk song adaptations by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the 1906 English Hymnal.

Some of the most popular of these songs sometimes feature difficult rhythms, large intervals (leaps in pitch), and non-chordal tones. For instance, Michael Joncas' "On Eagle's Wings", a song that has transcended religious denominations in its popularity, begins on a note a tritone above the bass (C-sharp above G), and features three-against-two rhythms in the verses. These rhythms are rarely performed as written.

Many of these songs also have large ranges ("On Eagle's Wings" has a range of an octave and a half), which can be uncomfortable for untrained voices. Hymns written before Vatican II rarely had a tessitura exceeding one octave.

      • Dispute about the advent of this music ***

Supporters [citation needed] argue that this new musical style was quite welcome in most U.S. Churches, especially Irish-American parishes, where music, whether Latin hymns or Latin chants, was almost completely absent. In addition to this, supporters [citation needed] assert that the new music in the vernacular allowed Catholics to participate more fully in their Eucharistic celebrations, as called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, for the first time in almost 500 years (since the Council of Trent).

Opponents [citation needed] of this music sometimes assert that this music was imposed on many parishes without anyone ascertaining whether the parishioners actually welcomed it.

      • Relation to other controversies ***

Some [citation needed] see the debate over the merits per se of this music as merely a tangent of the larger argument over the role in the Roman Rite of collective sung prayer by the entire assembly versus the traditional role of the choir. Others [citation needed] see it as part of the general controversy between "liberal" and "conservative" Catholics, or part of the general controversy regarding all the liturgical changes that have occurred since Vatican II [citation needed].

Where do I find templates for flagging articles?[edit]

Where do I find Wikipedia templates to demand citations for, e.g., this:

"Two of the primary critiques of contemporary Catholic hymnody (sic) are the often vague, misleading, or heretical content of the lyrics, and the overt imitation of popular music, which is strongly discouraged by Church documents in recent years."

A typical bigoted opinion masquerading as a fact, weasel words and all.

You'd think it would be easy to find such templates in Wikipedia, but I can't; can anyone put me straight? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:20, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

"Contemporary" Catholic vs. Contemporary Christian[edit]

As an observation, this particular page talks a lot about a genre of music that can be described better as Folk music ("Nature Hymns") rather than contemporary Catholic Christian music. When you compare the descriptions on Contemporary worship music with this one, it seems like you are dealing with something completely different. If I may be so bold as to use nicknames (as I don't know how you would define this group exactly): Traditionalist Catholic music, Evangelical/Charismatic (Protestant) contemporary music, and Charismatic Catholicism can be seen as different reactions to the (here's the nickname) Hippies's form of music; to the music that, while not (for the most part) heretical, is essentially fluffy. The ironic thing about the various renewal movements (like the TLM-ers and the Charismatics), they paint each other (and I would say no doubt that the "hippie"/liberal "Catholics" try to paint the picture this way as well [the TLM-ers are either old people or young stuck up people, and the Charismatics are just a reincarnation of the hippies) as enemies; when they are actually likely going to be the major evangelizers in the New Evangelization. The non-committal, relativist, promotion of "being a nice person" and tolerance as the greatest virtue that came after Vatican II was the cause of the nominalism of most modern Catholics; the Charismatic and the Traditionalist movements could prove to be the cause of the conversion of that culture, if they work together...

sorry, I will get off my soap-box, I was just bringing up the differences between what this page sees as contemporary and what Contemporary worship music (and the rest of the world...) sees as contemporary (I mean, Matt Maher comes to mind. I know it is technically "liturgical" music [if taken to mean "Mass parts", not "Any of the music in the Liturgy], but I believe Maher also wrote Mass parts) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Gideon.judges7 (talkcontribs) 18:58, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ The Snowbird Statement by American Church musicians [1]
  2. ^ a b Hovda, Robert W.; Huck, Gabe; Funk, Virgil C.; Joncas, J. Michael; Mitchell, Nathan D.; Savage, James; Foley, John (2003). Toward Ritual Transformation: Remembering Robert W. Hovda. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-6196-3. 
  3. ^ Day, Thomas (1990). Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste, Crossroad Pub Co. ISBN 978-0824510350