Can contemporary catholic music be sacred?


i’m going to say yes. anyone else agree with me?

i’ve heard all the negative things of the contemporary hymns that are often used. someone give me some positive please.

i know the organ has a place of high esteem in the church. but the organ was once contemporary as well and guess what, the early church fathers criticized it. in fact, they disliked all musical instruments because they were associated heavily with pagan practices. gregorian chant was also a new invention at the time.

about 10 centuries later, we had a wider array of instruments being employed in church and also polyphonic choral music. guess what? people criticized it because it was new. now most of these are considered sacred as well.

now, we have the slow melodious piano music or guitar music we hear today and a lot of people don’t like it. as well as the new hymns. but change is not always bad and there are definitely certain styles that don’t fit in the liturgy.

we have a lot of music available to us, i think a good balance should be used. whether it be chant, choral or newer hymns. what do you guys think?


The issue is not over what year the music was written. There are chant Masses being composed at this very moment. There were bad hymns and flamboyant Mass parts written hundreds of years ago. Gregorian chant, which is the Church’s own music, dates long before Pope Gregory to the earliest days of the Church. Today, however, people tend to look at sacred music in terms of how it pleases them, rather than as something pleasing to God and conducive to worship. Parishes have “traditional” and “folk” Masses to appeal to peoples’ preferences. Just as priestly vestments should be beautiful and not resemble street clothes, sacred music should be something set apart as sacred and should avoid imitating popular styles. The points of concern about contemporary music, as best as I can briefly describe them, are these:

  1. Theological content that is oversimplified, unclear, inaccurate, or heretical.
  2. Songs which focus more on the people than on God - “We are this and we are that…”
  3. Texts which attempt to speak in God’s voice - “I will come to you in the silence…”
  4. Texts containing inaccurate or paraphrased quotes from Scripture.
  5. Mass parts (i.e. Gloria, Sanctus) which deviate from the approved texts.
  6. Hymn tunes that imitate popular musical styles or songs.
  7. Hymn tunes that are heavily syncopated or are otherwise difficult to follow.
  8. Tunes that are considered by most people to be ugly, dissonant, or pedestrian.
  9. Musical instruments which clearly do not have sacred origins. While a guitar or piano might be considered acceptable by some for sacred purposes, most people would draw the line at a screaming metal band, Great Highland bagpipes, accordion, or a kazoo choir.


I feel like we should be open to using both traditional and some contemporary. For me I prefer the music lyrics to be reverential with a choir, piano or organ, and other instruments to add some harmony. I really don’t care for the Gloria that we now sing at my parish because the words are reverential, but they kind of lose their meaning by not being sung gloriously. Which is why I like the older Gloria better because it did show glory.


i know there are gregorian chants still be composed now, same with choral music. but i mean more contemporary styles? do they all have to be thrown out just because they are newer?

how do we even know gregorian chant pleases God? he never said so. part of sacred music is to invoke religious feelings in us too.

nothing against gregorian chant in the least but i’m trying to get some perspectives that are different.


i agree with you. don’t get me wrong, i love the older stuff as well but i don’t think there’s a need to just condemn something just because it is newer, if you know what i mean.


Hi angell1,

In the last parish that I was at, where I was in the choir, we sang all different kinds of music, from the more traditional, to contemporary as well.

My pastor was a musician himself, and he was always very careful when it came to what was acceptable when it came to music planning.


Do to my temporarily limited funds for gas, I have to go to a church near where
I live, and sadly they use contemporary music. They play traditional too some-
times, but when they do, they will play it their way.

New music isn’t the problem, but the new style, plus a drum set (with symbol),
it’s just horrible to my ears (I’m 23 btw). They toy with the “Glory to God in the
Highest,” they don’t follow the missal all the way . . .

A small part of me dies inside every time I attend mass, :stretcher:
which isn’t supposed to happen, that’s how bad it really
is, though I have some peace in the rumor I hear about
the Vatican slowly but surely going back to the more
appropriate music. _____________________________ :gopray2::signofcross::gopray:

I want to go to a sacred building to perform a sacred act with traditional themes all around, including in music.


I would be OK with no instrumental accompaniment. I think that is common in Eastern Catholic churches? As it is, liturgy is liturgical and should have liturgical music. Gregorian chant derives, I believe, from Jewish chants of ancient times. That seems like a good recommendation to me. More contemporary styles might be good for non-liturgical events, even in the church. Just my 2 cents.


This is an excellent list. I will say that there are many modern hymns and styles of singing that I enjoy listening to and find uplifting. But that doesn’t mean that they are appropriate for Holy Mass. I wanted to comment, however, on the fact that it seems to me that many have forgotten that Holy Church gives us pieces (introits, communion antiphons, etc.) that should be used at appropriate times instead of hymns. While appropriate hymns are a valid option, the liturgical antiphons are given to us for a reason, and when set to music, are both beautiful and much deeper and fitting than hymns. I personally think it would be a good idea to have these, like other propers, in the common language of the faithful, instead of the Church’s language.


Yeah I know what you mean. I just think if we have an ipod full of great Catholic songs that are good why not use them.:shrug:


I went to mass this evening and it was called a “spirit mass.” This mass had electric guitar and Protestant praise and worship songs. I was so close to walking out and going to sit in the chapel for the remainder of mass.

I don’t think contemporary music holds the sacredness because it brings modernism into mass. No offense to anyone because the mass is always going to be sacred and I do like and enjoy this music sometimes in private devotion but I just don’t think this music is appropriate for the ancient holy sacrifice of the Mass in which we remember the sacrifice two-thousand years ago by Christ.

God bless!




I concur with the writer of the book: “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” (the title is not an affront to our talents, but to our lack of understanding about how to encourage group singing in a church)…

Contemporary music can be sacred:

  • if the music melody lifts our thoughts to the divine, and NOT to remembering the Brady Bunch theme or the BeeGees…

-if the lyrics lift our words towards God, rather than have us, the singers, mouthing God’s words–the difference between “Holy God, WE praise thy name” and “**I **am Lord of sea and sky…”

Some contemporary mass music is a bit manic with too many words spoken too fast for a large group to sing together…better for a Celine Dion or Beyoncé solo than a group of parishioners, no matter how musically talented.

Certain music lends itself to church more: Gregorian, Bach, some Celtic, gospel music, the Ave Maria’s. Some ethnic and folk music can be sacred. Most pop music feels too performance-oriented, rather than for WORSHIP.

And what would you do about “Climb Every Mountain”?. “You’ll never Walk Alone”.?..secular show tunes…uplifting…but not truly sacred…
My opinion…


I would like to point out that out is possible to like a certain kind of music yet still find it inappropriate for mass. For example, I like plenty of early modern classical settings of the mass, but I would wince to actually hear them at mass. Imho they are just raucous and inappropriate in that situation.


Let’s just hope nobody starts dancing lol.


The Catholic Church has defined what it calls ‘Sacred Music’ in the 1967 document Musicam Sacram.

As explained by the late Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB:

Music is ‘sacred’ insofar as it is composed for the celebration of divine worship and possesses integrity of form.” The definition is broad and embraces “Gregorian chant, the several styles of polyphony, both ancient and modern, sacred music for organ and for other permitted instruments, and the sacred, i.e., liturgical or religious, music of the people.” Thus, sacred music is not necessarily tied to the liturgical text. It can be purely instrumental, provided it is recognized as something suited for worship. And it can be popular liturgical or religious music. Examples of popular liturgical music are songs approved by conferences of bishops for use as entrance, offertory, and communion songs.


Yes, music can be new, newish, old oldish whatever, and still be sacred. The literal meaning of sacred is that it is set aside for something. So music designed for liturgy is sacred. Such music does not even need to be written specifically for Catholic liturgy to be sacred. The genre is not relevant to the meaning of the term “sacred”. That is another issue of which people have differing opinions.

I think it sufficient to acknowledge how the Catholic Church determines what is appropriate for Mass, namely, She relies on local authority to make decisions in a chain with the local bishop at the top and either the priest or a layperson(s) at the bottom. It is good to discuss guidelines, but the structure of authority is where guidelines meet practice.

So, yes, I totally agree with you. I also think you are dead on with your comment about balance. Let us just look at the Psalms, both the book and other part of the Bible in poetic prose. It is balance and variety. First person, third person. Voice of one, group, voice of God, you name it, it’s in there. :thumbsup:


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