Is this encyclical still in effect?

The encyclical “Tra le Sollecitudini (Instruction on Sacred Music)” was written in 1903, well over 100 years ago. So does it still apply to us today? It effectively bans piano, drums, and cymbals in Mass.

Here’s a link:

Go to “Organ and Instruments” to see the ban I’m talking about.

Does this still apply?


I’m not familiar with the document, but I note that it is a motu proprio rather than an encyclical. (Typically the former deal with canonical or procedural matters, and the latter with doctrinal issues).

A motu proprio or any other canonical or legal document usually remains in force until it is superceded by other instructions. I would guess that inasmuch as there have been numerous further statements on the sacred liturgy, not least Sacrosanctum Concilium in 1963, its provisions have now been abrogated (that is, no longer apply). Note for instance that in III.7 of Tra le Sollecitudini it states:

‘The language proper to the Roman Church is Latin. Hence it is forbidden to sing anything whatever in the vernacular in solemn liturgical functions – much more to sing in the vernacular the variable or common parts of the Mass and Office.’

That has certainly been superceded by other canonical instructions - for better or worse, depending on your liturgical preferences. :slight_smile:

Although partial abrogation of a document does not mean total abrogation in and of itself - that is, just because one element no longer applies doesn’t mean that the whole document doesn’t apply, unless its provisions have been specifically abrogated - the specific instructions on music have most likely been superceded by the specific instructions on music in later documents.

I’m happy to be corrected by any expert on this subject, of course. Best wishes.

I have often wondered about this document & whether or not (or to what extent) it is still in effect…especially on the issue of pianos at Mass.

However, for dioceses of the United States, the GIRM has a special provision which does allow pianos in U.S. churches… The thing is that I’m in Ireland, and (I should check for sure one of these days) I am not aware of any such provision in the GIRM adaptations for Ireland - so pianos could still actually be banned from Irish churches even though many parishes have purchased digital pianos in recent years.

It is clear that many later documents, such as Sacrosanctum Concilium and Musicam Sacram, only reiterated several points made by Pope St. Pius X - such as Gregorian chant having pride of place, emphasis on the people being able to sing some of the chants, the organ is to be esteemed higher than other instruments (apart from the human voice)…all of these points, and more, were made by the Council Fathers. Of course some points were abrogated by Vatican II, such as the question of who should be admitted to chant in the choir - Vatican II opened the possibility of women singing in the choir, for example…though, I suppose that those who use the 1962 liturgical books might still be bound to Tra le Sollecitudini to some extent on this issue.

So it seems to me that there are parts of the document which could be said to be still in effect (such as the issue of pianos in some countries) and are to be found in more recent documents, but some points, as I said earlier, have been clearly “overruled” by later documents… That would be my reading of it anyway, and, like Ocarm, I am certainly happy to be corrected by one of our experts!

Can. 20 A later law abrogates, or derogates from, an earlier law if it states so expressly, is directly contrary to it, or completely reorders the entire matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, in no way derogates from a particular or special law unless the law expressly provides otherwise.

Can. 21 In a case of doubt, the revocation of a pre-existing law is not presumed, but later laws must be related to the earlier ones and, insofar as possible, must be harmonized with them.

Have there been liturgical laws later than 1903 that set out in a general way which instruments are and are not allowed?

This question…anchor40146479

motu proprio of St Pius X on the Sacred Music strictly belong to the category where the Magisterium has binding and loosing power. In most dioceses, including the US the requirements were loosed.

As a matter of fact in the fifties I attended Masses where classical mass (Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi etc) was performed with the appropriate orchestra. The tradition went back to the 19th Century.

  1. Although the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music, music with the accompaniment of the organ is also permitted. In some special cases, within due limits and with proper safeguards, other instruments may be allowed, but never without the special permission of the Ordinary, according to prescriptions of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum.

Musicam sacram is perhaps not the most recent legislation on music in the liturgy, but it is, surprisingly, at least one of the most recent laws on the matter. So one could say that Pius X’s legislation has been superceded, although as has been pointed out the subsequent legislation is in substantial agreement with Pius’ own norms. In general, one finds the popes throughout history seeking to ban instruments from the Mass, though due to never making much practical headway those bans slowly allowed more an more, on at least occasional basis or with the bishop’s permission. The 20th century is very interesting in this regard because basically everything ever firmly legislated with regards to sacred music closely follows the spirit of St. Pius X’s attempt to restore chant to priority within sacred liturgy, while parish practice has, since Vatican II, effectively ignored every letter of that legislation (and thus the constant battles about music - “The Church says chant and polyphony!” “But I haven’t heard those in 40 years; they can’t really MEAN it!”).

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