Music by Protestant Composers



I’ve been battling with this in my head for a couple days now and it’s getting frustrating to get different answers from different people. :confused:

The issue is this:
Is it okay to sing non-Catholic Christian music in a youth group?

The music is composed by different non-Catholic people, and although the lyrics are just about praising God and don’t include anything contrary to the Catholic faith, they are still composed by Evangelical protestants, and some non-denominational Christians.

It’s frustrating because I’ve heard arguments from both sides, these are some of them:

PRO Arguments:
-We’ve been playing these songs for years and never had a problem with our coordinators.
-They are good, upbeat songs and the teens like them; so we can attract more teens.
-As long as they don’t say anything wrong, there is no problem.
-Last year I heard the choir sang one of them during the confirmation Mass for our teens.
-Some of those songs have been played at Catholic Youth Conventions.

CON Arguments:
-Since they are composed by Evangelicals and other protestant authors, some of them might carry the Protestant theology.
-If the teens listen to the songs played at a Protestant service they’ll think it’ll be okay to stay there; since the music is the same, they won’t see anything wrong with it. (I actually know a couple teens that left the Catholic Church because of this.)
-There is plenty of good Catholic music, you don’t need to look outside the Church.

What should I do? I am the youth group coordinator btw, and I play in the choir as well.
I thought about asking my Priest, but I’m afraid he’s just gonna say “Oh it’s okay, I don’t see anything wrong with that, go ahead!”


My hunch is this is exactly the sound advice he will give you. Are you hoping to hear the opposite?



If the song itself is not contradicting any Catholic beliefs I don’t see the problem with it. It’s art. Non-Catholic architects have designed some beautiful Catholic Churches. I think any work of art that doesn’t contradict goodness or truth and is appropriate for the occasion is to be enjoyed and welcomed.


Short answer - depends on the song, especially the lyrics. I think you can avoid the problem of having the teens begin to attend Prot services with the same music thinking its ok by teaching them why it isn’t ok - no Body of Christ, they are in an objective state of schism and heresy, etc. But, if the lyrics are carrying Prot. theology, I’d opt not to play those songs. If you fill their heads with music that is teaching bad theology, you’re asking for trouble.


What I meant to say was that he might not give it much thought and just give me that answer as a quick reply. Unfortunately, my priest has been known to not take certain things with seriousness when they are serious, and not pay much attention to certain things.


That’s true, and as I read that I also thought of certain quotes, paintings, and even church games/activities by Non-Catholics and are really good and they are used all the time.


That is exactly what I was thinking! The problem is that many teens only go a couple of times and some don’t even attend mass regularly, so it’s hard to really teach all of them when they are not consistent.


Some years back, perhaps in a youth group setting, I heard a very uplifting song based on the 23rd Psalm by the late Keith Green. I loved the song and wanted to hear more of his music so I ordered his album. When the album arrived, I was shocked to find anti-Catholic tracts from Keith’s pet organization Last Days Ministries included with the album.

It appears that non-Catholic groups not only benefit financially from Christian music sold to Catholics but in some cases deliberately use Christian music as a hook to try to pull Catholics out of the Catholic Church.


Yes, I agree. And this is what worries me; that because of my not-so-wise choice of music, a person who is not firm or educated in their faith might leave and go to a different church because of the music.


Well, I don’t understand why there aren’t any songs the teens may like written by Catholic composers. In fact, I’m sure there is plenty of music written by Catholics that the teens would like just as much. I do not understand why the music directors seek for acceptable music outside the Church. Why are they looking there anyway? Seems like a no-brainer to me. Teach the teens to love Catholic songs by Catholic composers so they learn to love Catholic music then they’ll go home and buy Catholic music and support Catholic musicians who compose and record and sell Catholic music. DUH. Ummmmmm…where’s the problem with this or don’t I get something.



I’m a 56-year-old who grew up in the thick of the emergence of Christian rock. My husband and I saw Larry Norman (RIP) in person when we were teenagers.

The answer to your question, sadly, is that there really aren’t that many good Christian pop/rock songs by Catholics.

I play for a Catholic ensemble that sings contemporary Christian music, and to be honest, I’m not impressed. Much of it is three-chord rock, the simplest form of rock. It’s like going waaaaay back in time, to the very beginning of Christian rock in the mid-1960s, only not anywhere near as good as Ralph Carmichael, Randy Stonehill, and Larry Norman.

I get the feeling that Catholics missed the Christian rock bus forty years ago, and just now found that bus on its side in an auto graveyard, and hot-wired it to get it going again, and they’re riding it around, oblivious to the rust, creaks, and black smoke pouring out of the tailpipe!.

And the lyrics to many of these Catholic contemporary songs are incredibly simplistic, even more so than some of the most basic praise and worship choruses.

The problem is, there is no market for a Catholic rock band, and not too many producers are interested in signing any that stop by their offices. Where would they perform?! Most churches don’t even allow a classical concert to take place in their nave, let alone a Christian r-r-rock band! It’s “irreverent!”

And I’m guessing that not too many Catholics kids form “garage bands” to create Catholic rock. Too bad–that would be a great place to see new artists emerge! But again, where would they perform?! The only place I can think of that might welcome them is their own Catholic youth group meeting in their church basement. But a lot of the parents would protest and pull their kids–just like a lot of Protestant parents used to pull their kids out of the youth groups 40 years ago whenever they did that “demon rock.” After all, that’s the music that is played by the witch doctors in Africa to call up the evil spirits!

I think what’s going to have to happen is that Evangelical Protestant musicians will have to convert to Catholicism, and then Catholics will consider it OK to sing all their music, PLUS they’ll all write beautiful NEW music to express their new-found Catholic faith! :slight_smile:

And Catholics are going to have to play catch-up to come anywhere near what the Protestants have been writing for over 40 years.

My answer to the OP is to teach the teens to examine the words to any song that they hear or sing, and to be discerning about those songs.


Hmmmmmmmmm I have been reading all these posts with interest. My husband and I have just sent some Mass Settings and six VERY theologically sound songs to a publisher. (wish us luck please!) We have over 50+ songs. I write the music. My husband, the lyrics. We have been using many of them in our parish for the last six years. Our Bishop also likes them. I have several pieces that are a bit too up-beat for use in our parish. If anyone out there would like to corroborate with me on some songs for youth, then pm me! :smiley:


Matt Maher is a Catholic whose songs are featured on Christian raido. He sang his hit “Lord I Need You” during Adoration at World Youth Day. danielle Rose is another Catholic singer who is geared to younger prople.


I think that for a long time being a “Catholic music artist” was assumed to mean “Catholic liturgical music composer who just happens to play music for fun and may or may not be particularly good”.

Matt Maher got his start through OCP but he’s gone on to make a name for himself playing and singing rather than in getting his stuff published in a hymnal for others to use. Matt is not the first Catholic music artist but he may be the first to be unapologetically Catholic. As I understand it there has been a fair amount of anti-Catholic prejudice in the Christian music world, at least until recently.

My parish has hosted concerts with artists such as Trevor Thomson (for the teens) and Bob Hurd (for the Boomers). But we are lucky to have a hall. Not every parish is so fortunate.

The biggest problem I see is that most Catholics-in-the-pew are baffled by the notion that music could be thoroughly Catholic but only suitable for non-liturgical purposes.


I tend to think that people who enjoy Protestant pop are more likely to leave the Church for a Protestant community if they can’t get it in a Catholic setting.

Ideally, Catholics would have their own pop songs to rival Protestants. Unfortunately, the state of Catholic music, across the board, has been severely lacking for a long time.


By youth group, I assume you mean a gathering that is happening outside of Mass.

Yes, of course it’s ok. Just take the usual precautions like making sure the lyrics don’t contain something that actually contradictory to the faith. CCO hosts their Rise Up conference ever year here in Canada that features a worship band, and usually most of the songs are from Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Matt Redman (with a few, of course, from Matt Maher).

Personally, I listen to a lot of Christian music, and almost all of it is is by Protestants. There’s just not that many good Catholic artists (again, Matt Maher, of course, being the big exception). I know people sometimes worry about “Protestant influences”, but most Christian music, especially of the Christian pop genre, is, quite like it’s secular cousin, not that deep. Usually the theme is of God’s love (ex - Unending Love by Hillsong), God’s greatness (ex- How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin), and sometimes you get ones crying out for God’s help (ex - Worn by Tenth Avenue North).

You’re not going to find any popular songs that talk about double predestination or even sola fide. There’s a particular artist I like, Matthew West, who has some songs that even delve into our need to do something with the faith we have (My Own Little World), pretty much (without explicitly saying it) that faith without works is dead.

The key is to always make sure, though, that the people there understand that such a youth gathering is not a replacement for Mass or the graces received at Mass or the other sacraments.

I don’t quite get your last con (“There is plenty of good Catholic music, you don’t need to look outside the Church”). Sure, there’s plenty of sacred music, but most of it is not of the same style. It’s not something you can easily sing along to right away, nor learn very easily more then a few pieces at a time. I think I can sum it up as “not very viewer participation friendly”, which is fine if you like your youth gatherings to feel like going to the symphony. But, most youth groups exist to make the youth feel more actively involved, including in the singing & worshiping of God.


Yes, it’s a youth prayer group that takes place on Friday nights.

Now, about the “plenty of Catholic music…”
Our prayer group is bilingual, Spanish/English, and I have found that there are plenty of good Spanish Catholic singers/bands as opposed to English speaking artists.

Of course, we can throw out the Protestant music and learn the Catholic music; but that would take A LOT of time!
Right now we have around 60+ songs, and about 80% of them are by Protestant composers.

My coordinator asked to please play Catholic music.
I want to be obedient, but I’m wondering, is it really that big of a deal?


I listen to K-love in the car to and from work each day. I find the music truly inspirational and uplifting. There is noting anti Catholic in the songs. As another poster said they are mostly about God’s love and God’s mercy. I have used some of the songs in Confirmation class and on retreats. I love Sanctus Real, Chris Tomlin, Toby Mac, Casting Crowns, and there are so many other good artists. I wish more Catholic artists in addition to Matt Maher would produce good music that would appeal to young people. Also if there were it would be a great tool for evangelization.


Matt Maher has some decent music, but the problem is --it’s not suitable for group singing. It’s all solo stuff, written for a solo rock/pop singer with backup vocals from a small band.

We do his music in our ensemble, but it’s not really meant for an ensemble and I think it doesn’t flow easily.

It certainly isn’t something that is easily singable by a youth group sitting around having a fellowship time, and it’s definitely not singable by a congregation.

I’m NOT criticizing the music, although I think that compared to some of the Keith Green pieces, it’s really kind of simplistic. But it’s not congregationally-suited!

I’ve written this before on other threads. Let’s take Handel’s “Messiah” as an example. The work contains both choruses and arias. The choruses are written in four parts and are meant to be sung by a choir, and they sound gorgeous! The arias are written in one part, and are meant to be sung by soloists, and they sound gorgeous.

But if the choir tries to sing one of arias–yeccch! It sounds just dreadful!

And that’s what happens when groups try to sing rock/pop music written specifically for solo voice.

What Mr. Maher and his peers need to do is sit down and write some music for GROUP singing! That’s what Keith Green did with several of his pieces, and so did a lot of the other Protestant pop/rock musicians, and that’s why so many of them are sung by youth groups, including Catholic youth groups.

One example of a great Keith Green piece that sings well with a group is “There Is A Redeemer.”


EXCELLENT! These thoughts should be a blog on this website and in Catholic magazines and newspapers all over the United States. Thank you, SMHW!! Keep saying this, because it’s absolutely true.

I might add that the same thing is true about Catholic books–Catholics just don’t READ “thoroughly Catholic books” other than their parish missallette, and don’t seem to have a concept of “Catholic” fiction or non-fiction other than a few authors who write literary fiction (Flannery O’Connor, Tolkein, etc.) that isn’t exactly “beach reading.”

If you go into a Protestant bookstore or look up Protestant books online, you will find THOUSANDS of non-fiction and FICTION books written RECENTLY, not in the last century, and the books are written by ordinary people, not saints or popes, and the books are written at a 6th-8th grade reading level, not at the college and grad school level, and enough Protestants (hundreds of thousands and even millions) buy these books that they become BEST-SELLERS and attract the attention of the secular publishing houses so that the author can actually get a good book deal and earn some solid money with his/her books!!!

You walk into a Catholic bookstore, and you find a lot of lovely ancient books by ancient saints re-printed, a lot of books by various popes written at a level high above most of us, a lot of apologetic books written by recent converts to Catholicism, and a few very awkwardly-written fiction books by a few Catholic apologists who are using their rather weak fiction as another apologetic platform. Instead of books, Catholic books stores sell pieces of art, especially sculpture, rosaries and other sacramentals, gifts galore, and first holy communion dresses.

As with “Catholic music,” very few Catholics buy “Catholic” books, which means that there are very few flourishing Catholic publishing houses. Modern Catholic novels are few and far-between. (In Protestant bookstores, recently-written novels take up fully half of the bookstores.) And popular Catholic authors are even rarer. Off the top of my head, I could list several dozen best-selling PROTESTANT authors (I recommend my childhood friend, John Ortberg!). But Catholic authors who write books that actually sell–the only one I can think of at the moment is Popchak, the childcare expert.


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