Non Catholic in the choir

Is it right for a non-Catholic to perform a liturgical function at Holy Mass?

In our parish, the fallen away, now worshipping as a Baptist, daughter of one of the choir members will be singing with the choir. Before her marriage to a Baptist young man she had served in the choir and as a cantor. Since her marriage she has been quite vocal in saying, on visits home, that she is “no longer a practicing Catholic.”

We know from GIRM 103 that the choir/schola cantorum does perform a geniune liturgical function, as their voices assist the congregation in the sung part of the prayer that is the Holy Mass.

In our parish EMHC and Lay Readers are trained, not just in how to perform their duties but in ministry and the Theology of the Eucharist. To me it appears that having a non-Catholic participating in a liturgical ministry is very wrong, and a misunderstanding of the ministerial nature of serving in the choir.

Am I just being exclusionary and stubborn here, or do others think this is the sort of issue that should be pursued as a real problem?

Non-Catholics have sung in Catholic choirs since both existed.

They have also been organists and choir directors.

The Music/Liturgy Director of the Cathedral in our diocese specifically looked into this, and concluded that it is acceptable for non-Catholics to serve in the choir or as cantors. (My younger daughter, a non-Catholic, was the person in question.)

All cantors or choir members should be trained in proper liturgy. (E.g., the cantor doesn’t sing from the ambo.) Also, all musicians should be trained in proper “theology” of the musician–e.g., they are not “performers” but servants who are there to lead the people in the musical portion of the prayer of Mass.

Non catholics can participate in many things. They can even sit in the pews and participate during Mass, they just can’t go up for communion.

I think it is a blessing, just to have her there at Mass is a statement. Her participation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament ; let Jesus work with her don’t stand in his way.
And pray for her that she may return to her Catholic faith.

Pray Pray and Pray again.

Actually they can go up for communion, the just can’t receive it :wink: They should fold their arms across their chest and they will receive a blessing instead of communion.

I believe it is fine for a non-Catholic to be in a choir. They would need to be aware of liturgy, have a knowledge of it and have a respect for it. As others have mentioned, there have been non-Catholics in choirs or working as other kinds of musicians for a long time. I’ve known a number of non-Catholics in choirs I’ve been in and although they are not or were not Catholic at the time, they did have a profound respect and admiration of the the liturgy and the sacred music which they rendered there. Sometimes being a part of the choir can inspire them to convert to Catholicism.

Likewise, there are a number of instrumentalists who work in the Church, whether they be organists, pianists, guitarists and the like, and they are actually not Catholic. Most have a good understanding of the liturgy and what is permitted. Some don’t, but they would be in the same category of the practicing Catholic instrumentalists who don’t really have a good understanding of it either.

i.e. You have no idea how many practicing Catholic music directors allow “One Hand, One Heart” from Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me” for weddings. And part of that is because the pastors there allow it as well. It can be very difficult trying to talk the bridal couple out of those pieces when their priest and the music director are telling them it’s ok to do. I’ve been able to politely bow out of doing those pieces, but it’s still hard. Sometimes, it’s the Non-Catholic music directors who will follow the “rules” much more stringently.

Now, this is just from my own experience working/freelancing/volunteering as a musician in various parishes and collaborating with many different musicians. So, it could be different for others.

Nobody should be in the Communion line except to receive Communion. That applies to non-Catholics and Catholics in a state of mortal sin. It is not permitted for people to go up for a blessing.
If you can refer me to the Church document which permits this then I will happily stand corrected.

Yes, in our choir you will find the non-Catholic spouses of parishioners. They grew up singing in their own Churches and now are sharing their talents with us – we’re delighted to have them.

Well, since you yourself used those words… yes.

This young person could very well return to the Church as a result of the regular Mass attendance that’s part of the commitment to choir.

Did the father in the parable of the prodigal son get in a snit at the thought the son might return and crash a party? No, he threw the party himself when the son returned.


You are correct, I was wrong. :blush:

There are good reasons to have non-Catholics in the choir.

My daughter has two non-Catholic friends who she has invited to sing in our choir. One claimed to be agnostic, but was open to learning more about the Church and is now talking to our priest about it. He tells people he will probably become Catholic. His mother is going to try to attend Christmas Vigil Mass because her son is signing. There is always the potential for her to be changed by this, too.

The other friend is just starting with the choir. He believes in a creator, but not in salvation. I am praying that situation changes. His first Mass will be Easter Vigil. I am praying for him to also be changed.

And I can’t hope but help his family also attends, and leaves that evening with something to think about.

While the choir does perform a genuine liturgical role it is still a role proper to the assembly. EMHCs and lay readers are filling the roles of someone else: ordinary ministers and instituted lectors.

So while I respect the right of a bishop or pastor to decide only Catholics should be in the choir, I don’t see how there is a liturgical problem if non-Catholics are in the choir.

Now in the case of the vocally non-Catholic visitor, that *could *be a cause for scandal if her role as a choir member is well known in the parish. But how anti-Catholic can she be if she still wants to sing?

I stopped attending Mass in about 1970. I never thought of myself as anything other than Catholic, I just wasn’t a practicing Catholic. I went back briefly in the mid-80s because my son wanted to go to the school of religion. He and I went to Mass, but when we moved back to St. Louis, neither of the boys wanted to go and I didn’t care enough to fight with them about it, so I stopped again.

In 2001, my sister said they were short on sopranos for Christmas Eve and would I like to sing with them. Sure, why not…I was going to be at her house on Christmas Eve which was about 2 blocks away, and going to that Mass with the rest of the family anyway. I started going to Mass and practicing after, then I started going to the regular choir practice and just started going to Mass and singing. After a while – I hate to sound corny, but one day on the way to Mass, something just happened in me, and I eventually went to confession and the whole works. I’ve been there ever since, and now I’m a regular cantor.

So maybe something good will come of her singing in the choir. It may take a few years like it did for me, but I’m back, Baby! I find it ironic that my sister has moved twice since then, and stopped attending Mass at all.

That is a beautiful story, Daeve. It’s not corny at all. :slight_smile:

Pastor’s discretion.

At the Parish where I came into the Church, non-Catholics could not sing in the choir or serve in any liturgical or teaching position. Other parishes have different rules.

The construction on our first parish church was begun in the late 1850s, was put on hold during the Civil War. During the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers and it was completed after the war ended. When the church was consecrated, there were 9 people singing in the choir during the Mass. Six of them were Jewish.

The point where being a cantor becomes problematic is if the cantor is singing the psalm verses, or singing the Gospel Acclamation verses. Those are both fairly deep into the liturgy. Heck, being the “psalmist” used to be reserved to faithful laymen only, and preferably clergy only.

That said, it’s best to follow whatever your bishop and pastor and music director tell folks to do.

Thank you for the kind and charitable answers. In my original post I left out something important, because it was early and I was in a rush to get started on a 500 mile day.

She is not participating in the choir regularly, only on Christmas Eve-Midnight Mass. Yes, I am praying that this can be one step towards a re-conversion.

But my internal problem, my: : is that her participation is likely more about performance than liturgy.

All of the parts of the Holy Mass are parts of one whole, one prayer, the prayer of the church…the most important prayer that happens on this created world: the Eucharistic Prayer, the source and summit of our worship, the Prayer, Sacrifice, and Sacrament through which all of the other Sacraments derive their power (at least according to St. Thomas Aquinas).
It seems that someone who has publicly rejected before her family and her parish the very foundation of our faith–the Real Presence of our Lord and Saviour in the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic (Universal) Church, invites scandal when performing one of the liturgical functions–helping to lead the faithful in musical prayer.
I teach our EMHC and Lectors at our parish that everyone in the building is participating in the Eucharistic Prayer, although it is the action of Jesus and Jesus alone, and only through the words spoken by the Celebrating Priests (acting in persona Christi) that this most profound miracle takes place. But those who have visible roles–the altar servers, the choir, the lay readers, the ushers…it seems to me they should BELEIVE in what they are doing.
Otherwise seems a sacrilege. And every parish that I have seen that has non-Catholic music directors or organists also have music ministries that seem slanted well more towards performance than liturgical prayer.

Well, she didn’t leave to become an atheist. She left to become a Baptist. She presumably does still worship the Lord when she sings sacred songs. She is still a baptized Catholic, too. She can be at Mass and singing the prayers. There is nothing in the Kyrie, the Gloria, or in most other songs likely to be sung at a Christmas Mass that she would have a theological disageement. There is every reason to believe she’ll sing it and mean it.

If she receives Holy Communion, that would be a cause for scandal.

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