Something else to note is that I seriously doubt that any of the compoers or the OCP board has ever read what both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI said about sacred music. Let’ see what Pope John Paul II wrote back in 2003 in his Chirograph on Sacred Music:
- In continuity with the teachings of St Pius X and the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary first of all to emphasize that music destined for sacred rites must have holiness as its reference point: indeed, “sacred music increases in holiness to the degree that it is intimately linked with liturgical action”. For this very reason, “not all without distinction that is outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross its threshold”, my venerable Predecessor Paul VI wisely said, commenting on a Decree of the Council of Trent. And he explained that “if music - instrumental and vocal - does not possess at the same time the sense of prayer, dignity and beauty, it precludes the entry into the sphere of the sacred and the religious”. Today, moreover, the meaning of the category “sacred music” has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself.
St Pius X’s reform aimed specifically at purifying Church music from the contamination of profane theatrical music that in many countries had polluted the repertoire and musical praxis of the Liturgy. In our day too, careful thought, as I emphasized in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, should be given to the fact that not all the expressions of figurative art or of music are able “to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church’s faith”. Consequently, not all forms of music can be considered suitable for liturgical celebrations.
- Another principle, affirmed by St Pius X in the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini and which is closely connected with the previous one, is that of sound form. There can be no music composed for the celebration of sacred rites which is not first of all “true art” or which does not have that efficacy “which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her Liturgy the art of musical sounds”.
Yet this quality alone does not suffice. Indeed, liturgical music must meet the specific prerequisites of the Liturgy: full adherence to the text it presents, synchronization with the time and moment in the Liturgy for which it is intended, appropriately reflecting the gestures proposed by the rite. The various moments in the Liturgy require a musical expression of their own. From time to time this must fittingly bring out the nature proper to a specific rite, now proclaiming God’s marvels, now expressing praise, supplication or even sorrow for the experience of human suffering which, however, faith opens to the prospect of Christian hope.
Here is what Pope Benedict wrote in Spirit of the Liturgy:
Then there are two developments in music itself that have their origins primarily in the West but that for a long time have affected the whole of mankind in the world culture that is being formed. Modern so-called “classical” music has maneuvered itself, with some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter – and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings. The music of the masses has broken loose from this and treads a very different path.
On the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock”, on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.
These two statements, I believe, should be the guideposts for anyone wanting to write Sacred Music, music that is indeed fit to cross the threshold.
A lot of what is written in Spirit and Song is certainly not appropriate for use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Proponents of this kind of music will claim that it is scriptural, but, the settings and the arrangement are more along the lines of a rock concert than they are for the Mass. A lot of Bob Hurd’s music is also not fit as he focuses more on the community and our grand and glorious selves rather than paying due worship to God. “O Love of God/O Amor de Dios” talks about what “we” are doing, rather than what “He” is doing. That is par for the course for most of Bob Hurd’s music.
David Haas and Marty Haugen (although GIA’s stable writers, they are also incorporated into the OCP bunch) pretty much fall along the same lines. “Gather Us In” sounds too much like the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and David Haas has more than a few theologically challenged songs.