What is Unreformed Catholicism?

My church has hired an Episcopal music director. We are using a lot of music I have never heard before and sounds more and more Anglican as time goes on.

She had a choir sing a Thomas Tallis piece; who was an unreformed Catholic. He wrote a lot of English music in the time of reformation; though before that he wrote Latin pieces. He takes a lot of his words straight from the liturgy.

While it was nice to hear; it also sounded very Anglican, and left me sort of wondering if it is acceptable. Obviously our priest doesn’t have an issue with it. An article I read referred to Thomas Tallis as an Unreformed Roman Catholic? and I never heard of that before. Thanks

I am not quite sure if this is correct, but it appears to be a type of Anglican who does not subscribe to the ideas of the Reformation. Here is a blogspot that talks about it:


It means that Tallis, though he became one of the major composers for the Church of England, never left the RCC. He wrote sacred music both Churches.


An Anglican who doesn’t subscribe to the ideas of the Reformation? Isn’t that just…a Catholic?

How does music sound Anglican?
There’s an Anglican sound?


The music of Tallis is wonderful. It belongs to a genre called “polyphony” which the Church specially recommends as suitable for the Mass. Vatican II’s constitution on the liturgy states:

  1. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

This echoes what the Magisterium has said in earlier documents, such as Tra le Sollecitudini, in which St. Pius X actually names and praises the polyphonic composer Palestrina.

(The Council of Trent did not prohibit polyphony, as is sometimes thought, but rather prohibited what smacks of secular music.)

I don’t think I could pick out “Anglican Music”, but I think that if somebody showed me a book of prayers, I could pick out if it was Anglican.

I don’t know why, but they have a certain style (and they’re well written).

Thomas Tallis and Williams Byrd were Catholic. They were such prominent musicians in their time, Tallis at the time of Henry VII, and later Elizabeth I, and Byrd at the time of Elizabeth,that they were not forced to convert to Anglicanism. They were employed at the Chapel Royal. They were able to stay in their positions by trying not to call too much attention to their Catholicism. I remember learning in music history class that much of the music that they wrote for Catholic Masses wasn’t signed so that they would not draw unnecessary attention to themselves, but musicologists know which pieces they wrote. The Catholic music would be commissioned by wealthy people who had remained in the faith. Sometimes the voicing and instrumentation seems odd to us because pieces were written for the singers and instrumentalists who were available. Catholics at that time would not have had the wonderful choir and professional musicians who were employed by the royal court. Tallis’s exquisitely lovely “If ye love Me” would be perfect for today, the Sixth Sunday of Easter. I hope that some of you had the pleasure of hearing it.


Yes this is the piece and as I stated it was quite nice to hear. I am in the Gregorian chant.

Ad Orientem:

Thanks for the reminder of what the Church says about the sacred music.

I confess my music history is lacking. So when I heard last evening Vigil the Thomas Tallis piece “If ye love me” in English opposed to Latin I suppose that’s what I meant by it sounding Anglican.

I apologize if I have offended any sensibilities with my ignorance.

ElizabethPH, I can see why you would associate the Tallis piece “If ye love Me” with Anglicanism, because I would assume that it was written to be used in an Anglican service. At the time of the English reformation, English church authorities such as Archbishop Cranmer wanted music that was more linear and less polyphonic, and with fewer melisma than Catholic music of the time. This went with the increased use of the English language although they didn’t get rid of Latin in music all together. Tallis produced what his employers wanted. He is one of the greatest English composers, and his style is what came to be thought of as Anglican or “English.” However he lived and died a Catholic. If I were you, I would not get too hung up over so called Anglican music. I would be grateful that an Episcopalian would work for a Catholic church, considering our often not undeserved reputation for awful music. They have a wonderful tradition of vocal music. My only objection with Episcopal choir masters is that often like a white sound with the women singing without vibrato to try to sound like boys. I didn’t spend a lifetime studying voice to try to sound like a boy! Anyway just remember the words of Msgr. Georg Ratzinger who said “Which note is Protestant?!”

As well as the Mass settings and anthems (which apparently Queen Elizabth loved) Tallis also wrote settings for the reformed office of Evensong - a kind of fusion of Vespers and Compline. Very beautiful and still sung in every CofE cathedral daily and many CofE parishes on Sunday evenings.

Maybe part of the “Anglican sound” was how some of the words were pronounced, more in an English style? When the choir at my U.S. parish does traditional music from England, they follow the English pronunciation. This is better for singing English pieces, even in general, than the American pronunciation, which tends to lose consonants and to close off and conflate vowels.

But I would rather call this having an “English sound” than an “Anglican sound,” since the style in question is fully, and originally, Catholic–even though the vernacular has strong associations with the Protestant Revolt, as it was one of their demands. (Singing in Latin is rather a different matter, although there are in fact distinct English and American accents in its common use. The Church has expressed a preference for the Italian pronunciation of Latin.)

Note the pronunciation in this on YouTubeIf Ye Love Me.

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