I just stumbled onto this forum. I’m glad I did. This topic hits home for me. I’ve been a church music minister (instrumentalist) for nearly 40 years, in over 15 parishes, because I have moved around some. I come from the St. Louis Jesuits, Vatican II, “Folk Mass” tradition and I know there are ultra-traditional Catholics who don’t like that, but it’s now part of Catholic tradition and very much permitted by most dioceses in the world, so let’s get over that for this discussion.
I have always been sensitive to that opposition, though, so I have tried to make my ministry as appropriate as possible. I prefer tunes that have scripturally-based lyrics, not “pop lyrics.” To me, if the right spiritual content is there, the tunes are just delivery mechanism.
Recently, I was in a parish music group that was the best music ensemble I have ever been in in 40 years. What is more, I really got along with and liked everyone a lot. I thought I had really made some new friends. And some of the people in the group were fairly hard-core Catholics, teaching RCIA, Knight of Columbus, in Bible study groups, really involved in the parish, etc. They put me to shame. That made it all the harder to do what I did.
At first, I marvelled at the diverse music selection we played. There were some really cool tunes I had never encountered before. But I must have been influenced from on high, because I grew increasingly discontented with this group and I didn’t know why. After weeks, it hit me. The lyrics! We were playing a lot of born-again Christian folk/rock stuff, like from Hillsongs, etc. I started researching the lyrics online. I am not a theologian by any stretch, but it became obvious that some of these tunes represented a theology that was not Catholic. It was subtle, but at the same time, almost hypnotic, because the tunes had such good “hooks.”
I voiced my concerns to the choir leader and got a very bad reaction. To shorten the story a bit, it became a whole bruhaha that wound up with me being “inquisited” by the pastor, the auxiliary and the parish music director. The pastor supported the music selection without even answering my research into the theology of the lyrics. He didn’t even want to get into that. What it came down to in my analysis is that our choir leader was an important “church lady” who had grown up in that parish, knew everyone, was a big contributor led a lot of the parish committees. She was also known as someone no one wanted to cross. The pastor caved.
I stayed in the choir for a while, but I felt I was treated in an un-Christian fashion by the leader and my supposed new “friends,” so I eventually quit the choir and the parish. I’m now at another parish and doing fine with Catholic Church approved hymns. But at my old parish, it goes on.