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Online Edition: November 2007
Vol. XIII, No. 8

USCCB November Meeting --
Bishops to Consider Three Liturgy Action Items

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

On the agenda for the fall meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore November 12-15 are three action items to be presented by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL): 1) a new document on music, “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship”, to replace “Music in Catholic Worship” (1972) and “Liturgical Music Today” (1983); 2) “Weekday Celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word”, to address situations where there is no priest to celebrate daily Mass; and 3) revised readings from the Lectionary for Mass for the Sundays in Lent — the second segment of a proposed revision of the Lectionary translation in use since 1998. (The bishops approved revised readings for Advent last November.) Only after the entire Lectionary is revised, approved by the Conference and receives recognitio (approval) from the Holy See, will a new Lectionary be introduced into parishes. Apparently, the recognitio will not be sought until the entire set of revisions has been approved by the USCCB.

There may also be a report on the five dubia (questions) concerning the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum submitted in October by the USCCB to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei for clarification on implementing the “extraordinary form” of Mass.

Sing to the Lord

“Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” will supplement the “Directory on Music in the Liturgy” that was approved by the bishops and submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship for recognitio last year. It will supplant earlier BCL statements on music, “Music in Catholic Worship” (MCW) and “Liturgical Music Today” (LMT), which reflected the revisionist views of the liturgy prevailing in the early post-Conciliar period. Both MCW and LMT largely ignored Musicam Sacram, the Holy See’s 1967 instruction on sacred music. Nevertheless, these two statements have provided the rationale for the development of liturgical music in the US since the Second Vatican Council, and have justified the unfettered production of new music for Mass, with virtually no oversight by any Church authority — and no effective control — of either the texts or melodies of the songs or hymns.

Liturgiam authenticam 108 required bishops’ conferences to correct these problems:

Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

A new statement on music is clearly necessary in light of recent documents on the liturgy that call for greater solemnity in the celebration of Mass, and re-emphasize that texts be doctrinally sound and that musical style be suited to the sacred action of the Mass (for example, Liturgiam authenticam and Pope John Paul II’s Chirograph on Music), and the insights in many writings of Pope Benedict XVI on sacred music (such as A New Song for the Lord, and Sacramentum Caritatis).

But last October, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) overwhelmingly passed a resolution aimed at preserving the importance and principles of the old statements “Music in Catholic Worship” and “Liturgical Music Today”. The resolution made it clear that retaining the status quo on music is a key aim of many professional liturgists, musicians and music publishers.

“A fundamental liturgical resource”

The BCL Newsletter (August 2007) reported that “Sing to the Lord” “represents the product of extensive consultation with musicians, composers, and others involved in liturgical and music ministries. Drawing on the experiences of the past several decades of the liturgical renewal, ‘Sing to the Lord’ articulates a theology of liturgical celebration which is drawn from the Church’s reflections in several post-Conciliar documents … [and] … has been designated as a fundamental liturgical resource which — if approved by two-thirds of the Bishops of the USCCB and subsequently confirmed by the Holy See — will bear the weight of particular law [for the Church in the US].

“Like its predecessor document, ‘Sing to the Lord’ describes a three-fold judgment for choosing music. The new draft elaborates in the earlier text’s outline of the various parts of the Mass and incorporates the concept of ‘progressive solemnity’, drawn from the 1967 Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Musicam Sacram, to explain the process of choosing what to sing from among the various parts of the Mass. The text also explores the role of the composer, discusses music in the celebration of the sacraments, and addresses issues of instrumentation, language and cultural concerns, technology, copyrights, and participation aids. With the inclusion of so many topics, it is not surprising to note that the draft text is more than twice the length of ‘Music in Catholic Worship’.

“Together with the ‘Directory on Music in the Liturgy’, it is hoped that ‘Sing to the Lord’ will provide guidance for clergy, musicians, and liturgists, and articulate well a vision of liturgical music that will support the sung worship of the liturgical assembly”. (BCL Newsletter, Vol XLIII, August 2007, p 34)

BCL Music Committee — and Changes to Come

Members of the BCL Music Subcommittee are Bishop Edward Grosz (auxiliary Buffalo), Bishop Patrick Cooney (Gaylord), Archbishop John G. Vlazny (Portland, Oregon, location of Oregon Catholic Press), and Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli (Paterson). Advisors to the BCL Subcommittee on music are Father John Foley, SJ (St. Louis Jesuits, Composers’ Forum), Robert Batastini (vice-president of GIA Publications), Father Anthony Ruff, OSB (Liturgical Press), Dr. Leo Nestor (Catholic University of America, former music director at the National Shrine), and J. Michael McMahon (president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians).

Following the November meeting, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli will succeed Erie Bishop Donald Trautman as BCL chairman. Bishop Serratelli is a member of the Doctrine Committee and chairman of its Ad Hoc Committee on Review of Scripture Translations.

Monsignor James Moroney will also conclude his tenure as director of the BCL Secretariat after the meeting. Monsignor Anthony Sherman will assume this role, and Father Richard Hilgartner of Baltimore became associate director on September 1.

Other USCCB Agenda Items

The bishops will also elect USCCB president (Cardinal Francis George, current vice-president, is expected to be elected Bishop William Skylstad’s successor), vice-president and committee chairs, and vote on “Faithful Citizenship”, a new document on Catholics and political responsibility.

Also on the agenda for the November meeting is debate and vote on two catechetical documents related to youth. First, “Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for People of High School Age” establishes a specific curriculum framework for the instruction of the faith for high school students, which is intended for use in Catholic high schools, but is adaptable for parish youth ministries and home-schooling.

The second, “Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living: Guidelines for Curriculum and Publication Design”, concerns formation in faith and morals and virtues for chaste living. The document acknowledges the primary role of parents in instructing children on matters of human sexuality according to Church.

Susan Benofy and Helen Hitchcock will be members of the press at the Baltimore meeting.

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