Declaration on Sacred Music: An exercise in denial

sacred-music2Yesterday I wrote about the address that Francis delivered to the International Conference on Sacred Music this past Saturday.

On Sunday, a Declaration on Sacred Music that was drafted and countersigned by Conference attendees was published.

Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski, who was among the more than 200 musicians, pastors, and scholars from around the world taking part in the Conference, posted the Declaration on the Rorate Caeli  blog along with the following:

“Readers are encouraged to read the text and to disseminate it far and wide as a rallying-point for Roman Catholics who love their great heritage…”

Having read the text in full, and intending no personal slight to its drafters and signatories, perhaps the best that can be said of the text is that it is an exercise in denial.

I would like to say that the Declaration amounts to a fruitless exercise, but that unfortunately is not true:

To the extent that it is taken to heart by other musicians, pastors, and scholars, it all but guarantees that the rotten fruit that the Conference presumed to address will continue to fester.

In true neo-conservative form, the drafters are in abject denial as to the very heart (and cause) of the problem; namely, the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Misssae.

Specifically, they write as if the Council has merely been poorly implemented; the conciliar text itself being blameless with respect to the destruction of the sacred liturgy that followed in its wake.

Likewise, they write as if the New Mass has merely been subject to unfortunate abuses over the years; the Missal for the Novus Ordo itself being blameless for the earthbound, anthropocentric affair that has come to supplant the Mass of Ages.

Those who take the time to read the Declaration in full will do well to bear in mind that there is no crisis of sacred music in the Traditional Roman Rite, but rather only in the Novus Ordo.

Clearly, therefore, the presumption of the Declaration’s drafters is that dressing up the New Mass with authentic sacred music is a useful endeavor.

I disagree entirely; in fact, I think doing so will only serve to further deceive the faithful into believing, and mistakenly so, that the Novus Ordo Missae enjoys “continuity” with the Church’s liturgical tradition.

Worse still, the Declaration contains, in addition to traditional utterances, traces of poison – a model exemplified by the conciliar text wherein the “little leaven” of error has served to wreak havoc on the entire Church ever since, and profoundly so in her liturgical life.

The Declaration states:

“With the actual situation of our liturgical music (and of the liturgy itself, because the two are intertwined), we have broken this web of connection with our past and tried to connect with a future that has no meaning without its past.”

Oddly worded, but true, I suppose.

In any case, the question is, how did we get to this point where our past (Catholic tradition) has been all but forgotten?

The answer is simple: Vatican Council II.

How so?

In addition to the points raised in yesterday’s post, consider the following:

– “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. (SC 30 )

This gives one the impression that doing something is the equivalent of active participation. It is not.

– Under the heading, Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgywe find: “Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful.” (SC 33)

In this, the Council dares to footnote the Council of Trent, but this is what that venerable council actually said:

“Although the Mass contains great instruction for the faithful people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers, that it should be everywhere celebrated in the vulgar tongue … Pastors are encouraged to expound upon some portion of those things which are read at mass, and that they explain some mystery of this most holy sacrifice, especially on the Lord’s days and festivals.”

By “great instruction,” the Fathers of Trent are speaking of the way in which the rite itself (the Traditional Roman Rite) forms the faithful in the image of Christ. In other words, they in no way are suggesting that the nature of the Mass is “didactic;” i.e., a place of teaching and instruction, properly speaking.

From there, the Council of Trent goes on to speak of the sermon as a means of expounding upon the sacred mysteries; they are not talking about leveraging the rite as a catechetical tool – a desire of the ecumenically driven liturgical movement that existed prior to the Council.

In truth, the Mass is not a “didactic” teaching moment (such as are the services of the heretics, by no small coincidence); it is the propitiatory Sacrifice of Christ – a truth deliberately downplayed by the architects of the Novus Ordo.

– “In this restoration … the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community (SC 21) … The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.” (SC 34)

The very notion that mere men should easily be able to comprehend the sacred mysteries celebrated at Holy Mass is laughable. Authentic Catholic liturgy, by way of sacred signs (including music), elevates the man so as to enter more deeply therein.

The liturgy inspired by the Council, by contrast, proposes to bring the sacred rite down to earth.

More could be said, but for the sake of brevity, let’s consider what the International Conference on Sacred Music had to say of the Council in its Declaration:

“The attempted separation [!] of the teaching of Vatican II from previous Church teachings is a dead end, and the only way forward is the hermeneutic of continuity endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI.”

No, the Council itself (and the failed “hermeneutic of continuity” concept) is a “dead end” for having set forth numerous propositions that are “separated from previous Church teaching;” e.g., such as it concerns the Jews, religious liberty, ecumenism, and (as cited above) liturgy.

Far from recognizing the Council for what it is, the Declaration plays right along with its ecumenical posture, stating:

“Nor can the ecumenical importance of music be forgotten, when we know that other Christian traditions — such as Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Eastern Orthodox — have high esteem for the importance and dignity of sacred music, as witnessed by their own jealously-guarded ‘treasuries.'”

This is either shameless pandering to the ecumaniacs that presently run the show in modern day Rome, or evidence that the disease has well and truly spread.

In a document that was written to address the degradation of Catholic liturgy vis-à-vis the garbage that has come to pass for sacred music over the last 60 or so years, what is the point of paying tribute to “other Christian traditions” – the same that deny the true nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Exactly what is the “ecumenical importance” of authentic sacred music? Is it merely an opportunity to treat whatever artistic treasures the heretics have copied or stolen from the one true Church as points of commonality to be celebrated?

This alone is enough to make the entire Declaration worthy of the waste basket. Even so, let’s continue.

The Declaration goes on:

“Recovering the unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching is the condition for restoring both the liturgy and its music to a noble condition. As Pope Francis taught us in his first encyclical: ‘Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory'” (Lumen Fidei 38).

As Pope Francis taught…

Speaking of pandering! Truly, there is no greater threat to “the unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching” than Francis.

With all of this in mind, if the Declaration under discussion is going to serve as a “rallying-point” for “Roman Catholics who love their great heritage,” it is only going to be such to the extent that it encourages us to pray all the more for the scales to fall from neo-conservative eyes.


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