Coming from GIA

PrayTell gives the inside scoop on coming hymnals from GIA Publications in conjunction with the new missal. Our conversation partner is Bob Batastini, longtime GIA senior editor. (Other publishers will be appearing in this space in an ongoing series.)

PRAY TELL: Bob, you’ve been a leader in Catholic liturgical music since the early days of the reformed liturgy. How are things turning out differently than you expected? How have your hopes been realized, or not?
BOB BATASTINI: All in all, my appraisal is positive.  I think that some of the well-intentioned, but often over-zealous liturgical and musical practices of the first decades after Vatican II, have settled down. We’re maturing. Yet, a great dichotomy still exists between parishes that just plod along from week to week, and those which have made a commitment to striving for good musical liturgy.

PRAY TELL: GIA is a leader in Catholic hymnals. All hymnal publishing has been putting on hold for several years now as we wait for the new missal translation. How bad a hit has this been for GIA?
BOB BATASTINI: It’s been significant. Hymnal sales for GIA, not unlike subscription sales for other publishers, are a large source of revenue. While subscription sales haven’t skipped a beat, hymnal sales went through the floor about four or five years ago when word of the forthcoming changes circulated. In my forty-two years with GIA, this past year was the first time ever that we had to cut our staff, and cut the hours of the staff that remains.

PRAY TELL: Worship 4th edition will be about 80% organ-based, 20% contemporary, correct? Why no GIA hymnal 100% organ-based like Worship 3rd edition?
BOB BATASTINI: Two perspectives: As a pastoral musician, I perceive that the use of piano and organ within the same liturgy is common practice. To put it another way, “organ” masses and “piano (guitar)” masses, per se, are rather passé. The lines between celebrations keyed to specific musical styles and their associated instruments have become significantly blurred.  As an editor/publisher we’ve come to realize that a certain number of so-called “folk” or “contemporary” hymn/songs, have mainstreamed within the active repertoire.

PRAY TELL: How much Spanish will be in Worship 4? Is Worship 4 for bilingual assemblies, or for predominantly English-speaking congregations who need a bit of Spanish for particular occasions?
BOB BATASTINI: You hit it on the last one. Given the demographics of the population, especially within large cities, one simply cannot avoid circumstances and occasions where the Anglo community needs to celebrate the presence of Latinos within the assembly. The hymnal will offer the added Spanish text on certain hymns which the editors deem likely to be useful in responding to these needs.

PRAY TELL: Traditionalism is on the rise in the liturgy, and some people are talking about more chant, fewer hymns, more proper antiphons, and the like. Will Worship 4 bend to meet any of these new needs?
BOB BATASTINI: Like Worship 3, there will be a fair amount of chant, but certainly not enough for those who desire to move heavily in that direction.
Regarding the hymn versus introit matter, though “some people are talking,” by far, the common practice in American parishes is, and for almost fifty years has been, to begin the liturgy with a hymn. Worship 4 is being designed to give those parishes the best collection of hymns published since Vatican II. In an effort to merge hymn singing with the intent of the introit antiphons, Worship 4 will include the most developed hymn of the day compilation ever assembled. The work of fine contemporary hymn writers is being wedded to well-known tunes from throughout the hymnic tradition, offering a hymn closely tied to each Sunday of the three-year Lectionary.

PRAY TELL: Worship 2 had traditional hymnal language, but Worship 3 revised the texts to eliminate most of the “thees” and “thous.” Will Worship 4 continue this policy?
BOB BATASTINI: In some cases, yes, and in others, no. One only hopes that we learn from what we do well and learn from what we do less well. We are re-thinking every text to be included in the new edition. Unlike past hymnals, which took on text editing as part of the overall process, we have assembled a sophisticated text committee for this hymnal, which is carefully analyzing every text going into the book. We are striving to create a superb collection of texts which are theologically, grammatically, and inspirationally sound, and yet, speak to 21st Century Catholics.

PRAY TELL: I’m guessing the hymn texts will continue to be broadly ecumenical. Any new poets?
BOB BATASTINI: Indeed! For those who oppose texts by other than Catholic writers, I say, they should then strip “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” et al, from their Christmas repertoire. But, I digress.
Vatican II produced the three-year Lectionary. It was adopted by major Protestant bodies, and the trend continues to this day among congregation in the less liturgically structured denominations. The Lectionary also sparked the “hymn explosion” manifested by the emergence of dozens of new hymn writers, inspired by the liturgy’s new practice of a greatly expanded proclaiming of biblical texts. Worship 4 is seriously tapping into this wealth of riches. Many of the hymn writers—Catholic and Protestant— will be new to those who do not stay in touch with the activity in the field, while almost none will be new to those who do.

PRAY TELL: How will Gather Comprehensive be revised, any new directions there?
BOB BATASTINI: Of the four hymnals to be published by GIA in conjunction with the revised Mass texts, Gather Comprehensive—Second Edition, revised, is not an entirely new hymnal, but rather an updating of an existing work. Gather Comprehensive—Second Edition (the burgundy one) was published just about the time the forthcoming revision was announced. Consequently, many parishes put off their purchase awaiting the text revision (even though those green books were getting pretty old!). Since GC II is still a relatively recent hymnal, and since no parish can have effectively plumbed the depths of its resources in such a relatively brief time, the only changes will focus on the service music section, encompassing hymnal numbers 134 – 322. Presuming that the recognitio for the Revised Grail Psalms has come (a recognitio which has already been granted to another episcopal conference)—many of the psalms found within numbers 1–84 will also be changed. This will essentially give those parishes which have purchased GC II—and there are many whose books are still in very good condition—the option of retaining their assembly hymnals while merely replacing their choir and accompaniment editions. For anyone who has purchased a GIA hymnal in the seven years leading up to the implementation date of the new texts, GIA will provide a free assembly supplement. For GC II, the contents of the service music section will include a combination of revisions of current mass settings as well as several entirely new settings.

PRAY TELL: Everyone is curious about Mass settings in the revision. Will there be many new settings in your hymnals? Which composers? How many revisions of current settings, and will favorites like Mass of Creation and Community Mass be there?
BOB BATASTINI: To begin with the last question first, both Mass of Creation and A Community Mass will be there in revisions, as will a number of other widely-used settings. We are making every attempt to enable parishes to utilize their current repertoire in accessible revisions, while beginning the long journey of exploring the new. Frankly, that’s about all I can say at this moment, because that part of the project is still in the development stage. The editorial committee (Kelly Dobbs Mickus, chair, Fr. Ronald Krisman, Fr. James Chepponis, Charles Gardner and myself) have been working on the 500+ hymns, and the issue of which specific Mass settings to include has not yet been fully settled.

PRAY TELL: How soon will GIA make available the new and revised settings, once we have the recognitio from the Holy See and the implementation date of the new missal? When can musicians start learning the new settings?
BOB BATASTINI: Just as soon as the Committee for Divine Worship gives the go-ahead. Incidentally, in conjunction with the two hymnal projects which we haven’t mentioned—Oramos Cantanto, the multicultural Anglo / Latino hymnal, and Lead Me, Guide Me II, we also have some wonderful new bilingual and African American Mass settings in the works.

PRAY TELL: GIA naturally wants to maintain its market branding, and every publisher has to guard its profit margin. But restrictive copyright policies work against building up common repertoire. Neighboring Catholic parishes don’t know the same Mass settings because they use hymnals of different publishers.  Is there better way forward? Is there a way to develop common repertoire while not cutting into publishers’ profits? Is it possible for GIA to share its music more with other publishers?
BOB BATASTINI: Those are perennial issues which are constantly being re-thought and renegotiated. If there were an easy answer, it would already be implemented. It’s a whole lot more than protecting one’s profit margin; frankly, it’s more a matter of staying in business.
However, a huge majority of American parishes use either a GIA hymnal, or an OCP, WLP or LitPress subscription product. These, combined with those who print weekly liturgy bulletins, account for upwards of 90% of American parishes. Some of the limitation you cite rests in the decisions of a each publisher about what to include in their publications. Another tool addressing this concern is the copyright license which has become a rather universal tool of the parish music ministry.
That said, two publishers serve a significant majority of parishes in America with their subscription products. In the case of each, different circumstances prevail, based on separate agreements between each possible combination of publishers. While GIA has opted to utilize its full quota of OCP copyrights in its hymnals, for example, OCP falls significantly short of their quota when it comes to utilizing GIA titles. The agreement between GIA and WLP is renegotiated in good faith by both parties almost annually.
But to gain perspective and understand why I refer to the matter of staying in business, let me quote some numbers I gathered for the year 2005. For that year, of the combined income from GIA hymnals sales, and OCP and WLP subscription missal sales, GIA’s share of the market was approximately 10% of the dollar amount.
You are kind enough to call GIA “a leader in Catholic hymnals.” Well, we believe in what we do. We maintain our commitment to hardbound books, and continually strive to live up to that reputation.

PRAY TELL: The GIA “house style” for chant layout has had white notes for the old system of dots and episemas, and evened-out spacing of the note heads. ICEL is giving missal publishers revised chant notation with all black notes and text-based note spacing. Will GIA be revising the chant notation in its upcoming congregational hymnals?
BOB BATASTINI: Ahh, the question I’ve expected you to ask! (N.B., it is hardly a GIA exclusive, but is rather common in the industry). To respond directly to your question, the answer is no. The text based spacing works for unaccompanied chant, but I can see no acceptable way of notating that on a three stave system with voice above two staves of accompaniment. Since most of the chant we publish is for accompanied assembly singing, we will retain the system we have been using.

PRAY TELL: What has been your biggest joy working for the Church?
BOB BATASTINI: Celebrating the liturgy. Everything that I’ve done at GIA over the years has been informed by my parish experience. which explains why in retirement I am now the “assistant director” in my parish; probably until they carry (or throw) me out!

PRAY TELL: Any predictions for the future? Any hopes for the future?
BOB BATASTINI: In the words of Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal.” While I often loose patience with the institutional church, I revel in song of the gathered community at Sunday Eucharist, and know that it can’t possibly go anywhere but up!






23 responses to “Coming from GIA”

  1. Anita Fischer Avatar
    Anita Fischer

    Thank you, very much, for this post. The timely and relevant information included in this blog site is a blessing to my ministry as I know it is for others. Thank you to Mr. Batastini and GIA for continuing to create quality music and resources for the liturgy.

  2. William Henry Avatar
    William Henry

    Entities such as GIA and OCP have far too much influence over what is sung and prayed at Holy Mass. Their influence, lo these “fifty” years, has been (putting it gently) deleterious to Catholic worship.

    1. Mark W Kieffer Avatar
      Mark W Kieffer

      Mr. Henry, while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I do not see how such a comment adds anything useful to the discussion of the original extensive and informative post.

  3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    For future entries of this type, it would be nice to see less in the way of questions that invite the interviewee to insert marketing bullets in response. Why a vendor thinks his or her product is good seems to me to be exactly the wrong dimension of liturgical music.

    Questions about promoting public domain texts (rather than tweaking them to claim copyright), adaptation of public domain melodies (not only metrical hymns, but also Roman plainsong tones) to them, fixing cost-saving problematic layouts, et cet., would be welcome.

  4. Geraldine O Mathúna Avatar
    Geraldine O Mathúna

    Very Interesting.

    Our hymnals, especially the choir editions, are falling apart as we wait for the improved translation, (finally!) and looking pretty disreputable. (So are our altar Missals, for that matter, there’s a limit to what Tyvek can do.)

    I wish the editorial boards of all the major hymn publishers could be persuaded that they would best serve the Church if the Order of Mass in the front of their books were to contain the Sacramentary chants, rather than whatever copyrighted, (or otherwise,) setting they were most interested in promoting.

  5. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

    I have to agree with some of the comments above. Music in the Catholic Church has become a big business and it is a scandal. Where we can learn from most mainline Protestant Churches is the need for a national hymnal published by the Church and then using various publishing houses to print it. While I have no problem with hymnody and newer compositions of the parts of the Mass, we don’t need a lot of these since we have enough already. The Catholic Mass is not about hymnody. the Mass itself is what should be sung by both the priest and the assembly. Entrance Antiphon, Kyrie, Gloria, Collect; responsorial psalm, gospel acclamation; Creed, intercessions, offertory antiphon; preface dialogue, preface, sanctus, mystery of faith, Great Amen; Our Father, Lamb of God, Communion Antiphon. Apart from these, if some traveling music is needed for the procession and recession and the Communion Procession, then choose some appropriate and perhaps culturally developed hymns or motets–but make no mistake these are truly superfluous. It is here that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass should inform the celebration of the Ordinary Form. In every sung Mass of the EF, you must sing all the parts and none can be eliminated by the choice of a hymn. Hymns can be sung, but again–that’s only icing on the cake, but doesn’t replace the cake. OF celebrations should be no different. Again, let the Holy See and the American Bishops take control of the Mass again and mandate a national hymnal and throw all the other for profit music publishing companies out of business–we don’t need what they’ve done to our sacred music.

  6. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    It would also be interesting to hear from publishers how they are working with their respective bishops regarding the evolving legislation from the USCCB with regard to Liturgicam Authenicam no. 108. It strikes me that to ignore this would be to make the forthcoming edition a last edition, one perceived as liable to obsolescence.

  7. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    I would have liked a few hard-hitting questions. The selling of editions with unapproved language changes, and the annoyance of many music directors in penciling texts that match what’s in the pew. The editorial sloppiness in the GC guitar and instrument editions. The unwillingness to produce fully harmonized arrangements for organ, piano, guitar, and instruments.

    Bob is a choir-n-organ guy, and that was GIA’s bread and butter for years before the late 80’s. And I have no quibble with the organist/conductor crowd. But if you’re promoting a product for other musical groups, styles, and instrumentation, you should give it your all.

    That said, I wouldn’t want to see GIA and the others go out of business. That sentiment betrays little more than envy and bitterness. Publishers should improve over time–just like any serious musician.

  8. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    The more we move to central control, musical and otherwise, the more inclined I am to simply leave. The fine fellows in Rome seem to have confused ‘unity’ with ‘uniformity’, and, worse, subscribe to the notion that they have a complete idea of what is acceptable or pleasing to God. The problem is that the ordinary pew-dwellers are a widely varied lot, whose proper expression will vary. Mass in Los Angeles shouldn’t look or feel exactly the same as it does in Indianapolis, or Detroit, or Miami.

    I’ve read some of the new translations. I will not sing them. I will not even speak them, for too many are utterly nonsensical. And insisting upon no paraphrase or other adjustment for a musical setting is just plain dumb.

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Your comments give Vatican II a bad name and are not necessary to say the least. The theology of rupture with the past is dead and thank God! RIP. We’re Catholic because of our centralized authority and the ability to call the shots, otherwise, Protestantism is indeed an option.

      1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        “We’re Catholic because of our centralized authority” ?? I thought our holy faith went back to the Apostles. But our centralism goes back only to Trent or the 19th century. This would mean Catholicism didn’t exist for 16 or 19 centuries and is something created recently by men.
        History shows there are lots of ways we can be Catholic, and most of them don’t include centralized authority such as we now have it. Papacy yes, but not necessarily centralism.

  9. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    Father Allen, I must disagree. Authoritarianism is not what defines us as Catholic. Far from it. It is, however, a very good way to drive people away from what remains a voluntary organization. Ultimately, all government depends upon the consent of the governed, even in the Church.

    That you find my mild expression of disagreement with some current trends so offensive speaks volumes. I think it interesting that you say my remarks are ‘not necessary’. They are no more, and no less, necessary than anyone else’s. I cast no aspersion on individuals, nor really even any groups. I did comment upon the work, or behavior, of certain entities, and stated my current intentions, all of which is fair game.

    I’m curious as to why you think my remarks give Vatican II a bad name. Since you know nothing of my background, you can have no idea whence comes my thinking. If it’s because I have the audacity to claim my right as a thinking adult to examine, reflect and comment upon what the Church leadership is up to, well, I’m not going to stop.

    Why do I suspect that the ‘our’ in your last sentence refers entirely to the ordained priesthood? The problem with the shepherd/sheep model in long-standing use is that today’s human ‘sheep’ can tell when they’re being abused, and tend to ditch the shepherds who do that. Whether that was true in the past is really not relevant. It _is_ true today.

    I know bad leadership when I see it. And I’m an adult, able to choose to follow, or not.

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      You said you were “inclined to leave” the Catholic Church, I presume, because you so disagree with decisions coming from Rome and our Holy Father–that’s what I was complaining about and yes, this gives Vatican II a bad name if one thinks this is the way to go when they disagree with authoritative teachings of the Holy Father, whether infallible or not–the same could be applied to Archbishop Marcel Lefebre’s group on the other end of the spectrum. Don’t confuse “authoritarianism” with authoritative. Catholics are obliged to obedience in the areas of faith and morals.Vatican II changed nothing of that. Now, we don’t follow blindly, especially theologians and liturgists and others, who despite what the Church teaches, which is out in the open, not hidden (in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) dispute what is in the open–it would be these theologians, liturgists and others who are the blind guides and the authoritarian ones.

  10. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    There is a feeling in some clerical quarters that a generational failure to provide decisive leadership led to a scattering of the sheep, and that all that is needed to regain a culture of docility among the sheep is to be decisive and categorical – and to send sheep who are not docile out of the fold.

    This mindset contains some partial truths, but it is very incomplete, and working from it as if it were complete is a formula for failure for the erstwhile shepherd(s) who adopt it.

  11. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

    To Father Anthony, so you espouse that the Church should go backward to the time before Trent? This is a radical “theology of rupture” praiseworthy of the Old Catholics who broke away from the Church after Vatican I! So the last 500 years count for nothing? Why not go back to the catacombs, and hidden Liturgies there and the martyrdom of the first three centuries? Your point unfortunately Fr. Anthony misses the point–you need to clarify and show what you believe based on what is out in the open, not some personal, gnostic impulse. Thanks. I just won’t follow your way of thinking, I will leave it, but the Pope, that’s different altogether and he gets my vote. I’ll follow him, thank you very much. Let’s move on from the 1970’s theology where theologians saw themselves as a parallel magisterium, the “loyal opposition” if you will and get back to what Vatican II actually taught, which was in continuity with the past, not a rupture. Prove me wrong from the facts, not the emotions.

  12. Paul Schlachter Avatar

    I am in agreement with many of the other commentators. Having sung in congregations and in choirs over many phases, I look forward to exchanges here about what we all are doing to make the music we sing serve the liturgy we celebrate. Yes, marketing interviews such as this miss the key questions that have been seldom addressed even within the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. Some of my concerns have been mentioned by others. I will add two more.
    Batastini pits the “hymn” faction against the “introit” faction as if they just exist out there independently of the publishers. Are the publishers supposed to serve chiefly as clearinghouses linking their published composers with parish music directors? And why the disparity between the 500 hymns and metrical psalms and the few pages dedicated to chant? Next, I notice that individuals and groups in our own diocese spend time recording sanitized versions of their work, and I wonder what their efforts and products have to do with praise of the living God by a living church. A song of praise has been turned into a commodity: instead of actively creating the music ourselves from the notes on a sheet, we become passive absorbers of someone else’s performance. How do publishers square their liturgical mission with their sale of recorded media? Are Catholic musicians motivated by the “Dove” (the music award) or the “Spirit” (who prompts us in prayer)?

  13. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    Father Allen, @ 13 you suggest that I not confuse ‘authoritarian’ with ‘authoritative’. I assure you, I do not, and that I chose my words quite deliberately.

    As to the musical aesthetics of chant, some of it is lovely, and some of it is awful. A lot of it is, to quote a friend of mine, a person who grew up in the front half of the century, thus in the Latin Mass, ‘boring’. Let me shorten that a bit: A lot of Gregorian Chant is boring. And some is utterly wonderful. But it’s not necessarily the best music for Mass, even when there are skilled singers available.

    I disagree that Gregorian chant is inherently the best music for worship. It is one model. A glance at the history of liturgy leads to at least the hypothesis that since Pope Gregory said it was the only music allowed, the liturgy grew to fit it, and not the other way around.

    Music is not an issue of faith or morals, so the Pope’s ‘teaching’ that chant is the best way to worship is not particularly relevant, if only because it’s likely to reflect a combination of their [European] personal taste and upbringing as much as a genuine concern for good liturgy.

    Then there’s the matter of defining ‘good’ liturgy. A quality I too often see left off of any list is ‘engaging’. Consider it the opposite of ‘boring’ and not at all the same as ‘entertaining’. The people [remember them?] sitting in the pews should be able to comprehend what’s happening and participate in much of it. Hence use of the vernacular, for one thing. Hence hymns instead of chant, for another. This is a _community gathering_, recall, where we tell stories about the Lord’s work on earth and share a meal in remembrance, as He commanded us to do. And the communities in Miami and Indianapolis are different from the ones in Los Angeles, Taipei, Sydney, and Johannesburg, so their liturgies will differ some.

    I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the Almighty could possibly delight in the many ways His children express their love and community, rather than be offended that we’re not all falling in step.

    If that makes me pre-Trent, okay. When I have to answer for my life, I’m still pretty sure there will be plenty of evidence to convict me of Christianity.

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Dear Lynn,
      I’m not sure where you are finding me writing about Gregorian Chant, etc. What I was observing is that you would leave the church because of our centralized authority with regard to the Liturgy. I personally would like to see the Mass sung, meaning the whole thing, including the Entrance Antiphon, Offertory Antiphon, Communion Antiphon. If it’s plain chant English, fine, set to some other melody fine. I’m not opposed to metrical hymns nor is the Church, their fine, but use them in addition, not in place of the “chants” or antiphons. The Church certainly allows for a variety of styles of singing the Mass–no complaint there. But, keep in mind, you would not have the form of the Mass that developed after Vatican II without a centralized authority that mandated its development–this was not a grassroots product in the least and neither was Vatican II–it was the bishops in union with the Pope that brought all of Vatican II about and the official documents since. To decry that centralized authority and to want to leave over it as it pertains to the “reform of the reform” is a betrayal of Vatican II which was highly centralized and could never have been implemented save for the obedience of bishops, clergy and laity that sought to accept it despite some reservations at the time. And now we have another wave of centralized authority seeking a “reform of the reform.” Are we going to be faithful or not? Finally, does everything in the Church and the liturgy have to hinge on what we like? Seems terribly narcissistic.

  14. Brian Garland Avatar
    Brian Garland

    Just out of curiosity, what good is worship if we don’t “like” it? Certainly our worship isn’t for God, it’s for God’s people. Why shouldn’t part of the equation include what people like?

  15. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    Father Allen,

    You are correct in pointing out that your comments did not stipulate Gregorian chant. I did not make a clear transition of topics. My apologies.

    As to the rest of your comments: First, I am not by any means convinced that there is any need for a ‘reform of the reform.’ In Church time, Vatican II was barely yesterday afternoon. Sure, there’s been a good bit of exploration and early attempts at music [and other things] that perhaps seemed good at the time but now seem inadequate. So what? Most readers of science fiction know of something called ‘Sturgeon’s Law’, which says that “80% of everything is crap.” Much of the remaining 20% is really pretty good stuff, and some of it truly inspiring.

    Second, if I stipulate that such a reform effort has merit, I could outline a significantly different approach that adheres to the notion not only of continuity, but subsidiarity as well. Not to mention makes bishops and national bishops’ conferences something more than repeaters for Rome’s pronunciations, which is what they too often seem [to me, anyway] to be of late. While it’s too late in my day to go into detail, this approach would strip down to a bare minimum the exact prescriptions for a mass, and for the rest outline a structure that must be followed, but leave the greatest possible space for creative expression, while leaving approval of any given, say, Eucharistic prayer to the local ordinary. “Gotta have A, B, and C; D, E, and F are the boundary lines; go ye forth and give glory to God”. I expect such an approach would unleash immense creativity in our church. Certainly, Mass would vary from place to place, but is that a bad thing? I quite doubt it.

    Third, the notion that “it doesn’t matter if it’s boring or not, or the music done well, the right words were spoken, you were there and so your soul has benefited” has always struck me as a really feeble excuse for lousy, typically boring, liturgy. And, please note, I did not use the term ‘like’; I said ‘engage’. They are different, although I will grant it’s probably harder to engage with material one dislikes.

    Fourth, you said in your first reply to me that “We’re Catholic because of our centralized authority and the ability to call the shots, otherwise, Protestantism is indeed an option.” I did not write an adequate lead-in to my first post, having only a short time on a work break. But, if this is to be the definition of Catholic, then I am quite certain that I’ll be gone. I cling much more to Father Anthony’s view.

    Fifth, one reason I find myself having difficulty with a fair fraction of recent Church, let me call them ‘decrees’ with the understanding that I’m using the term very much collectively, is that to me, too many of them read very much like they were reasoned backwards from a preordained conclusion. Not very honest, that.

    Sixth, this discussion is really supposed to be about an interview with a hymnal publisher. I thought it was a good interview. Of course it was something of a marketing message. Why should anyone expect otherwise? They are in business to make money, after all. Their creditors demand payment, and their children need to eat. I anticipate that GIA will do a skillful job with what’s coming. That doesn’t mean I expect the results will be all that good, given the to-me-awful quality of the transliterations and the rules against paraphrasing. It just means that I think they will do a skillful job with what I think is poor starting material.

    Brian, you ask a very pertinent question.

    1. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

      Dear Lynn, I won’t go into all your points, but some of your suggestions, I would like to point out, not even the Episcopalians would buy into, and that’s saying something! Could you imagine how much more distant we would become from the Orthodox Churches if we followed your ideas? They laugh at us already in terms of the current Ordinary Mass–they’re pleased that the Holy Father has given permission for the more liberal use of the Tridentine Mass (thank God for his centralized authority in that regard!). The Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church would certainly scoff at such suggestions, since with the Orthodox they certainly have a sense of Liturgical history and well, yes, orthodoxy!

      It is a good thing that every bishop in this country, not to mention every priest and every lay person, does not have the authority to mandate changes on the congregational level. We’re not congregationalists–Protestants are. And to suggest that a decentralized authority in the Church which occurred with the manner in which local bishops handled the sex abuse scandal independently of one another is to laugh. They did a great job before the Charter and the Vatican’s reluctance to intervene until the 21st century? Ya, decentralization works really, really well! Look at the state of the liturgy with all the decentralization that took place in the 11 years between 1968 and 1979–ya, great idea. It makes me want to vomit. (I lived through those years and bought into some of the silliness).

      And in terms of decentralization of Church authority, which after Vatican II only occurred for about 11 years, like between 1968 and 1979, and that’s because Pope Paul VI was on the verge of a nervous breakdown over what was happening to the Church and then became somewhat enfeebled by age and illness, then Pope John Paul II re-consolidated beginning with his election in 1979 and our current Holy Father has continued that process. So eleven years out of the last 600 was the Utopian period? Catholics are smarter than that, both laity and clergy.
      What Fr. Anthony advocates the Orthodox Churches already have, but they have common sense when it comes to the Liturgy and orthodoxy, but they haven’t had a single Ecumenical Council since the Great Schism in 1054. In a sense they’re frozen in time because they have no centralized authority to mandate any universal changes. Then you have the Old Catholics who broke away after Vatican I over some of the same issues of Papal authority, not to mention the Lefeberites more recently. Protestantism born of the ideal period that Fr. Anthony relishes has had a great track record with decentralization? Wow, that’s sweet! The liberal elements of the Church are so wishy washy and marshmallowy, that they could never pull off a major schism, try as they may. Some female religious orders are trying, but look what’s happened to them since all of their “renewal”–on the verge of extinction, gone in 25 years from now. And can we say “Episcopalian?” They have what most liberal Catholics want–they’re doing wonderfully? And in the political world, can you spell “Massachusetts?”

      I know I’m wordy, but to address yours and Brian’s concerns, yes, we should celebrate the Mass the best way we can no matter what language or form of music, but we should read the black and do the red as another conservative commentator suggests. Yes the Mass should appeal in a very pleasant way to all of our senses–sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste! What so many experience in the Church today is appalling in terms of the “updating” we have experienced in the last 45 years (again a blip in the radar screen). There is no pleasing of the eyes, ears, touch, nose or tongue, except for “ex opere, operato”. I’m speaking of the more wild forms of liturgical deconstruction that concerns also music. But thank God for “ex opere operato” in the liturgical desert. Where would we be without it? So the Mass is given to us and indeed is for us to give glory to God with the best of what we have and who we are. Shouldn’t we do our best as the Church and her centralized authority have mandated? And yes, that applies to the interview above for his inherent “theological/political perspective” is the same old, same old, which is only really about 45 years old–quite young now that I mention it.

  16. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    Father Allen,

    If only because I have other responsibilities to attend and thus lack the time to fully articulate my thoughts on your response, we shall have to agree to disagree on a great deal.

  17. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
    Fr. Christopher Costigan

    I am generally concerned that between ICEL and the big publishers, Catholics won’t be able to speak, sing, or even think a word of the liturgy without being sued for intellectual property rights violations.

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