Three Judgments?

I have noticed a real problem in the church’s advice to parishes regarding music. I think it causes difficulty week after week, but no one seems to notice and no one does anything about it. The problem comes from the Bishops’ delineation of the threefold judgment that is supposed to be made about the music in every mass in every parish in the country. The judgment should be musical, liturgical and pastoral.  Do these judgments always happen? Do they ever happen, except informally?

I bring this up because there is a very deep and important reason for spending time and money on the three judgments. The Church believes that Mass is a sacrament and a sacrifice, that these two are not to be separated, and most importantly that the “presence” of the Lord in the Rite of the Eucharist is nothing less than the presence of the entire Paschal Mystery. It is not a “thing-like” apparition but an active one. It is the reality of Christ’s accomplishment in the passion, death and resurrection.  The much emphasized word, participation, means first and foremost participation in the Paschal Mystery, not a social connection or a “getting to know” everyone else, party-style.  How can each of the judgment areas contribute to this goal?

The Mass is a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, not just a memory. Memory is just a calling to mind events from the past. “Remember how grandfather used to wear that old hat?” This is a memory. But a remembrance is based in the timeless reality of God. I ask the reader to follow this logic: God is a reality present at all times because God does not progress through time, but is himself the wholeness of time. He contains all of it, from beginning to end, all at once. Therefore, in God, the Paschal Mystery is not something that “was,” but rather something that “is” and remains “is” through all time. When an assembly steps into the sacred space of God’s presence, they do not have to look back into the past to find the crucifixion or resurrection. These are present now, surrounding them, in God. I do not mean a physical presence, as on the hill of Calvary, nor a re-enactment of Christ’s life as in a play, nor a mere memory that will help us straighten out our lives. In the Mass we are present at the sacrifice itself, timely in its timelessness. We are present by means of symbol and sign at that which is truly there in the “always now” of God himself.

What follows?

1) The liturgical judgment is far from asking the simplistic question of whether all the rubrics are being followed. Yes, rubrics are important, they are minor instructions on the “how-to” of actions in the Mass. Without denying any of these helpful formatting aids, it still must be stated emphatically that the liturgical shape of the Mass exists to help the assembly enter into and imbibe the Paschal Mystery. Peter Fink’s article “Public and Private Moments in Christian Prayer,” shows how people progress liturgically though the Eucharistic liturgy from individuals into persons in community. The center of that community is the presence of the active Christ (Fink, Worship 58.6, November 1984: 482-499).

2) The pastoral judgment has the same goal but a different focus. Because congregations differ from each other, sometimes radically, the same solutions do not work for each and every church. STL says musical ministers have to ask whether

“. . . a musical composition promotes the sanctification of the members of the liturgical assembly by drawing them closer to the holy mysteries being celebrated? Does it strengthen their formation in faith by opening their hearts to the mystery being celebrated on this occasion or in this season?” (MCW 130)

This particular talent, the pastoral one, by itself would probably be the most important one. As an illustration, many “American” churches get their success from the personality of the pastor together with his ability to know each person in the gathering by name, as well as the problems and glories of each of their families. Who would not want such a home to go to each week, whether it is good liturgy or not?

The pastoral ability’s very strength is a completely necessary factor in the Roman Catholic mass. The pastor or priest may not be able to know every person in the congregation, since there are so many, but there is a way of knowing the people as a whole. Their reactions. Their likes and dislikes. The music they prefer. What it is that opens their hearts to the Paschal mystery.

3) The musical judgment refers to such a powerful element that some of the Reformation leaders (for instance Huldrych Zwingli) forbade music in worship altogether. It distracted too much from prayer, in their judgment. Our question here would be a bit more modest, how to harness music’s power when it threatens to become more potent than the main goal. Mere modesty is not the answer. The Paschal Mystery is.

Most musicians have heard the maxim, do not put their people’s favorite hymn at the Preparation of the Gifts. Why? It is the only thing they will remember when Mass is ended. It displaces the dynamic of the Mass itself. Participation in the Paschal Mystery, that is, in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, is the prime and exclusive purpose of the Eucharist. The whole assembly must be involved in accepting this invitation from God’s hand. If a piece of music distracts from that gift, then such music is a danger to the Mass.

Each judgment in the evaluation deals not only with the quality of pieces of music, but much more importantly with the consonant help music gives to the entire Mass to be a harmonious sharing in the real presence of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.



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41 responses to “Three Judgments?”

  1. Martin Barry Avatar

    Thank you, Fr John, an excellent post. Your point about the musical judgement raises some interesting questions. Does the undesirability of having the music as the most memorable aspect of the liturgy relate just to points such as the Preparation of the Gifts (i.e. to relatively less important parts of the liturgical action), or to every part of the liturgy?

    That is, would it be equally undesirable for the people’s abiding memory of the week’s celebration to be the wonderful singing of the Sanctus, or the Great Amen? If so, perhaps the musical judgement does indeed amount to the requirement of ‘modesty’, a need to ‘tame’ the music so that it never dominates.

    I imagine hardcore chant enthusiasts might subscribe to this view; but neither the champions of the glories of Western art music, nor those who uphold the ideal of participation through contemporary liturgical song. What do you think?

    1. John Foley, S. J. Avatar
      John Foley, S. J.

      Martin, thanks to you too. As far as I can tell, the wonderful singing of the Sanctus would have to be judged by its fruits. I.e., does it lead us on from the holiness of God it proclaims and to the revelation of God in Jesus’ life that is the point. I believe this to be true of all music in the Mass, including contemporary liturgical song—which stands as much in danger of “taking over” as does huge classical and neo-classical music.

  2. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    The Milwaukee Statement (1992) criticized the three-judgment approach and advocated a single judgment that integrates all three three judgments into one. The USCCB document Sing to the Lord (2007) also appeared to believe that this is the way to go.

    Milwaukee was also very clear that the cultural context would be a crucial factor in making this combined judgment. In the American Church, the cultural dimension is much more important than in other places, although it is becoming increasingly important elsewhere too.

    Another judgment which could well enter into the mix is the theological or textual judgment.

    1. John Foley, S. J. Avatar
      John Foley, S. J.

      Paul, the writing of Sing to the Lord required much discussion on unification of the “three-judgment approach”. If there were three judgments, how could one judgment result? As a member of the advisory committee that composed STL, I can say that the answer did not come easily. We thought of saying that there is one judgment with three aspects. But it was felt that this would deemphasize the high importance of each aspect and it would make a decisive break with MCW. In the end, we judged that the best way was to introduce a new term: “evaluation”. If evaluation means the act of considering or examining something in order to judge its value, quality, importance, extent, or condition, then evaluation is the overarching notion, summing up within itself the judgments necessary for overview. The job of relevant church ministers is to “evaluate” the music for a given liturgy, using (and not omitting) the three judgments elaborated in MCW and STL.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        John, just to clarify that I was not criticizing your post, which I thought was theologically excellent and thought-provoking. Yes, many times no judgment at all is exercised….

        What I was trying to point to was the Milwaukee suggestion that (a) a single combined judgment might be easier for the folk at grass roots than a threefold judgment, and (b) that the cultural thing may be far more important than we realize.

        And I do think that the theological/textual judgment, which may be a subset of the liturgical judgment, is also important. Indeed, that seems to have been the driving force behind the infamous LA para 108. It wasn’t so much that they thought that the music was bad as that they thought that some composers/text-writers were not just bad theologians but in fact producing heretical texts. (FWIW, I agree with LA in this regard, but I don’t think producing a directory of approved items is the way to deal with this.) (ctd)

      2. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        (ctd) And I don’t see any real recognition of the textual/theological question in STL 126-136.

        I’m all in favour of evaluation, the STL term for the combined judgment. What I’d be very interested in discussing is what tools we can give people in parishes to enable them to do this evaluation.

  3. Jack Regan Avatar

    This is really interesting stuff. As a Youth Minister this whole area fascinates me. Finding music that lifts young people up to the mysteries of the Mass as it should, but yet which keeps everybody around them happy is a tough nut to crack indeed!

  4. Paul Mason Avatar

    Paul Inwood :

    The Milwaukee Statement (1992) criticized the three-judgment approach and advocated a single judgment that integrates all three three judgments into one.

    As Paul Inwood has indicated, there has been focused development of the MCW criteria over recent years. A single judgment is critical to avoiding problems of balance. Therefore a single criterion is needed.

    In his 2001 address to the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, Pope John Paul II offered a single criterion that integrated the three judgments: “The criterion that must inspire every composition and performance of songs and sacred music is the beauty that invites prayer.” He expanded on this in his Chirograph on Sacred Music in 2003, relating musical judgment to beauty, liturgical judgment to the nature of the prayer and pastoral judgment to the universal nature of the invitation, which must meet the legitimate demands for inculturation and at the same time be deserving of universal esteem.

  5. Fr. Allan McDonald Avatar

    Thank you too for a fine article. One of the things that I was taught way back in the late 70’s in the seminary that has helped me immensely throughout my priesthood is that in the Mass we “remember” the paschal events like the Jews of old remembered the passover events, not in some nostalgic, static way, but by acknowledging that God brings these past events forward through the prayer of the assembly and making these events available in the “present” in a way that is no longer bound by time or place. In terms of music, our parish is no where close to what I now see as the ideal–singing the official Introit and antiphons of the Mass in addition to the all the parts (which we do) and letting metrical hymns just be icing on the cake, not the cake. The closest I get is daily Mass, where I can lead without accompaniment, the singing of the alleluia and verse, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Agnus Dei. The congregation is led in speaking the “Introit” and communion antiphon, but the responsorial psalm is spoken but certainly not on Sunday.

  6. E Vianney Avatar
    E Vianney

    I am a complete ignoramous on this subject but I will offer one layman’s opinion. Please, no U2 Masses, hilbilly music, rock bands, sappy love songs done on Mother’s or Father’s day by the chior director, lyrics about how we are going to change the church, and unless it is Gregorian chant, please stay in the chior loft if one is available… the Mass is not about you. As a child of the 70’s and experience at being a junior liturgical director in 6th grade where we “built” our own Mass with the music being a pop song record being played, carefully selected by our class because it had a swear word in it, I think the rubrics and directives are a good thing. As Fr. Foley said, we are participating in the Paschal Mystery, it comes to us we don’t create it. How about if we step aside and leave the stage (sanctuary) to our Lord Jesus Christ and praise him with sacred, not profane music?

  7. Paul Mason Avatar

    Well, I agree with you that we should use sacred music, not profane. But what is sacred? The Constitution on Sacred Liturgy tells us that it is measured by the degree to which the music is “intimately linked with the liturgical action” (CSL, 112). Prior to Vatican II, the “sacredness” of music had been specifically tied to the movement, inspiration and savor of the Gregorian form. After Vatican II, this constraint, bound to the Latin language of Gregorian chant, was lifted. The underlying nature of holiness was now seen to be related to the intimate linkage with the liturgical action; Hence the liturgical judgment.

    The “sacredness” of music is not related to the form or style of music; rather it is to do with its “prayerfulness.” If the music is intimately related to the liturgy and its beauty draws the assembly to praying the liturgy, then it is doing the work of “sacred music.” Contemporary music styles, including rock, respond to legitimate demands for inculturation.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      It does depend. Just as Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis is not suited to the OF (let alone the EF) in liturgical action, so too there is plenty of rock that is not suited to the liturgy. The practical problem is, the newer the idiom, the less it has been sifted. Classically, and prudently, the sifting would first be done through devotional gatherings for a period of many years, before discerning what might be worthy of liturgy. But our instant gratification culture makes that seem severe; and among many aspects of culture, the instant gratification dimension does not merit inculturation.

      I was at Mass last week outdoors in a desert retreat in Arizona. The homilist spent a fair bit of energy on preaching the Social Gospel. Yet he and his cantor/keyboardist engaged in a kind of Tonight Show interaction that was obviously designed to comfort the mostly well-to-do Boomer/Silent Generation congregation. It seemed that their manner and choice of music contradicted the desert spirituality invited by the place and the erstwhile goal of the homily.

      If you want to get the People of God on the edge (and rock has long since stopping being edgy but is now mainstream), choosing what appeals to their sensibilities may undermine your goal. Remember that when considering inculturation.

    2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar
      Jeffrey Herbert

      Well, I agree with you that we should use sacred music, not profane. But what is sacred?

      Choose any 4 random people…really, any 4. Off the street, from the grocery store, whatever.

      Play for them:

      Lord I Lift Your Name on High
      The Sanctus from Missa De Angelis
      Sing of the Lord’s Goodness
      Kyrie from Byrd’s Mass for 5 Voices

      Ask them which of the 4 selections they think are “Sacred Music”. That will answer your question. Criteria are only useful if they are proscriptive, not descriptive. One gets the feeling that these “Three Criteria” were formulated to accomodate a particular type of music.

      For instance, why is the “textual consideration” even necessary? If the designated texts are used there should never be a question.

    3. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood


      The question is whether we should even be using the term “sacred music” (which incidentally was first used by a Lutheran in 1614 and did not enter the Catholic vocabulary until the end of the 18th/beginning of the 19th centuries).

      Play the same pieces of music and then ask some people which of them are religious music, ask others which pieces are church music, others which pieces are sacred music, yet others which pieces are liturgical music, and finally others which pieces are ritual music. I’ll bet you’ll get answers which don’t fit with what you want or expect them to say.

      As for why the textual consideration is even necessary, it sounds as if you don’t accept any other texts than those of the prescribed liturgy. If so, let’s forget the anonymous author of Phos hilaron, Ephraem the Syrian, and the thousands of others who have produced original meditations on the mystery of God and ourselves over the centuries….

  8. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    As an average singer who cannot sight read music, if you expect me to sing, it must be something that I have heard and sung several times before (except for refrains that I will be singing at least four or more times during the liturgy).
    Otherwise I am attending choir practice rather than worshiping. Or else a music concert if I decide to just listen, which I would rather do at home with my large music collection.
    Some of the best liturgies I have attended had no choir, just a skilled organist who did practice the songs before Mass, and who chose familiar songs. Whoever decides the music all too often chooses unfamiliar music to accomplish their liturgical, pastoral and music goals.

  9. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas


    While what you say above is true enough, it remains true that no form of music is _inherently_ unsuitable for liturgy, by virtue of is form or style. Any given work might not be, and some genres might pose more challenges than others, but that does not mean that the workable ones should be forbidden on the grounds that they’re an unacceptable type of music.

    If the three-fold judgment is out, how about a three-fold fit? The occasion, the community, and the musicians [including the priest] performing it. At the risk of annoying many, there are some people, including priests, who should not sing, at least not with amplification. I’ve had to listen to some priests who really liked to sing the Mass, but did so badly. Nails-on-blackboard badly. It was not an experience of prayer.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      Well, I am in favor of no-amplification for parish churches, which should be designed with natural acoustics in mind so that amplification is not needed for singing. Too many people design primarily for visuals and think mediocre or poor natural acoustics can be solved by sound engineers. A patch is not a solution. The solution is to treat the space as a natural acoustical instrument, and let the visuals flow from there.

      I do not rule out the idea that there forms of music that are inherently unsuitable for liturgy. For example, I think the operatic form of music is such; likewise, the music of the commercial theater in general, old or new. (This is all the more true for Americans accustomed to being entertained passively by such music – which really undercuts the liturgical reforms intended by Vatican II.) Much of what passes for secular rock and jazz might be likewise. (By contrast, I would say that American black & white spirituals and, with more discretion, the Gospel style that grew from the encounter between those idioms and jazz, are safer ground.) I would just prefer that judgment to be experientially empirical rather than entirely conceptual.

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        “Should be designed with natural acoustics in mind so that amplification is not needed for singing.” OK, I won’t argue that point, but the physical fact is that most church buildings have and need amplification. They likely won’t be redesigned anytime soon, either.

        I clearly disagree with you on the inherent unsuitability question. But, ‘experientially empirical’ is a reasonable standard. Before rejecting a work based on its form, I’d like to hear it and evaluate [or have someone well qualified do so] _that particular work_. I don’t have any particular examples in mind; but I hesitate to say categorically that no opera-type of work [for example] is under any circumstance suitable for church. ‘Secular’ is a modifier for rock and jazz, but it seems that you’re not excluding those forms wholesale based on their form; is this correct?

      2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
        Jack Rakosky

        Amen to naturally good acoustics! We have an area church, of modern design, that has beautiful acoustics. During the summer they have one weekend Mass a capella. No choir, but a cantor who does use a mike, just enough to get us started and then fades back to be with us. What a refreshing summer change! Of course hymns are chosen that we know. How wonderful when the walls echo that the community can sing. How much better than all those times when all the sound seems to be coming out of instruments, or the choir in the corner, or those boxes overhead.

    2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar
      Jeffrey Herbert

      While what you say above is true enough, it remains true that no form of music is _inherently_ unsuitable for liturgy, by virtue of is form or style.

      REALLY?? No form…???

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        Really. At least, I won’t say in advance that any form is inherently unsuitable. And _proving_ that no work in a form _could_ be suitable, is very hard, indeed near impossible. Certainly, some forms are harder to imagine working well than others, but that does not mean that no work of that form could _ever_ work, anywhere, for any community.

        This is a theoretical argument. On the practical level of selecting music for a particular occasion in a particular parish, it’s not hard to filter out this form or that, if only because time constraints preclude evaluating a candidate work, but more likely on the basis of what fits the community and the small chance of finding a suitable work in a given genre.

      2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar
        Jeffrey Herbert

        As Pope JPII has said speaking about music…

        For this very reason, “not all without distinction that is outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross its threshold”, my venerable Predecessor Paul VI wisely said.

        Today, moreover, the meaning of the category “sacred music” has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself

        Whether he is speaking about “inherent” properties of the music I don’t know….but it certainly would seem that he is saying that there are types of music that are identifiably unsuitable for the liturgy. To try and “nuance” this fact makes the issue more complex than it needs to be.

        If you make a conscious decision to only use clearly identifiable “Sacred Music” at Mass, then the “Three Criteria” are unnecessary since their only role is to justify the use of music about which there is a question.

      3. Scott Pluff Avatar
        Scott Pluff

        “If you make a conscious decision to only use clearly identifiable “Sacred Music” at Mass, then the “Three Criteria” are unnecessary since their only role is to justify the use of music about which there is a question.”

        Jeffrey: Would you say that “sacred music” (the treasury of chant and polyphony, I presume) not only meets but transcends the three criteria?

        This may be true of the liturgical and musical criteria, as chant is the prototype of all sacred music. But to say that chant always meets the pastoral criteria may not hold. I presume that you and many others hold that position, but many bishops, pastors, and liturgical musicians would not agree.

        Depending on one’s rendering of the pastoral judgment, chant and polyphony may be deemed inappropriate in many situations. [The pastoral judgment is surely the most subjective of the three, which makes it the most slippery.]

  10. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    I appreciate Fr John’s post. I appreciate drawing in our experience of the Paschal Mystery into the judgments.

    What I don’t quite understand is the widespread doubt concerning three judgments. Do traditionalist musicians knee-jerk against anything post-conciliar? Why is one judgment better than three? Is liturgical music so “easy” that one judgment suits all?

    When I was introduced to the three judgments, it was a challenge to the musical leadership of my university parish. But it permitted music groups there to grow and develop as liturgical musicians, as the liturgy developed a more participatory and prayerful ethos.

    “Beauty inviting prayer” is a nice idea. But the principle often avoids the demands of liturgy and its structure. When well done, praise & worship music is beauty inviting prayer. But it doesn’t address the liturgy. Often much great music succeeds wildly on one or two judgments, but sinks on a third. It helps us to understand more clearly what is needed for good liturgy.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur


      I suspect some (not all) of the distrust, at least among older musicians comes from using the three-fold judgment as a kind of super-rule to overrule other rules, et cet., or to shut up people who questioned the judgment(s). (In other words, rules-based behaviors are not simply limited to people who cite rubrics – the finding of loopholes and trump cards is no less rules-based.) I know I witnessed that happening from time to time; perhaps now that the three-fold judgment is no formally longer part of the “rule book”, as it were, it may be more useful as the simply informal guidance/challenge it was intended to be. The moment, however, we start using it to game the “rules”, then we should know we are only kidding ourselves.

      My other suggestion is that we try to avoid evaluating liturgies on a photographic basis and instead consider the movie, as it were – that’s a sensibility that almost everyone seems to neglect, but I think is truer to the Roman sensibility than many realize.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Well, there’s no doubt that the three judgments have been both misapplied as well as used as a bludgeon. This is the Catholic Church, after all. And we American Catholics do bludgeon quite well, especially when it’s getting delivered from the clergy to the laity.

        Before he retired, I worked for one of the priests who wrote MCW. The goal of the document was to give guidelines to parish musicians who, in many places in the early 70’s were struggling. Legislation was far from anyone’s mind, he related. You can’t mandate art, let alone quality.

    2. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
      Fr. Christopher Costigan

      That works both ways. For some, even the suggestion that a hymn with a few Latin words, or, heaven forbid, chant gets a reaction like you just tore up Vatican II and were forcing the entire Church into the SSPX.

  11. Kathy Pluth Avatar

    Here is an extended treatment of related themes:

  12. Scott Pluff Avatar
    Scott Pluff

    Are these judgments made subjectively, or is there some level of objectivity? I have encountered well-meaning musicians who believe that children shaking gravel inside plastic butter bowls is beautiful, as if anything done by kids is automatically beautiful. What if “I” think it’s musical/liturgical/pastoral/beautiful? The 2nd grade teacher and the parish secretary agree with me, so I must be right.

    I second the call for for tools we can give people in parishes to make these judgments–with objective measures. In a perfect world every parish would have degreed musicians and liturgists, but surely we can improve the status quo somehow.

  13. J Thomas Avatar
    J Thomas

    As a Catholic raised Pentecostal I would point out that the current edition of “Worship Leader Magazine” is entitled “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs: Writing and Selecting Music to the Glory of God.”

    Darlene Zschech, music director of Hillsong Church, Australia, offers some standards of composition: “Don’t write to impress the ears of man, but write singable songs what will gather people, songs accessible to the ordinary, songs that relate to the every day walk that we walk… Write songs that are simple prayers put to music, songs that are childlike in approach, songs that encourage people to seek the Lord.”

    Suitability for worship: “I believe that choosing songs because of what they are saying, and what the songs are causing us, the Church, to declare is very important, not just choosing songs that transition well from one key or feel to another.”

    Lest we be dismissive also gaining mention elsewhere are musicology, Byzantine Hymnology, melismatic chant, etc.

  14. Jeff Rice Avatar
    Jeff Rice

    I think the “three judgments” are fundamentally flawed. Music in Catholic Worship is extremely helpful as a practical document, but to be honest, I find it a little lite on God for a document that describes itself as “Theology of Celebration”. Instead, it serves as a manual of how “we” should express our faith. It sees sacred music as a means for the assembly to show its faith. Therefore all of these judgments that have little to do with God and everything to do with “us”. No wonder we have so many musical battles. It seems to me that traditionally Catholic sacred music has been more about revealing God to humanity than humanity to God. Thus we get compositions that in their very structure try to depict God. I think of Bruckner’s Locus Iste, where even without the words you can hear that it’s about building a foundation and what happens when the foundation goes away. Or the vine-like characteristics of chant come to mind.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Hi Jeff,
      Well, our bishops don’t think the three judgments are fundamentally flawed! I’ve long wondered whether it isn’t guilt by association – no matter how solid the three judgments obviously are, they remind some people of the era of guitar Masses and ditsy music. I think we need to get beyond that.
      I think Fr. Foley is referring to the recent document STL, not the older MCW. Reveal God to humanity or humanity to God? Yes to both! I agree with you that MCW cheated the first and overemphasized the second. But I think STL pretty much gets the balance right.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        The irony is that MCW was written to address the “ditsy” situation of the day. MCW was also developed in a particular context and for the situations of the early 1970’s. Consider also the optimism of the day: it was presumed every Catholic was God-oriented, faithful, and all. It was also before the final first edition of the GIRM and MR1, which the BCL certainly knew was on the horizon.

    2. John Foley, S. J. Avatar
      John Foley, S. J.

      Jeff: I am in great sympathy with your point about shifting all attention to the people and away from God. I wonder if you would mind re-reading my entry at the top for a vigorous defense of what you say while at the same time supporting strongly the three judgments.

      1. Jeff Rice Avatar
        Jeff Rice

        Thanks for your reply. I did reread your entry. Still, the three judgements do originally come from MCW, no? It seems like we are trying to rework or redefine them to fit a 2010 view of the liturgy. I still maintain that fundamentally the three judgments have us thinking backwards, that is, considering the horizontal before the vertical. It’s not so much that I associate them with a bygone time (I wasn’t around then), but how I think they direct us to consider music in the liturgy. I think we need to have more specific discussions of the specific elements of music and how they communicate a theology. Father Foley, for instance, I think of your beautiful Sanctus in the Mass of the Pilgrim Church. It is such a strong, noble statement. I think it conveys the sense that this God is something to be relied upon, we can trust God to hold us up, etc. It’s these type of discussions that I think are more helpful, and I’m not sure the three judgments move us in that direction.

    3. John Foley, S. J. Avatar
      John Foley, S. J.

      JEFF: I am not sure where this post will show up, but it is a reply to your latest one. I certainly would not stake my life on the 3 judgments, but they seem helpful, at least to me. They did indeed come from MCW, but STL modified and enlarged them considerably. Profound thanks for your comment on my Mass of the Pilgrim Church Holy. What you said is exactly what I was trying for. The only problem is that “it does not sell.”

      Fr. John

  15. Paul Mason Avatar

    Jeffrey Herbert :

    As Pope JPII has said …
    For this very reason, “not all without distinction that is outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross its threshold”, my venerable Predecessor Paul VI wisely said.
    Today, moreover, the meaning of the category “sacred music” has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself

    These citations are worth unpacking a bit. Firstly, the two popes are saying that, while not all new music is fit for use in liturgy, some will be; elsewhere they say new music is encouraged. Secondly, some music generally understood to belong to the category of sacred music is not fit to be used in liturgy (eg the multi-movement form of Kyrie as used in Bach’s Mass in Bm was banned by Pius X)

  16. Paul Mason Avatar

    Regarding which music is obviously sacred, I would select “Sing of the Lords’ Goodness” ahead of Byrd’s Mass for 5 voices every Sunday. Byrd’s Kyrie, which is a lovely piece of sacred polyphony, just doesn’t fit the norms for the liturgy:

    “Since (the Kyrie) is a chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy, it is ordinarily done by all, that is, by the people and the choir or cantor having a part in it. (GIRM, 52)”

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      Thanks for this, Paul, which is in the same line as my reply to Jeffrey above, currently #14 in the thread. I hadn’t read yours before penning mine.

    2. Jeff Rice Avatar
      Jeff Rice

      The Byrd is a least music composed using the text of the Mass. The individual movements are written for specific parts of the liturgy. Sing of the Lord’s Goodness is a song that one might sing at Mass, but it is not singing the Mass. Further, it wasn’t written (as far as I’m aware) for any specific liturgical action. I think the real test is in the music itself. Play Sing of the Lord’s Goodness without the words, ask someone on the street where they would expect to hear it, and they would probably say the local jazz club. Play the Byrd Kyrie with the choir singing “oo” instead of Kyrie, and my guess is most listeners would associate it with being in a church.

  17. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood


    Modern scholars now think that Byrd’s Masses and Gradualia were never sung at Mass, but were written for devotional services in the absence of a priest. This might just affect your argument above.

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