Motivations For Making a Living

I was bothered by Charles’ comment in the B16, Meet Marty Haugen thread.

(F)or Mr. Haugen to formally state his personal convictions that the institution (The Church Christ founded) that he has purposefully benefited financially from throughout his career, starting even as a “parish musician,” is essentially at odds and in error with Jesus Christ’s commission (as Mr. Haugen sees it) as regards Holy Orders, seems intellectually dishonest at the least, hypocritcal at the worst. Does he not receive royalties every time a publisher reprints “All Are Welcome” in their hymnal or a recording of it is sold or played on a commercial broadcast? But yet, he does not believe, in fact, that “all are welcome” in the Roman Catholic Church? Hello?

The Catholic Church as an institution does not hire musicians, and it doesn’t utilize the music they compose.

Pastors, staff members, and parishioners make these choices. And in any case, their understanding of ecclesiology need not be perfect or orthodox in any sense for them to pay a musician, either by salary or royalties, who may or may not be completely orthodox. If the morality of a composer were any sort of determining factor in using that person’s music, are church musicians prepared to study biography in detail? Or are we being a tad hypocritical?

I suppose a principle strongly held might cause a person to brush up against cooperation with what they perceive as evil, wrong, misperceived, or less than a good thing. I’d suppose that abortion opponents might choose to practice tax resistance rather than cooperate with a society dedicated to the destruction of the unborn. More often, a convenient choice is made: to attempt to punish those who do not believe with full congruence.

I remain unconvinced of the philosophy of “love it or leave it,” or as the neo-orthodox would rephrase: obey or get out. It struck me as rather dumb when applied to Vietnam War protesters in the 70′s. It seems more an exercise in anger today than an exercise in logic.

As a lay person in the employ of Catholic parishes for the past twenty years, I identify far, far more with the people I serve than with the institution. My retirement portfolio is laughable. The institution contributed zero to the cost of my schooling. I think the pope, curia, bishops, and clergy make catastrophic errors in judgment almost daily. If they asked me, I’d get specific. Parishioners have confirmed my call from God, and they make serving as a liturgist fruitful, worthwhile, and a blessed opportunity.

Yet why don’t I feel I’m a hypocrite?

Because I work for the people. I don’t serve my “superiors.” My pastor can hire and fire as he wishes, giving two week’s notice or two week’s pay. The institutional Church owes me nothing and the same’s true in the opposite direction.

Marty Haugen says he differs with the institutional Church. And I say, “So what?” People are free to buy, use, sing, play, ignore, burn, or criticize his music. What I often detect from his critics is an immature sense of envy. “My compositions are better. Why aren’t I published? Why isn’t my music sing for the pope, played in parishes, or the subject of adoring fans?”

My only answer for envy is that no matter how good you are or that you think you are, nobody owes you a darn thing. Tough news, but somebody has to break it.

Or if you want to get Biblical, why do the wicked thrive and the just suffer? If you really want the answer, turn the clock back a few weeks.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to Motivations For Making a Living

  1. Tony says:

    The Catholic Church as an institution does not hire musicians, and it doesn’t utilize the music they compose.

    No, but the institutional Church still has a say in how Christ’s Mass is celebrated. Liturgists are fine and dandy if they understand what liturgy is, and more importantly what it is not. If they don’t follow the rules for Christ’s Mass as defined by Christ’s Church, it simply is not a Catholic Mass.

    Pastors, staff members, and parishioners make these choices. And in any case, their understanding of ecclesiology need not be perfect or orthodox in any sense for them to pay a musician, either by salary or royalties, who may or may not be completely orthodox. If the morality of a composer were any sort of determining factor in using that person’s music, are church musicians prepared to study biography in detail? Or are we being a tad hypocritical?

    God uses cracked pots (and sometimes “crackpots”). I have long since given up worrying about the state of my priest’s soul as it relates to his Holy Orders. This is between himself and his confessor.

    If he commits liturgical abuse, it is my concern, because as a member of the Body of Christ, I have the right to a liturgy done right.

    Heck, a piece of Catholic music can be composed by an avowed Satanist, but if it is doctrinally correct, and brings the faithful more deeply into the mystery of the Mass, then we can use it, and God gets to get a chuckle at Satan.

    Because I work for the people. I don’t serve my “superiors.” My pastor can hire and fire as he wishes, giving two week’s notice or two week’s pay. The institutional Church owes me nothing and the same’s true in the opposite direction.

    I guess it’s not an adventure, it’s just a job.

    Maybe the position of liturgist should not be a job it should be a ministry. For 20 years I have considered myself a music minister. I have followed my choir director who was my musical shepherd, appointed by my pastor who is my parish shepherd who was appointed by the bishop who is my diocese’ shepherd who was appointed by the pope who is everyone’s German shepherd.

    I have sung music that made my skin crawl. I have dealt with stupid assed “inclusive language” that made the lyrics of a song sound moronic. I drew the line at referring to God as “she”, and I told the choir director that. But I have been a mostly faithful follower.

    But ultimately, my job is to help draw the faithful into a deeper communion with Christ. Not to just be Mitch to the parish “sing along with Mitch”.

    Marty Haugen has some good stuff, and some of it I enjoy singing.

  2. Todd says:

    “Maybe the position of liturgist should not be a job it should be a ministry.”

    Good point. You inform the institution; I’ll keep working with the people. The parishioners seem to get it.

  3. Charles in CenCA says:

    Dear Todd,
    I thank you for a reasoned response to my post. I cannot reflect and reply now as I’ve got to get ready for a very long day at the school, then staff meeting, then schola rehearsal.
    I trust that you understand that what I had to say was not couched in terms that would be deemed “bile.” I took great pains to articulate that I had no prejudice regarding Marty Haugen’s actual music catalogue.
    To be continued in charity and respect…

  4. You know, Todd, now that a have a little down time before the next wave, I think it best to refrain from furthering the discussion between your points of contention and mine. It occurs to me that all of this based upon whether the original post from “Marty Haugen” was genuinely authored by him.
    I believe the discussion can continue on general principles that we’ve both shared and do not agree upon; but if my comments had their origin via a falsehood, then furthering this debate does Mr. Haugen an injustice. I hope you understand my concern.

  5. Clayton says:

    Todd,

    What strikes me as sad is that you don’t seem to feel an obligation to your pastor or the larger community of the Church:

    I work for the people. I don’t serve my “superiors.” My pastor can hire and fire as he wishes, giving two week’s notice or two week’s pay. The institutional Church owes me nothing and the same’s true in the opposite direction.

    It’s true that your pastor could fire you if he were unpleased with the way you carry out your role. But do you really have no deeper sense of commitment to your boss or the wider Church?

    I think a lot of the anger that gets directed toward Marty Haugen is misdirected… and it’s not envy of the musician, really, but anger at the abuse of power by liturgists, and the abdication of authority by the clergy. The fact is that parishioners have little or no say in what music is used for worship in the congregation… and if the priest has delegated responsibility for liturgical music to a mere functionary who feels no sense obligation to the larger Church and tradition (other than what their personal taste might dictate), you can imagine, I think, why many would be frustrated. Lex orandi, lex credendi…Music is part of the prayer of the liturgy… so it has an impact on the faith of the community.

  6. Todd says:

    Clayton, thanks for the good questions.

    Not having a sense of serving my “superiors” is not the same as lacking any obligations toward them. I was careful in my language when I posted this, though it’s been colored by my own employment situation. Please be careful in turn with what you read into what I write.

    There is virtually no commitment between lay ecclesial ministers and the institutional church. We are not formed and trained in the way seminarians or postulants in religious orders may be. It seems that the deeper sense of institutional commitment requires something of a mutuality, not a mindless obedience for obedience’s sake. If the Church were to look for a lifetime commitment from people to do liturgy and music, there was a time that would have been a willing commitment on my part. It still might be. Do I feel a sense of obligation to my employer? Certainly yes. Bishop of pope? I admire and follow them, but I owe them nothing more than any other Catholic does.

    Professional liturgists or music directors appear in a seventh of American parishes (at most) according to CARA. Anger directed toward them is a head-scratcher for most American Catholics. That said, I’ve followed up a few people in my time who have had little sense of service and have strewn alienation and discord. Spitting bile at Marty Haugen makes as much sense as people blaming Fr Neuhaus or Greeley for sex abuse.

    These points are worth exploring in some depth when I get a bit of time. Look for a post in the next few days.

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