Now we get to (almost) everybody’s favorite topic, sacred music. Chapter VI has ten sections, beginning with praising music above any other art:
The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.
This is along the lines of what progressive musicians have been saying for at least the past twenty years: music as an integration into the liturgy. This is far more than the appropriate matching of the texts of musical treasures and inserting them into lulls in the liturgical action.
Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song (Cf. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16.), and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord.
The council looks with high regard on the various documents on sacred music that preceded, if not presaged Vatican II.
Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.
This is a vital paragraph. First, it acknowledges that all church music is not equal. The highest regard is not given to classical tradition, but how closely connected to the liturgical action it may be. In other words, the highest value is accorded to the ritual relevance of the music. This would be why Music in Catholic Worship would apply this judgment to the Eucharistic Acclamations, the psalm and the alleluia.
Look at the other judgments:
#2: adding to delight in prayer
#3: fostering unity
#4: enhancing solemnity
The order given is telling: first, the connection with ritual action. In other words, the music actively supports what the people are doing, not just provides an accompaniment to the busy-ness. “Delight” is a significant factor. Can we church musicians say our music delights our parishioners? Fostering unity seems self-evident, that the best church music is that which people sing actively, or that which aligns with their sense of the spiritual. And of course, the notion that “fancy” music helps “fancy” occasions.
Assuming that a musical genre is capable of rendering these four factors, such music is acceptable for liturgy. Period.
Accordingly, the sacred Council, keeping to the norms and precepts of ecclesiastical tradition and discipline, and having regard to the purpose of sacred music, which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful, decrees as follows.
And we’ll get to these decrees later on …