To begin with, I don’t think personal taste is a trivial or inconsequential aspect of human judgment.
An example: I don’t like peas. The taste is okay when it’s in a soup. And I’ll tolerate the vegetable in a mixture with other stuff. But I’ve never enjoyed the texture of that food. In context of my overall diet, I have other greens I enjoy eating, so I’m not deprived either nutritionally or in cuisine.
As a parent, I’m aware my daughter doesn’t like mushrooms. I don’t feel it’s important for me to explore why: I will take at face value that either the taste or texture or some negative experience in the past colors her reticence about fungi.
If she weren’t eating any vegetables, then that would be a concern. But as Brittany eats nearly anything, I somewhat avoid cooking with mushrooms, and when I do use them, she doesn’t have to eat them.
Personal taste: a personal judgment, but nor more or no less.
Personal taste devolves into a dictatorship when a few people or one person attempts to dictate based on an argument they can’t take to the next level. We’ve seen a bit of this recently in discussing two favorite hymn texts of the conservative blogosphere: “Gather Us In” and “Sing A New Church.”
Some of my commentariat interpret critique of the critique as being an apologist for Marty Haugen or Delores Dufner. Misguided argument: my beef is with people who, unlike Liam or a few others, cannot argue convincingly against the texts. While I’ve used both hymns in worship planning, I consider them second-tier efforts, especially compared to the contemporary writers I find to have a sound grasp of Scripture, liturgy, and artistry, people like Sr Genevieve Glen.
When Tony comes to my combox and tries to ruffle my feathers by addressing things as heresy, he makes my argument more convincingly than I could make it myself. Not only does he underscore my point of the use of “heresy” as a perjorative (rather than an ecclesiastical charge) but he also illustrates Pope Benedict’s dictatorship of relativism–by self-example.
In this old Adoremus essay, I think Father Paul Scalia stumbles badly in proof-texting for his personal taste, and not reading enough perspective:
“Sing a New Church”, a triumphalist paean to diversity by Delores Dufner, OSB, also fosters the Cult of Us:
Let us bring the gifts that differ
And, in splendid, varied ways,
Sing a new Church into being,
One in faith and love and praise
So the chorus goes, and the verses similarly proclaim us to ourselves. Passing over the tremendous ecclesiological problems in the text, we should question what the song communicates to the congregation: songs about us constitute worship of the Almighty. We have replaced Him as the focus of worship.
Perhaps he thinks he’s piling on evidence like they do on tv legal shows, but he sinks his own case and the boat has a lot of breaches:
1. Triumphalism sure tastes good when it’s on one’s own side.
2. I wonder if Fr Scalia has a problem with the Pauline diversity of Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12.
3. It’s easy enough to pull a clause out of a complete sentence in this hymn. My reading of “Sing A New Church” is that each verse+refrain unit constitutes its own sentence, or at least a unified thought.
4. Fr Scalia hints at ecclesiological problems, but unless he’s on a word-count, I’m sure HHH would’ve given him room to elaborate.
5. He fails to realize the context of singing this hymn: the celebration of the Eucharist.
6. Most damning of all: he misquotes the text, attributing a capital “C” where the original text simply reads “church.” Why this error that would lead to an inflamed support for his own undescribed “problems.”
My own analysis of Sing a New Church:
Verse one establishes God’s call and one gift richer than variety: unity in Christ. Verse two roots believers in their baptism. Verse three completes the Trinity and alludes to tradition. Verse four looks outward from the body of believers and suggests a unity of worship and social action. Verse five speaks of evangelization and the hoped-for result of a growing community.
The hymn as a whole describes a rather sound goal, entirely keeping in the Cathlic tradition, that some parishes don’t get: the sacraments are a springboard for spreading the Gospel in the world. In other words, the Mass is source and summit: basic Vatican II.
Some Catholics prefer summit: the worship of God. They may or may not have mastered a sense of the Eucharist as a source from which the power of the Church flows.
Getting back to personal taste … I’ll assess the skill of a person’s argument. If I get the sense we have a conclusion in search of a justification, I have no problem suggesting “personal taste” as a possible diagnosis. It’s not evil or wrong to demur from what amounts to a catechetical song. As long as the person or community in question lives the Christian values behind the text, it would be easy to assess that the teaching is received, and that personal taste, no matter how badly it’s argued, might indicate a different choice for liturgy.
Commentariat, take over, please, and offer your own assessments.