B16 Inspires A Vigorous Culture of Complaint

The confluence of videoblogging-plus-commentariat with a papal visit to the US has given us a glimpse of the future.

It’s not pretty: and I’m not talking about the music.

Liam alerted me to the overstuffed combox at NLM’s megathread. I’m too darned busy to read all 274 posts. (And if you’re ever tempted to turn one of my threads here into a 274-post morass, I’ll e-mail you personally with suggestions to pet your cat, play chess with your kid, smooch your spouse, or do something else constructive.)

Jeffrey Tucker labelled the post “The End of an Era, and the Beginning of Something New.” It certainly is the beginning of something new, but I don’t think it’s anything good.

It reminds me of the music reading sessions I used to attend. Some of the music was indeed weak or weakly executed, but the most disturbing and distracting thing would be if I was unfortunate enough to sit next to a critic. “NIMP” would be scrawled across the music, and all neighbors within earshot would be told why.

I think it’s safe to say that nobody from the reform2 movement was put in charge of any liturgy for the pope’s visit. I’m sure that fact simmers and seethes within some souls. But it’s true. It’s also true that pretty much nothing on the whole agenda will meet with their satisfaction. And if, by some chance, the repertoire item might be non-objectionable, some criticism of the performance will be cited.

So NLM conducts a cyber free-for-all just like those readings sessions I now avoid. And this is progress? Better to go to Mass in one’s own parish and ignore the whole deal in DC.

As one final comment, I’ll open it up on the front of “personal taste.” If you dare, read over the bulk of the NLM comments. Consider that the site host silenced the commentariat for awhile, then pleaded for calm. Practically the very next post picked up where the shutdown left off. If this kind of commentary is to move beyond personal taste, it will need balance: the positive alternative to build upon rather than the creaky negativity and catty envy.

With respect to my friend RP who calls me on my “personal taste” criticism, it may well be true this Mass was poorly performed and some music badly chosen. I didn’t watch, nor do I have any interest whatsoever in a replay. For this to move beyond an expression of “what I don’t like,” the commentariat will have to come up with something positive. And in the environment where the tomatoes and eggs are flying full out, good luck getting a sensible word in edgewise.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News, Liturgical Music, The Blogosphere. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to B16 Inspires A Vigorous Culture of Complaint

  1. Jimmy Mac says:

    “Complaint gives you power, even when it’s only the power of emotional bribery, of creating previously unnoticed levels of social guilt.”

    Robert Hughes, Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

    “Catholic used to mean universal. Now it means a type of Christian institution that has become narrow in its thinking, closed to the Spirit, unable to recognize the richness of diversity or the beauty of creation. Catholic Christian is a type of Christian. Christianity is what we have in common with many other types of Christians. Catholic is only an adjective describing Christian. Roman Catholic (another defining adjective of Christian) many times refers to those Catholics stuck in old wineskins, in narrow vision and thinking. Catholic Christian in the original sense of the term is one who is ecumenical, open, all-embracing of race, of language, of new insights, of cultures (multi-dimensional).”

    David L. Corcoran

  2. Gen X Revert says:

    You said: “it may well be true this Mass was poorly performed and some music badly chosen”

    Your choice of the word ‘performed’is very telling. I did not see the Mass yet either since I was working, but I do not believe Mass is performed, it is offered or perhaps celebrated, but not performed. The music at Mass should be part of the entire prayer, not performed in any way. I did not read the NLM threads yet, but it sounds like the complaints seem to be that the music was too much of a performance, which I have witnessed many times, even at a parish where the music is done very well. Music at Mass should look, sound and feel like a prayer, not a performance.

  3. Todd says:

    My choice of words was intentional, as it was clear to me the worship was being assessed on a basis of performance, and not just the music.

  4. AMEN!!!

    I too may not have had everything to what I see in terms of Liturgy going. But I read something on Whispers in the Loggia a month or so ago that said something to the effect of “God forbid that people actually listen to his message then talk about what he is wearing”.

    And I think that is the heart of it. If everyone would actually LISTEN to what the Pope had to say today, then they would have just shut up. It is true, some dialogue needs to happen in terms of music in the Mass and such. But self-appointed experts need to learn that their opinion doesn’t always matter.

    The Pope was stressing holiness in his homily, and indeed throughout his visit. Holiness is the core of our faith, it is what everything centers around. Holiness will flow over into a proper praxis of the Liturgy. But, in the end, we must remember that what truly matters is holiness. Once it is lived, everything just falls into place. Fr. Neuhaus made the comment today that “it is unfortunate in some of the musical selections based on the Pope’s works on the Liturgy. However, that is all secondary. He is being very pastoral, knowing that his presence and message will bring more to Christ then the type of music that is played”. I am completely paraphrasing, for I can’t remember it all exactly, but I think that’s the point. Msgr. Marini approved this because he knew that the music, though important, is not the first and most important thing in the life of the Church. Holiness is always first, it is the mission of the Church to guide her members to holiness.

    If only people would practice the charity that the Pope is asking for, our Church would have Liturgy that is truly according to the desire of Mother Church.


  5. Liam says:


    The link in your post is to a *subsequent* thread. The original megathread is here:


  6. Randolph Nichols says:

    I share the goals of many liturgical/musical reforms espoused by Shawn Tribe at NLM, but the hysteria that site often invokes subverts any possibility of achieving a clear and realistic perspective. In two weeks few will remember the music performed at the mass in Washington D.C., while the pope’s unexpected meeting with abuse victims could have a resounding impact on the Church’s future – particularly here in the Boston area. The goodwill generated by this gesture will do more toward creating an atmosphere conducive to liturgical reform than all the cyber babbling put together.

  7. Liam says:


    It is my observation that many people who are liturgical enthusiasts often behave like, well, enthusiasts. There are all manner of flavors of liturgical enthusiasts, mind you. I have seen the same mentality betrayed in those NLM threads in progressive guise in earlier periods of my life. In fact, the longer time passes, the more I see the similarity of the enthusiast mindset in the different flavor manifestations.

    The liturgy cannot bear the weight of the hopes and fears of liturgical enthusiasts. It’s not designed to do it. Enthusiasts have to do the hard and sometimes bitter work of learning and practicing detachment. The Internet is a particular challenge for many in this regard, and may well be an occasion of sin for some of them.

    Enthusiasts tend to sow the seeds of the weeds that choke out their cherised goals, but earnestly and sincerly imagine they are sowing the seeds of those goals.

    * * *

    “Can I just vent?”

    The best answer if often: No.

  8. I’ve now written two posts on the mass at Vox-Nova (with pictures from the mass), and on my Roadgoeseveron, put another dozen of my pictures from the mass, and a link to Placido Domingo’s Panis Angelicus which shows the Pope’s enthusiastic (clapping) response.

  9. Gavin says:

    I think Todd is being rather unfair towards critics of the Nationals Mass. I must say I was surprised to see even my own reaction was typical for the crowd. I was one of the few advocating calm and optimism, but the music sank below even the worst expectations. However, if you contrast the facts of the common reaction shared by myself with Todd’s caricature, you see 2 different realities:

    – The music at the Mass was horribly inappropriate. Not only was it far from the ideal which you can find at http://www.cantemusdomino.net/2008/04/17/propers-for-the-votive-mass-of-the-holy-spirit-with-audio-and-translations/ but much of the music was just not in a style compatible with the liturgy. So Todd is correct that people really didn’t like it. However, I would question if he can with all honesty say that he would approve of the gospel Kyrie or the less-than-tonal psalm at his parish.

    – What Todd’s “All they do is complain” world ignores is the outcry of approval and thanks over the Pope’s reverent Vespers service. For my own part, I wouldn’t have a “cantor” to sing over the congregation for the hymn. Other than that, it was universally loved.

    – For strike two, most everyone was pleased with the non-musical ceremonial of the Mass. The stadium was reverently outfitted. The altar was beautiful. The vestments were great. Very few people have had anything but praise for these aspects of the Mass.

    – Todd writes that all this complaining is because no one from the “reform2 movement” was in power. I question to what extent such an attitude is a monolithic “movement”. I’d say we can include Bps. Burke, Finn, Boyea as bishops who want the liturgy reverently celebrated according to Roman legislation and would oppose much of the music at the Mass. And it is a bit of a shame that their input wasn’t sought, although their dioceses were not visited. I will just hold out hope that the Pope will in future visits be at St. Louis or St. John Cantius.

    – Finally, I think many were happy with the Mass of Creation. It was very well done. It’s a shame it’s still done to death, but that Sanctus was exactly what was appropriate for Mass.

    Todd: 1 – Reality: 3

  10. Liam says:


    The energy this week in the complaining is far greater than the other more positive energy. You apparently did not see the many many many posts that were deleted as they were being posted by the minute – this was minute by minute biliousness on a tsunami scale. I was astounded, and thought many people demonstrated an almost complete lack of impulse control. It was very adolescent.

    And that is not an episodic fiction. And here’s the rub: if the commentariat is not representative of people at large, than what it likes and dislikes is not really indicative of anything and can be ignored in terms of its erstwhile representative of what “the people” like or don’t like, while if it is representative, that negative energy then represents a significant problem.

  11. Gavin says:

    Liam, I saw the posts that remained on NLM, so I can’t imagine the stupidity of those which were deleted. However, I became a convert to the outrage (formerly believing it can’t be so bad) when the gospel Kyrie started. I did not deny the outrage is there, nor that it’s extreme. Todd has assigned a faulty cause to it, his usual “culture of complaint”, and I challenge his diagnosis by pointing to the positive remarks made.

    Is the reaction overblown? It was not in a Christian manner for the most part, but I question if it’s overblown. The majority of that music I would surely have listed as objectively unusable for a Catholic Mass, whether by style or “performability”. There is something seriously wrong with a planning mindset that would allow that music for a children’s liturgy, much less for a Papal Mass.

    My hope is that such an extreme reaction will draw attention, and that us in the CMAA (and like-minded people) will do what we always do: present an alternative to the music we all just heard on Thursday, the music which has precedence in the Roman liturgy over all else. We are seeing that even while I type at the NYC Mass.

  12. Marilyn says:

    When our very (seemingly) holy, traditional, young DRE looked at the list of hymn selections our music director planned and gave for my listing in the First Communion program, I thought she was going to cry! She took the list from me saying it was not what she had requested and asked the music not be listed…that she was going to ‘take up this cross.’

    I was amazed and asked a priest – ‘How do you tell a very holy person to wise up?’…Deciding how the music director ought to do her job by anyone but the pastor is a matter of private revelation…and should be kept private for the sake of our Communion no matter how ‘righteous’ our ideals might be…Mass isn’t spoiled or anything and it’s insulting, even hurtful when people are critical and not grateful afterwards!

  13. Marilyn says:

    oh, by the way, Gavin…as regards Bishop Finn’s liturgies or Bishop Burke’s…they do have a style of celebration that is known with nuances even between them…but it would be inaccurate to imply their liturgies are somehow more authentic or Christ is more fully present.

    I know firsthand the deference Bishop Finn has shown to priests and music directors, even extending public gratitude their way when song selections or altar server garb were not the type of choice he makes for liturgies he prepares.

  14. Nancy Riley says:

    Archbishop in Chicago is afraid of Father Pfleger and even though there is a National outrage for Pflegers permanent removal it was announced today he will return the 16th.


    check out this petition.
    Pfleger has endorsed a candidate who supports LIVE BIRTH ABORTIONS, he allows Farrahkan to spew his hate from the sacred catholic church pulpit. Pfleger himself has been in and out of jail, was allowed to adopt little boys, and preach reparation and racial hatered from the church for years. He needs to be removed permanently, he is a disgrace.

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