CDCN: Disdain for Tradition

Picking up on the perceived rejection of plainsong, more from the statement Cantate Domino Canticum Novum:

4. This disdain for Gregorian chant and traditional repertoires is one sign of a much bigger problem, that of disdain for Tradition. Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches that the musical and artistic heritage of the Church should be respected and cherished, because it is the embodiment of centuries of worship and prayer, and an expression of the highest peak of human creativity and spirituality. There was a time when the Church did not run after the latest fashion, but was the maker and arbiter of culture. The lack of commitment to tradition has put the Church and her liturgy on an uncertain and meandering path.

To one extent, I can agree that we can fruitfully attend more deeply to tradition. But there’s too much caricature in this portrait as painted here.

Music and art serve a higher good, namely the liturgy. When the liturgy reforms, music and art must adapt. It is part of a mindset of service. That Roman Catholic music did serve select communities so well for so many centuries is not an entitlement for the present age. At times, the Church has resisted new developments. Critics might dismiss them as “latest fashion(s).” Time will tell.

The attempted separation of the teaching of Vatican II from previous Church teachings is a dead end, and the only way forward is the hermeneutic of continuity endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI. Recovering the unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching is the condition for restoring both the liturgy and its music to a noble condition. As Pope Francis taught us in his first encyclical: “Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory” (Lumen Fidei 38).

This is where I would part company from my musician colleagues behind this document. I’ve written many times traditionally-inclined Catholics rely too much on the “continuity” principle. It gets one and only one mention in Sacrosanctum Concilium. And that, in a particular context. It ignores the essence of religious conversion. Sometimes a believer must make a break from a previous life. When a person becomes an adult, the ways of youth are set aside. An adult doesn’t need to deny positive experiences of childhood and adolescence. Healthy adults build on those experiences. But they move forward.

As for a “unity, integrity, and harmony of Catholic teaching,” I’m not sure of the place of this in a document on church music. Nearly all of the Church’s liturgical repertoire is a matter of prudential choice. Is the Gloria less a song of praise sung after Communion? Is Peace better placed before the Preparation of the Gifts? Unity is a tricky thing, and uniformity is a dangerous substitute.


The full document may be found here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Cantate Domino Canticum Novum, Liturgical Music. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to CDCN: Disdain for Tradition

  1. Music as a language of God and His angels is of an infinite nature in understanding and application. When traddies attempt to limit music and impose the error of historianism on it and it’s application, they are worshipping perfectionism – and ritualism – over a perfect and infinite GOD. This is, in fact, a diabolical, man-oriented perversion.

    • Frankly, though some modern “liturgical” music reminds of dumbed down nursery school rhyme, or bible camp folk song, somd ancient forms of liturgical music and chant remind me of suffering from spiritual flat effect.

  2. Todd says:

    Agreed on most fronts here, LSG. I think there is more of the Enlightenment in some of the traditionalist striving in today’s world. Of course, with “modern” music, two things: sifting through a vast repertoire to find what rises above the mediocre, plus having competent musicians who can lead with quality.

    • Agreed on most fronts as well, Todd. Except on your use of the word Enlightenment.

      Enlightenment is never a bad thing in itself, but clerics infested with clericalism on both the right and the left, induced a tightly controlled devout – with fear of attaining wisdom and enlightenment, as if only a privileged, male clerical elite – and no “commoners” – should storm the spiritual highgrounds. The traditional movement is particularly guilty in this regard, though they would assert the opposite.

      What the traddie movement reaks of is an attempt to attain enlightenment without embracing the cross, and for its own sake, which is a warped esotericism that smacks of the satanic.

      I am not a professional musician, but I baffled as to why the visible church has not explored the glorious expression of truth through all different forms of musical expression. For example: Elijah Bossenbroek’s “I give up” speaks to me of Mary, Undoer of Knots, unravelling time.

      • Todd says:

        I see what you are saying here. I’m leery about labelling things “satanic,” though I think a heresy like gnosticism isn’t a bad fit: the notion of specialized knowledge given to a few by God to be disseminated by those in-the-know.

        Your observation that traditionalism avoids the cross, hmm. I think individuals are confronted with the cross in their lives, and many bear it with good grace. Less convincing is the bullying and such. And the emphasis on continuity, even when confronted with the reality that the whole conversion experience from Abram, the prophets, and into many saints up to the present day is that holy people attuned to God often make significant disruptions in their lives to follow God more closely. Even giving up one good thing in favor of something better.

        In trying to look upon traditionalists with some compassion (admittedly hard for me because of their often ill-treatment of me and others) I see much grief in the mix here as I read between the lines. I think that is a genuine impulse that demands care, and, in the mind of Pope Francis, tenderness. I may not be the person for it, though.

      • Actually gnosticism is a mislabeled heresy. Direct Divine enlightenment of dogmatic truths is not a heresy at all (“Gnosticism”) but a reality, especially among the saints. Even the church allows for direct sacraments of desire, by which the visible sacramental forms are secondary.

        For example, Baptism of Desire, and in marriage – when the couple confers the Sacrament directly upon each other by the direct power of God. The prelate present does not “confer” the Sacrament. That one needs the visible hierarchy to be “Catholic” is the real heresy. That any individual may receive “secret” understandings of divine revelation directly from God is also a non heretical reality.

        True gnostIsicm is the mystical enlightenment of the saints. Now there is a satanic false mysticism which is exactly what I spoke of as satanic. It is satanic because there is a disproportionate focus on man’s “guilt” rather than joyful acceptance of one’s humanity and cross, and a disproportion focus on “man” (read: clerics) to “disseminate or interpret the Divine”. No pope or prelate is more personally infallible in dogmatic interpretation than any commoner or little child.

        Fundamentalist type focus on personal guilt – judging oneself and others, is very satanic – and leads to mental illness. For example, secret societies among the traditional “elite” practice sadomasochistic rituals to “attain enlightenment” while they have more than a disproportionate amount of implicated and charged brute (masculine) homosexual pederast clerics among their ranks.

    • Additionally, when I say Traddies I’m referring to the errors of the traddie clergy, not their followers, who bear all the symptoms of children abused by their own mother.

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