A small social media discussion broke out about a headline “All Are Welcome Not A Welcome Hymn.” Nice headline, but not terribly illuminating. Apparently the USCCB doctrine committee produced a document a few months ago, “Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church.” From the CNA link:
The document was distributed to bishops this month; they were encouraged by the USCCB to share it with diocesan worship offices, pastors, and parish musicians.
The doctrine committee hasn’t always covered itself in glory. I recall some back and forth over Elizabeth Johnson some years ago. The theologian said they misread her book. The bishops had difficulty with the theology. Professor Johnson isn’t a regular read, but I couldn’t figure out about what the bishops were complaining. Overall, I’d say Catholics have more problem in practice than in theory.
What does that mean? First, more people in the Church and outside of it are more scandalized by behavior than by theology. Sins of omission or commission on moral issues dog believers from popes to neophytes. When hypocrisy bites us, people notice. When we don’t notice it, as often happens, it detracts from the Gospel message.
Parish musicians don’t always cover themselves in glory with how they present music. Gregorian chant gets a bad rep not as much because it’s traditional, but with how poorly it is performed. Contemporary genres get better renditions because the styles are familiar with today’s musicians. And when these are bungled, don’t worry: parishioners will have similarly poor opinions of piano music, guitar music, drums, etc..
Most concerning about this development is how very little promotion this document has been getting. It’s nowhere to be found online. We’ll see how widely the dissemination is in the coming weeks. We’ll probably look at it here.