Catholic Hymnody At The Service, Take One

Liam provided this link from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the USCCB Doctrine Committee’s “Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church: An Aid for Evaluating Hymn Lyrics.” It’s not a long document–only twelve pages in the main.

A few overall comments, not necessarily covered in CHatSotCaAfEHL:

  • I’d say something like this is about fifty to eighty years overdue. In the artistic vacuum of the United States (something by which Catholic institutions can and are infected) it might be that some leadership and guidance for composers might have been well-offered (if not well-taken) as the explosion of post-conciliar music began.
  • That said, perhaps music publishers from the mid-20th century to today have stumbled by not including theologians (and not theologian-musicians) on their editorial boards. It might also be that cash cows get more of a free pass than beginning composers. I find established writers are as much in need of editors, beta-testers, and others who can offer sound input.
  • The bishops acknowledge that doctrinal formulas do not adapt well direct-to-music. That said, I think they give too little credit to lay people who look to music for music, and who go to the catechism for doctrine. We’ll look at that premise and some of the missteps in these twelve pages over a few posts in this series.

From page 2, quoting the Catechism and moving from there:

I think the shaping here is not so much doctrinal. In history, it has been devotional, appealing to the actual relationship between the believer and God.

That said, modern texts have never been more in tune with a very wide range of Scriptural references. That’s an important acknowledgement that must be made. Even without staff theologians, composers and their music publishers have done some very fine work. The promotion of Bible-based texts is a significant post-conciliar development. As we found here years ago, even the texts of the 70s series Glory and Praise were a significant advance over pre-conciliar devotional hymnody.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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