Sunday, May 12, 2013

Does This Ring a Bell?

Here’s a good reason for actually studying and discussing the documents of Vatican II…which is one of the things we’re supposed to be doing during this “Year of Faith” - the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Council, right? 

R-i-g-h-t. Okay, so…

Remember that handbell concert I wrote about before Christmas? Well, yes, it did happen, and sure enough, the Protestant handbell ringer performed in the sanctuary of the Cathedral.

Sigh. She was right where I expected she would be.

Now, here’s the description of the concert on the Cathedral’s website. Note the use of a quote from a Vatican II document to justify the concert: 

Christmas Handbell Concert

A spectacular Christmas concert was held in our Cathedral on Saturday December 22, 2012 featuring Phyllis Tincher on handbells and Sean Rogers on the piano. A nice crowd attended this free concert and enjoyed at the same time the beauty of our Cathedral, the 90 year-old stained glass windows, and the performance of religious Christmas Carols, which were accompanied by Scripture verses and meditations on the Nativity story. It was the fitting prelude to the Christmas season affirming also what the Second Vatican Council affirmed in the message to artists on December 8, 1965:

"The treasury of sacred music is a witness to the way in which the Christian faith promotes culture. By underlying the true value of sacred and religious music, Christian musicians should feel that they are being encouraged to continue this tradition and to keep it alive for the service of the faith. So do not hesitate to put your talent at the service of the Divine Truth. The world in which we live has need of beauty in order not to lose hope. Beauty, like truth, fills the heart with joy. And this thanks to your hands."

Phyllis and Sean have issued a few CDs, all with religious and sacred music, as well as religious Christmas carols.

Hmmm. Let’s get one point out of the way right off the bat: "the Second Vatican Council affirmed" no such thing: this statement was addressed to artists by Paul VI, not by the Council.

Another point: the performers are Protestants, so that part about “meditations on the Nativity story” makes me cringe. Just sayin'. I've been exposed to plenty of Protestant interpretation of Scripture. Heck, most Protestants don't even believe in the Virgin Birth. Why should we allow them to give "meditations on the Nativity story" from within the sanctuary of a Catholic church?

On to the music. Notice the reference to a Vatican II document? Funny thing: the document I have cited over and over again on “Concerts in Churches”, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, quotes that same paragraph from the “Message to Artists”! 

However, I think if you read “Concerts in Churches” in its entirety, it’s easy to pinpoint the misunderstanding that leads the writer of the bulletin article to try to justify holding a handbell concert in the sanctuary of the Cathedral.

It’s the issue of “sacred music”. The website article writer misses the distinction between sacred music and “religious Christmas carols”. The CDW clarifies this with these statements:

The definition of sacred or religious music depends explicitly on the original intended use of the musical pieces or songs


Sacred music, that is to say music which was composed for the Liturgy

The distinction between “sacred” music and “religious” music, and the criteria for determining to what degree a particular composition approaches the adjective “sacred”, dates back to Pope St Pius X’s 1903 Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines (a.k.a., Tra lesollecitudini). It is significant that this distinction has been repeated in every papal document on sacred music since then, even until our own days.

I like Christmas carols as much as the next person. I just don't think they constitute "sacred music" that is intended for the Liturgy. And I don't think a handbell concert by Protestant ministers should be held in the sanctuary of the Cathedral. Not that my opinion matters. It's the opinion of the Church that counts, and the Church has spoken clearly on this.

Apart from the issue of sacred music, there’s the placement of the musicians. Important as musicians are, and as much as we may want to encourage them to “put your talent at the service of the Divine Truth”, the CDW still states unequivocally that:

The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary.

Let’s take another look at that handbell concert:

And let's take a look at last December's symphony orchestra concert at the Cathedral:

"The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary."


Reminds me of one of those old "how many people can you fit in a phone booth" photos.

I wrote to the pastor about these issues six years ago, when the Cathedral held its first symphony orchestra concert. I never received any response from him. Last December, I sent the pastor copies of the letters I had sent to the bishop and to the CDW about the issues of concerts in the Cathedral that were not following the protocol. Those were returned to me, unopened,  marked “return to sender”. All righty, then.

Since it appears that the bishop also has decided to ignore my letters, it would seem that I cannot expect any reasonable discussion about this - or any resolution! And that is why I wrote to Rome in the first place. And the second place. And probably will in the third place, as well.


Why is it so hard to show due respect for the sanctuary of a Cathedral by following the rules and regulations laid out by the Church?

I think this is another mystery of the faith.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
To see the letters I have written to the rector and to the bishop, and the letter I received from Rome, go here.


  1. And clerics expect the laity to "obey" Church teaching when they, themselves, conveniently ignore it. I believe that is called hypocrisy

  2. No, anonymous. I would say that *some* clerics expect the laity to obey Church teaching when they, themselves, conveniently ignore it.

    Other clerics (many? most?) expect the laity to obey *them* and their particular version(s) of "Say the black, do the red" (as Fr. Z puts it), while they conveniently(?) ignore parts of the GIRM and Redemptionis Sacramentum.

    That is called hypocrisy for sure.

  3. Nothing annoys clerics more than having their personal "Picture of Dorian Gray" paraded out by an uppity lay person. They don't like what they see of themselves in the mirror held up to them by people like Dr. Boyd (and Michael Voris).

    From the reactions of the Cathedral rector and the bishop, it sounds to me like "women's ordination" is a non-issue. The Diocese of Baker already has them. They certainly aren't responding like men. Their version of Jesus confronting the moneychangers in the temple would have Him walking away in a huff and saying he wouldn't talk to them any more.

    "My house is a house of prayer and you have made it a concert hall. I'm upset and won't talk to you any more."

    Real men fight to defend what they love. They don't "return to sender" pleas to do just that.

    It must totally frost them that Dr. Boyd got ANY kind of response from the Congregation for Divine Worship. That means Rome has seen their "Picture of Dorian Gray."

    St. Mary MacKillop from Australia became a Saint enduring these same kinds of clergy and bishops.

    Don't you just hate that the road to holiness is always through the Cross?

    "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."


Please be courteous and concise.