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CNP Feedback - Non-Catholic M.D.

Q. Dear CNP:

When the music director position at our church opened a couple of years ago, our pastor hired a non-Catholic to fill the position. As a cantor and choir director, I was open to the idea at first. However, with experience, I now believe hiring non-Catholic music directors to be incongruent with the practice of our faith. The religious beliefs of the music director eventually surface in many different ways, both inside and outside the liturgy.

Is the practice of hiring non-Catholic music directors going to likely continue and how do we keep an open mind and heart toward it?

Protesting Musician

A. Dear Protesting:

Situations like you describe can be very different one from another, and making general statements about them is often difficult. Obviously, all things being equal, a parish should hire a practicing, faithful Catholic as music director. One would expect the music director to be qualified in both Catholic music and liturgy, and if the situation warrants, to be competent in organ playing and choral conducting. In a similar manner, if the parish were having roofing work done, it would be expected that a roofer (and not a dry wall installer) be contracted to do the work.

However, other circumstances may influence a decision. Perhaps no Catholics applied. Perhaps the Catholics who may have applied were not competent in other areas (organ, directing, etc). In such cases a decision must be made: hire a non-competent Catholic musician or hire a non-Catholic competent musician.

That being said, it should not be taken lightly that a non-Catholic in an authority position in a Catholic parish will be at a distinct disadvantage. Much research, training, patience, humility and flexibility would be required in order to learn and appreciate Catholic liturgy and music. It's definitely not an easy task, especially for someone who has chosen (either directly or through family tradition) to "protest" the Catholic faith.

If, as a pastor, I were faced with the prospect of no music at all, or of hiring a non-Catholic to oversee the program, I'm not sure what I would do. If no roofers existed, or if the roofers were outrageously expensive, would I give the plasterer a try? That might depend on how wet I'm getting during rainstorms.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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