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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Fighting Liturgical Abuse

by Gary D. Penkala

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

I have been an organist for 19 years.

I would really like to make a strong effort to educate and help change the horrible abuses the liturgy is suffering from in the area of liturgical music. I have time, talent, and treasure to offer the task.

Where do I start? Can CNP offer me some guidance on where to begin? I have thought about sending educational information, in the form of a newsletter or pamphlet, to all the music directors in the diocese. How do we get through to these people?

I have found some great articles on your website, which I very much agree with. "Why are we singing to ourselves" is a great one.

Frustrated Organist

A. Dear Frustrated Oraganist:

You are to be commended for your adherence to musical and liturgical orthodoxy in the midst of a rather "progressive" environment. Realize that there are many people like you all across the country (and the world) ... I've heard from quite a few of them. You are definitely not alone!

Let me offer a few suggestions that might help the situation and can further promote our mutual goal of quality liturgical music.
  1. First, and perhaps most important: never be confrontational in dealing with liberal/progressive musicians. Nothing is ever settled by raucous argument. Calm, diplomatic discussion may bring about some sort of compromise, although it is very unlikely that anyone will be convinced to completely give up the shallow texts and tunes that have taken over most U.S. Catholic music programs.

  2. The liberal philosophy that generally underlies the contemporary, "folk-style" liturgies is one that almost universally disdains rubrics, direction and authority. Those who change Mass texts, use "non-psalm" Responsorials, sing hymns about us, and wear blue vestments during Advent are not likely to be swayed in the least by documentation (from bishop, pope or council). They are already entrenched in "breaking the rules," so challenging them with documents only infuriates them (perhaps latent guilt?) because their camp just doesn't believe in liturgical documents, particularly from Rome. "Liturgy must flow from the people," they will tell you as a sort of off-base rationalization of their loose, erratic choices.

  3. Although as a founder of the company my objectivity may be questioned, I strongly believe that you will find no better outlet for traditional, orthodox views on liturgical music than CanticaNOVA Publications and our website ( We aim to be non-confrontational in promoting conservative views of Catholic liturgy and music. May I suggest that you steer as many musicians as you know to this website and let them discover for themselves that good music can be practical and that an eight-part Palestrina motet is not the only way to incorporate our musical treasures in today's liturgies. Our motto, "Traditional Music for the Contemporary Church," suggests that it is possible to retrieve our historical music in practical modern liturgy.

  4. You have already discovered CNP's vehicle for education, our Musical Musings articles. There are over 180 articles on a wide variety of topics, from Gregorian Chant to Youth Choirs, covering the scholarly and the practical. Featured articles change weekly and new articles are added regularly.

  5. We also offer one of the most comprehensive series of Liturgical Planning Pages I've ever seen. Here one can find all the liturgical texts for every Sunday and solemnity of the three-year cycle, as well as solid suggestions for quality hymns, liturgical music, choral music and organ music. The "Liturgical Hints & Ideas" section often gives creative ways to explore the valid options given within the Roman Rite itself. I've heard from scores of musicians and liturgy planners who find these pages valuable and use them as the starting point of their planning.

  6. There are various national organizations who offer communication and support for Catholics of conservative liturgical persuasion. Look at:
  7. As for what you can do to correct liturgical abuses, I would suggest that you make your opinions known to people who may have some authority. A calm, well-written, informational letter could be sent to the following:
  8. Perhaps you could inquire of the musicians and liturgists in your area if there is interest in a support group of like-minded, traditional Catholics. An evening of discussion over dinner at a local restaurant could work wonders for solidarity and camaraderie.
Don't let frustration over the situation or anger at such blatant abuses diminish the enthusiasm you bring to this issue. Persevere ... it seems that slowly - very slowly, Catholic church musicians in the U.S. are coming to realize just how inadequate and superficial is so much of the music that has become "popular" these days. Good luck in the struggle!

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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