Saturday, July 14, 2007

Musicam sacram and the modern Mass

Three of the five presentations on Musicam sacram (MS) at NPM openly stated that MS is not in juridical force for the Mass of Paul VI.

I am not a canonist, so I can’t debate Fr. Edward Foley or the others who make this claim. There is Duane Galles’s essay on the choral Sanctus over at that asserts the juridical force of MS for the modern Mass, and Fr. Edward McNamara, who teaches in Rome, posted on Zenit a few years back about this, contending that MS is still in force.

It seems to me, though, that some pertinent observations should be borne in mind:

* MS was written by many of the same people who worked on the Missal of Paul VI, and it was promulgated at the same time as drafts of the revised Missal were taking shape. Paul VI was personally involved in creating it. Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy provides invaluable information about this.

* Again according to Bugnini, MS went through many, many drafts and was the result of much compromise between liturgists and musicians. These guys all knew there was a new Missal coming out; why spend so much energy on a document that would be abrogated by the new Missal?

* The General Instruction of the Roman Missal refers to MS multiple times, as does the 1970 instruction Liturgicæ Instaurationes. JP2 referred to it in his chirograph on the centenary of St. Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini. (Granted, these don’t necessarily support the idea that MS retains juridical force, but they do at least illustrate that these documents consider MS relevant. Apologies to Fr. Foley.)

* MS itself evinces an awareness of the coming Missal (why do so if the document will lose juridical force?): “The song after the lessons, be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the Proper. By its very nature, it forms part of the Liturgy, of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it—and, what is more, participating in it as far as possible.” (§33)

This all said, it would be helpful if the CDW would publish an update of Musicam sacram to take fully into account the Lectionary songs (i.e. responsorial psalm and alleluia/Lenten-verse) and the Memorial Acclamation in the three degrees of singing.


At Monday, July 16, 2007 10:16:00 AM, Anonymous Sam Schmitt said...

My question to Edward Foley would be, If MS no longer has juridical force, which document has superceded it? Music in Catholic Worship?

At Monday, July 16, 2007 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Michael E. Lawrence said...

If Musicam Sacram does not have force, then neither does Sacrosanctum Concilium.

And before anyone thinks that's just a sneer: remember that MS was written by the commission "ad exsequendam" (to carry out) the directives of Vatican II.

At Monday, July 16, 2007 1:03:00 PM, Blogger Dad29 said...

Those who claim that MS has 'no force' are generally those who claim that any OTHER liturgical directives have 'no force,' with the exception of those directives they personally (or corporately) favor.

And, by the way, the rad-trads are in exactly the same position vis-a-vis various documents.

Hmmmm. Rad trad. Modernists. Same boat.

Just sayin'

At Monday, July 16, 2007 1:04:00 PM, Blogger Scelata said...

One wonders why so much time was devoted at the NPM convention to a document that is just some sort of historical relic...

I would take anything said by that Fr Foley with, as my old voice teacher used to joke, a dose of salts.
I think he is very misguided, at least liturgically, and perhaps theologically.

(Save thhe Liturgy, Save the World)

At Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friends, what does have "the force" is the Roman Missal, both the GIRM and the rubrics themselves.

Read MS carefully as we did on Catholic Sensibility. Some aspects of it supercede previous post-conciliar legislation, and the document itself suggests more is to come.

To the extent that MS quotes SC or other authoritative documents, yes, it retains a certain force. But when you open up your Roman Missal, Sacramentary, or Lectionary, you get all you need on universal liturgical legislation. If MS retained a certain standing above and beyond other post-conciliar documents, it would've been included in the GIRM more than just in footnotes.


At Wednesday, July 18, 2007 7:41:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


Good to see you again. :)

I disagree. Has the CSL lost its force because it wasn’t included in the GIRM?

The GIRM and the Missal are not exhaustive insofar as binding force. Paschale Sollemnitatis also has force, as does Redemptionis Sacramentum - at least, AFAIK.

At Thursday, July 19, 2007 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous Sam Schmitt said...


The point is well taken - however, there are a number of questions that the GIRM leaves unanswered if you are preparing music for mass. Are you then left on your own?

I would think that if Rome has given us MS and it has not been explicitly abrogated (except for those things where the GIRM contradicts it), then MS should be our guide.

At Thursday, July 19, 2007 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...


Canon Law (20-21) agrees with you, ISTM.

At Friday, July 20, 2007 4:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Has the CSL lost its force because it wasn’t included in the GIRM?"

No, because it offers a general guide on the principles of liturgy and some directions for reform.

The blind spot here is focusing on the GIRM to the exclusion of the rubrics. We think we've got things covered by looking at the GIRM, but some of those "unanswered questions" will be solved by looking at the red print.

Rome did give us MS. But you have to read the whole document. We did it on my blog:

cantor, canon law does not always cover liturgical law. As I said, you have to look at the rubrics, you can't just focus on the documents.


At Friday, July 20, 2007 4:42:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


I have indeed read through the entire document, but I will look at your blog’s commentary on the document. Maybe I missed something (which Fr. McNamara and William Mahrt have also missed).

I wish everyone could have been part of some of the Musicam sacram discussions at NPM. They weren’t spectacularly well-attended, but I sure would have loved to put Fr. Foley, Sr. Kubicki, Dr. Savage, and Dr. Schaefer in a room and told them to hammer all this out.

At Friday, July 20, 2007 6:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cantor, MS is indeed an important and worthy document to discuss. Suggesting that the GIRM and Roman Missal itself have superceded parts of it do not negate this, but I think some scholars are a little sloppy in applying it. Granted, it is the last Roman document dealing exclusively with music. But that doesn't mean it's absolutely authoritative. Music is always at the service of the liturgy.

In my reading of the preface (MS 1-4) it seems clear that this document addresses "some problems" that arose during the early post-conciliar period as the 1962 Missal was being reformed. By its own definition, it was written in part to address timely factors in liturgical reform.

MS 3: "This does not, however, gather together all the legislation on sacred music; it only establishes the principal norms which seem to be more necessary for our own day."

Is "our own day" the late 60's? Or is it the entire post-conciliar era?

The preface also refers to MS as being part of a continuum which began with SC and continued with Inter Oecumenici, the 1964 document for Vatican I liturgical implementation.

To be entirely fair, I think one must begin with the Roman Missal itself. Move from there to the GIRM. Next, one cannot forget the introductions and rubrics of the various rites. Principles of MS were included in all these documents, endorsing aspects of post-conciliar thinking. But one would also have to consider the other instructions for liturgy implementation. Rome itself suggests that MS is on a par with these documents. Then I think you cannot overlook liturgy documentation at the conference and diocesan level, where these are in force. And until a successor document is created, that includes MCW and LMT for the US.



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