What to think of P&W music?
Most readers of this and other Catholic blogs, esp. those whose subject matter is more or less specific to sacred music, are probably of the opinion that music of the likes of Fr. Michael Joncas’s works is to be considered on a “lower rung” than, say, the chant propers of the Mass. Or at least, we apply guilt-by-association: since the music of Fr. Joncas, Marty Haugen, David Haas, et al. is mostly to be associated with gender-neutered Biblical text adaptations, musical constructs and instrumentations that resemble modern popular music, Cardinal Mahoney, and other things most of us would probably rather see excised from liturgical celebrations, we have an inherent bias against the music.
It is not altogether unfounded. Fr. Joncas, for example, is very much in the same camp as Bp. Trautman regarding liturgical translation. I can’t recall specific examples, but I think the mindset once regarded as “liberal” (but which, today, I think is more of a relic of the 70s and 80s) concerning various Church teachings is often rightly associated with Dan Schutte & Co. In short, guitar Masses and their musical progeny associate well with “cafeteria Catholicism” of the most popular kind: shunning difficult moral teachings and generally wishing the Roman Catholic Church would forget the first two words of that title.
But this cannot be said, I think, of the kind of music that emanates from Franciscan University at Steubenville. In many ways, this school is a model of what Catholic higher education should be: all studies are explicitly connected to the Christian life in one way or another.
While I, at least, strongly associate orthodoxy with “tradition”: women wearing mantillas, chant/polyphony, organ, etc., the music that comes out of Steubenville is much closer to Carey Landry’s work than to Bruckner’s. My encounters with it are largely of the “lead sheet” variety: unadorned melodies with guitar chords written above. Lyrics are simple and generally non-Scriptural, with a prominent element of devotion (i.e. non-liturgical).
What to think here? It seems the only lack of “orthodoxy” here is that the people who usually advocate for this kind of music at Mass seem opposed to the use of Latin that our liturgical norms mandate. (It is often a moment of confusion when these people find out that Vatican II actually mandated continued use of Latin.)