National Catholic Register

Opinion

Letters

BY John Lilly

August 26 - September 1, 2007 Issue | Posted 8/21/07 at 2:43 PM

 
Rush to Judgment

Relevant to “Where Your Treasure Lies …” in your Aug. 19 issue, I find it amazing that the local leaders of the Catholic Church community can pass judgment on a project, clearly before they have analyzed any of the thousands of pages of technical data, both for and against the project.

Who among them has the technical knowledge to know if the information supplied to them by the company; by the nongovernmental organizations and the Romanian government (a 20% shareholder in the gold mining project), is right and wrong?

Fortunately for Romania, it is now a member of the European Union, and this body has put in place a code of conduct for mining within EU members.

There is also now a code of conduct for the use of cyanide in mining, worldwide.

The company will be among the first to mine within these rules and regulations.

I am a Catholic and have a Catholic family. I live in Western Australia, and have witnessed what large mining companies can do with rehabilitation of various mine sites. Alcoa, BHP Billiton, Illuka have all provided an environment after mining in Western Australia, for both flora and fauna. That begs the question: “Where did they dig in the first place?”

Today, I am lucky enough to living in a resource-rich state of Australia where my children and their children can aspire to be whatever they want to be. My grandfather came to this state in the 1890s to find gold, as a 17-year-old.

He did, and he subsequently cleared and developed a 5,000-acre wheat and sheep farm. Gabriel Resources provides the opportunity for young Romanians to realize a similar dream, while working with the latest mining technology (an asset that is sought world wide).

Surely it would be more productive, as the overseer of community standards, to ensure that the promises made by Gabriel Resources and its 20% government partner, to the people of the region, are upheld. If they do not, then I too will object.

Gavin Miles

Confusing Virtues

Regarding Webster Young’s column “On Vatican II and the Music of the People” (Aug. 12):

Webster Young writes, “It could not be foreseen at the time of the council how ‘music of the people’ outside the Church would evolve — that is, American pop music was just then beginning a conquest of the entire world. ... The participants of Vatican II could not know that ‘the people’s music’ would soon mirror, all over the world, the juggernaut of American popular music.”

It should be pointed out that the teachings of Vatican II are not, ultimately, rooted in human beings limited in their inability to foresee exactly how Western culture will unfold, but are inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is God and who is eternal and omniscient. Hence, the Vatican’s mandate for the “music of the people” was not a mistake rooted in unfortunate human limitations, as Young seems to suggest, but rather comes from God and must therefore be taken seriously.

Moreover, he writes: “Popular music is debased from a musical point of view. It is weak and unaccomplished when compared to finer music.”

This statement, however, has no objective meaning. In order to understand that something is debased, there must be some universal and objective standard against which to measure its quality. But there is no such standard in art that condemns a particular genre, as there is in the moral realm with respect to human conduct.

The author simply confuses the virtue of prudence with the virtue of art. In what way, for example, are the Beatles debased and unaccomplished from a musical point of view? Or Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams or Don Henley?

The claim is about as fair as judging the Hard Rock Café as debased, weak and unaccomplished from a culinary point of view, because it isn’t Masa or Per Se. A restaurant, car or work of art is not debased and unaccomplished if it has accomplished what it set out to achieve in the first place.

Popular music aims at being popular, appealing to the widest possible range of the population, accessible to the young, etc. It does not aim to express the most obscure regions of the human spirit, as would a Stravinsky or a Mahler.  

Fortunately, the Church sees things differently.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments says: “Congregational singing is to be fostered by every means possible, even by use of new types of music suited to the culture of the people and to the contemporary spirit. …The Church does not bar any style of sacred music from the liturgy” (Liturgicae Instaurationes, 12).

Doug McManaman

Ironic Twist

Two items in a recent issue of the Register (August 12) pose a bitter, if unintentional, irony and point to an ongoing scandal.

On page two, there was a report on the Catholic Marketing Network’s trade show, which featured coffee mugs bearing the image of John Paul II decked out in sunglasses and a rakish beret. On page four, there was an item detailing the continued persecution of the martyr church in China. We have seen the mugs in question, and without exception they bore the inscription “Made in China.” Indeed, in visiting Catholic gift shops from Santa Fe to Irondale and various spots between, we note that China is the country of origin for a preponderance of the merchandise (including those questionable St. Joseph “house-selling kits”).

It is enough to make the angels weep.

Charlene & Bedford Clark

Bryan, Texas

Holy Spirit-Inspired Music

As Catholics, we don’t think of the “framers of the Vatican II documents” in the same way we think of the framers of the Constitution of the United States. We should understand that the documents of Vatican II are not rooted solely in human beings who are not able to see the future. These documents and the others that followed are inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is God and eternal.

Vatican II’s mandate for “music of the people” was not a mistake rooted in human limits. It comes from God. He knows the meaning and where music is going and he’s taking care of his Church.

As far as the evolution of music, does this depend on the approval of academics? Music is a gift. Some people need intellectually challenging music, others need less challenging.

Sometimes, the same person needs intellectually challenging music at one time and simpler music at another. In fact, this is my own experience as a musician. One day I’ll be going through preludes and fugues or playing some big organ piece in church and the next day I’ll take out my five-string banjo to play some nice Irish tunes or even some hard driving bluegrass.

Is a Volkswagen “unaccomplished” compared to a Mercedes? Of course not, it accomplishes exactly what it’s supposed to accomplish; to be an affordable car for the “people.”

I think it’s dangerous when we become so impressed with ourselves and our “expertise” and hurt when people don’t think as highly of us as we do that they don’t consult us. I would offer this quote from Mother Teresa, “Use me but don’t consult me.”

Forget about writing condescending articles. This isn’t helping anyone. Just jump in and get your hands dirty and pray that God will use you.

Steve McManaman

music director

St. Gertrude Church

Cincinnati, Ohio

No More Snobbery, Please

I am writing in response to Webster Young’s article entitled, “On Vatican II and the Music of the People.”

Mr. Young contends that his article does not arise out of any sour grapes over the fact that he has never been asked spontaneously for his advice concerning the use of music at Catholic liturgies. Yet, his sense of frustration over not being given the recognition he feels he deserves is palpable.

So rather than try to help solve a perceived problem, he has taken pot shots at the many dedicated “volunteers” who give generously of their time and talent to provide music for Masses.

As to the charge of poor taste and debased music in our liturgies: Is it not possible that the simplicity of current pop-style music is attractive precisely because it works? Is it not possible that its appeal lies in the fact that the congregation can actually sing it?

I highly doubt that your average Catholic in Mozart’s day was able to sing along with the motets and choruses that were on offer in Vienna. On the contrary, Gregorian chant became popular in the first place because it was so simple, so approachable by “the people.”

Now that Latin has faded from the public square, it is only natural that the vernacular has found a home in our liturgical celebrations. Like it or not, it is the language of the people. Should we now become Latinists and experts in contrapuntal singing? Or perhaps we should just shut up and let the “experts” do the singing for us.

Pop music is so popular because there is something good about it. Granted, it is not nearly as complex or intellectually satisfying as a Beethoven concerto or a Bach cantata — or even Lloyd-Weber ballad. But pop music — in its best incarnations — does have a way of reaching into people’s hearts and giving voice to their emotions, convictions, dreams and desires. Why not harness that power to help Catholics make contact with what’s inside them, so that they can then open their hearts in the Eucharist and let the Lord fill them?

I have no problem with incorporating Latin or classical music into the liturgy when appropriate. I do, however, object to “those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand” (Blessed John XXIII). There is good music out there. Why not trust that the millions of people who have connected with this music may well be on to something—and then find a way to redeem it and shape it into a vehicle for worship? So please, no more snobbery. Music is too powerful a force to be restricted to the “experts.”

Mark Jameson

Fruit Cove, Florida