About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“Partly on account of these alterations, and partly because I have been unable to ascertain the authorship of many compositions—which have come to me either in manuscript or through other collections—I have thought it right to publish the volume without appending the names of writers to their works. This, however, I confess to be a defect…”
— Benjamin Hall Kennedy (1863)

Liturgical Silence—But Not What You Think!
published 29 April 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

855 Silence OT LONG AGO, I posted an article which mentioned the subject of paying people to sing at Church. I was very careful not to say—one way or the other—whether I felt it was acceptable to pay singers. I did, however, mention my personal preference. Very soon, I got angry emails. Some were furious that I had called the practice acceptable. Others were mad I had condemned it outright. Obviously, the people making these claims had not read my article. An acquaintance of mine wrote something to the effect of, “So, you condemn singers who are paid? Too bad for you, idiot.”

Over the years, I’ve learned that—very frequently—the only acceptable response is silence. When I was young, I would have argued. I would have pointed out that I never made such a claim. I would have pointed out that I’d merely expressed my preference, which I’m allowed to do in a free society. I would have said many things—and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

There are many kinds of SILENCE. Consider, for example, when you try to contact a typical American company; even one you’ve done business with for years. Normally, they don’t wish to speak to you. They send you emails from a “No Reply” email address. They force you to speak to “robot” machines on the phone. (No matter how many times you punch in the correct information, it’s not accepted.) They place you on hold for hours and hours. 1 On the other hand, there’s the SILENCE experienced by many of our friends when they contact Corpus Christi Watershed. We receive so many emails it’s impossible to reply to them all. This makes me sad, but there’s no alternative. 2

THERE IS A SILENCE WHICH HAS an effect on the liturgy, but not in a good way. It has to do with the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, which declared on 20 November 2012 that paragraph 48 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) can be ignored. Paragraph 48 says that music replacing the Entrance chant assigned by the Church must be approved. Yet, when it comes to other items—such as the law saying only an approved translation can be used for the readings at Mass—nobody says it’s okay to ignore that directive. Daniel Craig wrote more than 80 letters to the Bishops’ Committee over a period of months, but the matter was never clarified.

The Committee seems to have chosen SILENCE. Nobody can force them to clarify this matter. Let’s face it, once we start picking and choosing which parts of the GIRM we can ignore, things get complicated. Moreover, it would seem that the USCCB doesn’t wish to clarify, because doing so would draw attention to the fact that 96% of Catholic churches in the USA are not following the GIRM.

As far as the big publishing companies are concerned, SILENCE on this matter—for forty years—has worked out just fine.


1   American Airlines once placed me on hold for more than 14 hours before allowing me to correct an error they had made.

2   A reader got angry about this, telling me I had a moral obligation to stay up all night—every night—until each email was answered properly.