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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A lot of the favoured new settings are musically illiterate, almost is if they were written by semi-trained teenagers, getting to grips with musical rudiments. The style is stodgy and sentimental, tonally and rhythmically stilted, melodically inane and adored by Catholic clergy “of a certain age.” Some Catholic dioceses run courses for wannabe composers to perpetuate this style. It is a scandal. People with hardly any training and experience of even the basic building blocks of music have been convinced that there is a place for their puerile stumblings and fumblings in the modern Catholic Church because real musicians are elitist and off-putting.
— James MacMillan (20 November 2013)

Is Latin Impossible For Choirs?
published 16 July 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

503 Latin Stained Glass Window In 1958, the Sacred Congregation for Rites declared: 1

98c. The singers, too—children as well as adults—must be taught the meaning of the liturgical functions and of the texts they sing (according to their individual capacity to understand).

To obey these commands, each week I provide special scores for my choir. The examples below will be sung this coming Sunday. Do you see how the choir members can understand what’s being sung?

    * *  PDF Download • INTROIT

    * *  Mp3 Download • INTROIT

    * *  PDF Download • COMMUNION

    * *  Mp3 Download • COMMUNION

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

STORIES HAVE BEEN TOLD about priests who came into the offices of Bishop Donald Trautman requesting permission to say the Extraordinary Form. 2 Bishop Trautman would begin speaking to them in Latin, and if they couldn’t respond to his satisfaction, they were not granted permission. Leave aside the fact that Bishop Trautman seems to be a little confused about what is required. 3 The point is, Bishop Trautman is trying to be rigid about the rules. None of us can begrudge a bishop who wants to be rigid about the rules, right?

I just hope Bishop Trautman applied equal “rigidity” to other Church directives, such as:

The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well. (Code of Canon Law, 1983)

In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. (Vatican II)

Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say—or sing together—in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. (Vatican II)

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given first place in liturgical services. (Vatican II)

Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (Vatican II)

Those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions. (Musicam Sacram, 1967)

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

CARDINAL RATZINGER HAS POINTED OUT that nobody can fully “understand” the liturgy. Could there be a correlation between people who always insist they “know better” and the disobedience rampant in our Church? Could it be a type of arrogance that begets arrogance? Moreover, we’ve seen the results of Scripture scholars who wrongly believe it’s possible to fully understand every word of the Bible. When they come across a difficult section, they apply their own meaning (a serious violation). To such people, uttering the words “we don’t know” is unthinkable. We’ve also seen the results of 1970s English translations by ICEL, which were praised by “progressive” leaders like Bishop Trautman and Fr. Diekmann. When others tried to make improvements, Diekmann claims he got so angry he began to “froth at the mouth.”

But look at these 1970s translations; are they really so brilliant? So fabulous?

    * *  PDF Download • First Example

    * *  PDF Download • Second Example

Speaking of Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, 4 we’ve seen the results of predictions by men like him. He said that unless Latin was eliminated from the Divine Office, monastic life would be “doomed to extinction,” asking:

What young candidate for the priesthood would ever consider the monastic life if there is even the possibility of having to spend three hours a day praying or singing the Office in Latin?

Anyone who looks at chart showing the number of monks in 1950 versus today—when our population has grown so much—will observe the sad (undeniable) truth. The bottom line was that Diekmann wanted to eliminate Latin. The notion that some priests did not understand Latin as well as he thought they should was merely an excuse. He tried to push his ideas in Rome during the 1960s, but several Roman clerics pushed back:

They were always friendly. I must say that about the Roman policy. But they would ask questions: “Is that so?”; “Well, if they don’t know Latin, why don’t they study Latin?”

These sensible Roman clerics realized the problem itself must be addressed. Suppose you have a mosquito bite on your leg that’s annoying you; do you amputate your leg? That would certainly eliminate the mosquito bite; but wouldn’t it make more sense to simply address the problem?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


1   That sentence is important, but the following section should also be taken into consideration:

29. They are especially worthy of praise who use a small missal suitable to their understanding and pray along with the priest in the very words of the Church. But, since not all are equally capable of understanding properly the rites and formulas, and since spiritual needs are not the same—and are not always the same for any individual—there are more easy and suitable ways of participating for some.
2   These stories must be from before 2007; thanks to Summorum Pontificum, priests no longer need permission to offer the Extraordinary Form.

3   For example, you don’t need to be fluent in spoken Latin to understand what “Agnus Dei” means, just as you don’t need to be fluent in spoken Hebrew to understand what “Alleluia” means. Similarly, having played Spanish Masses each Sunday for seven years, my Ecclesiastical Spanish became halfway decent—but you do not want to hear me try and order something from a menu in Spanish.

4   Fr. Godfrey Diekmann was a leading “progressive” liturgist, who favored women’s ordination and other innovations. Diekmann’s monastery published a book recounting what he did behind the scenes at Vatican II, and it’s enough to make those who care about the Catholic liturgy weep. On page 288 of this book, Fr. Godfrey Diekmann proudly admits to giving Holy Communion to people who were not Catholic—and who had made this clear to him in advance. I’m not a theologian, but I’m told that’s a huge “No-No” as far as the Church is concerned.