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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“Indeed, we may not hope for real Latin poetry any more, because Latin is now a dead language to all of us. However well a man may read, write, or even speak Latin now, it is always a foreign language to him, acquired artificially. It is no one's mother tongue. Does a man ever write real poetry in an acquired language?”
— Rev’d Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

The Terrifying “But” Of Vatican II
published 16 May 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

495 Pope Paul VI IMAGE NLY FOUR BISHOPS voted against Sacrosanctum Concilium, the very first Vatican II document promulgated. All the rest of the bishops—2,147 of them!—voted in favor of this document. Our readers probably know that Vatican II said Gregorian chant must be given “pride of place” at Mass under ordinary circumstances. Yet some forget the important qualifier which follows immediately—and this “but” strikes terror in the hearts of progressive liturgists.

A false understanding has taken root regarding the use of Gregorian chant. Visit any Catholic church on Sunday and you’ll see how rare it is for plainsong to be given pride of place. Most people assume there must be a loophole in Vatican II documents saying something like, “But if you don’t want to use Gregorian chant, that’s okay.”

Let’s consider what Vatican II actually said, in article 116:

“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy: therefore, under normal circumstances, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.  But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action.”

Progressive liturgists hate what comes after the “but.”

After all, it’s hard enough for them to explain away the whole “pride of place” business. They usually launch into a lecture about how “normal circumstances” never exist in real life, each situation is different, and so forth. 1 Things become worse for them when they see that awful “but,” because it mentions SACRED music, and specifically mentions POLYPHONY.

How is it that so few Ordinary Form parishes use any plainsong? How is it that so few Ordinary Form churches use polyphony? When asked, professional liturgists often reply with a false answer: “Vatican II got rid of those things.” A leading progressive liturgist even called Gregorian chant a type of WEAPON. (Click here if you think I’m kidding.)

I HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN about the incontrovertible fact of false diversity vs. true diversity. Yet, many imply that ancient things must be discarded in favor of modern things. If that’s the case, why not discard the Bible? After all, the Bible is even more ancient than Gregorian chant!

I’m not opposed to modern music. Indeed, I myself compose, and Watershed promotes many contemporary composers. It’s a question of balance. So many Ordinary Form parishes use 99% contemporary songs while ignoring what Vatican II called the “musical treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art” (§112, Sacrosanctum Concilium).


1   They do something similar with regard to liturgical inculturation, which Vatican II says can play a role “particularly in mission lands.” I’ll never forget one progressive liturgist exclaiming: “But if you think about it, the entire world is mission country!” In other words, let’s keep twisting the meaning of the document until it means what we want.