About this blogger:
Dr. Alfred Calabrese is a conductor, educator, composer, scholar, and church musician. Having worked in academia for two decades, he felt called to enter full-time work in the Catholic Church, and since 2007 has directed the music at Saint Rita Catholic Church. He and his wife live in Dallas, TX. They have two grown children.
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“If a pope were only ever applauded, he would have to ask himself whether or not he was doing things right.”
— Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (2016)

Five Ways To Make Dogma “Live Loudly Within You”
published 18 September 2017 by Dr. Alfred Calabrese

4417 Y NOW, most everyone is aware of the uproar following the statements of Sen. Diane Feinstein during the judicial confirmation hearings of Prof. Amy Barrett of the University of Notre Dame. “The dogma lives loudly within you” stated Feinstein. Much has already been written about the obvious anti-Catholic invective in this proclamation, and many have come to the defense of Prof. Barrett and her personal and judicial integrity. That Feinstein’s sentiments were doubled down by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, a Catholic himself, is probably more reprehensible. The fact that he claimed to be unaware of the term “orthodox Catholic” is sad and laughable at the same time. * So the villains in this controversy have been named. But let’s not forget that there is a hero, and that is Professor Barrett.

Making your Catholic bona fides known and not wavering from them is not always a stance that lends itself to personal popularity or job security, especially in the academic ivory tower. But, you say, that shouldn’t be a problem in a Catholic university, right? Well, let’s remember from whence came the Land O’Lakes Statement. And just try Googling “Catholic professor denied tenure” and see how many hits you get.

So now that Prof. Barrett has been ‘accused’ of being a faithful and public Catholic and has taken a hit for the rest of us, the question for me, and perhaps for you, is this—is the dogma living loudly in you? For me, I think the answer is no, not yet. Because sometimes, as we have seen, it results in criticism, ridicule, unfairness, and unpopularity. Because it takes courage. And it takes courage to be a Catholic church musician. So the next question is this – can we live the dogma in our work as church musicians? Here are a few ways that I think we can:

First : Select hymns with faithful Catholic texts. This might open you up to criticism.

Second : Jettison the hymns or ‘songs’ that talk about ‘us’ or ‘me.’ This will not make you popular.

Third : Make school Masses reverent and focused on the worship of God. If this means following #1 and #2, this will also not make you popular.

Fourth : Teach, especially the children. I’ve sacrificed some rehearsal time to show videos on the Mass and to discuss it with them. Maybe that’s not the best use of time, but it lets the children know where my priorities lie and what their role in the Mass is really about.

Fifth : Talk about the Church to your choirs. Incorporate bits of theology into your teaching of new music, explain deeply the texts that come from the pens of the saints, and give your own personal statement about why this music is important to you as a Catholic. This takes courage.

These are just a few ways that we can show the dogma living loudly within us. As reprehensible as her statements were, perhaps we need to thank Sen. Feinstein for unwittingly reminding us what we are called to do, as unpopular as it may be.


Editor’s note : Views from the Choir Loft has never been—and will never be—a political blog. If we were in the business of pointing out dishonesty from politicians, we’d have no time left for music. That being said, it’s worth noting that Senator Durbin claims not to know what “Orthodox Catholic” means and brags about having 19 years of Roman Catholic education. However, seventy seconds later, he accidentally reveals (by subsequent statements) he knew perfectly well the meaning. It would have been better if he had not pretended to be ignorant of that term.