MAGINE ENTERING a room where children are using paint to draw cartoons on the walls. When you ask if a parent gave permission, they reply, “Yes, we have permission.” They go on to explain: “Our parents have not come here and forced us to stop what we’re doing, so we have their permission.”
Sounds crazy, right? Yet, this same situation is what the USCCB has “interpreted” for Masses in the United States.
The official Ordinary Form rubrics 1 REQUIRE that any hymn replacing the 1974 Graduale Propers use a text specifically approved by the local bishop. Over the years, the USCCB has “interpreted” this requirement in many ways. The most serious way is by claiming that any song has “automatic approval” from the local bishop—even though he hasn’t heard the song—unless that bishop specifically forbids the song. 2 This interpretation was confirmed by the USCCB again on 20 November 2012. Moreover, the Bishops’ Liturgy Committee has officially refused to walk back or modify this bizarre policy. Our current situation, therefore, allows anyone—even non-Catholics—to compose lyrics which replace, for example, the ENTRANCE ANTIPHON without permission from any bishop.
Over the years, I’ve heard many powerful talks by strong Catholics: Scott Hahn, Edward Sri, folks from Catholic Answers, folks from Saint Joseph Communications, Adoremus Bulletin, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, and so forth. Many liturgical institutes and blogs also profess to care about sacred music. Why won’t anyone address this issue? Why is this issue never brought up? This situation does incredible damage to sacred music, yet nobody will address it.
If you desire to test the USCCB policy, try this experiment. Compose some lyrics and mail them to your bishop with his name & permission. I promise your bishop will not be pleased. You can try to explain “tacit permission” to him, but I guarantee it won’t do any good. You will be told to immediately remove that permission notice…because this whole “tacit permission” thing is nonsense—and anyone who carefully examines what’s been happening for 40 years will agree.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 These are found in the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
2 As you’ve probably guessed, not many bishops forbid songs of whose existence they are unaware!