HIS ISN’T REALLY about Marty Haugen. But he has been a target of a great deal of internet vitriol and division for many years (as has David Haas). Recent posts—which I will not be linking to—demonstrate no lull.
Why? Because he is successful, and has been on top of the Roman Catholic world of liturgical music for decades. There is envy. There is misplaced criticism and anger. Ultimately, there is vastly unchristian behavior. He is a brother in Christ deserving of our respect regardless of one’s opinion of his public work.
But this isn’t about Marty Haugen. Wait for it…
THERE CAN BE NO QUESTION about his vast influence on—in fact dominance of—Roman Catholic Liturgy, Haugen’s works are widely successful in both Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations. He is a recording artist and presenter of workshops around the country for multiple denominations. Haugen’s bio on his website states:
Marty has served as an editor or consultant to a number of GIA hymnals and has been a contributor to hymnals or supplements for many denominational groups including the ELCA and ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and Canada), the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Mennonite Brethren, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Roman Catholic groups in Great Britain, Canada, Ireland and Australia.
That’s a pretty broad résumé. While there is ample criticism of his work for various reasons, one criticism is that he is not Roman Catholic.
But that’s not on him. Heck, when my setting of AVE MARIA is sung by Unitarians—or by non-religious organizations, such as at Kodály workshops—I’m rather pleased. The theological message of such settings is not on me. Regardless of religious affiliation, Marty Haugen has been making a living as a musician for decades.
Dear musicians, read that sentence again: Marty Haugen has been making a living as a musician for decades. How many of us can say the same? (As a composer looking at my latest royalty checks, I realize I’m raking in hundreds of dollars—not exactly a way to support a family.) But as a non-Roman Catholic who is highly successful writing music for the Roman Catholic liturgy, I say: “Good for Marty Haugen.” And I mean it.
Is there criticism of style or text? In the former, it is a debate that will not be resolved—nor perhaps ever should be by decree. With regard to the latter, there are occasional problems, which range from benign sentiments to actual theological inaccuracies. Some are inspired by his lyrics. Some are not. That’s the nature of subjective art.
But with regard to theology, any problems are not on Marty Haugen.
They are on his editors. They are on his publisher. They are ultimately on his bishop. For instance, GIRM §47 and §87 give four options for the ENTRANCE and COMMUNION chants. The fourth option listed in both cases refers to texts “approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.” The bishops have—generally speaking—abdicated such oversight. While difficult (a bit like drinking out of a fire hydrant), it is certainly quite manageable for the most visible and influential of publications. With great power comes great responsibility.
Publishers and composers have gone to great lengths to rewrite texts for various reasons: inclusive language, new translations, marketing reasons, and so forth. Equal resources must be put in to ensure sound Roman Catholic theology.
HIS IS NOT ABOUT Marty Haugen. This is about the choices we make as pastors, as musicians, as publishers, as bishops. Bring the best of the best to serve God and the people. Matthew 13:52 says:
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
What choices are we making? What treasures of music and theology are we exposing to our children, to our parishioners? How are we teaching? By example or by self-righteous fiat? Are With love for the people or with love of ourselves?
None of this is judgment, but worthy of contemplation and prayer. That’s what this is about.
Soli Deo Gloria