EVEN YEARS AGO, I approached the bishop of a medium-sized diocese with a plan for sacred music improvement. At that point, my compositions for the Ordinary Form had been downloaded more than 800,000 times, and musicians seemed to value them. This bishop had zero interest in examining any of my compositions, but did read some of my published articles.
He apparently discovered something he didn’t like—although he wouldn’t tell me what specifically—and proceeded to say something I’ll never forget:
“Jeff, we know one thing for certain: all those who made liturgical changes in the 1960s had the right intentions and were men of good will.”
I was raised correctly, so I knew arguing with a bishop would be inappropriate. But I was sorely tempted to ask: “Your Excellency, what evidence can you produce to justify your assertion?”
SPEAKING FOR MYSELF, I do not believe 100% of the liturgical reformers ipso facto had “good intentions.” Remember the Church Music Manual (1964) we posted in 2015?
Here’s an excerpt:
Such a statement utterly contradicts Sacrosanctum Concilium (4 December 1963), which clearly says Gregorian chant, under normal circumstances, must be given first place in liturgical ceremonies. But the author knew that very few people had access to the documents of Vatican II in 1964, so he got away scot-free.
Pope Saint John XXIII, who convened Vatican II, wrote in 1962:
We are fully determined to restore Latin to its position of honor.
Compare the words of John XXIII with the excerpt above—and then tell me all the reformers had “the correct heart.” The retention of Latin was not a suggestion:
Indeed, when Cardinal Browne stood up during Vatican II, warning that Latin might disappear entirely if the vernacular were allowed, the fathers famously roared with laughter at such a suggestion.