Tuesday, August 29, 2006

George Weigel on bad liturgical hymns

We've all probably got our favorite Mass hymns/songs, and the ones that we don't care for so much. George Weigel makes the case that there are some hymns, though, that simply have no place being sung in a Catholic church -- and some based on such silly poetry and phrasing that we should put a moratorium on their use. This was written a couple of years back, but still a fun read:

For classic Lutheran theology, hymns are a theological "source:" not up there with Scripture, of course, but ranking not-so-far below Luther's "Small Catechism." Hymns, in this tradition, are not liturgical filler. Hymns are distinct forms of confessing the Church's faith. Old school Lutherans take their hymns very seriously.

Most Catholics don't. Instead, we settle for hymns musically indistinguishable from "Les Mis" and hymns of saccharine textual sentimentality. Moreover, some hymn texts in today's Catholic "worship resources" are, to put it bluntly, heretical. Yet Catholics once knew how to write great hymns; and there are great hymns to be borrowed, with gratitude, from Anglican, Lutheran, and other Christian sources. There being a finite amount of material that can fit into a hymnal, however, the first thing to do is clean the stables of today's hymnals.

Thus, with tongue only half in cheek, I propose the Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, the "Index of Forbidden Hymns." Herewith, some examples.

Go check out the rest of what he has to say here

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Historical honesty

That's what Archbishop Charles Chaput wants in the current relationship between Christians and Muslims.

He wrote about this desire in this column recently printed in the Denver Catholic Register, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, of which he is the leader.

Archbishop Chaput referred to a recent article in a secular newspaper in Denver where a Muslim leader was quoted as saying "it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who didn’t agree with them."

The archbishop then proceeded to list the instances of discrimination and sometimes outright persecution against Christians that span from the beginnings of Islam to the present.

Archbishop Chaput concluded his column with these words:

These are facts. The Muslim-Christian conflict is a very long one, rooted in deep religious differences, and Muslims have their own long list of real and perceived grievances. But especially in an era of religiously inspired terrorism and war in the Middle East, peace is not served by ignoring, subverting or rewriting history, but rather by facing it humbly as it really happened and healing its wounds.

That requires honesty and repentance from both Christians and Muslims. Comments like those reported in the recent news story I read — claiming that historically, it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who disagreed with them — are both false and do nothing to help.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The meaning of moderation

This is what George Weigel and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick have been debating lately in a rather public forum.

Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and biographer of Pope John Paul II, launched the interchange with this column, "Truth at the fifty-yard line?," which ran in several diocesan newspapers in the United States.


In a series of talks and interviews surrounding the announcement of his retirement as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick frequently told his favorite John Paul II story: the story of the Pope walking up the center aisle of the Newark cathedral in October 1995, touching people on both sides.

This, Cardinal McCarrick suggested, was how priests and bishops ought to act --- sticking to the "middle," in order to be in touch with everyone. Or, as he told National Public Radio, "The job of a priest always forces you to the middle.… We've got to be in the middle so that we don't let those on the left or the right get lost." ...

It's not easy to know what Cardinal McCarrick means by his oft-repeated admonition to moderation...

To stand in the center of the aisle and claim to be in communion of mind and heart with people who both affirm and deny [that Jesus Christ is the Son of God] is to confess to severe intellectual confusion. Is a validly ordained priest necessary for the valid consecration of the Eucharist, or isn't he? It's hard to believe that Cardinal McCarrick would have wanted his archdiocesan vocation director to stand in the center of the aisle on that one...

Cardinal McCarrick, the recently retired archbishop of Washington, responded to Weigel's column with this letter to the editor that recently ran in the Denver Catholic Register.

The cardinal seemed offended at Weigel's column, describing it as "at the minimum, deceptive journalism." In the end, he responded to the charges against him that he felt Weigel had made in his column:

I will continue to call for moderation and civility, and to reach out and talk with everyone, regardless of what side of the aisle they are on. That doesn’t mean compromising our faith and our teachings, but it does mean that we treat each other with respect as befits the dignity of our brothers and sisters, avoid name calling and personal attacks and be careful that what we say is always true both in its expression and its implication.

In response to Cardinal McCarrick's letter, Weigel wrote one of his own, in which he attempted to explain the purpose of his original column:

My point — which seemed clear enough to the many people, from all states of life in the Church, who have thanked me for what I wrote — was that a pastoral strategy that encourages priests and bishops to stand “in the center of the aisle” may serve certain purposes, but cannot be effective when core doctrinal issues are at stake.

He also seemed to invited Cardinal McCarrick to review his original column, writing that a "fair-minded reading, or perhaps re-reading, of the column will, I hope, demonstrate" its purpose stated above.

So, what is the meaning of moderation in discussions in the Church and in the broader society? Share your views on the topic...with a moderate tone if you please.