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Saturday, February 08, 2003

Change for the sake of change.

A little more of our Catholic heritage was lost recently. Mark Sullivan reports about a magnificent choir evicted in the name of "full, active, conscious participation". You know, "FACP"--the dread phrase invoked to justify all sorts of cringe-inducing stupidity from chubby liturgical dancers in spandex to the use of "All I Ask Of You" as a communion hymn. No. Really.

On the surface, the dispute seems to have a lot of blame to go around, from an "inflexible" choir director to a "liturgical wreckovator" priest. It has sparked an equally split debate in the comments box. While I don't know if there's enough evidence to call him a "wreckovator," here's why those defending Fr. Mayo are wrong.

1. One. Mass. A. Week. Repeat that until it sinks in.

2. People defending Fr. Mayo have said, in effect, it's just two songs--at assembly and during the psalm. At best, that cuts both ways. In reality, it gives the lie to the notion that "FACP" is driving the dispute. Two songs hardly constitutes "FACP." At the OCP McMass, FACP is not achieved until the faithful have been made to drink repeatedly from the treacly firehose of Haugen, Hurd, Schutte and the SLJ. As an aside, given the inaudible nature of congregational singing, it appears that mumbling and mouthing is sufficiently FACP for the OCP crowd.

3. The choir's Mass was equally valid under the rubrics. Again, repeat until that sinks in. Apparently, even the fathers of Vatican II found the Gregorian chant an appropriate expression of FACP.

4. So, what's really going on here? The evidence indicates a power struggle between an established music ministry and a new priest intent on asserting control. After all, Fr. Mayo himself concedes that "I can participate in silence." And it seems clear that the Fr. was bent on shoving the choir aside. The evidence?

First, he was fully equipped with support from the Archbishop when confronting Applegate. No discussion, no debate. Certainly the congregation was never consulted (clericalism, anyone?). Second, months before, he prompted the choir to organize as a non-profit. All the better to ensure they'd head out?

Applegate seems inflexible, until you consider the facts. From the story, there's no hint that there were complaints about "FACP" at the one Mass a week the choir attended. It was strictly Fr. Mayo's decision to ensure "[o]ur endorphins get engaged." His standard would be the yardstick by which it would be determined whether FACP was achieved. First, there would be two songs. They could even be Latin. But what if FACP was not achieved? Let's discard the Adoremus hymnal, then, and go for GIA. If the mysterious FACP goal line was not reached with GIA, then go to the banal food court known as OCP. With an increasingly-withered role for the choir as a consequence. The subjective, pastor-centric nature of the standard made future changes all too likely.

I think Applegate saw the writing on the wall, and decided to get while the choir was still intact.

Now, its gone. Never mind the revitalization of the parish, the overflow Masses, the conversions, the astonishing respect from determinedly secular Oregon (evangelization, anyone). FACP must be served. And American Catholicism just got a little more "beige":

Rather, the issue is whether the church, in its haste to adjust to the postconciliar world, jettisoned much of what was distinctive and precious in the Catholic sacramental heritage. Consider four examples of the church's discarded heritage: plain song, statues, the rosary, and meatless Fridays.

* Gregorian chant: Plain song flourished for fifteen centuries. It has recently been celebrated in best-selling CDs. Yet liturgists have virtually banished it from Catholic worship on the ground that it has no place in the postconciliar liturgy. But to suggest that occasionally a congregation might sing the Kyrie, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, perhaps in antiphonal mode with a skilled schola cantorum, does not imply membership in the Society of Pius X or rejection of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Rather, it is to advocate the recovery of a tradition of great beauty that has been part of the Catholic heritage for ages.

The name of this obvious hard-right commentator? Fr. Andrew Greeley.

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