Wednesday, November 21, 2012
A How-to recipe to fix Lit/Music: Happy Thanksgiving
As has been mentioned often in the last couple of days, CMAA is us. So is the church. Our republic is us. And so on. I'm down with Professor Ted on trumping the notion that the USCCB is essentially incapable of articulating restorative prescriptions inwhich readily verifiable common problems, unhealthy circumstances, and even abuses could be mitigated globally. We still could put a woman on the moon. We can and have harnessed the physical processes of nuclear physics for good and ill, even re-created a lab version of the singularity big banging in Switzerland! Heck, we've convinced millions of people to fork out $125 or much more for a coffee maker that brews half a cup of joe. And every so often a hundred plus church princes manage, with some humble prayer and assistance of the Holy Spirit to discern who God chooses to shepherd the One True Church. Doubters, get a grip.
On the other hand, the Church as a living organism presupposes a composite physiogony; I know this because the Bible tells me so. So, Jeffrey Tucker's observation of the flexibility of Mgr. Hilgartner's response to SAC as being an optimistic, positive response is not only correct, but necessary to sort out how we approach and think about divergence.
What we basically have been playing out of late, writ large, is the Siamese Twins sort of bipartisanship model. "Chang" demands that his perspective on how to operate their enterprises is founded upon absolutism and revealed law which aligns with natural law. "Eng" rejects Chang simply because he "demands" Eng's compliance. Eng insists upon consensus, experimentation, observation, and coexistence. Their destiny appears only to be an attraction of derision, mockery and revulsion in the atmosphere of the circus. Please remember I cite this only as a model.
There has to be some initiative to move the inert. Unfortnately there's less incentive built into the culture in this era: a congress deadlocked with the lowest amount of passed legislation in recent history; a confrontational model between executive governance and special interest groups (Wisconsin governor vs. SEIU and teachers union); civil disobedience sans a coherent ethos (Occupy Mvmt. etc.); and a furtherance of fractionating a "union" based upon class, race, gender, religious influence, and life issues while also appealing for their vote (or actually proxy) upon the fulcrum of one side: unemployed yet entitled takers; or the other- capitalist rich job creators and producers and their over taxed middle class minions. This is simply toxic, static, disabling, and ultimately ridiculous and an embarrassment.
So plopped down in this morass of failed democratic principles is the thing we call the Holy Roman Catholic Church, not a republic indeed, but also not exactly equipped to act like a federal government either, really?
My pastor thinks one of the major root issues stems directly from the mechanisms by which bishops are newly appointed, transferred and elevated and then ensconsed. Well, that may be a worthy problem the Church will need to confront universally, but it doesn't help us in the meanwhile. But I bring this up to point out that where a bishop articulates a clear vision of his own ecclesiology, the people seem coalesce around him, schools and parishes are revived, seminary numbers rise, evangelization increases dramatically. And so forth. Exemplars of this might be the retiring Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NB., and Jaime Soto of Sacramento, CA. Their modus operandi's can hardly be called identical. But they're leading.
So, as I mentioned briefly in another post, it seems to me that it wouldn't at all be very difficult for any bishop to convene a council of pastors that he trusts to give him their true skinny on who's got the stuff together in liturgy and music, and provide said bishop with some candidates who would be asked to work with him, or his proxies under his periodical review, towards a thorough examination of those priority issues in the lit/music domain and then crafting strategies and timelines for their remediation. And I maintain this must be a diocesesan level enterprise, not metropolitan, not regional, not national. I will illustrate how choosing a national panel of experts to craft national mandated policies will fail, and miserably so.
Around 1997 or so, a group of eminent musician/composer/scholars/liturgists formed an ad hoc group known as the Snowbirds. Their deliberations were sound, their consensus full and their philosophies were clear. But, to no small extent, all of that stood in opposition to an earlier convocation of like peoples at the Milwaukee symposium. How would this play out. The Snowbirds advocated the systematic, expert deliberation of an ultimate White List project that would eventuate in a totally approved and mandated national repertoire and presumably a national hymnal. Mgr. Mannion was a member of the Snowbirds and I posited this question to him at the 1999 national NPM:
At some point consensus and trust by the faithful will be lost when the reality that the experts opted for "When in our music God is glorified" at the perceived expense of the now and forever absent "Pescador de hombres." And such tensions could be construed and amplified over whatever the table of contents eventuates as.
But, if the territorial and demographic aspects that are typical to the local diocese are given some respect in the local process of expert deliberation, then a sort of unveiling process to "stockholders" by a united panel, priests' collective and, of course, the bishop himself, at which the laity and others could have their input noted and formally considered, and responded to as needed. And if the process is collegial and transparent, but also informed by universal principles of VII documents, earlier documents and the raison d'etres of our traditions examined in a positive light, then a worship book, some combination of hymnal/missal could serve that diocese in many ways for many reasons for many years.
I don't think this is naivete on my part. I cannot know the exegencies of how things are done in Wasilla, Alaska versus Lafayette, Louisiana. But there have to be qualified people in all of these "jurisdictions" who would readily jump at the prospect of crafting a comprehensively positive worship repertoire that would endure.
I mean, damn, isn't the Explorer satellite still moving towards the outer reaches of our solar system? And we can't agree on songs?