Thursday, April 17, 2008

"An Overweening and Preening Exercise in Multicultural Exhibitionism" [UPDATED]

So Fr. Neuhaus describes the painful and embarassing liturgy I just watched via EWTN.

I'm sure much will be written on St. Blog's about some of the questionable liturgical choices that were made for today's Papal Mass (especially given what this Pope has written about liturgy over the last 20 or so years as Cardinal Ratzinger).

Christine the Soccer Mom offers excellent insight on the liturgical selections at Domestic Vocation. I agree with her that Placido Domingo's Panis Angelicus was quite moving (and the Holy Father really seemed to appreciate that respite from the rest of the banality).

And I know you want to know what's being said in the commentary over at The New Liturgical Movement.

Others commenting include:

  • The Curt Jester, who has a good roundup of the St. Blog's commentary.

  • Rich Leonardi, who notes "Look how wonderful we are, Your Holiness!"

  • Creative Minority Report, which exclaims "That mass, musically speaking, was one of the oddest things I have ever seen."

  • Amy Welborn, with posts here, here, and here.

  • Father Z, who found the music "simply dreadful", and opines that "the Mass seemed over consciously multi-cultural... terribly self-conscious... [and] stage[d]".

  • Chris Blosser's Benedict in America blog has "Further Reactions & Commentary on the Washington Mass' Musical Selections"

  • UPDATE #3
    Maureen Martin writes at
    Papal onlookers beg Pope to ‘offer up’ poor musical selections from Papal visit for them

    Patti Renfroe said she knows that when the Holy Father hears “One Bread, One Body” played this week during his historical trip to the United States, it has to hurt his aesthetical nature, but she is hoping that the pain it causes him may mean she will spend less time in Purgatory.

    “As he rode by, I yelled out, ‘Pope Benedict, please offer up ‘One Bread, One Body’ for me and my kids, for our salvation!” He kind of gave me a knowing, but pained smiled and nodded. “What that man has to suffer for us,” said Renfroe, a music teacher at Our Lady Queen of Heaven School in Arlington, Virginia. “People just don’t appreciate it.”

    Meanwhile, the eight members of the Thompson family, who traveled from Providence, Rhode Island, to see the Pope, stood along the police barricades, holding placards with the phrase “Remember Us When You Hear City of God!” painted in tempera paint. “Please offer it up for us! My dad’s out of work,” 12-year-old Josiah Thompson continued yelling as the motorcade drove by. “I just hope he heard me,” said Thompson. “Anytime I hear a lame song, I offer it up for him. My dad says if I keep doing this, he’ll probably live to be 103.”


    UPDATE #4 (18 April)
    Fr. Neuhaus follows up on yesterday's remarks on EWTN with today's post at the First Things blog:
    The Thursday Mass at Nationals Park introduced the Holy Father to aspects of the aesthetic suffering endured by the faithful in America. The background notes we have been supplied are not specific about who, for instance, is to blame for the choice of music. The whole thing was overweeningly, preeningly multicultural. In his words of welcome to the pope, Archbishop Wuerl of Washington noted the many nations, languages, ethnicities of the Church in America, indicating that there are also Catholics here in America who trace their lineage to Europe. Well yes, there are a few.

    In the response to our EWTN coverage, we received hundreds of complaints about the over-the-top stretch to be multicultural, along with some complaints by those were offended by our mentioning it. It’s hard to win on this score. And I have to remind myself that even mild criticisms of the way the Holy Father’s visit is being handled are taken amiss by people for whom even the chance to see the pope from a distance is one of the great moments of their lives. When over the years one has been present at papal events beyond numbering, one inevitably develops a measure of critical distance in which even mildly critical comments can clash with the intense piety of many of the Catholic faithful. Anything short of all-Wow!-all-the-time is taken as a sign of insufficient enthusiasm. Raymond Arroyo and I have multiple opportunities to remind one another of this dynamic.

    Of course nothing can diminish, never mind negate, the astonishment of the Real Presence of Christ in the Mass, but it must be admitted that the mish-mash of music and liturgical practices putatively representing the “other” of multiculturalism did vigorously compete with the central reality. I offered an observation or two on this in the course of our EWTN coverage, provoking the response that the people in the stadium were obviously enjoying themselves and we mustn’t try to impose our elitist musical and liturgical criteria. Ouch. The point I was making is that Benedict has written very specifically over the years about the distortion of the dynamics of worship when attention is focused on “our wonderful selves” rather than on the glory of God. He has also stressed the importance of renewing commitment to and continuity in the tradition of sacred music, including Gregorian chant, a tradition almost entirely absent from the stadium Mass. So the point of the commentary on that Mass is that it is remarkable that, on matters about which Benedict has been so emphatic, his views were so egregiously ignored or defied.

    Admittedly, in his frequent writings on matters liturgical, Benedict has often offered a caveat on the difficulty of doing it right on occasions with huge crowds such as is the case here and will be Sunday at Yankee Stadium, so I expect he is resigned to things getting out of hand and his pastoral disposition is to go along with the more or less inevitable. It is also the case that some of those in Nationals Park said they did not notice the music and other multicultural indulgences that were so prominent in what was televised. Which is probably just as well.


    UPDATE #5 (18 April)
    More from me, here.

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    At 4/17/2008 11:10 AM, Blogger Literacy-chic said...

    Painful and embarrassing indeed! A very good explanation from Fr. Neuhaus, I think.

    At 4/17/2008 12:07 PM, Blogger Christine the Soccer Mom said...

    While I agree with Father Neuhaus, I have to say I wish he would have at least waited until the Mass was over before he started in. (It was already painfully obvious, even to my girls.)

    I wrote about it a bit already here, though, and tried to add perspective to the obvious musical comments.

    At 4/17/2008 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I just got back from the Mass. I was too happy to be there to let the musical choices disturb me - I was more annoyed by the loud-mouthed fundies protesting outside the stadium, whom we could hear from our seats. But - yeah, there were some questionable musical selections, and a waste of the talent involved. The cantor who sang the Responsorial Psalm is actually my parish's cantor.

    But again, it was thrilling and moving to see the Pope in person and to have him celebrate Mass.

    At 4/17/2008 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I was at the Mass and I have to disagree in part about the music.

    The arrangment of the responsorial psalm was very poor. That could have been better.

    The other music was not the best but not that bad. The Indian drums and flute was during preparation of the gifts and it really didn't interrupt or distract from the Mass too much.

    At 4/18/2008 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I associate myself with Anonymous, and point out the whole assault on the musical choices is overblown and miss mistakes that are actually meaningful.


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