Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Gregorian chant

Gregorian chant QUESTION from John Ignatowski September 6, 2001
Dear Mr. Slavek
As you know, Sacrosanctum Concilium states that in the Roman liturgy, other things being equal, Gregorian chant is to be given pride of place in liturgical services. [#116]
As a Roman Catholic church musician I have struggled over the years to put this directive into effect, but have at times been stymied by the ambiguity of this phrase, which the heterodox among us seize upon as the key to the replacement of chant with so-called popular music.
I am aware that the Church does not limit us exclusively to chant but I do not buy any of the arguments for polka, mariachi, rock-n-roll and other secular music in the sacred liturgy and I cannot see these justified by any pastoral stretch of this paragraph in the Constitution.
Would you please enlighten me as to what the Council fathers meant by the phrase other things being equal? What are these other things and to what must they be equal in order for the noble chant tradition to be upheld?
Thank you and God bless you.
John
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on September 10, 2001
Dear Mr. Ignatowski,
Yes, strictly speaking, this phrase IS not clear: all other things being equal but equal to what? I think that since there is nothing else mentioned, it is to be assumed that these other things are equal to themselves. SO, chant would alone be the greatest, and every other form of music is equal to every other form of music. Sacred Polyphony, hymns accomapanied an organ, and sacred orchestra music are examples of these other things
OF COURSE... the liturgical reformers never intended this phrase to be a general okay for any form of music that is elsewhere prohibited for liturgical use. Examples of this music would be like the ones you have mentioned.. Polka, rock, etc.
Mr. Slavek
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