Dear Fr. Richtsteig,
Have been enjoying your running series on bad church music. Little background: Way back in the 70’s and 80’s, I was in and even directed the dreaded ‘contemporary’ music ministry at a few churches small and large. Then I was fortunate enough to get to sing in a fine chant/polyphony choir for a few years. For the last decade or so, I’ve simply avoided choirs, as good ones are far away, and the local ones drive me crazy with repertoires right off your list.
I think it’s important to distinguish between principles for choosing (or banishing) music and what to do when a song from The List shows up at Mass. For my own sanity and spiritual health, I’ve adopted this policy: If the song can be interpreted to be not heretical, I’ll go ahead and sing it. It may be awful on any number of levels, but I’m at Mass to worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and so not singing a song because it’s lame or done to death or any reason other than it proclaims heresy seems less than charitable toward the rest of the people there.
I try to read the theology generously – can these words be taken to support, or at least not contradict, the Church’s beliefs? If so, I go ahead and sing them. Mostly, modern stuff is of Dubious Orthodoxy because it’s just so muddled it’s difficult to figure out what they’re really saying (except when they include loaded words meant to trigger a tail-wagging response in the target audience – that perhaps is another topic).
When they are clearly heretical – ‘What Is This Place’, I’m thinking of you! – I just bow my head and pray in silence.
Maybe, one of these days, I’ll muster the fortitude to get involved in liturgical music and planning again, and at least put up a fight against the more egregious examples.
Keep up the good work!