For a little over 20 years, organists in the Diocese of Providence have collected their fee for funerals independently from the undertaker, and sometimes the family of the deceased.
Effective July 1, 2007, that will change. Per order Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, the new policy will be that the undertaker cuts one check to the parish for everything, including music, and the parish cuts the check for the musician. This new policy has only one con - the fact that I have to now wait till payday instead of getting the funeral check the day of the funeral. I can get used to that. Compared to the many pros in this new policy, the one con is nothing. The bishop's reasoning for the new policy is impeccable.
The reason for the new policy is so that parishes (namely musicians and especially pastors) can gain control over the music played at parish funerals, thus taking the "big head" off the undertaker who feels that since he's paying the musician directly that he's "bought" the musician and now owns him/her until the funeral Mass is over, and giving the pastor the opportunity to exercise his responsibility in liturgy (a responsibility the pastor actually has had all along, but now doesn't feel so intimidated). In the case of quite a few, you'll find some pastors who could give a rat's behind about the quality of music used at funerals - you know, the ones who think "pastoral" means "give'em what they want". In the case of a few more around here, I think some more pastors will put their two cents in, as will more musicians.
Here are some examples of what could be prevented:
1. I can remember one phone call from an undertaker who asked me for Danny Boy. I was working in a parish in my hometown back then. When I told him it was inappropriate for liturgy, his response was "Well, St. Raymond's plays it, and so does St. Mary's, and there's no problem there". My response to that line of crap was "Well, just because it's popular doesn't mean it's right". He said "Whatever!" and hung up.
2. I spent eight years as organist/music director for Precious Blood Church in Woonsocket. The pastor who I worked for during the first 6-1/2 years there was excellent. However, the undertakers in Woonsocket (most of them at the time) had a tendency of making their own rules. Some even tried to override the diocesan policy on fees by making their own "fee scale". They also had a line of soloists from the area ready for work as the undertaker would try to push a soloist into the family's funeral plans. Their "fee scale" meant that the full fee, normally given to the organist was now split in half - and for having to accomodate the soloist, who nine times out of ten liked to put on a show of their own. The pastor put a stop to that (at that parish anyways) after I said something to one undertaker and I made him call the rectory.
3. Here's something that recently happened in England, but I'll let you go over to Domini Sumus to read it. Yes, there are pastors in England who exercise control. In the case of this English priest, Fr. Brosnan, he treated the funeral Mass as a parish liturgy, not a private one, and he was absolutely right in doing so. DS writes in her own commentary, "Maybe he wasn't feeling well, was tired, or just having a bad day. Maybe she imagined a completely personalized me-centered Mass". For some reason, I picture the latter being the reality, which may have gotten to this pastor and resulting in the former, but from the article, like DS, I can only find fault in the handling of a picture that was on the casket and moved to the floor.
Thankfully, my pastor does exercise control over the funeral Mass, regardless of who's handing who the checks. And he trusts his hired help, including yours truly (his organist/music director) to make the right musical decisions. He doesn't ask me to change much, but when he does, it's for the right reasons.
As for the new order by Bishop Tobin, I'm for it all the way. Pastors may now feel more strength in saying "This is MY parish. The rules of the Church apply here." They really should have felt it all along, but this might be a good wake-up call.