As I was reading my March 2008 issue of The American Organist, my eyes fell across the short blurb in the "Pipings" column recounding an article reported by the Catholic News Service. On September 3 of last year there was an ecumentical evening prayer service at the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley. Cardinal Walter Kaspar presided at the vespers service, saying, "...through these hymns...Roman Catholics have come to know and apprecite him." Methodist minister Rev. John Barrett also took part in the service. Here's a direct quote from the TAO article, which incorporates quotes from Rev. Barrett:
But unfortunately today, even in Methodist congregations, his (Charels Wesley's) hymns are increasingly replaced by "praise hymns long on emotion but short on theology." The Rev. Barrett, commenting in an interview following the service, said he believes too many Chrsitians of all denominations are turning to "easy, undemanding worship songs."
So, I'm confused. It seems that if one is in Rome, one sees what the problems are and speaks openly about them. However, the farther one gets from the Eternal City, the thicker the scabs on the eyes become, and the cozier it feels for the head to be buried in the sand -- I'm not talking necessarily about music directors here, who so frequently see the writing on the wall, read it off to their pastors and find themselves scraping together uneaten pizza rinds behind Deano's the next day. More and more being a pastoral musician means being a pastoral yes-man: "Yes Father, let us embark on a new campaign of liturigcal abuse and scorn the Church's music tradition." It makes no sense to me how a clerical spine can regress in such resplent Darwinian fashion into amorphous jelly as soon as its black-cassocked owner skims the Papal comments and edicts. We see here the common notion that we have a Pope in Rome who mumbles instructions from the throne of Peter into a paper bag. He's great to watch on TV, and pro forma, we publically support him, but really what he has to say is nothing more than suggestion. We choose to take it or leave it -- and since the old fart sits beneath his gilt murals thousands of miles away, we can just leave it.