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1. Music in church should NOT be for the purpose of provoking pleasure...

"The soul is distracted from that which is sung by a chant that is employed for the purpose of giving pleasure." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[St.] Jerome does not absolutely condemn singing, but reproves those who sing theatrically in church not in order to arouse devotion, but in order to show off, or to provoke pleasure. Hence Augustine says (Confessiones x,33): 'When it befalls me to be more moved by the voice than by the words sung, I confess to have sinned penally, and then had rather not hear the singer.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")


2. Some guidance on forbidden/allowed instruments...

"The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like." (Pope St. Pius X, "Inter Sollicitudines", 1920 A.D.)

"It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place - provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ." (Pope St. Pius X, "Inter Sollicitudines", 1922 A.D.)

"As the Philosopher says (Politica viii,6), 'Teaching should not be accompanied with a flute or any artificial instrument such as the harp or anything else of this kind: but only with such things as make good hearers.' For such like musical instruments move the soul to pleasure rather than create a good disposition within it. In the Old Testament instruments of this description were employed, both because the people were more coarse and carnal - so that they needed to be aroused by such instruments as also by earthly promises - and because these material instruments were figures of something else." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"These norms must be applied to the use of the organ or other musical instruments. Among the musical instruments that have a place in church the organ rightly holds the principal position, since it is especially fitted for the sacred chants and sacred rites. It adds a wonderful splendor and a special magnificence to the ceremonies of the Church. It moves the souls of the faithful by the grandeur and sweetness of its tones. It gives minds an almost heavenly joy and it lifts them up powerfully to God and to higher things. Besides the organ, other instruments can be called upon to give great help in attaining the lofty purpose of sacred music, so long as they play nothing profane nothing clamorous or strident and nothing at variance with the sacred services or the dignity of the place. Among these the violin and other musical instruments that use the bow are outstanding because, when they are played by themselves or with other stringed instruments or with the organ, they express the joyous and sad sentiments of the soul with an indescribable power." (Pope Pius XII, "Musicae Sacrae", 1955 A.D.)

"The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, for it is the traditional musical instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up men's minds to God and higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, in the judgment and with the consent of the competent territorial authority... This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use; that they accord with the dignity of the temple, and that they truly contribute to the edification of the faithful." (Second Vatican Council) [Note: The pipe organ, "the premier instrument of the Catholic Church", has historically been considered "the only instrument sacred enough for the Mass."]


3. Some guidance regarding suitable/unsuitable music...

"Can. 1264 § 1 Music, whether of the organ or of other instruments or sung, in which there is mixed anything lascivious or impure is entirely forbidden from churches; and the liturgical laws concerning sacred music are to be observed." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"They shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer." (Council of Trent, Twenty-second Session)

"[T]he chants and sacred music which are immediately joined with the Church's liturgical worship should be conducive to the lofty end for which they are intended. This music - as our predecessor (St.) Pius X has already wisely warned us - 'must possess proper liturgical qualities, primarily holiness and goodness of form; from which its other note, universality, is derived.' It must be holy. It must not allow within itself anything that savors of the profane nor allow any such thing to slip into the melodies in which it is expressed." (Pope Pius XII)

"Among the different kinds of modern music, that which appears less suitable for accompanying the functions of public worship is the theatrical style, which was in the greatest vogue, especially in Italy, during the last century. This of its very nature is diametrically opposed to Gregorian Chant and classic polyphony, and therefore to the most important law of all good sacred music. Besides the intrinsic structure, the rhythm and what is known as the conventionalism of this style adapt themselves but badly to the requirements of true liturgical music." (Pope St. Pius X, "Inter Sollicitudines", 1911 A.D.)

"The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services." (Second Vatican Council)

"And if in Catholic churches throughout the entire world Gregorian chant sounds forth without corruption or diminution, the chant itself, like the sacred Roman liturgy, will have a characteristic of universality, so that the faithful, wherever they may be, will hear music that is familiar to them and a part of their own home. In this way they may experience, with much spiritual consolation, the wonderful unity of the Church. This is one of the most important reasons why the Church so greatly desires that the Gregorian chant traditionally associated with the Latin words of the sacred liturgy be used." (Pope Pius XII, "Musicae Sacrae", 1955 A.D.)

"[Sacred music] must be holy. It must not allow within itself anything that savors of the profane nor allow any such thing to slip into the melodies in which it is expressed. The Gregorian chant which has been used in the Church over the course of so many centuries, and which may be called, as it were, its patrimony, is gloriously outstanding for this holiness. This chant, because of the close adaptation of the melody to the sacred text, is not only most intimately conformed to the words, but also in a way interprets their force and efficacy and brings delight to the minds of the hearers. It does this by the use of musical modes that are simple and plain, but which are still composed with such sublime and holy art that they move everyone to sincere admiration and constitute an almost inexhaustible source from which musicians and composers draw new melodies." (Pope Pius XII, "Musicae Sacrae", 1955 A.D.)

"Sacred polyphony, We may here remark, is rightly held second only to Gregorian Chant." (Pope Pius XI, "Divini Cultus", 1928 A.D.)

"Classic Polyphony agrees admirably with Gregorian Chant, the supreme model of all sacred music, and hence it has been found worthy of a place side by side with Gregorian Chant, in the more solemn functions of the Church, such as those of the Pontifical Chapel." (Pope St. Pius X, "Inter Sollicitudines", 1910 A.D.) 

"These [liturgical] laws warn that great prudence and care should be used in this serious matter in order to keep out of churches polyphonic music which, because of its heavy and bombastic style, might obscure the sacred words of the liturgy by a kind of exaggeration, interfere with the conduct of the liturgical service or, finally, lower the skill and competence of the singers to the disadvantage of sacred worship." (Pope Pius XII, "Musicae Sacrae", 1955 A.D.)


4. Some guidance on who should be admitted to the choir...

"Finally, only men of known piety and probity of life are to be admitted to form part of the choir of a church, and these men should by their modest and devout bearing during the liturgical functions show that they are worthy of the holy office they exercise. It will also be fitting that singers while singing in church wear the ecclesiastical habit and surplice, and that they be hidden behind gratings when the choir is excessively open to the public gaze." (Pope St. Pius X, "Inter Sollicitudines", 1916 A.D.) 

"Choir-schools for boys should be established not only for the greater churches and cathedrals, but also for smaller parish churches. The boys should be taught by the choirmaster to sing properly, so that, in accordance with the ancient custom of the Church, they may sing in the choir with the men, especially as in polyphonic music the highest part, the cantus, ought to be sung by boys. Choir-boys, especially in the sixteenth century, have given us masters of polyphony: first and foremost among them, the great Palestrina." (Pope Pius XI, "Divini Cultus", 1928 A.D.)

"On the same principle it follows that singers in church have a real liturgical office, and that therefore women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form part of the choir. Whenever, then, it is desired to employ the acute voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church." (Pope St. Pius X, "Inter Sollicitudines", 1914 A.D.) [However, note that: "Can. 1264 § 2 Religious women, if it is permitted to them according to the norm of their constitutions or liturgical law, and having come to the local Ordinary, can sing in their own church or public oratory, provided that they are singing from a place where they cannot be seen by the people." (1917 Code of Canon Law)]

Note: The liturgical practice of all male singers may date back to the Old Testament (see 1 Chron. 6:16-32) and may also be considered in light of St. Paul's instruction that "As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church." (St. Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 14:33-35)


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