This past week, Benedict XVI visited the Sacred Academy of Music in the Vatican. It is really quite appropriate that this Mozart loving, piano playing pontiff should visit this illustrious institution to call attention to a persistent matter in the Church’s liturgical renewal. That is namely, the need for a deeper appreciation and clear direction to the liturgical music aspect of our sacred celebrations. Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council most of the music that was familiar to Catholics was in the form of Gregorian Chant, or popular parish hymns that were usually sung by both people and choir with great devotion and fervor. However since the years after the Council, there has been a large movement within the Catholic community not only to make musical accompaniment more prominent in the Liturgy, there are also times where Catholic theology and teachings have been distorted for the sake of musical interpretation, rather than theological accuracy.

The most familiar aspect of these changes was the popular custom of replacing all of the descriptive pronouns for male and female with generic equivalents which made Father, Son and Holy Spirit equally gender neutral and therefore politically correct. Throughout the 1960’s through the late 1990’s musicians, liturgists, incorrectly motivated activists and the gender sensitive cognoscenti all busied themselves with editorial powers and reworded and rearranged most of our Catholic songs to modify human nature into a pseudo-she-male that lived a perfectly balanced androgynous Catholic life and did not politically offend anyone’s social, sexual or political inclinations. Not only did this happen with the references to the Triune God in our songs, scriptures and liturgy…phrases like…”sons of God, and brothers in faith” were routinely cast aside for the generic equivalent of linguistic asexuality…everyone ,fellow worshipers and even at times…peoples of God!” Something it seems went drastically wrong with the emasculation of the Deity and the attempted desire to make the matters of politically correct and incorrect titles as part of our Catholic heritage.

Quite a few times I have often heard it said by individuals that are always replacing male and female descriptions of people, places and things in our Scriptures and our Sacred Liturgies that they feel this is the way God would intend all of us to speak, act and respond…in a gender neutral manner which could neither offend nor injure anyone’s inclination to be either male or female, pro or con, or so on. If this indeed were the case, there would be no scriptural references to Jesus, as the Son of God…as opposed to the politically correct “offspring of God” that linguistic revisionists would much rather prefer.

Perhaps the papal attention to the role of music in the liturgical life of the Church is something that is part of the overall larger plan that seems to be part of the ministry of this pontificate. That is…a reformation of the reformation that took place during the changes of the Second Vatican Council. Increasingly in our global village that we used to call the world, there is always some type of movement to depersonalize the human individual and reduce one’s intrinsic humanity to a shadow of institutional generic conformity. However, the Holy Father’s initiative in asking for careful consideration of appropriate pronouns in our music and liturgy shows truly the acutely critical recognition this issue deserves. Our sacred music is a reflection of the uniquely male and female aspects of our humanity and quite frankly should celebrate this uniqueness of our human creation. When the nature of the Deity is reduced to an expression of gender neutrality no one really gains a deeper theological and philosophical appreciation of our human pursuit to understand God’s sacred life and nature.

It does not offend me to hear Jesus referred to as a “man” in Sacred Scripture, nor does it bother me that He is, “the Son of God!” What really bothers me is when individuals and groups take it upon themselves to neutralize gender identity within all of our hymns, prayers, liturgies and songs. Not only is such an attempt contemptuous of the understanding of the truly magnificent nature of human creation, it is also an ignorant attempt to ignore all of the gender sensitive nuances that are contained in Sacred Scripture and Church tradition.

Increasingly as the Church develops a keener sense of musical integrity, and deeper appreciation of its musical heritage…the Church is more aware of the dignity and nature of the human individual, either male or female, called equally to sacramental life in our Church. Our music and liturgy need to reflect the transcendence of our universal call to prayer and holiness, not linguistic banter over the correct use of pronouns and personal prepositions. Equally, we are all created in the image and likeness of God our Father. Our musical praise of God needs to aspire and inspire both males and females alike to develop a true sense of praise and thanksgiving for God’s many blessings on both his Sons and Daughters in faith.

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