In Part II of Aleteia’s interview with cantor, conductor and composer Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, we discuss the Catholic Church’s teaching on sacred music
You say the liturgy is “not supposed to look or sound like popular culture.” Why is this?
I learned this crucial point from Benedict XVI, who is concerned about the deplorable state of church music in most places. He recognizes it as an invasion of secularism, a sort of pathetic attempt on the part of the Church to compete with secular culture. Somebody once said about Christian rock music that “it’s only relevant for five minutes, and four of those minutes were not worth it.” Or as another person said: “If you can’t deliver a product that’s ten times better than your competitor, you shouldn’t even bother.” And the Church can’t do that with secular culture. She’s not meant to do that, and she’ll never succeed. What’s necessary is to bend the stick in the opposite direction and make sure that the liturgy is absolutely holy and sacred and reverent in every way. Music plays a huge role in that necessary orientation to God. In fact, music is the most obvious element of the liturgy, even if it’s not the most important. It’s the thing that hits you most, affects you most immediately. If it’s wrong, the whole experience is wrong, and the meaning of the event will be compromised, too—maybe even corrupted. But if it’s right, it gives glory to God and assists in the sanctification of the faithful. What a noble ministry, what an immense responsibility!
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