If you listen to the media prattle on about Vatican II or its “spirit”, you’ll hear a lot that just isn’t so. Many of the most popular misconceptions have even been swallowed hook, line, and sinker by those within the Church in America who should know better. The “Vatican II Fact Check” articles aim to debunk the most common false narratives about the Council.
You’ve often heard that Vatican II did away with that fusty ole Gregorian chant, only to be replaced with guitars, bongo drums, maracas, and conga lines. A friend visiting from Ireland relayed to me that, at Saint Sebastian’s Parish, she was regaled with hits from Fiddler on the Roof.
What did the Council, and subsequent popes actually say on the matter?
“[t]he musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any sort of art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. … The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” ~Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum concilium, no. 112
“The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.” ~Pope John Paul II, “Chirograph for the Centenary of the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini on Sacred Music” (November 22, 2003), no.12.
“I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy.” ~Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis