Rock of ages

September 9, 2006

Looking into what the Pope has said about music, I find that his views might be considered a little extreme by some. In his fascinating ‘Liturgy and church music’, a lecture delivered as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985, he starts by listing five different anthropological types of music.

“There is an agitational type of music which animates men for various collective goals. There is a sensuous type of music which brings man into the realm of the erotic or in some other way essentially tends toward feelings of sensual desire. There is a purely entertaining type of music which desires to express nothing more than an interruption of silence. And there is a rationalistic type of music in which the tones only serve rational constructs, and in which there is no real penetration of spirit and senses. Many dry catechism hymns and many modern songs constructed by committees belong to this category.
Music truly appropriate to the worship of the incarnate Lord exalted on the cross exists on the strength of a different, a greater, a much more truly comprehensive synthesis of spirit, intuition and audible sound.”

So far so good. But then the Cardinal remembers who he is and has a go at anything non-Western:
“This pre-eminence is found only in the West because it could arise only out of an anthropological foundation which unites the spiritual and the profane in an ultimate human unity.” Not a great fan of Eastern or Middle Eastern music, then, our Pope.
Then things start to get really interesting:

“In a way which we could not imagine thirty years ago, music has become the decisive vehicle of
a counter-religion….. Since rock music seeks release through liberation from the personality and its responsibility, it can be on the one hand precisely classified among the anarchic ideas of freedom which today predominate more openly in the West than in the East. But that is precisely why rock music is so completely antithetical to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, indeed its exact opposite. Hence, music of this type must be excluded from the Church on principle, and not merely for aesthetic reasons, or because of restorative crankiness or historical inflexibility. ”

The Cardinal later returns to the same theme:
“In many forms of religion, music is associated with frenzy and ecstasy. The free expansion of human existence, toward which man’s own hunger for the Infinite is directed, is supposed to be achieved through sacred delirium induced by frenzied instrumental rhythms. Such music lowers the barriers of individuality and personality, and in it man liberates himself from the burden of consciousness. Music becomes ecstasy, liberation from the ego, amalgamation with the universe. Today we experience the secularized variation of this type in rock and pop music, whose festivals are an anti-cult with the same tendency: desire for destruction, repealing the limitations of the everyday, and the illusion of salvation in liberation from the ego, in the wild ecstasy of a tumultuous crowd. These are measures which involve a form of release related to that achieved through drugs. It is the complete antithesis of Christian faith in the Redemption. Accordingly, it is only logical that in this area diabolical cults and demonic musics are on the increase today, and their dangerous power of deliberately destroying personality is not yet taken seriously enough.”

So pop music is not only lousy music, it’s the work of the devil. Don’t suppose His Holiness will be listening much to Cliff Richard, then. And Madonna certainly won’t be on his Christmas card list.

It seems some of his followers have converted his words into action: “A 63-year-old Dutch priest has confessed to making a hoax bomb threat in an attempt to stop a concert by US pop star Madonna” says the BBC website.

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One Response to “Rock of ages”

  1. Neil Says:

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