Wednesday, August 20, 2008

OCP's Mission: Confusion

Last year when I heard Dan Schutte was coming to our town to do a concert and workshop at the parish we're registered at (but attend elsewhere), I wrote a few thoughts down about the matter to help clarify my thinking and dissipate my frustration.  I found it this morning when I was cleaning up my documents file.  I hope to have more to say on the subject of liturgical music in a few weeks.

OCP is arguably the most influential liturgical organization in Catholic parishes in the United States, with over 50 percent of parishes using its liturgical and worship materials in their Masses.  It would be difficult to underestimate the impact OCP has on the average parish.  

OCP’s mission statement posted on their web site says: OCP is a self-supporting, not-for-profit, Catholic publishing company whose mission is:  To bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all, primarily through the publication of the highest-quality worship programs, spiritually-enriching music and the diocesan newspaper for the State of Oregon....

OCP makes it clear that it is a Catholic organization.  What is not so clear, however, is that all of its available speakers promote a clear and consistent teaching of the Catholic Faith.

OCP sells one of Leonardo Boff’s books, and lists him as one of their speakers available for workshops.  His own website ( says this: In 1992, under renewed threats of a second punitive action by authorities in Rome, he renounced his activities as a priest and ‘promoted himself the state of laity.’”  It is unclear from his website whether he has received a rescript of laicization from the Holy See.

OCP also lists Dan Schutte as one of their speakers.  

OCP includes him as one of the St. Louis Jesuits, and refers to the time when he was a seminarian, but doesn’t indicate on the biography of Dan Schutte that he no longer functions as a priest.  His own website (linked from OCP) mentions his seminary days and refers to “Dan and the other St. Louis Jesuits", but is quiet on the subject of whether he still retains priestly faculties.)  A call to OCP confirmed that “he is no longer a priest.”  It may be that OCP is trying to avoid scandal, but since Dan Schutte is widely known as an “ex-priest”, it comes across as an attempt to hide the incongruity of his presumed laicization with his prominent roles as a composer of Catholic liturgical music, singer and teacher.  

The OCP website announces:

The music of Dan Schutte continues to be part of the standard repertoire for Christian worship worldwide. He is one of the best-known, most prolific and influential composers of Catholic music for the liturgy. 

Marty Haugen, one of their popular composers who is not a Catholic, does not appear in the list of available speakers.  This suggests that listing Dan Schutte and Leonardo Boff as available speakers was not merely an oversight on the part of OCP.  

Our parish has scheduled a concert and workshop with Mr. Schutte in late February.  The bishop has given his approval to OCP products and services and Dan Schutte is an approved speaker for OCP, so there is nothing standing in the way of his leading a workshop and giving a concert at our parish, and no room for discussion:  he has the approval of the Church.   Removing him from OCP’s approved list of speakers would give those who are scandalized by his music and life a chance to address the suitability of his teaching a workshop at our parish on its own merits.

In this day when prayers go up from nearly every parish for more vocations, why would we hold up before our sons as an example one who was ordained a priest, but no longer functions as a priest?  Is this the example of perseverence in the Faith we want to convey?

Why is so much Catholic liturgical music  (some written by non-Catholics) acceptable music in protestant churches?  It may be that protestant churches are moving quickly to adopt Catholic theology and liturgy.  But it is more likely that there is nothing deeply Catholic about much of the music OCP produces.

OCP sells music by a group called Scarecrow and the Tinmen, which is a reference to characters in the Wizard of Oz.  Their music incorporates progressive and classic rock ideas while also skillfully blending acoustic elements and even hip-hop influences according to OCP. The band’s “front man” on lead vocals and keyboards admits "I didn't have much formal training, but I enjoyed picking out melodies and writing instrumental music.”  It is difficult to see where this fits in with the stated mission of OCP to publish the “highest-quality worship programs.”

One of Dan Schutte’s most (in)famous songs begins, “Let us build the city of God.” [emphasis added] There is no mention of God helping us build anything in this song, let alone being the Builder Himself.

Contrast that with Pope Benedict XVI in his recent encyclical, Spe Salvi:

“There is no doubt, therefore, that a “Kingdom of God” accomplished without God—a kingdom therefore of man alone—inevitably ends up as the “perverse end” of all things.”


Anita Moore said...

"OCP is a self-supporting, not-for-profit, ["]Catholic["] publishing company whose mission is: To bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all, primarily through the publication of the highest-quality worship programs, spiritually-enriching music..."

Well, they blew it.

Athanasius contra mundum said...

In their defense, they do publish a lot of great Catholic music. Of course, almost all of that is older hymns.

Muscovite said...

In their defense, they do publish a lot of great Catholic music.

Yes, they publish it. After they neuter the language, strip out the harmonizations, sprinkle guitar chords liberally over the staves, and mess with the meter, they print the now-barely recognizable "old" hymns. (But really, I think all hymns are "new" compared to the chant and polyphony specially commended to us.)