About Sacred Music

1- What is sacred music?
Sacred music is the music composed for the Liturgy.
[MUSICAM SACRAM (approved by PAUL VI, 1967), No. 4a]
[DECLARATION OF THE CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS 1521 OF 1987, No.9]

2- What is religious music?
Religious music is the music based on a religious theme, such as a biblical parable, the life of a saint, etc.
[DECLARATION OF THE CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS 1521 OF 1987, No.9]

3- What are the characteristics of sacred music?
Sacred music is merely vocal, but can be accompanied by the organ or other instruments with the approval of the Ordinary, especially the violin and other bowing instruments.
[MOTU PROPRIO TRA LE SOLLICITUDE (PIUS X, 1903), No. 15]
[CARTA ENCÍCLICA MUSICAE SACRAE DISCIPLINA (PIUS XII, 1955), No. 29]

4- Are there any instruments that should not be used in the Liturgy?
Instruments associated to profane music should not be played in church.
Noisy or frivolous instruments, such as drums, cymbals and bells cannot be used in church.
The piano cannot be played in church either.
Bands are also forbidden to play in church.
Other instruments that are not the organ should be approved by the Ordinary.
[MOTU PROPRIO TRA LE SOLLICITUDE (PIUS X, 1903), Nos. 15, 19, 20]
[CARTA ENCÍCLICA MUSICAE SACRAE DISCIPLINA (PIUS XII, 1955), No. 29]

5- What are the types of sacred music?
The types of sacred music are Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, sacred music for the organ and other approved instruments and sacred popular music.
[MUSICAM SACRAM (approved by PAUL VI, 1967), No. 4b]

6- Is there a type of sacred music that should be privileged?
In equal circumstances, Gregorian chant has to have the first place in the Liturgy.
[SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM (PAUL VI, 1963), No. 116]

7- What is the supreme model of sacred music?
The supreme model of sacred music is the Gregorian chant.
The closer a composition is to Gregorian chant, the more sacred it becomes.
[MOTU PROPRIO TRA LE SOLLICITUDE (PIUS X, 1903), No. 3]
[SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM (PAUL VI, 1963), No. 116]
[MUSICAM SACRAM (approved by PAUL VI, 1967), No. 50a]
[SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS (BENEDICT XVI, 2007). No. 42]

8- What type of polyphony is considered the most suitable for being sung in the Liturgy?
The most suitable type of polyphony for being sung in the Liturgy is the XVI Roman school polyphony, especially Palestrina.
[MOTU PROPRIO TRA LE SOLLICITUDE (PIUS X, 1903), No. 4]

9- Are there guidelines for sacred popular music?
Sacred popular music, as well as other types of sacred music, should have good quality, direct peoples’ mind to the rite and must not be associate to profane music.
[MOTU PROPRIO TRA LE SOLLICITUDE (PIUS X, 1903), Nos. 2, 5]
[CARTA ENCÍCLICA MUSICAE SACRAE DISCIPLINA (PIUS XII, 1955), No. 29]
[MUSICAM SACRAM (approved by PAUL VI, 1967), No. 43, 63]
[LITURGICAE INSTAURATIONES (SACRED CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP, 1970), No. 2c]
[CHIROGRAPH OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE MOTU PROPRIO “TRA LE SOLLECITUDINI’ ON SACRED MUSIC (2003), No. 12]

10- Can secular music be used in the celebration of Marriage?
Secular music should not be used in the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.
[MUSICAM SACRAM (approved by PAUL VI, 1967), Nos. 43, 63]

11- Are there guidelines for concert inside churches?
The guidelines for concerts inside churches are stated in the DECLARATION OF THE CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS 1521 OF 1987, which includes:
-> “Entrance to the church must be without payment and open to all”.
-> “The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary”.
-> “The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place”.
-> “It is not legitimate to provide for the execution in the church of music which is not of religious inspiration and which was composed with a view to performance in a certain precise secular context, irrespective of whether the music would be judged classical or contemporary, of high quality or of a popular nature. (…)”.