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, PROTOCOL 1251 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, PROTOCOL 1251 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 SOLLECITUDINI (PIUS X, 1903), No. 15]
[CARTA ENCÍCLICA MUSICAE SACRAE DISCIPLINA (PIUS XII, 1955), No. 29]

4- 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]

5- 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]

6- 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 SOLLECITUDINI (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]

7- 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 SOLLECITUDINI (PIUS X, 1903), No. 4]

8- 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 SOLLECITUDINI (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]

9- Are there any instruments that should not be used in the Liturgy?
Instruments associated to profane music cannot be played in church.
Other instruments that are not the organ should be approved by the Ordinary.
In 1903, Pope St. Pius X prohibited the use in church of the piano and of “noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like”.
He also stated that “it is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ”.
[MOTU PROPRIO TRA LE SOLLECITUDINI (PIUS X, 1903), Nos. 15, 19, 20]
[CARTA ENCÍCLICA MUSICAE SACRAE DISCIPLINA (PIUS XII, 1955), No. 29]

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, PROTOCOL 1251 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. (…)”.