Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Papal Medievalism

Papa Benedict XVI is returning the Vatican to Gregorian Chant. Along with the apologia (without the apology) for the Templars, the conference he organized to essentially defend the crusades, and his use of the Byzantines, this pope has a thing for the Middle Ages -- and not in a good way.

8 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Well, Gregorian chant itself is gorgeous, one of the true glories of Western civilization. So that part isn't inherently bad.

However, it's not named for St. Gregory the Great (Pope Gregory I). It was probably Pope Gregory II who was concerned with liturgy who prompted the great compositional project. HA! I know more than the Pope!

(I love your blog, btw.)

Matthew Gabriele said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. My comment wasn't condemning the chant (I love that stuff) but rather our current pope's rather uncritical fondness for things medieval -- especially as medieval Christianity relates to those outside mother Church.

Elizabeth said...

I figured :-)

(Let me know if you ever need a musicologist -- I'm in the UCLA Musicology department, and you can find my academic email on the department's faculty page.)

Matthew Gabriele said...

Excellent, Elizabeth! Please do stay in touch via this blog or my contact info (on the right of the main page).

I know far too little about music...

Anonymous said...

Matthew. Did they split their infinitives in the Middle Ages?

Matthew Gabriele said...

Well, since almost every other European language uses only one word for verbs, it would well nigh be impossible to medievally split one's infinitives.

Thanks for the comment though, anonymous!

Some Other Guy said...

The pope is not "uncritically" plucking items out of time because of some "thing for the Middle Ages". In my opinion, that observation is a little short-sighted.

He's doing it because Gregorian Chant is part of the Catholic Church's liturgical and musical heritage. Benedict is only responding to the call of the Second Vatican Council, which asserted the following in paragraph 116 of Sacrosanctum Concilium:

"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."

The reason it is considered "news" that the Vatican itself is doing this more in its own liturgies is because Rome serves as an important liturgical model in the entire Roman Rite church.

Needless to say, the decades that immediately followed the council did not give chant pride of place.

Matthew Gabriele said...

"Some other guy," you're right. I shouldn't have said "uncritical." I think what Benedict is doing is quite consciously rescuing bits and pieces of the Middle Ages. The problem, however, is that, given what he seems to want to rescue, he has a rather romanticized view of the medieval or at least a rather un-nuanced view of the power of piety in people's lives (i.e. - if people truly believed something, they must've intended to do good).

Certainly, that's not a particularly striking position for the pope to take but it's also certainly problematic.