Damian Thompson * is very good today on the appalling quality of much new Catholic religious music.
Last month, Pope Benedict XVI gave Catholics everywhere the right to ask their priests to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, in effect suppressed 40 years ago.
Liberal bishops were aghast. The "director of liturgy" for the diocese of Portsmouth, Paul Inwood, prepared a set of guidelines for parishes (since withdrawn following a storm of protest) that totally misrepresented the Pope\’s wishes by suggesting that most Catholics were not entitled to request the older form of Mass.
Also, Inwood insisted that priests coming into the diocese to say the old form of Mass would need child protection clearance. Eh? What a weird thing to say.
Anyway, I Googled Paul Inwood and discovered that he is not only a layman, but also a successful composer of trendy Masses.
I listened to the extracts on his website and, as Victor Lewis-Smith would say, sent for my Turkish slippers: this is music to make your toes curl. (One of the numbers is called Alleluia Ch-Ch, the "Ch-Ch" being a sort of noise you make with your mouth or a tambourine.)
The music of Inwood and other "contemporary" Catholic composers sounds like nothing else on earth.
This isn\’t a new thing though. Most of the decent hymns (with some exceptions for pre-Reformation stuff) in English come from the Anglican or Protestant churches: most especially the Methodist one. There certainly was (being very out of touch with Church matters I don\’t know whether there still is) a reluctance on the part of the Catholic church to use these hymns, and so we were all left with whatever scrag ends had been stitched together by the adherents of what is, after all, a minority religion over the past century and a bit since Catholic Emancipation. So not many people over not much time writing songs gave us not many good ones.
As I say, a something of a long standing problem.
* Looking at Thompson\’s photo I have a vague suspicion that I know where he went to school and who with. Me, Briffa and Jonathan Petre…and the drummer from Echo and the Bunnymen.