Skip to comments.Music chief for Pope Francis' Phildelphia Mass quits in dispute with Archbishop Chaput
Posted on 06/02/2015 1:37:38 PM PDT by NYer
The head of liturgical music for the Philadelphia archdiocese, who was also to play a key role orchestrating the huge outdoor Mass concluding Pope Francis' trip to the U.S. in September, is resigning his post over long-standing differences with Archbishop Charles Chaput.
John Romeri, who has headed the archdiocesan liturgical music office for five years, said he will resign effective June 30 because "there are simply irreconcilable differences" with Chaput over the role and style of music at Mass.
Romeri did not respond to requests for comment, and it was unclear whether he would still play a role in preparations for the papal visit.
A spokesman for Chaput, Kenneth Gavin, said in an email that he could not comment on personnel matters and "there are no additional updates." But he said that the archdiocese "will be prepared for the visit of the Holy Father on all fronts, including music for the Mass on the Parkway."
The Ben Franklin Parkway, which runs through Philadelphia, will be closed to accommodate the more than 1 million pilgrims expected to attend the Sept. 27 papal Mass. It is part of what officials say will be the largest series of public events in the city's history.
In his resignation announcement, which he buried in a list of liturgy news last month, Romeri indicated that he and Chaput had clashed almost from the time Chaput was appointed to Philadelphia in 2011, a year after Romeri arrived.
Romeri wrote that these "several years of discontent" on Chaput's part culminated with the music Romeri arranged this April for Holy Week and Easter. The approach, he said, "was not well received by the archbishop."
"While at this point, I am not sure just what my next musical adventure looks like, it is absolutely the right thing for me to leave this present situation," Romeri wrote. He said he would remain as music director for Philadelphia's Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul through the summer.
The resignation sparked an online debate in the beehive world of Catholic liturgists, where even the smallest tweak to a rubric can become a source of extended discussion.
But it also has a wider resonance because Romeri is vice chair of the two committees organizing the music and rites for various events during the Philadelphia leg of the Sept. 22-27 papal visit.
Francis is to visit Washington, D.C., first, then New York. He is scheduled to end the trip by spending two days in Philadelphia to close the church's World Meeting of Families.
"A change like this ahead of the papal visit must be causing a mini-meltdown in the Archdiocese," Nathan Chase wrote in a post at a well-known Catholic liturgy blog, Pray Tell.
A clash over liturgy so close to such a major papal event, and one in which the liturgy plays such a central role, could complicate what is already a huge undertaking for the Philadelphia archdiocese and the Vatican. But such hurdles are hardly unprecedented.
Papal visits are tremendously complex, stressful and expensive projects for the dioceses hosting the pope. There is intense jockeying among bishops to try to host the pope and much maneuvering within a host diocese over where the pope will visit and who will get to meet him -- and how each papal event will be organized.
Then everything must be run through a committee and approved by the Vatican. The process almost guarantees arguments, especially over liturgies, which are often flashpoints for internal church battles.
Outdoor papal Masses also tend to be huge events that must communicate a sacred rite in broad strokes to a diverse assemblage. So the music and design often have a popular, modern style that can irk liturgical traditionalists.
Many speculated that this difference in liturgical tastes might have contributed to the falling out between Chaput and his music director.
Romeri is said to have more of a "high church" sensibility in liturgy than Chaput, who has expressed a preference for the newer Mass in English and simpler styles of worship.
While Chaput is often described as a doctrinal and cultural conservative, in the Catholic church, that does not necessarily equate with liturgical traditionalism, which is its own distinct -- and proud -- brand.
Chaput goes in for modern music? If so, I’m very sorry to hear it. Frankly, that stuff drives me crazy.
I sang in the church choir here for a number of years, but we lost two excellent choir directors and ended up with what currently resembles a rock band. Couldn’t stand it, had to drop out of the choir, along with everyone else who used to sing in it.
Now, after communion and having returned to the pew to pray and meditate, I sometimes have to put my fingers in my ears, as unobtrusively as possible, to avoid being distracted at such an important time. The key offender actually plays his guitar very well, but he ought to be in a rock band playing in a bar while people down their whiskeys.
Romeri didn’t like Chaput’s preferences for Lady GaGa music in the service.
Okay, let's see. First, the article is at the National "Catholic" (sic) REPORTER (meaning it is crap). And the last thing this fishwrap has is a "high church sensibility".
Second, who is more likely to be authentically Catholic ... Archbishop Charles Chaput or some drama queen music chief who publicizes his 'years of discontent' like this?
I am quite confident that the music for the liturgy at the outdoor Papal mass will be quite beautiful and infinitely better than what John Romeri, loved by the ncReporter, ever would have presented.
I hope you’re right. I’ve long been an admirer of Archbishop Chaput.
In my opinion, Chaput needs to return to the Latin and traditional hymns for this one time papal visit.
Spoken like a true Catholic. I prefer to sing a NEW song to the Lord.
I prefer those. Some may criticize, but there is always a sense of holiness and being “in a spacious place” when I hear them.
Abp Chaput is very orthodox in what counts, but his liturgical taste is not great. He seems somewhat charismatic-influenced, so it’s basically sentimental Christian pop and 80s stuff, from what I’ve heard. Also, he can be on the liberal side when it comes to non-Faith related things, but I guess one can agree to differ on that.
Yes, one is certainly more important than the other. As long as our Pastor says the Mass properly, and as long as he does confessions and other needed things, I can live with it. It’s the Catholic Church, even if I sometimes have to plug my ears in order to think.
He does ad lib once now in the Mass (used to be a little more often):
“Look not upon our sins, but upon the faith of your Church—the faith of each and every one of us. . . .”—he seems to be a “we are Church” sort of guy—but he’s basically very well meaning and does nothing out of line to undermine the sacraments.
True. NCR is garbage. Chaput gets my 100% support. Musicians are usually talented, sensitive and ego maniacs; music directors are worse. I wait for any Bishop or pastor with the courage to fire the ego maniacs pretending to play music at mass. I once saw a pastor fire a family of musicians from the 11:00 am mass which they had participated for about twelve years. The pastor took grief, the musicians showed their immaturity and the victory was short lived. The dad regrouped his children, found another parish and resumed dishing out pain to the parishioners. I suggest that Mr. Romeri be thankful to have a job and humble to the leader of the Church.
the guy seems like a crybaby, the archbishop is the boss, period.
“Second, who is more likely to be authentically Catholic ... Archbishop Charles Chaput or some drama queen music chief who publicizes his ‘years of discontent’ like this?”
Is that even an issue? Can’t they both be “authentically Catholic” and still disagree on music? By the way, I say that as a Latin Mass going, Gregorian Chant singing Catholic.
There are facts missing in this story:
1) Romeri served Rigali at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
2) Rigali is moved to Philadelphia Archdiocese and named a Cardinal in 2003
3) Romeri follows Rigali to Philadelphia in 2010*
4) Just a year later, Cardinal Rigali resigns under the sex abuse cloud and Chaput takes his place
5) Artistic tension ensues between the Capuchin ArchBishop Chaput and Romeri.
In other words, it’s a case of very bad timing leading to very good people at cross purposes.
* “In a way, I’m following (Cardinal Justin) Rigali,” the former archbishop of St. Louis who now leads the Philadelphia archdiocese, Romeri said. “I’m really looking forward to working with him again.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch July 21, 2010.
“I prefer to sing a NEW song to the Lord.”
I prefer what is truly beautiful to offer to the Lord. “NEW” music just can’t compete with this “OLD” music:
I'm not at all confident, taking into account Francis' past papal Masses and pre-Mass extravaganzas. Maybe Romeri just couldn't stomach seeing Fly teach a bunch of bishops to clap their hands and spin around in circles like trained monkeys again. Or see the the Pope teach a bunch of innocent children to chant socialist slogans.
The above statement is quite a stretch. Cardinal Rigali submitted his resignation, as required, at the retirement age of 75. Pope Benedict did not even accept it until a year later.
What does that post have to do with papal liturgical shenanigans?
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