Debate rules praise and worship music permissible in liturgy


One hundred and seventy-five students gathered in the Gentile Gallery on Sunday, April 14, to debate whether praise and worship music should be used in the liturgy.

Speakers presented diverse opinions regarding the motion: “This house believes that praise and worship music should have a place in the liturgy.” The motion was affirmed by a margin of only six votes.

Prudence Robertson, a senior history major, began the opening statements affirming the motion by referring to Sacrosanctum Concillium, a constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the nature of the proper form of the liturgy. Robertson referred to paragraph 112 of the document, which said that the Catholic Church accepts “all forms of true art and admits these into divine worship.”

Robertson also noted, “regulation of music within liturgy is left solely within the interpretation of the Apostolic See and local bishops.” Robertson concluded, “Whatever we say doesn’t matter; it is up to the bishop.”

Conall Hughes, a senior economics and theology student, also affirmed the motion and referred to Sacrosanctum Concillium. Hughes noted the distinct categories of sacred music, including the following from the fourth paragraph of the document: “Popular sacred music is to be admitted be it liturgical or religious.”

Edyta Wolk, a sophomore theology and communications student, followed by opposing the motion. Wolk elaborated on the three criteria for sacred music according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “beauty expressive of prayer, unanimous participation of the assembly and the solemnity of the celebration.”

Wolk continued by saying, “Music shouldn’t just sound nice, it should take us out of our emotions and senses to God.” According to Wolk, praise and worship music is “fine and acceptable,” but she concluded, “I don’t just want an acceptable form; we should be promoting the highest form of music … not just guitar strumming.”

Guest speaker Zachary Hamar, a junior philosophy and liberal arts student at the University of Notre Dame, also opposed the motion, asking, “Does praise and worship, in fact, fit the category of sacred music?” Hamar answered by defining the word sacred as “set apart” and distinguishing this from the profane, which he defined as “outside the temple.”

“Gregorian chant is sacred to its core,” said Hughes. “We see no ambiguity. In praise and worship, we see a lot.”

Following the opening statements, the floor opened to all. Speakers mentioned the Protestant origins of praise and worship, attempting to discredit the music. Others recalled the mission of the Church to evangelize, noting the role which music plays in appealing to different cultures and peoples.

At the conclusion of the debate, the motion was affirmed by 45 votes, with 39 opposing and eight abstaining.

This event was hosted by the Veritas Society; it was the 11th Dumb Ox Debate and the final debate of the semester.