Religion News Service | By David Gibson
(RNS) The head of liturgical music for the Archdiocese of
Philadelphia, 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
John Romeri, who has headed the archdiocesan
liturgical music office for five years, said that he will resign
effective June 30 because “there are simply irreconcilable differences”
with Chaput over the role and style of music at Mass.
not respond to requests for comment, and it was unclear whether he would
still play a role in preparations for the papal visit.
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.”
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.
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
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
“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 quickly sparked
an intense online debate in the beehive world of Catholic liturgists,
where even the smallest tweak to a rubric can become a source of
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
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.
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.
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 pontiff, 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.
speculated that this difference in liturgical tastes might have
contributed to the falling out between Chaput and his music director.
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.