CNP Logo CanticaNOVA Online Catalog
CNP Home
Catalog Home
Order Form

Liturgical Index
Seasonal Index
Resource Index
Alphabetic Index

Shopping Help Go to Checkout

Why Catholics Can't Sing

Revised and Updated with New Grand Conclusions and Good Advice

- Thomas Day


Format: Book
Edition: Softcover
Published by: Crossroad Publishing Company

From an review of the book Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste

The state of the Catholic Mass in America is dreadful. There, I said it. The emperor has no clothes. Americans Catholics have suffered through decades of ICEL's bland translations of the liturgy, jovial priests "facilitating" the congregation's worship, and then there's the music! Oh, Lord have mercy and save us from that music!! Cantors who sound like frustrated nightclub singers wailing schmaltzy ditties with so much "feeling." Nuns with folk guitars trying to make us "experience community." These banal offerings are then followed by "Father Chuck" telling everyone, "Wasn't that great!! Let's give 'em a big hand!!" This from the Church that once commissioned music from Palestrina and Mozart!

Thomas Day understands the confusion of so many Catholics who long for a return to reverence in their worship. In Why Catholics Can't Sing, he presents his views on what ails music in the Catholic liturgy. A trained musician who has worked for both Catholic and Protestant congregations, he offers remarkable insights into the musical tastes and styles prevalent within these traditions. He offers the interesting thesis that the initial cause of many ills in American Catholicism stems from the influence of the Irish immigrants who largely adhered to a "silent Mass" stemming from the long persecution of Catholicism in their homeland and associated rousing hymns with their Protestant oppressors. This was not the case on the European continent or Latin America but the Irish dominance made it a norm for the American Church. Even when the Mass was glorious and reverent in other respects, music was often treated as an afterthought. Only in the early stages of the liturgical renewal movement did music (particularly Gregorian Chant) begin to be taken seriously.

Day chronicles the many problems in sacred music in contemporary Catholicism with great energy and a delightful sense of humor. Any regular attendee of the Mass will recognize the blandness he targets and will be unsure whether to laugh or cry. Day pulls no punches when it comes to the overt silliness that has taken over many parishes. This has led many in the current Catholic liturgical and musical establishment to severely criticize Day as an elitist or a disgruntled pre-Vatican II traditionalist.

It is clear to any unbiased reader that Day is hardly a "pre-Vatican II" poster child. He clearly points out the problems predated this period — thus dispelling the notion this was at all related to Vatican II as many traditionalist Catholics would assert. The real issue is more a case of a poor understanding of the purpose of worship than one of conspiratorial intrigue.

The elitist tag also does not fit. Day argues against making the high culture works of the most significant composers the musical norm for liturgical music. Most parishes simply do not have the talent available to perform the masses of Mozart, et al. However, they are capable of learning chants and more basic hymns and liturgical music. These have been used successfully in many places and should be implemented far more widely. He is not railing against simpler music — just bad music.

Day stresses the point repeatedly that musical style sends a message. Trivial, banal, and schmaltzy music will end up with God appearing the same. Lyrics better suited to a self-help seminar transforms the purpose of the liturgy from worshipping God to worshipping ourselves. The end result is an affirmation of our own worst tendencies.

Not content to just criticize without giving solutions, Day finishes with a plan to reform the Catholic litugical music. In a purely practical manner, he outlines a number of steps to engage the congregation in worship through music without the necessity of a large budget or a heavy reliance upon professionals. If widely implemented, many other problems would take care of themselves as the liturgical abuses would be exposed as terribly wrong and out of place.


  1. Preface
  2. Introduction 2013
  3. The Opening Theme
  4. The People without Music
    • "That Sh**"
    • "Waste Not" and "Control"
    • Divine Lunacy
  5. The Irish Way
    • The Green Mainstream
    • The "Foreigners"
    • The Beloved Repertory
    • The Last Sung Hurrah
    • The New Beloved Repertory
  6. De-ritualization
    • Good Morning!
    • Polishing the Chalice
    • Wasted Motions
    • Farewell, High Church
    • The Trauma
    • Objectivity and "Me"
    • A Poem Should
  7. Ego Renewal
    • Presenting Father Hank and His Friends
    • You're Lookin' Great, Narcissus
    • The Icon
    • The Reformed-folk Style
    • I Am the Voice of God
    • The Softer Image
    • Glory and Praise
    • The Kingdom and the Power
    • Designer Music
  8. The People: They're Hopeless
    • They're Helpless
    • Notre Dame Study
    • What Do They Want?
    • The Experts Will Transform the Mob
    • The Glass Box Cracked
    • The Layer Cake
  9. The Challenge and the Response: The Stick and the Carrot
    • Challenge and Response
    • Clarity
    • The Requirement
    • A Cultural Carrot
    • The Old Carrot
  10. Mr. Nice Guy: The New Triumphalism
    • The New Triumphalism
    • The Brakes
    • Mr. Not-so-Nice
    • The Bitter Half
    • Exeunt Omnes
  11. Grand Conclusions
  12. Good Advice — What Works and What Does Not Work
  13. The End
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes


Order #: 9150
Price: $19.95


- Books

Home / Catalog Home / Order Form
Liturgical Index / Seasonal Index / Resource Index / Alphabetic Index

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388

Send website comments or questions to: