Restoring the Liturgy in San Francisco with a new liturgical institute

Aleteia (Greek for “truth”) reports on the work of Archbishop Cordileone in San Francisco to defend marriage and family, strengthen seminary formation (the NCR recently reported on his firing of a seminary rector), and renew the sacred liturgy. 

Under the headline “Restoring the Liturgy,” the website reports:

… The Archbishop wants better liturgies, and a liturgical institute based at the seminary will help form laity and clergy “in the ars celebrandi and proper understanding of Church music,” said Father [Joseph] Fessio.

“There will be workshops on reciting liturgies and chanting,” said Father Raymund Reyes, Pastor of St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco. “I just sense that the liturgy is important for him, creating a culture of prayer and worship. Maybe he believes that through that effort of creating a culture of prayer, they change the structure of everything else in their lives of the faithful in the Archdiocese.”

Benedictine Father Samuel Weber, a visiting faculty member teaching sacramental theology at St. Patrick’s Seminary, is assisting in setting up the institute. St. Patrick’s [seminary provost Melanie] Morey called him “one of the world’s experts in Gregorian chant.”

“For me personally, this is coming at the right time,” said Father Reyes. The new Roman Missal translation had been met with resistance by a Catholic population that had become accustomed to the old one, he said. A focus on liturgical renewal in San Francisco is “kind of a continuation” of that. …

Will it make a difference? Check back next year. In the meantime, serious Catholics in California can only be heartened by the momentum engendered by the new generation of leaders.

“In a very short period, all this wonderful infusion of energy came into California,” said [Delores] Meehan [of Walk for Life]. “It’s very exciting for us: We see everything collapsing around us, and the Church is emerging.”

Fr. Samuel Weber was founder and director of the Institute of Sacred Music for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which was established in 2008 at the direction of then-archbishop (now Cardinal) Raymond Burke.


  1. I attended a workshop for parish musicians a few years ago with Fr. Samuel Weber in St. Louis. The message we took away was that any kind of music other than chant and polyphony must cease immediately. I made a comment to the effect of, “If we were to make such an abrupt change in our parishes, it would not be accepted by the people. Perhaps it would be more effective to gradually introduce these changes?” Fr. Weber relied, “What people like or don’t like makes no difference whatsoever. You must do the ‘real music of the Roman Rite,’ period.” He went on to suggest that all of our pastors would fully support us in this matter, which elicited laughter from the audience. Judging by comments overheard in the hallway and at the lunch table, his presentation was not well received by those in attendance.

  2. Interesting contrast in style between Francis and Cordileone, huh? I went to school with Samuel Weber but that was in the early 70’s before anyone thought of a reform of the reform. San Francisco will have to contend with the personal needs and tastes of its prince-bishop, as will the seminarians at Menlo Park. I’m wondering how this man can be so tone deaf with such an interest in liturgical music.

  3. The Roman Rite, in its best moments, absorbed artistic traditions from many rites and practices across Europe. I do not know Fr Weber, but his off-the-cuff remark about “real music” is silly, and shows little understanding of either liturgy or history.

    Quality is what people expect and will support. Uniformity, if it ever had a Roman day, is out.

    How are things in St Louis? Five years and starting a new school–that doesn’t bode well for the notion of stability. Five years in a parish, and I think I’m just getting the feel of the community. I can’t imagine doing reform on timetables like that.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #6:
      I believe Fr. Weber lost his patron when Cardinal Burke went to Rome. I don’t know what, if anything, became of his institute in St. Louis.

  4. I have heard of Fr. Weber’s impatience and intransience (sp?) of late, and allow as how a lifetime’s work in a fairly lonely discipline could take a psychological toll in the arena of public relations.
    On the other hand, I think that if St. Patrick’s can benefit by my friend Bob Hurd’s contributions there, those of Fr. Weber should be likewise afforded due respect and analysis over time.
    I pray that I’m not “hearing” implied detractions of integrity towards the Abp. or Fr. Weber in some comments thus far.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #10:
      I have no doubt of Fr. Weber’s integrity, his skill in his craft, his holiness, or any other personal attribute. I do disagree with his approach to liturgical music, that of throwing out the large majority of our current repertoire in the name of promoting chant. He and I both desire more chant and ritual music in the liturgy, but advocate very different means to achieve that goal.

  5. “I pray that I’m not “hearing” implied detractions of integrity towards the Abp… ”
    This is the same abp arrested for drunken driving last year? He then apologized by joking about it?
    It’s not such a big deal I guess, Gregorian chants and denying communion to those who practice artificial birth control (his presentation to the USCCB) is much more important than drunk driving and risking innocent lives and then joking about it afterwards.

    1. @Kim Rodgers – comment #12:
      Yes, one and the same. Are you, Ms. Rodgers, privy to the circumstances and chronology of the violation and citation? If you aren’t, you’re practicing detraction by making assertions based upon reportage, not direct knowledge. I can tell you no such scenario of endangerment occured. I can tell you he was grievously embarrassed beyond a level that you could know. And I think you’ve forgotten how Jesus would have likely counseled the Abp.
      This has no place in the discussion pertinent to this thread.

  6. He was stopped for driving under the influence at a checkpoint.
    When you drink and drive you endanger lives, period. The circumstances don’t matter, they’re just excuses, when you decide to drink and drive you can kill people. No need to cover it up with excuses, you are the one distracting and enabling.
    Jesus would have told him to stop making jokes about it during his homily and publicly repent during this homily for the danger he caused, he may have been “grievously embarrassed” but didn’t act very remorseful.

    Salvatore Cordileone DUI: New SF Archbishop Jokes About Recent Arrest

  7. “Huffington Post.” No need to further engage a made up mind. I’ll try to avoid distracting and enabling by making no comparisons of impairment via texting, eating, cell phones at ear, or checking one’s visage in the rearview mirror. Everybody who does such while driving not only endangers lives but by your logic denigrates themself as unworthy of doing their job or calling because of their misjudgment.
    Stone him or her already, don’t bother to grant forgiveness and ask that s/he go and sin no more.
    And how does this factor into the topic of the article exactly?

    1. @Charles Culbreth (#15): [H]ow does this factor into the topic of the article exactly?

      It doesn’t. But Archbishop Cordileone holds viewpoints inimical to those popularly espoused on this site, so everything he’s ever done wrong must be dragged up at all times and used as evidence against him. Unlike, say, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who must, of course, be defended from the same (see in particular comments 14, 20, 22 & 24 in the linked post).

      @Todd Flowerday (#6): I can’t imagine doing reform on timetables like that.

      I refer you to the Consilium. 🙂

      @Sean Whelan (#1): so, for those of us who like what we see in the photo, what would you do with us in your attitude of benevolent tolerance?

      1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #16:
        I still can’t imagine doing reform on timetables like that, no matter who was in power at the CDWDS at the time. Effective reform has to trickle down to the grass roots. Otherwise it’s just playing at deck chairs.

        That said, I don’t see the connection between Archbishop Cordileone’s character (to which his drunk driving parable does give some positive insight) and the founding of a liturgy institute. The man deserves kudos on some level for this.

        On the other hand, Fr Weber does not appear to the best choice as a director. Most serious church musicians in Catholicism have a healthy respect for and familiarity with chant. What we don’t need is ideology dressed up as obedience. Who can teach clergy to chant and appreciate music? Who can inspire volunteer musicians to a greater professionalism and quality in whatever genres they play? Who’s willing to invest the effort of a generation to make it happen? If Fr Weber’s the man, more power to him.

  8. I agree with Charles: it was silly and irrelevant to bring Abp Cordileone’s drink-driving conviction into the argument. What is more, he apologised for it — he is quoted in the linked piece as saying “I apologize for my error in judgment and feel shame for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself. I will repay my debt to society and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco.”

    That doesn’t sound like joking to me. It sounds like courageous repentance.

    I think we can criticise Abp Cordileone’s approach to many aspects of his ministry, but I just don’t see the relevance of the drink-driving conviction, or of his alleged “joking” about it.

    It was equally silly and irrelevant to bring Abp Weakland into the discussion about the AUSCP and the new translation, especially because, as far as we know, all he did was show up for their meeting.

    Let’s see who brought up the presence of Abp Weakland at the meeting … oh, it was you, Matthew. “The AUSCP certainly keeps some interesting company,” you sneered. And that was your last comment on the post.

    Will you apologise to the group for dropping that bit of irrelevant association into the discussion?

  9. The new Roman Missal translation had been met with resistance by a Catholic population that had become accustomed to the old one

    Interesting fabrication and spin. The CARA report seemed to indicate that the Catholic population was accepting of the new Missal, though I suspect the acceptance has been lukewarm; the priests are the ones that have been putting up the resistance (since they actually have to pay attention to the words). Reyes is inventing both data and a theory to explain the data.

    Sounds like they will be promoting change by bashing the status quo, e.g. the implication in this report that there is not already a culture of prayer in the parishes. Also seems to imply an elite group of “serious” Catholics, as well as a new leadership group. A lot of polarizing language there.

    Will it (the institute) make a difference? Check back next year. In the meantime, serious Catholics in California can only be heartened by the momentum engendered by the new generation of leaders.

    A nearby parish following the lead of several other parishes in this Cleveland suburban county introduced a “teen” Mass on Sunday evening last year. While the Mass is for everyone in the parish, the ministries are staffed by the teens, including the music ministry. The recruitment for the teen music ministry said that the teens would choose the music and not surprisingly they chose the “praise” music offered at the teen Masses in other parishes.

    This year the parish is developing a new “adult praise choir” to bring this music occasionally to some of the other Masses in the parish (sounds like they will be rotating among the Masses).

    So the problem for the “reform of the reform” is not simply a liturgical establishment accustomed to its ways, but the existence of alternative movements such as “praise” music that are competing for and in my county winning the favor of both teens and adults.

    Personally the “praise” music I have heard locally so far is pretty insipid. However, I like John Michael Talbot’s music which I suspect is a variation of the genre. I hope they discover him.

  10. Thank you, Matthew. I look forward to continued thoughtful comment from you on this and many other posts here on PTB.

  11. Interesting but also sad from a number of perspectives (is he just doubling down on Francis)…feels very much like what happened at Glennon-Kenrick in the STL archdiocese under Burke. Same type of ideology at play.

    Some other thoughts:
    – in the first half of the 20th century, most US seminaries were staffed by three religious communities – Sulpician, Vincentian, or Benedctine monastaries. The one other category were large archdiocesan seminaries (although, often the staff were primarily Vincentian or Sulpician). And the Sulpician/Vincentian seminary legacy goes back to implementing the directives of the Council of Trent. But, with the significant clerical expansion and bricks/mortar period in the mid-20th century, US bishops wanted their own seminaries and control of these. (BTW – the shift of the NYC archdiocese roughly 100 years ago marshalling in an anti-Modernist period)
    – what is unfortunate is that we now live in a church impacted by fewer candidates, priests to staff seminaries, and fianances to support buildings or lay staffs. Seminaries actually compete against each other for the few candidates each year – so, bishops are marketed heavily
    – USCCB has been discussing proposed regional seminaries to address the above issues and also to set up quality – basically, regional seminaries of excellence. This also guards against this type of specific, individualistic move on the part of an archbishop/bishop who needs to control, his ego, etc.
    – here is an excellent statement by the SF auxiliary bishop on *intrinsic evils* –

    Would suggest that his framework applies to Cordileone’s decisions and reveals the weakness – this decision and Weber is predicated upon a beleif that latin, chant are essential to liturgy…thus, anything else is evil. So, to reverse things, latin/chant is an intrinsic good and other liturgical decisions (e.g. hymns, vernacular, etc.) are prudential judgments. Unfortuately, this polarizes and rejects exactly what the VII council fathers documented and voted on.

    Will be interesting to see how Cordileone reacts to his auxiliary’s statement (e.g. same sex marriage which is another part of his ideology)

  12. I also apologize if anyone was offended.
    I brought up the DUI because it pointed to his state of mind and this Institute of his.
    Did Abp Cord. think he was abp and could get away with it? Too princely? Clericalism? Abp knows best? Can he also bulldoze this new Institute through, without regard to what is in place? It, IMO fits into the thinking of a princely bishop.
    Since you asked Charles that’s how it factors in.
    You stated he was “greviously embarassed” that’s not repentance, that’s hurt pride. I didn’t say that he should step down. YOU brought up stoning and unworthiness, not me, including his “integrity” in #12.

  13. Gregorian chant as a possible ideology carrying a threat to other styles is an incredibly remote possibility. Right now, a factual charge of anything of the sort is a fantasy.

    In the majority of U.S. dioceses, there is very little sung on a regular basis, perhaps the very simple Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Mass XVIII/Jubilate Deo).
    Pastors, many bishops, don’t know how to sing Gregorian chant. Seminarians aren’t well trained in Gregorian chant (FSSP and ICKSP sems are an exception). How many dioceses offer training programs in Gregorian chant for lay leaders?

    Are there more than three places in the U.S. where people can study Gregorian chant on an academic level in a liturgically vibrant setting? Why not open up the possibilities for those who want to study the timeless sung prayer of the Church?

    1. @Mary Ann Carr Wilson – comment #27:
      I’m not as pessimistic about the lay of the land. In my parish, we alternate two Gregorian melodies for the gospel acclamation, and like most parishes, have a modest repertoire of plainsong hymnody, including post-conciliar compositions.

      “Timeless sung prayer of the church” … well. In theory, in monasteries, yes. In parishes, there has never been any sort of effort in plainsong singing in the assembly in most American parishes. And when you get to Latin America, it’s almost zero.

      Should seminarians be trained? Sure they should. But we all realize that musical skills are not part of the discernment for Holy Orders.

      My sense is that the reform2 effort will marginalize the movement for good chant if it continues to insist on overhauling the Sunday repertoire for what is essentially a bad idea from the 60’s/early 70’s: the new songs of the week. In trying to do too much, the whole ensemble is an overreach. If Fr Weber is of a mind to conquer the liturgical world in this way, he will encounter a lot of resistance from pastors on 2 fronts: those with good music programs and those who don’t care about liturgy.

      And Mary Ann, I remember in the 70’s in a diocese with a very reactionary minority of traditionalists. Chant and Latin were badges of “lawful disobedience.” And other people just saw it as boring music ineptly rendered.

      It’s a tough market. That’s why I think someone like Fr Weber has to be willing to spend 20-30 years in one place. If he hopes to make a prayer of difference.

  14. Please allow me to give a little more information on the subject of the Abp’s character. I’m not his spokesman, to be clear. I’m a personal friend.

    I was at the very casual, tame, (and delicious!) dinner party hosted by a deacon and his wife. There were eight people total in attendance, similar to lots of gatherings of friends. We chatted lots about liturgy throughout the night. Wine was served. The party broke up a little after midnight, though one couple had left earlier to get to their holy hour. The abp was walking and talking as normal. He drove his 88 year old mother and a visiting priest friend home.

    He was stopped at a checkpoint because Mary (his mom) lives near SDSU, and it was the first party weekend of the semester. He took the breath test. I think– my speculation– that he thought he’d be fine. A more princely type prob wouldn’t have been so cooperative.

    Cordileone’s blood alcohol level was determined to be so close to the limit that the charges were later lowered from DUI to reckless driving. Don’t expect Huff-Po to give us an update on that- look for it in the public record.

    Fact is, in most states Abp. Cordileone would never have been charged with a DUI. (CA’s BAC limit is .08, most states .1.) And gone would be the whole opportunity of finding fault with his character as a way to discredit church teaching.

    But I digress…
    I was also at the installation mass, where the alleged joke was said to have taken place. Far from being arrogant, he apologized again for his mistake, and poked fun at himself by saying that God has a way of reminding him of his place, and how low it is.

    As his friend I also know he is a man of daily prayer (minimum of mass, office/hours, holy hour, rosary) who also believes is his own need for repentance and personal penance.

    I hope those reading this will consider my words as someone who actually knows the abp and was at events in question. He is a fine friend, ardent disciple, and fellow lover of the sacred liturgy…

    1. @Mary Ann Carr Wilson – comment #28:
      Sorry, Mary Ann, after 25 years of working with substance abuse and continuing today to deal with corporations and their drug policies, testing, safety at worksites, etc. your statement about CA and its 0.08 limit is disingenious, at best. Most states do use 0.08 but many states continually relook at these and some are trying to lower their limits. Corporations have much more stringent requirements than 0.08. Every person is different but a rough rule of thumb for a male who weighs 200 lbs and tests 0.08 means that they have had 7-8 drinks over four hours. This is impairment and most corporations doing drug tests would send this employee for an assessment and on temporary leave. MADD has repeatedly pushed for lower state limits.

      The dear bishop moved to a lower criminal determination based upon a technicality. Don’t question your personal feelings and description but that says little about both his leadership or the decisions he makes for the church of SF. Have many delightful clerical friends but, at the same time, not sure I would want them to be my bishop or even my pastor.

  15. Thank you, MaryAnn. I did not feel it appropriate to further that aspect of the preceding commentary. Your courage and courtesy to share reminds us that “princes” can nonetheless remain humble and true.

  16. Six years ago a number of news outlets including Reuters [“Irish priests fear driving bans over altar wine”, 2 Nov 2007] noted that Ireland intended to lower its then-drink driving limit of 80mg/100ml BAC (i.e. .08 — the Irish limit was lowered to .05 BAC in 2011). A number of priests questioned the possibility of more stringent regulations, particularly because many priests had to celebrate several Masses at different parishes each Sunday. One priest noted that the duty of saying Mass is not an excuse for any priest to drive impaired.

    I would gladly drive a priest to another church should he have already binated that day at his home church for example, or simply because he did not feel well enough for driving. I am a teetotaler, so I don’t really mind — I’ve played taxi driver on more than one occasion. I am also sure that there are many sober parishioners in any event. Perhaps a parishioner at the next church could return the favor after that Mass and drive Father back home.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that in some cases a false “Father knows best” holds some laypersons back from offering to give Father a lift. Following one’s instincts instead of a false sense of deference could save lives.

  17. Folks — I am interceding here simply as a fellow discussant — can we please leave the drink-driving issue behind? Put it to rest?

    For me, at least, it’s getting in the way of much more interesting issues. For example:

    1) Todd says that Fr Weber runs the risk of trying to do too much, too fast. Maybe that is what happened to him in St Louis. What is a reasonable pace for musical reform?

    2) Should all seminarians be trained in chant? How central should singing skills be in a new priest?

    3) Suppose that what Fr Weber referred to as “the real music of the Roman rite” could be implemented in parish settings. Should this displace all other music? Hymns? Contemporary songs? Modern ethnic music?

    The impending action in San Francisco means that the issues are no longer merely conceptual. Why not debate them, rather than the Archbishop’s character or drinking habits?

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #33:
      Sorry, Jonathan – just trying to provide both context and education.

      Todd raises some interesting points.
      – from my friends in STL, Weber had little positive response or acceptance from pastors (but, then, Burke initiated this and most pastors were very happy to see him moved to Rome)
      – the Weber statement “the real music of the Roman Rite” smacks of the same thinking when you see someone say “Latin is the official language of the Roman Rite”. Both either over-emphasize or ignore/fail to understand what SC and VII tried to call for in terms of reorienting our eucharistic liturgy and implementing enculturation that stresses full and active participation. As Rory Cooney said well on an earlier post, it is one thing for a choir or small group that actively participates/attends many liturgies to learn/do chant – it is something entirely different for many catholics who go once a week or less often.
      Fine – all seminarians should be exposed to and trained in chant – but, along those lines, can think of lots of liturgical/ars celebrandi that should be required of seminarians such that chant would not make the top 5 or even 10 list.
      Example – we have a newly ordained priest from Japan – he has a beautiful voice and chooses to chant some of the prayers; the 1st half of the EP, etc. Unfortunately, it is not coordinated with the music ministry; it follows his own chant method which is different from the propers; chanting only the 1st half of the EP makes little sense, etc. He doesn’t seem to grasp a more comprehensive understanding of the order of mass, the principles of liturgy, that the EP is one prayer, etc. So, his chanting is out of context. There is no effort to introduce or invite folks to respond to his chant (just presumed we know how to respond to his chant rythmn – which sure isn’t one of the chant forms Rory Cooney ever taught me).
      Find that NLM, Weber, etc. are like putting a bandaid on a liturgical situation that needs more…

  18. I am for a married and singing clergy like the Orthodox, and a completely sung Liturgy rather than a recited Mass with hymns.

    Having a clergy that sings the liturgy requires a lot of practice which is what Orthodox receive not only in their seminaries but also in their parishes.

    It’s the priests (and deacons) who are central to a sung liturgy not the bishops or the music ministers. At the present time very few priests are in favor of a complety sung liturgy, and we are not likely to get many who are unless we have a married clergy and make recruiting musically inclined clergy a priority.

    We should continue to have hymns, and also have a variety of chants not just Gregorian.

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