There is so much being written about the Catholic Church’s interaction with civil authorities. The Catholic League is suing San Francisco for violation of the First Amendment because the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning the Vatican. Of course this is the same city that condemned a gathering of evangelical Christian teenagers as disgusting. Catholic Charities in Boston has stopped doing adoptions because the state insists they place children with homosexual couples. State agencies are pressuring Catholic hospitals to provide services that are inconsistent with Catholic teachings. The list goes on and on.
Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice writes of a case where the courts have said interference in Church affairs is not within their jurisdiction. It seems a Mr. Tomic was the music director at a Catholic Church in Peoria, IL. There was a dispute with the Bishop’s assistant over music selection. Mr. Tomic was fired. His replacement was a younger person. Mr. Tomic filed an age discrimination lawsuit. His argument was that music selection was not a religious function and therefore not covered by the “ministerial exception” to federal anti-discrimination laws. Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not agree and wrote a wonderful opinion. The most significant statement in this opinion is the following:
”At argument Tomic’s lawyer astonished us by arguing that music has in itself no religious significance—its only religious significance is in its words. The implications is that it is a matter of indifference to the Church and its flock whether the words of the Gospel are set to Handel’s Messiah or to “Three Blind Mice.” That obviously is false. The religious music played at a wedding is not necessarily suitable for a funeral; and religious music written for Christmas is not necessarily suitable for Easter. Even Mozart had to struggle over what was suitable church music with his first patron, Archbishop Colloredo, whom the Mozart family called the “arch-booby”. Music is a vital means of expressing and celebrating those beliefs which a religious community holds most sacred. Music is an integral part of many different religious traditions, including the Catholic tradition.”
There you have it. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has declared the music matters. Perhaps Judge Posner would like to rethink his position on getting involved in internal Church affairs. He has a far greater appreciation of the significance of liturgical music than many Catholic music directors. He has already indicated he would not allow “Three Blind Mice”. Maybe he could get rid of Marty Haugen too!