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These days we can see many churches using latest musical instruments to worship God in the church, example - Assembly of God.

Once I attended a Catholic church. Some sisters were sitting at the front and singing songs from a hymn book. There was no music, no musical instruments. I wonder if this is how they worship always.

Does the Catholic Church allow latest musical instruments(guitars, drum set, piano etc.) to be played while worshiping in the church?

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I've visited a Sunday worship service at a Catholic church before. I don't even know where the sound was coming from, though. – Double U Oct 26 '13 at 14:01
Having done a little research, I suspect what instructions there are more honoured in the breach than the observance. – Andrew Leach Oct 26 '13 at 14:32
Ever heard of a polka Mass? – Peter Turner Oct 27 '13 at 3:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Pope Pius X issued a motu proprio in 1903, Tra le Sollecitudini:

15. Although the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music, music with the accompaniment of the organ is also permitted. In some special cases, within due limits and with proper safeguards, other instruments may be allowed, but never without the special permission of the Ordinary, according to prescriptions of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum.

19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.

20. It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ.

This formed the basis for De musica sacra et sacra liturgia issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1958:

68. Other instruments besides the organ, especially the smaller bowed instruments, may be used during the liturgical functions, particularly on days of greater solemnity. These may be used together with the organ or without it, for instrumental numbers of for accompanying the singing. However, the following rules ... are to strictly observed:

a) the instruments are truly suitable for sacred use;

b) they are to be played with such seriousness, and religious devotion that every suggestion of raucous secular music is avoided, and the devotion of the faithful is fostered;

c) the director, organist, and other instrumentalists should be well trained in instrumental techniques, and the laws of sacred music.

70. Musical instruments which by common acception, and use are suitable only for secular music must be entirely excluded from all liturgical functions, and private devotions.

The use of bands and particularly drums may suggest "raucous secular music", so they are to be avoided.

Musicam Sacram was promulgated by the Second Vatican Council in 1967.

63. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.[De music sacra etc n.70 [above]]

This Vatican II Constitution allows a little more leeway by permitting appeal to local culture and tradition and whether a particular instrument is suitable only for secular music. This decision would be made by the local bishop or Bishops' Conference. However, the earlier documents indicate the direction that decision should go.

Despite the 1903 rules, the use of the piano and acoustic guitar is not uncommon in the UK.

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Sometimes I heard the trumpet, too. – Elberich Schneider Oct 26 '13 at 15:10
@Andrew Leach as my answer indicates...apparently the Mass experiences I have had majorly variate from the above cited authoritative documents? Is this just a U. S. thing? I believe I have seen Matt Maher (christian rock singer) lead worship at WYD. – user5286 Oct 26 '13 at 21:46
I personally love the Novus Ordo liturgy because I'm somewhat of a traditionalist. Older catholics I know such as my grandparents complain about how vatican II did away with the beauty of the tridentine Mass and I agree with them...but the reality of the matter is that the majority of catholics I know have no clue that 40 years ago guitars drums and trumpets were forbidden – user5286 Oct 26 '13 at 21:53
@Charles Quite. I'm an RC organist. I think the US bishops have interpreted the "suitable for sacred use" loosely! That said, I've played the piano in church and I disagree that that is not suitable (given the right music to play). – Andrew Leach Oct 26 '13 at 23:08
This is a Great answer! – FMS Sep 13 '14 at 6:00

I can't speak for countries out side of the U. S., but here in the States any type of musical instrument is permitted as long as:

A. They are approved by the right authority.

B. They are played in a manner that is edifying.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 120:

"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."

I, myself, have been actively involved in liturgical services for 20 years. I have either personally played or attended many Masses in multiple states. The majority of the liturgical services I have attended have been in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana.

About 80% of these Masses included (but is not limited to) the following instruments for the various elements of the Mass (responsorial Psalms, etc.):

  1. Acoustic/electric guitar

  2. Percussive drum sets.

  3. Other types of percussion instruments including bongos, xylophones, tambourines, etc.

  4. Acoustic/electric/amplified guitar.

  5. All instruments included in an orchestra.

  6. Keyboards/pianos

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I have participated in a youth retreat held every year throughout the U. S. that incorparates very intense praise and worship music in order to appeal to teenagers.

The dramatic change of liturgical music in the U. S. is one of the major topics of debate.

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Charles, have you ever heard the trumpet? – Elberich Schneider Oct 26 '13 at 20:41
@Elberich Schneider yes...I once sang in the chiors of St. John Berchman's cathedral in Shreveport, La during the ordination of bishop Duca. The chior was accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra set. We sang "All creatures of Our God and King" and "Lift High the Cross" both of which havd trumpet solos. – user5286 Oct 26 '13 at 21:36
I will actually be attending Mass tomorrow At Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. They have a guitar player as well as a trumpet player. – user5286 Oct 26 '13 at 21:37
Charles Also., I hope you have a good day tomorrow, thank you. – Elberich Schneider Oct 26 '13 at 22:05
Peace be with you as well :) – user5286 Oct 26 '13 at 22:09

//Does the Catholic Church allow latest musical instruments(guitars, drum set, piano etc.) to be played while worshiping in the church?//

No. Modern musical instruments are not allowed unless permitted by the local bishop. Guitars and Drums are explicitly forbidden for Liturgical use. I am not a musical student so I don't know the difference between a Organ, Keyboard and a Piano. But an Organ is the standard liturgical instrument. (Any instrument that can replicate organ's sound in a similar way will be permitted)

Liturgical services are not parties, but are celebrations of the Church. Center of the liturgy is Christ but these instruments put the player in the center. And that is the main reason why these instruments are banned.

  • 62 The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church,.
  • 63 ... Any musical instrument permitted in divine worship should be used in such a way that it meets the needs of the liturgical elebration, and is in the interests both of the beauty of worship and the edification of the faithful.
  • 64 The use of musical instruments to accompany the singing can act as a support to the voices, render participation easier, and achieve a deeper union in the assembly. However, their sound should not so overwhelm the voices that it is difficult to make out the text; and when some part is proclaimed aloud by the priest or a minister by virtue of his role, they should be silent.
  • 66 The playing of these same instruments as solos is not permitted in Advent, Lent, during the Sacred Triduum and in the Offices and Masses of the Dead. From MUSICAM SACRAM - Instruction on Music In The Liturgy

//Once I attended a Catholic church. ... There was no music, no musical instruments. I wonder if this is how they worship always.//

No it is not without music always. Music is an integral part of liturgy. And musical instruments have aided in the liturgy for ages. The problem is with the modern music and instruments. For instance solemnities like Easter and Christmas people are strongly advised/urged to celebrate mass with proper music and choir. They both exercises its own liturgical function among the faithful by law.

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I don't understand why you state that guitars and drums are explicitly forbidden. I hear guitars played almost every Sunday . Is this just a U. S. Thing? – user5286 Oct 26 '13 at 21:40
To @CharlesAlsobrook: I am not from America, I am from India. My bishop said that Guitar and Drums are not to be used in Mass. It may be used during retreats, youth camps etc., not in mass. And when I say drums I mean these. – Jayarathina Madharasan Oct 27 '13 at 6:29
This answer is correct. – FMS Sep 13 '14 at 5:59
@JayarathinaMadharasan You link these in comment above no longer works. – FMS Sep 13 '14 at 20:03
@FMShyanguya "These" 😃 – Jayarathina Madharasan Sep 14 '14 at 8:33

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