Sacred or profane: The influence of Vatican legislation on music in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne


Byrne, John Henry. (2005). Sacred or profane: The influence of Vatican legislation on music in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne [Thesis].
AuthorsByrne, John Henry
Qualification nameMaster of Music (MMus)

Despite the authoritative and very explicit directions from the Vatican in 1903, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne successfully resisted the demands for a major reform of liturgical Church music for 35 years. This thesis will examine the reasons for this strong and effective resistance to the demands of the Holy See and show that despite being complex and interrelated these reasons can be summarised under two fundamental headings. The thesis will examine the broad spectrum of music performed in the Melbourne Archdiocese, but because of the limited availability of information and the prime importance of the two principal churches of the Archdiocese, it shall concentrate on St. Patrick's Cathedral and on St. Francis Church. The thesis shall also examine in detail the documents of the Holy See concerning liturgical music which were relevant to musical practice in Melbourne. Special attention is drawn to the influential Motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini (1903) issued by Pope Pius X. The time span of this thesis covers the 95 years from March 1843 when the first music was sung in Melbourne's only Catholic church to 1938 when Archbishop Daniel Mannix ordered the reforms to liturgical music as demanded by the Vatican. The thesis shall demonstrate that the resistance to the reform of liturgical music in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne was due to the two following influences: the fact that the new freedom and wealth that the immigrant Irish community of the Archdiocese of Melbourne experienced enabled them to establish churches and liturgies whose grandeur and artistic excellence symbolized their success in establishing a major new social and cultural status in their new home. Church music was one of the great manifestations of this and as an integral part of their new significance and sense of achievement, it was to be jealously guarded.;the second was the matter of authority and the independence of the Catholic bishops from the dictates and interference of the Vatican authorities. These Irish-born bishops were trained in an historical milieu in Ireland and Europe which fostered a fierce pride in the value of autonomy from external and alien authority. In this they were given a great degree of protection by the isolation of Australia and its distance from outside authority. In this Archbishops Carr and Mannix both proved to be strongly independent leaders who proved to be most reluctant to automatically implement reforms imposed by the Vatican. It will be shown that only in the fourth decade of the twentieth century was Episcopal authority finally brought to bear to make reforms to liturgical music a reality in the Catholic Church in Melbourne.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Music
Final version
Publication dates01 Mar 2005
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