A Pastoral Concern about Music

The following was shared by me (Pastor Katie) in the November newsletter.

I have a serious pastoral concern to share with you regarding music (primarily in our online services, since they utilize a lot more music than the in-person services). You might be thinking “huh?? What does music have to do with pastoral concerns?”

Over the last year or so, credible allegations about sexual and spiritual abuse have emerged regarding David Haas, a liturgical composer who has written many beloved hymns, including “Blest Are They” and “You Are Mine.” Over 40 survivors have come forward to share their stories of Haas pursuing them and coercing them as teens and young adults over the years. To make matters worse, often he would use his music as a means for his pursuit. A report released on October 1, 2020 by Into Account said:

He wrote sacred music for women he was actively abusing and in such songs chose to express theological themes designed to disempower them. Haas blended religious devotion and abuse in a way that increased the vulnerability of his spiritually sincere targets and guaranteed that it would be difficult for survivors to disentangle themselves from his abuse without spiritual confusion or distress.

With this in mind, many of the licensing agencies who license Haas’ music have removed his works from their portfolio, which means that we no longer have the right to use his music in worship (and he no longer has the ability to profit from this music). If you think this sounds extreme, I would ask you to put yourself into the shoes of someone who had experienced this abuse, walking into worship or tuning into worship, only to hear the same music that had been used to psychologically manipulate you. It would be traumatic, to say the least.

In my judgment, these are important pastoral reasons to avoid using David Haas music in worship, and therefore I will be advising our musicians and the Worship and Music team to not choose his music for worship. and I will not be choosing it myself. I see it as a matter of hospitality, spiritual health, and caring for those who have been hurt—something Jesus urged us to do, just as he did. If you have questions about this, please contact me.  You can also read more in this article published by the National Catholic Reporter.

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