Chapter III-4. Musical instruments and bells.
A. Some General principles.
60. The following principles for the use of musical instruments in the sacred
liturgy are to be recalled:
a) Because of the nature, sanctity, and dignity of the sacred liturgy, the
playing of any musical instrument should be as perfect as possible. It would be
preferable to omit the use of instruments entirely (whether it be the organ
only, or any other instrument), than to play them in a manner unbecoming their
purpose. As a general rule it is better to do something well, however modest,
than to attempt something more elaborate without the proper means.
b) The difference between sacred, and secular music must be taken into
consideration. Some musical instruments, such as the classic organ, are
naturally appropriate for sacred music; others, such as string instruments which
are played with a bow, are easily adapted to liturgical use. But there are some
instruments which, by common estimation, are so associated with secular music
that they are not at all adaptable for sacred use.
c) Finally, only instruments which are personally played by a performer are
to be used in the sacred liturgy, not those which are played mechanically or
B. The classic organ and similar instruments.
61. The principal musical instrument for solemn liturgical ceremonies of the
Latin Church has been and remains the classic pipe organ.
62. An organ destined for liturgical use, even if small, should be designed
according to the norms of organ building, and be equipped with the type of pipes
suitable for sacred use. Before it is to be used it should be properly blessed,
and as a sacred object, receive proper care.
63. Besides the classic organ, the harmonium or reed organ may also be used
provided that its tonal quality, and volume are suitable for sacred use.
64. As a substitute, the electronic organ may be tolerated temporarily for
liturgical functions, if the means for obtaining even a small pipe organ are not
available. In each case, however, the explicit permission of the local Ordinary
is required. He, on his part, should consult the diocesan commission on sacred
music, and others trained in this field, who can make suggestions for rendering
such an instrument more suitable for sacred use.
65. The musicians who play the instruments mentioned in paragraphs 61-64
should be sufficiently skilled in their art so that they can accompany the
sacred chant or any other music, and can also play alone with appropriate skill.
Indeed, since it is also often necessary to be able to improvise music suited to
the various phases of the liturgical action, they should possess sufficient
knowledge of, and capability in the techniques of organ playing , and of sacred
Organists should religiously care for the instruments entrusted to them.
Whenever they are seated at the organ during sacred functions, organists should
be conscious of the active part they are taking in glorifying God, and edifying
66. The organ playing, whether during liturgical functions or private
devotions, should be carefully adapted to the liturgical season and feast day,
to the nature of the rites and exercises themselves, and to their various parts.
67. The organ should be located in a suitable place near the main altar,
unless ancient custom or a special reason approved by the local Ordinary demand
otherwise; but the location should be such that the singers or musicians
occupying a raised platform are not conspicuous to the congregation in the main
body of the church.
C. Sacred instrumental music.
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 derived from the principles stated above (no.60) 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.
69. The local Ordinary, with the aid of his diocesan commission on sacred
music, should see to it that these rules on the use of instruments during the
sacred liturgy are faithfully observed. If need be, they should not hesitate to
issue special instructions in this regard as required by local conditions, and
D. Musical instruments, and mechanical devices.
70. Musical instruments which by common acception, and use are suitable only
for secular music must be entirely excluded from all liturgical functions, and
71. The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic
organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is
absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they
are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to
transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir
or faithful, or even just to support it.
However, such machines may be used, even inside the church, but not during
services of any kind, whether liturgical or private, in order to give the people
a chance to listen to the voice of the Supreme Pontiff or the local Ordinary, or
the sermons of others. These mechanical devices may be also be used to instruct
the faithful in Christian doctrine or in the sacred chant or hymn singing;
finally they may be used in processions which take place outside the church, as
a means of directing, and supporting the singing of the people.
72. Loudspeakers may be used even during liturgical functions, and private
devotions for the purpose of amplifying the living voice of the priest-celebrant
or the commentator, or others who, according to the rubrics or by order of the
pastor, are expected to make their voices heard.
73. The use of any kind of projector, and particularly movie projectors, with
or without sound track, is strictly forbidden in church for any reason, even if
it be for a pious, religious, or charitable cause.
In constructing or remodeling meeting halls near the church or under it (if
there is no other place), care must be taken that there is no direct entrance
from the hall into the church, and that the noise from the hall, especially if
it is going to used for entertainments, shall in no way profane the holiness,
and silence of the sacred place.
E. The transmission of sacred functions over radio and television.
74. For any radio or television broadcast of liturgical functions or private
devotions, the local Ordinary must give his express permission; this is required
whether they are being held inside or outside the church. Before granting
permission, the Ordinary must be sure that:
a) the singing and music fully comply with the laws of the liturgy, and
b) in the case of a television broadcast, all those taking part in the
ceremonies are so well instructed that the ceremonies may be carried out in full
conformity with the rubrics, and with fitting dignity.
Standing permission may be granted by the local Ordinary for broadcasts to
originate regularly from a particular church if, upon inquiry, he is certain
that all the requirements will faithfully be met.
75. Television cameras should be kept out of the sanctuary as much as
possible; they should never be located so close to the altar as to interfere
with the sacred rites.
Cameramen and technicians should conduct themselves with the devotion
becoming a sacred place and the rites, and not disturb the prayerful spirit of
the congregation, especially at those moments which demand the utmost
76. Photographers in particular should observe these directives, since it is
much easier for them to move about with their cameras.
77. Each pastor is to see to it that the prescriptions given in 75 and 76 are
faithfully observed in his church. Local Ordinaries, moreover, shall not fail to
issue more specific directives as circumstances require.
78. Since the very nature of a radio broadcast requires that the listeners be
able to follow the action without interruption, a broadcast Mass will be more
effective if the priest pronounces the words a little more loudly than demanded
by the "low voice" of the rubrics, and correspondingly pronounces louder still
the words to be said in a clear voice according to the rubrics; this is
particularly desirable when there is no commentator. Then the listeners will be
able to follow the entire Mass with no difficulty.
79. It is well to remind the radio and television audiences before the
program that listening to the broadcast does not fulfill their obligation to
F. The times when the playing of musical instruments is forbidden.
80. The playing of the organ, and even more, of other instruments, is an
embellishment of the sacred liturgy; for that reason they should be accommodated
to the varying degrees of joy in different liturgical seasons, and feast days.
81. Accordingly, the playing of the organ, and all other instruments is
forbidden for liturgical functions, except Benediction, during the following
a) Advent, from first Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent until None of the
Vigil of Christmas;
b) Lent and Passiontide, from Matins of Ash Wednesday until the hymn Gloria
in excelsis Deo in the Solemn Mass of the Easter Vigil;
c) the September Ember days if the ferial Mass and Office are celebrated;
d) in all Offices and Masses of the Dead.
82. Only the organ may be used on the Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima,
and Quinquagesima, and on the ferial days following these Sundays.
83. However, during the seasons, and days just mentioned, the following
exceptions to the rule may be made:
a) the organ may be played, and other instruments used on holy days of
obligation, and holidays (except Sundays), on the feasts of the principal local
patron saint, the titular day, and the dedication anniversary of the local
church, the titular or founder's day of a religious congregation, and on the
occasion of some extraordinary solemnity;
b) the organ only (including the harmonium or reed organ) may be used on the
third Sunday of Advent, and the fourth Sunday of Lent, on Thursday of Holy Week
during the Mass of Chrism, and during the solemn evening Mass of the Last Supper
from the beginning to the end of the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo;
c) the organ only may be used at Mass, and Vespers for the sole purpose of
supporting the singing.
Local Ordinaries may determine more precisely the application of these
prohibitions, and permissions according to the approved local or regional
84. Throughout the Sacred Triduum, from the midnight before Holy Thursday
until the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo of the Solemn Mass of the Easter
Vigil, the organ or harmonium shall remain completely silent, excepting the
instance mentioned in paragraph 83b.
This prohibition holds even for private devotions during the Sacred Triduum;
no exceptions or contrary custom are to be tolerated.
85. Pastors and others in charge must not fail to explain to the people the
meaning of this liturgical silence. They should also take care that during these
seasons, and particular days the other liturgical restrictions on decorating the
altar are likewise observed.
86. The ancient and highly approved tradition of ringing bells in the Latin
Church should be devotedly carried on by all who have this responsibility.
87. Church bells may not be used until they have been solemnly consecrated,
or at least blessed; thereafter, they should be treated with the care due to
88. Approved customs, and the various ways of ringing bells, according to the
occasion, should be carefully preserved. Local Ordinaries should set down the
traditional, and customary practices, or prescribe them if there are none.
89. Attachments designed to amplify the sound of the bells or to make them
easier to ring, may be permitted by the local Ordinary after consultation with
experts. If there is doubt the matter should be referred to the Sacred
Congregation of Rites.
90. Besides the various customary, and approved ways of ringing bells
mentioned in paragraph 88 some places have an arrangement of smaller bells,
hanging in a bell tower, for the purpose of ringing out various melodies. This
is commonly called a carillon. It is to entirely excluded from liturgical use.
These small bells may not be consecrated or blessed according to the solemn rite
in the Roman Pontifical, but they may receive a simple blessing.
91. Every effort should be made to furnish all churches, public and
semi-public oratories with at least one or two bells, even though they are
small. But it is strictly forbidden to substitute any kind of machine or
instrument which merely imitates or amplifies the sound of bells mechanically or
automatically. Such machines may be used, however, as a carillon in accordance
with what has been said above.
92. The prescriptions of canons 1169, 1185, and 612 of the Code of Canon Law
are to be exactly observed.