Chapter III-5. Persons having principal functions in sacred music and the sacred liturgy.
93. The priest-celebrant is the presiding officer in all liturgical functions.
All others participate in the service in their own proper manner. Thus:
a) Clerics present at a liturgical ceremony in the manner, and form
prescribed by the rubrics, who fulfill the role of sacred or minor ministers or
sing in the choir or schola cantorum, exercise a liturgical ministry which is
direct, and proper to them by virtue of their ordination or elevation to the
b) The laity also participate actively in the liturgy by virtue of their
baptismal character which enables them, in their own way, to offer the divine
Victim to God he Father with the priest in the holy sacrifice of the Mass itself
(cf. Mystici Corporis Christi, June 29, 1943; AAS 35  232-233;
Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947: AAS 39  555-556).
c) Therefore, laity of the male sex, whether boys, young men, or adults, when
appointed by competent ecclesiastical authority to serve at the altar or to
perform the sacred music, and when they fulfill this office in the manner, and
form prescribed by the rubrics, exercise a liturgical ministry which is direct,
though delegated. If they are singers, they must be a part of the choir or
94. In addition to observing the rubrics carefully, the priest-celebrant and
the sacred ministers should endeavor to execute their song parts as correctly,
distinctly, and artistically as possible.
95. When the ministers can be chosen for a liturgical function, preference
should be given to those who have the greater singing ability, especially if it
is a more solemn liturgical function or one which has more difficult chants, or
is to be broadcast or televised.
96. The active participation of the faithful can be more easily brought about
with the help of a commentator, especially in holy Mass, and in some of the more
complex liturgical ceremonies. At suitable times he should briefly explain the
rites themselves, and the prayers of the priest and ministers; he should also
direct the external participation of the congregation, that is, their responses,
prayers, and singing. Such a commentator may be used if the following rules are
a) The role of commentator should properly be carried out by a priest or at
least a cleric. If none is available, a layman of good Christian character, and
well instructed in his duties may fill the role. Women, however, may never act
as commentator; in case of necessity, a woman would be permitted only to lead
the prayers, and singing of the congregation.
b) If the commentator is a priest or a cleric, he should wear a surplice, and
stand in the sanctuary or near the Communion rail, or at the lectern or pulpit.
If he is a layman, he should stand in a convenient place in front of the
congregation, but not in the sanctuary or in the pulpit.
c) The explanations and directions to be given by the commentator should be
prepared in writing; they should be brief, clear, and to the point; they should
be spoken at a suitable time, and in a moderate tone of voice; they should never
interfere with the prayers of the priest who is celebrating. In short, they
should be a real help, and not a hindrance to the devotion of the congregation.
d) In directing the prayers of the congregation, the commentator should
recall the prescriptions given above in paragraph 14c.
e) In those places where the Holy See has permitted the reading of the
Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular after the Latin text has been chanted, the
commentator may not substitute for the celebrant, deacon, or subdeacon in
f) The commentator should follow the celebrant closely, and so accompany the
sacred action that it is not delayed or interrupted, and the entire ceremony
carried out with harmony, dignity, and devotion.
Good Example Required
97. Those who have a part in the sacred music -composers, organists, choir
directors, singers, and instrumentalists- should above all be outstanding
Christians, and give example to the rest of the faithful, conformable to their
role as direct or indirect participants in the sacred liturgy.
98. Besides excelling in Christian faith and morals, these persons must also
possess the training necessary to fulfill their particular role of participation
in the liturgy.
a) Composers of sacred music should have a thorough knowledge of the
historical, dogmatic or doctrinal, practical, and rubrical aspects of the
liturgy; they should know Latin; and finally they should be well trained in the
art, and the history of both sacred, and secular music.
b) Organists, and choir directors should also have a comprehensive knowledge
of the liturgy, and a sufficient understanding of Latin; and finally they should
be well trained in their art, and able to carry out their role worthily, and
c) Singers, both boys and adults, should be taught the meaning of the
liturgical functions, and of the texts they sing insofar as they are capable of
comprehending, for then their singing will be inspired by an understanding mind,
and a loving heart, and be truly rendered as befits the service of an
intelligent person. They should also be taught to pronounce the Latin words
correctly, and distinctly. Pastors, and those directly in charge must see to it
that good order, and true devotion reign in that part of the church occupied by
d) Instrumentalists who perform sacred music should not only be well trained
in the techniques of their instruments, but should also know how to adapt them
to the playing of sacred music. They should be well enough instructed in the
sacred liturgy that their devotion will be evidenced by an artistic performance.
The Schola Cantorum
99. It is highly desirable that a choir or schola cantorum be
established in all cathedral churches, in parish churches, and all other
churches of importance where the liturgical functions can be carried out as
described in paragraph 93a, and c.
100. Wherever such a choir cannot be organized, a choir of the faithful,
either mixed or consisting only of women or girls, can be permitted. But such a
choir should take its place outside the sanctuary or Communion rail. The men
should be separated from the women or girls so that anything unbecoming may be
avoided. Local Ordinaries are to issue precise regulations about these matters,
and pastors are to see to their enforcement (Decr. Auth. SCR 3964, 4210, 4231,
and the encyclical Musicæ sacræ disciplina: AAS  23).
101. It would be ideal, and worthy of commendation if organists, choir
directors, singers, instrumentalists, and others engaged in the service of the
Church, would contribute their talents for the love of God, and in the spirit of
religious devotion, without salary; should they be unable to offer their
services free of charge, Christian justice, and charity demand that the church
give them a just wage, according to the recognized standards of the locality,
and provisions of law.
102. The local Ordinary should, after consultation with the diocesan
commission of sacred music, fix a scale of wages to be observed throughout the
diocese for the various offices mentioned in the previous paragraph.
103. An adequate program of social security should also be set up for these
persons in accordance with civil law; if the law makes no provisions, the local
Ordinary himself should make regulations regarding social security.