God of the Mess: Church music in Australian Catholic Parishes

A friend recently sent me this link to the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas.

Would I join this society? Answer: no.

Does that mean that I totally approve of Haugen and Haas’s stuff? Again, the answer is: no.

But context is everything. The Society is based in the US, and, at least according to the Society’s website, in the US the choice is between “Haugen and Haas” and “Gregorian Chant and Palestrina”. Would that it were so here in the Land of Oz (and I rather doubt that it is so in the good ‘ol U. S. of A. either).

The sad fact of the matter is that if Australian Catholic parishes sang nothing except the compositions of Haugen and Haas, it would be a distinct improvement over the current offerings. If you don’t believe me, go to the Word of Life Top 100 songs page and see the evidence for yourself. Word of Life is a licensing agency used almost exclusively by Catholics.

Here, for instance, is a song by Peter Kearney that we have been using in our parish during Lent as a “penitential” song. Ask yourself: could you sing this? Would you want to?


God of the mess that we’re in, you still bless us
And feel every bump when we fall;
You see the good in our heart
and you know how we struggle
You fathered and mothered us all.

1. You see through the eyes of the child on the street
The man on the dole who drinks down defeat,
The mother alone- her rent overdue
It’s not what you want but it’s true.

2. The old man confused, the junkie in gaol,
The baby all bruised- a victim so frail;
Good things go wrong, we try and we fail
Over and over again.

3. But the seasons turn round and wounds they can mend
A neighbour comes round- you laugh in the end;
You take a deep breath and count up to ten
And start it all over again.

When you are faced with this, Haugen and Haas begin to look very appealing…

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3 Responses to God of the Mess: Church music in Australian Catholic Parishes

  1. Anonymous says:

    As an Anglican with frequent bouts of Roman fever, I only have to look at songs like this to feel cured :-}

  2. malleebull says:


    Pleased to make your aquaintance…a fellow Aussie blogger.

    As you rightly say….there is a lot of shlock out there…I have grown up in a parish of Adelaide where anyting from St Louis Jesuits onwards has been pushed and embraced by the parish.

    Consequently, I have grown up with Haas and Haugen….and am often left scratching my head when I read about the Moritorium Website you mentioned.

    Let’s keep in touch.


  3. Schütz says:

    You know, Matt, I have just bought my mother a birthday present of St Louis Jesuit type music on a CD. It is really great listening. But what is very inspirational to listen to doesn’t always translate into a good song to sing in the liturgy.

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