The position of the Covenant College Board is that the college choir did not participate in the Eucharist, because they did not partake of the bread and wine. P&R News decided to ask Roman Catholic scholars as to whether this is a tenable position.
Father John Beal, Chairman of the Department of Canon Law at Catholic University of America, responded to the question, "Would a choir singing in a mass be considered to be participating in the mass?", by saying, simply, "Yes." Fr. Beal explained: "Since Vatican II, the perspective has been that though we lack full union with other Christian churches, we should have joint services. Participation in worship services with each other should be encouraged in order to deepen our understanding of one another." He stated that the goal is that of uniting the divided churches. "Since Vatican II, we have been involved in ongoing bilateral dialogues with most Christian churches. We have also participated in the Faith and Order Movement. A Presbyterian college singing in a mass would be a more grassroots approach [toward the goal of union]."
Dr. Lawrence Cunningham, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, responded to the question about participation in the mass by saying, "Sure, yeah." He added: "It would be in the sense that music is an integral part of the service."
Professor Cunningham said that the "current discussion of the Catholic Church is that people who are not Roman Catholic should not receive communion at Roman Catholic mass, because the Eucharist is a sign of unity. The participation of people who are not in union tends to undermine that unity."
In his view, "For the Vatican and the Church more generally, the more we can do together without offending doctrinal sensibilities, the more we can come together."
When asked whether the singing in the mass could be considered participation in the Eucharist, he replied that "we regard the liturgy as the celebration of Word and Sacrament. . . . A Presbyterian choir would certainly be proclaiming the Word by song. . . . They would be participating as much as any Catholic sitting in the pew, except for not partaking of the elements of communion."