It has come to our attention that certain Traditional groups push forward with the celebration of a misa cantada even when no schola is present to sing. Now, we can dispense with the schola when we deal with the ordinaries of the Mass. The congregation can sing Missa de Angelis from memory, supposing they still remember it, and have a collective vocal apparatus capable of executing it. We all know, however, that a misa cantada requires at least one cantor, trained or at least experienced in chant or psalm tones, to sing the propers. So, in the case presented above, schola carente vel cantoribus absentibus, the propers were played from recordings.
Is this allowed? The resounding answer is: No, it is not allowed!
If there is no schola, the logical, human, and pastoral recourse would be to celebrate a misa rezada.
But, sir! But, sir! Is playing the propers from recordings forbidden? Of course, it is forbidden! By Pope Pius XII, no less! Below are extracts from the 1958 Instruction De musica sacra (English here; original Latin here). First, that instruments at Mass should be played personally:
60. 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 automatically.
60. c) Denique ea tantum musica instrumenta in sacra Liturgia admittuntur, quae personali artificis actione tractantur, non autem quae modo mechanico seu automatico.
And, second, that sound-producing machines which mimic, and not merely amplify, the capabilities of the human voice, can be used only outside the liturgical action:
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.
71. Usus instrumentorum et machinarum « automaticarum », uti sunt : autoorganum, grammophonium, radiophonium, dictaphonium seu magnetophonium, et alia eiusdem generis, in actionibus liturgicis et piis exercitiis, sive intra sive extra ecclesiam peragendis, absolute vetatur, etsi agatur tantum de sacris sermonibus vel Musica sacra transmittenda, vel de cantoribus aut fidelibus in cantu substituendis aut etiam sustentandis.
His tamen machinis uti licet, etiam in ecclesiis, sed extra actiones liturgicas et pia exercitia, cum agitur de audienda voce Summi Pontificis, Ordinarii loci, vel aliorum oratorum sacrorum ; vel etiam ad fideles in doctrina christiana vel in cantu sacro aut religioso populari instituendos ; denique ad populi cantum dirigendum et sustentandum in processionibus extra ecclesiam peragendis.
Actuosa participatio is predicated on the actual and present action of the human person, a sentient, rational, and intelligent being created by God in His very image, capable of recognising God his own Creator, worshipping Him, and rendering Him adoration, veneration, and honour.
Use the recordings for practice, for seminars, for conventions, for talks. Chuck the record player out when it’s time for Mass, or the First Friday Benediction, or the fiesta novena. God forfend we transform the Mass into mere aesthetic experience replete with a panoply of pleasing vocals produced from the throat of a creature formed by human hands! God is not worshipped by machine.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.