Outrage Over Liturgical Dance

May 2007By Alvaro Delgado

The Rev. Alvaro Delgado is Pastor of St. Edward's Catholic Church in Stockton, California. Previously, he spent 17 years as a newspaper journalist.

As a priest who stands in persona Christi to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, I felt disappointed and betrayed when liturgical dancers appeared at the Mass that opened our diocesan synod. The believers present for this Mass deserved to partake of the liturgy under the proper rubrics outlined by the Holy See. It would not be an exaggeration to say these believers were ambushed by an act of spiritual and liturgical terrorism.

Three sets of liturgical dancers waltzed up the aisle at the time of the Presentation of the Gifts. First, three or four young girls and a boy, about 11 or 12 years old, pranced to the altar twirling lit candles through the air in a circular motion. The candle-bearers circled the altar and placed the candles in front of the altar. A second wave of youngsters, holding bowls of incense aloft, also paraded to the altar, repeating the same pattern.

Then came the climactic dance. A boy and a girl, about 14 or 15 years old, came up the center aisle, bearing gifts of bread and wine. I looked for our bishop, and the deacon seated at his side, to rise from their chairs, walk to the front of the altar, and receive the gifts. But they both stayed put. The boy and girl circled the altar, carrying the bread and wine. Finally, they stopped, dead set in front of the altar, facing the people, and hoisted the bread and wine above their heads. Solemn looks crossed their faces as they fixed their gaze upward on the gifts for a long moment. Then they placed the gifts on the altar and returned to their seats.

Moments later, the bishop proceeded to the altar and made the official, liturgical offering of the gifts to God. He lifted the gifts above his head, exactly as the boy and girl had done, as seen by hundreds of worshipers from the pews.

With few exceptions, the Holy See has said "no" to liturgical dance. James Akin, in his book Mass Confusion, notes that the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, in an authoritative 1975 document, cited specific cultures in which liturgical dance has enhanced the liturgy and reflected the religious values of those cultures. But liturgical dance has never been part of the liturgical tradition of the Latin Church, and never been deemed appropriate in the West. The documents states: "Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders." The document adds that pseudo-ballet, or "interpretive dance," which has been tried in liturgy, is also prohibited.

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Back to May 2007 Issue

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My comment does not bear directly on this article about the "Outrage over Liturgical Dance" but, indirectly it does.

I will quote a comment made by the former archbishop of San Paulo (Brazil)in reference to the Pope's visit to Brazil:"It is due (the conversions of Catholics to Protestantism) to the expansionism of Protestant sects that attract an ever larger number of baptized Catholics, BUT ALSO TO MORAL RELATIVISM, IMPORTED FROM EUROPE AND INTRODUCED ON THE CONTINENT ABOVE ALL BY THE LOCAL RULING CLASSES, THE MASS MEDIA AND THE INTELLECTUALS." All I can add is: AMEN!
Posted by: pscheck
May 10, 2007 12:39 PM EDT
Speaking of liturgical dance, if you would like to see it live and up-close, check out this Benediction liturgical dance from November 2006 in Brazil. Try not to split your sides, please:

Danza liturgica
Posted by: charing cross
May 11, 2007 03:49 PM EDT
I would not be surprised to learn that after the words of consecration were said the blessed sacrament was not elevated in such dramatic fashion. This is a common point of disobediance in liturgical practice- the priest refuses to raise the Eucharist above his shoulders let alone above his head and bells are not allowed.

In the context were the mere bread and wine is exalted in the way described, proper humility is drained from the offertory, and the incredible meaning of the transformation of the humblest of foods is lost. What conceit and pride over something so paltry as a bit of bread that is so easy for us to make, thanks of course to the boundless providence of our God.
Posted by: aconway
May 28, 2007 10:36 PM EDT
The few occasions when I have seen liturgical dance, it was outside my diocese while traveling, in dioceses that wouldn't surprise anyone. Dance is present where the bishop tolerates widespread disobedience and heterodoxy.

But it was usually middle aged women in white leotards--who obviously had more self esteem than sense. Too much detail. OK, don't wear a chapel veil, but at least veil the rest with appropriate clothing. What is veiled is holy. We don't want to see your cellulite.

Something else must be stated: that boy dancer is obviously gay and every homosexual-ephebophile priest in attendance is making a note of his name for later follow-up. The Lavendar Mafia will probably recruit him into the priesthood.

No self-respecting straight man would participate in such a thing.

After the Scandal, you would think the media would be all over it, for the grooming behavior this boy is automatically being subject to. Dance could be the new method to identify potential houseboys for the rectory.

When in Africa, I will happily dance the Rosary with the Africans. It's appropriate and non-liturgical. Even in Africa, they don't dance during the liturgy.

What would be an appropriate dance for a wedding? A bump and grind? A strip tease? To Madonna's Like A Virgin?

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil!!!

Posted by: kentuckyliz
June 11, 2007 07:13 AM EDT
I should add...you can't say dance is unscriptural. Salome danced for Herod so that Herodias could demand the head of John the Baptist. I guess you could take it as a warning that if you oppose liturgical dance, the feminazi-WOC types will demand your head on a platter. Posted by: kentuckyliz
June 11, 2007 07:19 AM EDT
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