Liturgical Dance

Recently there have been a number of posts on other blogs highlighting the ridiculous aberration of so-called “liturgical dance” and other abuses. The Bellarmine Forum, instead of cursing the darkness, would like to light a candle:

This article, Liturgical Dance is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John M. DeJak

John M. DeJak is an attorney and Latin teacher and works in academic administration. He writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • I fail to understand why this post was called by Mr. DeJak a ‘light in the darkness.” The assumption pronounced by Cardinal Arinze is that the mass is adaptable to a given culture, and if in Asian and African culture movement that is extraneous to the rubric of the (other-culture based) liturgy is more graceful and meaningful than in those stiff Americans and Europeans, then of course this movement should be allowed. I do not think this is what the saints taught, they did not mind bringing their culture-bound liturgy with them to foreign shores, and insisting on it, whatever the given culture. This is not a light but Vatican II relativism regarding liturgy. No dance in African liturgy. No married priests or sexual license in African Catholic culture, either. No exceptions, no how. Leads to confusion and perhaps we could say to the loss of souls.

  • John M. DeJak says:


    His Eminence is providing a framework whereby one can understand dance. In certain cultures dance (or what appears as such) is an acceptable expression; in other cultures–such as ours–it is not. Only by understanding this framework, can we better address the issue of dance in the Roman liturgy. This is a refreshing intellectual explanation from a Prince of the Church to examine the question. There is no excuse for such aberrations in North America or Europe or even generally.

    However when one takes into account missionary activity, the Church through her saints–Francis Xavier being the exemplar–has always sought to understand the culture and make use of it (to the extent possible, without dimunition of dogma or expression of the mysteries of the faith) in order to better communicate the mysteries of the faith. Indeed, the great missionaries always operated under the theological maxim that “grace builds on nature.” To the extent that the souls of certain non-Europeans may be saved through the one Church of Christ by that same Church utilizing and “baptizing,” if you will, certain cultural expressions, it is a fair question to examine such an expression as dancing in a non-European culture.

    Rome has always throughout the centuries issued indults and approvals for such things where appropriate–consider the vernacular liturgy of old Church Slavonic as brought by SS. Cyril and Methodius; consider also the 21 (or is it 22?) other Rites of the Catholic Church, where the liturgy is either in Greek, Arabis, Aramaic, Russian, Slavonic, etc. In each of these, different expressions and gestures have been adopted and approved by the Church. These gestures are much different from teh Roman Rite (e.g., bowing vs. genuflecting). This is not relativism, this is the mercy of God and the legitimate autority of the Church following the supreme law of the Church which is the “salus animarum” and communicating the dogmas and doctrines and scraments of the Church in obedience to her Lord.

    • John M. DeJak says:

      I should qualify my aforementioned comments by noting that the liturgies of the Eastern Rites are of ancient origin, and did not need indults per se.

  • I cannot agree. It is the same tired old mantra from the sixties–‘when whites do it, it’s racism, when we do it, it’s cool.’ It’s just not cool in the liturgy. We get to have some absolutes and this is one of them. There is no cultural background to consider.

    • John M. DeJak says:

      How do you square that with what the Church has always done through the centuries then? Consider the Melkites and Maronites? In point of fact, I do not recall any official authorization of any liturgical dance being allowed in the Roman Rite. Quite the contrary. Mother Church is prudent in such things. The issue of those dissidents who do otherwise–without official authorization–is a separate issue. Does the salvation of souls come into this at all, in your view, Janet?

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