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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 18 Dec 2001

dance QUESTION from John Barkley May 21, 1999
Guess you never watched Footloose. It must be nice that you can avoid a document of the NCCB on liturgy and rely instead on a newsletter. When the pope visited Phoenix we had not only liturgical dance but also native american dance in the procession. Liturgy is the prayer of the people. My family was honored that my daughter was able to dance at St. Helen's Church, Glendate, Arizona, on Easter. She and her friends have studied dance for 10 years and their grace and movement added greatly to the liturgy. David and all the House of Israel danced before Yahweh with all their might, singing to the accompaniment of lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals. 2 Sam. 6: 5 ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on May 21, 1999
Dear Mr. Barkley, Thank you for your charitable comments. That you reside in the Diocese that is the birthplace of the Lifeteen Mass and various other liturgical abominations comes to me as no great surprise. I don't recall seeing liturgical dance during a Papal Mass -- EVER. Religious dance has always been done outside of the liturgy in accordance with liturgical law. I don't rely on a newsletter but on the authoritative instructions handed down to us by competent authority. The NCCB newsletter did nothing more than to PROMULGATE an authoritative MAGISTERIAL instruction. In the hierarchy of God's Church the Bishops Conference is still subordinate to the Vatican. Furthermore, on March 29, 1994 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the fourth instruction for the right application of the conciliar constitution on the; INCULTURATION AND THE ROMAN LITURGY. In this authoritative document we find the following instructions. 36. The process of inculturation should maintain the substantial unity of the Roman rite. This unity is currently expressed in the typical editions of liturgical books, published by authority of the supreme pontiff and in the liturgical books approved by the episcopal conferences for their areas and confirmed by the Apostolic See. The work of inculturation does not foresee the creation of new families of rites; inculturation responds to the needs of a particular culture and leads to adaptations which still remain part of the Roman rite. 37. ADAPTATIONS OF THE ROMAN RITE, EVEN IN THE FIELD OF INCULTURATION, DEPEND COMPLETELY ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH. THIS AUTHORITY BELONGS TO THE APOSTOLIC SEE, WHICH EXERCISES IS THROUGH THE CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS. . . INCULTURATION IS NOT LEFT TO THE PERSONAL INITIATIVE OF CELEBRANTS OR TO THE COLLECTIVE INITIATIVE OF AN ASSEMBLY. (Pay particular attention to the next paragraph.) LIKEWISE CONCESSIONS GRANTED TO ONE REGION CANNOT BE EXTENDED TO OTHER REGIONS WITHOUT NECESSARY AUTHORIZATION, EVEN IF AN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE CONSIDERS THAT THERE ARE SUFFICIENT REASONS FOR ADOPTING SUCH MEASURES IN IT'S OWN AREA. 42. Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by handclapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance. The introduction of devotional practices into liturgical celebrations under the pretext of inculturation cannot be allowed because by its nature, (the liturgy) is superior to them. 46. Innovations should only be made when the good of the church genuinely and certainly requires them; care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. This norm was given in the constitution in relation to the restoration of the liturgy, and it also applies, in due measure, to the inculturation of the Roman rite. In this field changes need to be gradual and adequate explanation given in order to avoid the danger of rejection or simply an artificial grafting onto previous forms. Procedure 65. The episcopal conference will examine what has to be modified in liturgical celebrations because of the traditions and mentality of peoples. It will ask the national or regional liturgical commission to study the matter and examine the different aspects of the elements of local culture and their eventual inclusion in the liturgical celebrations. The commission is to ensure that it receives the appropriate expert advice. It may be sometimes opportune to ask the advice of members of non-Christian religions about the religious or civil value of this or that element. If the situation requires it, this preliminary examination will be made in collaboration with the episcopal conferences of neighboring countries or those with the same culture. 66. THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE WILL PRESENT THE PROPOSAL TO THE CONGREGATION BEFORE ANY EXPERIMENTATION TAKES PLACE. The presentation should include a description of the innovations proposed, the reasons for their adoption, the criteria used, the times and places chosen for a preliminary experiment and an indication which groups will make it, and finally the acts of the discussion and the vote of the conference. After an examination of the proposal carried out together by the episcopal conference and the congregation, the latter will grant the episcopal conference a faculty to make an experiment for a definite period of time, where this is appropriate. (To date no such faculty has been granted for liturgical dance.) 67. The episcopal conference will supervise the process of experimentation, normally with the help of the national or regional liturgical commission. The conference will also take care to ensure that the experimentation does not exceed the limits of time and place that were fixed. It will also ensure pastors and the faithful know about the limited and provisional nature of the experiment, and it will not give it publicity of a sort which could have an effect on the liturgical practice of the country. At the end of the period of experimentation, the episcopal conference will decide whether it matches up to the goal that was proposed or whether it needs revision, and it will communicate its conclusions to the congregation along with full information about the experiment. 68. After examining the dossier, the congregation will issue a decree giving its consent, possibly with some qualifications, so that the changes can be introduced into the territory covered by the episcopal conference. (Such a decree does not exist.) Rome has been very clear and consistent, yet unfortunately many still wish to go their own way. In some unfortunate cases great irreverence has been forced on us in the name of relevance in the liturgy. To say the least, the result is often confusing to the average Catholic and outright scandalous. The innovations are usually accepted in silence by most for fear of seeming presumptuous, ignorant or stiff. When questions are asked, the answers are usually vague, misleading or simply ignored. The Mass is not the place to watch our kids do a dance recital -- the Mass is not entertainment -- dance recitals should take place OUTSIDE THE MASS. This forum is not for debate. I will not debate this issue here - it isn't even open for debate, Rome has spoken. . . and that's good enough for me (and a billion of my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters throughout the world). I am always available for private discussion -- I will not risk scandal to the Church by arguing with another Catholic in a public forum over an issue of obedience to Magisterial authority. Please pray with me for peace, unity, humility and obedience. Sincerely in Christ Jesus, John Miskell
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