“Truly children are a gift from the Lord;
the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3).
OUR dear brother priests, Catholic physicians and health care workers, government officials and employees, educators and fellow Church
While we would have wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the RH Law (Republic Act No. 10354), we must now contend with the fact that it has ruled rather to strike down important provisions of the law in deciding Imbong v. Ochoa, G.R. 204819 (April 8, 2014) and companion cases.
It is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our Catholics who, as health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, medical aides, medical technologists, etc.), are employed in health facilities, whether public or private, so that they may know what their rights are under the law as passed upon by the High Court. The same duty is owed to our Catholic government officials and employees who, in the discharge of their public duties, may be asked to enforce the RH Law. The Supreme Court majority opinion alone is 104 pages long and many may not have the patience nor the skill to make their way through the legal argumentation involved.
As teachers of the faith and morality, assisted by our legal experts, we are presenting an outline of the salient points in the Supreme Court decision which we think may be helpful for our pastoral ministry and discernment:
1. The Supreme Court points out that the whole idea of contraception (as the means to control population growth) runs through the RH Law. It is in fact the governing and overarching principle of the RH Law. Other provisions such as skilled birth attendance, maternal care including pre- and post-natal services, prevention and management of sexually-related diseases and sicknesses are already provided for in the Magna Carta for Women. In rendering its decision in the Imbong case, the Court affirms the principles of “no-abortion” and “no-coercion” in the adoption of any family planning method.
2. The right to life is grounded on natural law and is inherent in a person, and therefore not a creation of, or dependent upon a particular law, custom or belief. The right to life precedes and transcends any authority or the laws of men.
3. Abortifacients are prohibited by the RH Law. An abortifacient is any drug or device that: a) induces abortion; or b) induces the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb; or c) prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and to be implanted in the mother’s womb.
In this regard, it is important to point out that the Supreme Court has invalidated two related provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law for inserting the modifier ‘primarily’ in the definitions of “abortifacient” and “contraceptive”. The Court notes that the word “primarily” (which is not found in the RH Law itself) would HAVE INTRODUCED THE SURREPTITIOUS INTRODUCTION OF DRUGS AND DEVICES THAT, THOUGH PRIMARILY NOT ABORTIFACIENT, WERE ALSO ABORTIFACIENT IN USE AND IN EFFECT. The Court clarifies that, consistent with the no-abortion spirit of the RH Law, even contraceptives that have no such primary intention, but have the secondary effect of destroying the fetus or preventing nidation (attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall), should be considered as abortifacients and are, therefore, banned.
4. No contraceptive that harms or destroys the life of the unborn from conception or fertilization, either as a primary or secondary effect, can be allowed under the law, even if it be advertised, categorized, distributed and announced as a contraceptive. The determining factor therefore is whether or not the supposed contraceptive also prevents nidation, or the attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall, or destroys the zygote, embryo, blastocyst or fetus. If it does, then it cannot be allowed under the law.
5. In the distribution by the Department of Health of contraceptive drugs and devices, the provisions of an existing law, R.A. 4729, must be complied with. Said law makes it unlawful for any person, partnership or corporation to sell, dispense or otherwise distribute, whether for or without consideration, any contraceptive drug or device, unless such sale, dispensation or distribution is by a duly licensed drug store or pharmaceutical company and with the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.
TO OUR KNOWLEDGE, NO SINGLE CONTRACEPTIVE HAS YET BEEN SUBMITTED TO THE FDA PURSUANT TO THE RH LAW.
6. The Court expresses itself very strongly on the following point: “At this point, the Court is of the strong view that Congress cannot legislate that hormonal contraceptives and intra-uterine devices are safe and non-abortifacient. The first sentence of Section 9 that ordains their inclusion by the National Drug Formulary in the Essential Drug List (EDI), by using the mandatory ‘shall’ is to be construed as operative only after they have been tested, evaluated and approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). The FDA, not Congress, has the expertise to determine whether a particular hormonal contraceptive or intrauterine device is safe and non-abortifacient.” We urge our Catholic doctors, for example, the Association of Doctors for Life, to demand from the FDA the testing and evaluation of all contraceptive drugs and devices, including those that are already being presently sold and made available to the public, as to whether they are safe, legal, and non-abortifacient.
7. When a health care worker who objects, on religious or moral grounds, to contraceptives is compelled by the law to refer the patient seeking information on modern reproductive health products and services to another who may be willing to supply such information or services, this obligation to refer already burdens the objector to do something that his conscience forbids him to do. The premise of this holding is the inviolability of the human conscience.
Put more directly, when a health-care worker, whether practicing on his own or as part of a public or private healthcare facility, objects, on the basis of conscience, to artificial contraception, such a health-worker is NOT OBLIGED AND MAY REFUSE to refer a patient to anyone else (health-care worker or facility) from where the contraceptives may be obtained.
The Supreme Court observes that “though it has been said that the act of referral is an opt-out clause, it is, however, a false compromise because it makes pro-life health providers complicit in the performance of an act that they find morally repugnant or offensive.”
8. The same rule therefore applies to non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious groups and health care service providers. While, originally, Section 24 compelled such institutions, under pain of penalty, to refer patients to facilities or institutions that can render contraceptive services, the Court struck down this COMPULSORY REFERRAL as UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
9. Section 5.24 of the RH – IRR reads: “Provided, that skilled health professionals such as provincial city or municipal health officers, chiefs of hospitals, head nurses, supervising midwives, among others who by virtue of their office are specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the RPRH Act and these rules cannot be considered as conscientious objectors.”
THE COURT RULES THAT THIS SECTION OF THE IRR IS DISCRIMINATORY AND IN VIOLATION OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the Constitution. What this means therefore is that the right to conscientious objection can be claimed and exercised even by health-care workers in the employ of the government. Obviously, Catholics should not, on moral grounds, seek employment in the very government agencies that promote artificial contraception. But if circumstances compelled them to be employed in such agencies, or if they were already employees at the time the agencies adopted a pro-RH policy, said Catholics should be aware that they cannot be forced to promote, distribute or dispense artificial contraceptives against their religious or moral conviction.
10. The accommodation granted the conscientious objector, however, does not extend to emergency cases, as when the mother’s life is in danger. When a patient, for example, is rushed to the emergency room who has, with the help of a backstreet abortionist, commenced the abortion procedure that is botched, although the fetus has already been destroyed, with the result that she is bleeding profusely, the health-care providers cannot refuse intervention or treatment on the ground of conscientious objection but must take all steps necessary to save the life of the mother. This exception is based on natural law, which calls for the preservation of human life.
11. FAITHFUL TO THE STATE POLICY TO PROTECT THE FAMILY, the Court has ruled that when a married person seeks an irreversible form of contraception (vasectomy and tubal ligation provide the most ready examples), BOTH SPOUSES must give their consent, and when the spouses disagree, the procedure may not be performed. This is in marked contrast to the original provision of the law that would have allowed the choice of the person who was to undergo the procedure to make the final call. But this, the Supreme Court rightly rules, would have directly eroded family cohesion that the Constitution obligates the State to protect and to promote.
12. The Court also emphatically holds that EVEN IF THE MINOR IS ALREADY A PARENT OR HAS HAD A MISCARRIAGE, she will still need the consent of her parents in order to receive surgical or non-surgical family planning services. The Court reasons that parental authority over the minor is not lost by the incidence of a miscarriage or premature parenthood.
“It is precisely in such situations when a minor parent needs the comfort, care, advice and guidance of her own parents. The State cannot replace her natural mother and father when it comes to providing her needs and comfort. To say that their consent is no longer relevant is clearly anti-family. It does not promote unity in the family. It is an affront to the constitutional mandate to protect and to strengthen the family as an inviolable social institution.”
By way of an exception, the Court upholds the right of the minor to receive information about family planning services, and to undergo emergency surgical procedures in life-threatening situations.
13. The Court recognizes the right of private educational institutions to be excluded from the mandatory reproductive health program under Section 14, on the ground of the recognition of the academic freedom of private educational institutions especially with respect to religious instruction. Our Catholic schools then are not obliged to propagate the reproductive health curriculum of the government, although, consistent with church teaching, they must prepare our youngsters to be responsible parents.
14. Our Catholic brethren employed in the different local government units and performing non-medical functions should also be informed that they have the right not to support or participate in the implementation of reproductive health program, based on religious or ethical ground. The Supreme Court has voided the provision in the RH Law that compels them to implement the Law regardless of their religious or ethical beliefs.
15. Significantly, the Court says: “Be that as it may, it bears reiterating that the RH Law is a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures xxx All the same, the principle of ‘no abortion’ and ‘non-coercion’ in the adoption of any family planning method should be maintained.”
The salutary measures taken by the Supreme Court to strike down what it found to be the constitutionally infirm provisions of this dangerous law will be for naught unless we pass on this necessary information to our Catholic brethren who are impacted by the law.
It is therefore strongly suggested that each diocese organize seminars and symposia at which our Catholics employed or exercising their professions in hospitals, clinics and similar facilities, public or private, and those working in local government units whose functions may involve the implementation and promotion of the RH Law, are in attendance and where they may receive proper instruction on this important decision of the Supreme Court and their rights following from the said ruling.
It is good to keep in mind that the RH Law also mandates the government to promote and support Natural Family Planning, particularly if this is demanded by local communities.
The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life as well at the CBCP Legal Office will be available to give formation seminars in the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions upon the invitation of the bishops. May Mary Mother of Life guide our every step in protecting the dignity of human life and protecting every human life from harm! “Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
July 7, 2014
Di ko pa nabasa lahat ng article mo, pero malaking tulong ito na mapanumbalik ang ating pananampalataya hindi bilang pagiging katoliko kung di ay ang pagkakaroon ng ugnayan sa ating panginoong jesucristo marami kasing tao na gaya ko minsan na nalilito, pero kung talagang susuriin lang mabuti at bibigyan ng panahon ay magkakaroon ng linaw sa mga tanong na hindi naintindihan at naunawan, masyadong malawak kasi ang catholic faith na kailangan mo talagang makinig at magsaliksik sabi nga ng isa kong ka-brother, si san pedro ang unang pope na nagtayo ng ating simbahan na pinako sa krus nang pabaliktad, which is nasa bible naman talaga kaya simula nung una pa lang na itinayo ang catholic church magpahangga ngayon ay nananatili pa rin matatag ang ating simbahan o sambahan na binigay sa atin ng panginoong jesus upang maging tulay sa ating pakikipag-unayan sa kanya. Naway bigyan ka pa ng sapat na kaalaman upang masagot ang mga tanong sa mga taong naguguluhan ang kanilang isip dahil lang sa pakikinig sa iba at naway magkaroon ng linaw ang bawat isa, lumawak pa sana itong blog mo hanggang sa mga susunod na generation upang maging daan sa ating pakikipag-ugnayan sa diyos.
god bless us all…
Marami pong salamat sir o ma’am.
May correction lang po ako, si San Pedro ang unang Santo Papa, siya ang batong pinagtayuan ng Santa Iglesia (Mateo 16:18).
Ang nagtayo ay ang Panginoong Jesus sa ibabaw ng bato na si Pedro. Hindi po si San Pedro ang nagtayo. Ang Panginoong Jesus mismo.
At kaya matibay ang Santa Iglesia ay dahil ang Panginoong Jesus na nagtayo ay Diyos na nagkatawang Tao.
Para po sa karagdagang paliwanag paki-click po ito…
Maraming salamat po ulit sa pagbabasa at pagkokomento. God Bless po!
Sunday, March 16, 2014
by Ben Yanke
A close friend of mine and my Pastor, Fr. Richard Heilman, brings us our guest post for today on the questionable origins of communion in the hand. This was Father’s homily today which he adapted into a post for NLM. He compiled most of this from various articles and sources. Fr. Heilman is a priest of the Diocese of Madison, WI.
This weekend we had our first Masses with the new Communion rail. After one of these Masses I was talking with one of the old guard parishioners (great guy), and he loved the rails. He told me that “years ago” (I love that expression), they had a Parish Council meeting, and Fr. X wanted to remove the side altars (along with many other alterations), in this beautiful church. The old guard parishioner said, “It was a hard fought battle that night, but we wore him down and he did only minor alterations.” I said, “My … how times have changed … that priest got criticized for trying to remove sacredness … now I’m getting criticized for trying to bring it back.”
Since we were celebrating our new Communion rails, and the Gospel saw Peter, James and John fall prostrate before the presence of God – I deemed it a perfect time to shed some light on one of those post-Vatican II innovations – Communion in the hand while standing. We began with a little history lesson …
An Indult Born Out of Disobedience
The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand first began to spread in Catholic circles during the early 1960s, primarily in Holland. Shortly after Vatican II, due to the escalating abuses in certain non-English speaking countries (Holland, Belgium, France and Germany), Pope Paul VI took a survey of the world’s bishops to ascertain their opinions on the subject. On May 28, 1969 the Congregation for Divine Worship issued Memoriale Domini, which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.” After he had considered the observation and the counsel of the bishops, the Supreme Pontiff judged that the long-received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed. The Apostolic See then strongly urged bishops, priests and the laity to zealously observe this law out of concern for the common good of the Church.
Despite the vote, in 1969 Pope Paul VI decided to strike a compromise with his disobedient bishops on the continent. Given “the gravity of the matter,” the pope would not authorize Communion in the hand. He was, however, open to bestowing an indult – an exception to the law – under certain conditions: first, an indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice; second, the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.” Beyond this, the Holy See set down seven regulations concerning communion in the hand; failure to maintain these regulations could result in the loss of the indult. The first three regulations concerned: 1) respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue), 2) maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist, and 3) strengthening the laity’s faith in the real presence.
So how did Communion in the hand come to America?
In 1975 and again in 1976, Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) attempted in vain to garner two-thirds of the bishops to vote in favor of receiving Communion in the hand. The following year – which coincided with the end of Bernardin’s term as president – brought one final attempt. Bernadin appointed Archbishop Quinn, who became Bernardin’s immediate successor as NCCB president, to be the chief lobbyist for Communion in the hand. During the proceedings a brave bishop requested a survey of the bishops be taken – this survey would ask each bishop whether or not Communion in the hand was widely practiced in his diocese, for without the practice’s current wide-use the first condition of the indult would not be satisfied.
*Of course, everyone knew that Communion in the hand was not a previously established practice in the United States.
Though his request was seconded and supported in writing by five other bishops, Bernardin had the motion dismissed as “out of order.” The bishops then voted … only to once more fall short of the two-thirds majority. This, however, did not end the matter. Bernardin decided to (unlawfully) begin gathering “absentee votes” from any bishop he could find – including retired bishops who no longer administered any dioceses. Consequently, the number was adjusted to meet the two-thirds majority.
Pope Paul VI’s Regulations – Have they been met?
So, what about Pope Paul VI’s regulations that could result in the loss of the indult?
1) Respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue)
- Reports are now widespread of priests refusing Communion to those who wish to receive kneeling and on the tongue. Even reports of priests berating people for this. A friend of mine said he was traveling and attended Mass where he proceeded to kneel and indicate that he wished to receive on the tongue. The minister of Holy Communion refused and ended up walking away from him. He remained. Finally, the priest came over and said, “Get up son, we don’t do it that way here.” My friend said, “So, you are refusing me Communion?” The priest said, “Yes I am.” He got up, walked out and reported him to the chancery. It is a severe infraction against canon law for any priest to do this.
2) Maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist
- While I can relate to many of the following, here is a testimony from a Deacon:
- I’ve watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.
- At least four or five times a year, I have to stop someone who just takes the host and wanders away with it and ask them to consume it on the spot.
- Once or twice a month I encounter the droppers. Many are well-intentioned folks who somewhere, somehow drop the host or it slides out of their hands and Jesus tumbles to the floor.
- I’ve found the Eucharist in a hymnal, under a pew, in the bathroom and in the parking lot.
The Vatican does not allow communion in the hand … one reason is because tourists were taking the Holy Eucharist home as a souvenir of their trip to Rome.
Not too long ago, I was alerted to someone who did not consume the Host. After Mass I confronted the young man, and he pulled it out of his shirt pocket. It seems he wasn’t Catholic and didn’t believe, and so didn’t know what to do. But, I am very worried these days, with the rise of satanic cults who use the Eucharist in their rites. In fact, someone shared this story of his youth, as he admitted these satanic cults are everywhere now …
When I was in junior high I started hanging out and getting high with some of my older brothers’ friends. They would “play around” with ouija boards and tarot cards. They would get dropped off at “youth group” at church – go in the front door and out the back into the woods for sex, drugs, and booze. They would brand each other with pentagram rings and even sacrifice small animals. I never participated in it – cause I was the “little brother” – but they would talk about the Black Mass all the time. There was an older guy – our dealer – in his late twenties who claimed to be a wizard and showed us his pyx (I didn’t know what it was at the time) that he would use, because the priest at the Catholic Church he went to wouldn’t pay much attention, “well, they have a pyx, they must be legit!” He even said he could find hosts after most Masses on the floor or sometimes between hymnal pages, like bookmarks. I remember that, when he opened it to show us, he told us it was Jesus and that we were gonna “have a party” with him … well, I chickened out and went back to “youth” group – a couple nights later…our friend, after the “Jesus party” with the “wizard,” decapitated his sleeping aunt with a samurai sword because he “heard voices” telling him to … she was a regular Mass-attending woman; the only one left in the family. He’s locked up in a mental institution for life. When I started learning about Catholicism, I always remembered that awful time, and couldn’t – can’t – shake the feeling that my friend opened himself up to demonic possession by participating in the Black Mass that night…there were no drugs in his system when they arrested him that night.”
3) Strengthening the laity’s faith in the Real Presence:
- In 1950, 87% believed in the Real Presence. Today, that number has plummeted to a mere 34%. The abusive and hurried manner in which the practice of Communion in the hand was imposed after Vatican II lead to a widespread lack of reverence for the Eucharist and caused great pain for many in the Church. It disoriented many people, who with real justification — especially in light of the recent and overwhelming loss of faith in the Eucharist as the real presence — feared that the very heart of Catholic belief had been compromised.
So, we see that Pope Paul VI’s regulations for maintaining the temporary indult are not even close to being realized.
Scholars and Saints Speak
Pope Benedict XVI, has noted that kneeling is “an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.” He reminds us that “the word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own liturgy.”
In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict speaks of a “story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”
Why Receive on the tongue?
Despite the widespread practice of Communion in the hand, the universal discipline of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue has not changed. A bishop, for example, may forbid the practice of Communion in the hand but not the practice of Communion on the tongue. The Church strongly encourages the latter but not the former. With respect to Communion in the hand, the Church speaks only in a cautionary tone because of the many abuses that often accompany this practice.
St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, with respect to Communion in the hand … that reverence demands that only what has been consecrated should touch the Blessed Sacrament. He writes:
The dispensing of Christ’s body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because . . . he consecrates in the person of Christ . . . Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people’s gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence toward this sacrament nothing touches it but what is consecrated, hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it, except from necessity — for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency.
In his apostolic letter Dominicae Cenae, Pope John Paul II also states: “How eloquent, therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary. To touch the sacred species, and to distribute them with their own hands, is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.”
Mother Teresa reportedly said, “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.” Even the great Pope John Paul II reportedly said: “There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it.”
Become less so that you can then become more.
Communion on the tongue helps to foster a proper sense of reverence and piety. To step up to a communion rail, and kneel, and receive on the tongue, is an act of utter and unabashed humility. In that posture to receive the Body of Christ, you become less so that you can then become more. It requires a submission of will and clear knowledge of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what is about to happen to you.
Frankly, we should not only be humbled, but intimidated enough to ask ourselves if we are really spiritually ready to partake of the sacrament. Kneeling means you can’t just go up and receive without knowing how it’s properly done. It demands not only a sense of focus and purpose, but also something else, something that has eluded our worship for two generations.
It demands a sense of the sacred. Just like Peter, James and John before our Transfigured Lord, it challenges us to kneel before wonder. It insists that we not only fully understand what is happening, but that we fully appreciate the breathtaking generosity behind it. It asks us to be mindful of what “Eucharist” really means: Thanksgiving.
The following essay appeared in “Notitiae” 11 (1975) 202-205, and is labeled as a “qualified and authoritative sketch.” It is the mind of the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship (presently called Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) that this article is to be considered “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.” Therefore, it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship. (This English translation first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82).
THE RELIGIOUS DANCE, AN EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL JOY
The dance can be an art: a synthesis of the measured arts (music and poetry) and the spatial arts (architecture, sculpture, painting).
As an art which, by means of the body, expresses human feelings, the dance is especially adapted to signify joy.
Thus, among the mystics, we find intervals of dancing as an expression of the fullness of their love of God. Recall the cases of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, St. Gerard Majella.
When the Angelic Doctor wished to represent paradise, he represented it as a dance executed by angels and saints.
The dance can turn into prayer which expresses itself with a movement which engages the whole being, soul and body. Generally, when the spirit raises itself to God in prayer, it also involves the body.
One can speak of the prayer of the body. This can express its praise, it petition with movements, just as is said of the stars which by their evolution praise their Creator (cf. Baruch 3:34).
Various examples of this type of prayer are had in the Old Testament.
This holds true especially for primitive peoples. They express their religious sentiment with rhythmic movements.
Among them, when there is a question of worship, the spoken word becomes a chant, and the gesture of going or walking towards the divinity transforms itself into a dance step.
Among the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers and in the conciliar texts there is mention of dancing, an evaluation of it, a comment on the biblical text in which there is an allusion to the dance; more frequently there is a condemnation of profane dances and the disorders to which the dances give rise.
In liturgical texts, there are at times allusions to the dance of the angels and of the elect in paradise (cf. “Among the lilies thou dost feed, surrounded by dancing groups of virgins”) in order to express the “joy and the “jubilation” which will characterize eternity.
Dancing and Worship
The dance has never been made an integral part of the official worhship of the Latin Church.
If local churches have accepted the dance, sometimes even in the church building, that was on the occasion of feasts in order to manifest sentiments of joy and devotion. But that always took place outside of liturgical services.
Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders. (Emphasis, kay Berto)
Actually, in favor of dance in the liturgy, an argument could be drawn from the passage of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in which are given the norms for adaptation of the liturgy to the character and the traditions of the various peoples:
“In matters which do not affect the faith or the well-being of an entire community, the Church does not wish, even in the Liturgy, to impose a rigid uniformity; on the contrary, she respects and fosters the genius and talents of various races and people. Whatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she looks upon with benevolence and if possible keeps it intact, and sometimes even admits it into the Liturgy provided it accords with the genuine and authentic liturgical spirit.”
Theoretically, it could be deduced from that passage that certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship.
Nevertheless, two condition could not be prescinded from.
The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer.
The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as a gestre would have to be under its discipline.
Concretely: there are cultures in which this is possible insofar as dancing is still reflective of religious values and becomes a clear manifestation of them. Such is the case of the Ethiopians. In their culture, even today, there is the religious ritulalized dance, cleary distinct from the martial dance and from the amorous dance. The ritual dance is performed by priests and levites before beginning a ceremony and in the open are in front of the church. The dance accompanies the chanting of psalms during the procession. When the procession enters the church, then the chanting of the psalms is carried out with and accompanied by bodily movement.
The same thing is found in the Syriac liturgy by means of chanting of psalms.
In the Byzantine Liturgy, there is an extremely simplified dance on the occasion of a wedding when the crowned spouses make a circular revolution around the lectern together with the celebrant.
Such is the case of the Israelites: in the synagogue their prayer is accompanied by a continuous movement to recall the precept from tradition: “When you pray, do so with all your heart, and all your bones.” And for primitive peoples the same observation can be made.
However, the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the western culture.
Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure.
For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.
Neither can acceptance be had of the proposal to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because there would be presentation here also of a spectacle at which one would assist, while in the liturgy one of the norms from which one cannot prescind is that of participation.
Therefore, there is a great difference in cultures: what is well receieved in one culture cannot be taken on by another culture.
The traditional reserve of the seriousness of religious worship, and of the Latin worship in particular, must never be forgotton. (Emphasis, kay Berto)
If the proposal of the religious dance in the West is really to be made welcome, care will have to be taken that in its regard a place be found outside of the liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical. Moreover, the priests must always be excluded from the dance.
We can recall how much was derived from the presence of the Samoans at Rome for the missionary festival of 1971. At the end of the Mass, they carried out their dance in St. Peter’s square: and all were joyful.
. Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 37; C.L.D., 6, p. 44.
. In favor of the insertion of artistic dancing into the liturgy, reference can also be made to the text of Gaudium et spes, nn. 53, 57, 58. However, the cited texts speak of manifestation of culture in general, and of art which elevates with the true and beautiful. They do not speak of dancing in a specific manner. Dancing also can be an art. Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the conciliar Fathers, when they were speaking of art in the Council, had “in view” also the reality of dancing.
N. 62 of the said consitution, Gaudium et spes, can certainly not be appealed to in this instance. When such number speaks of the artistic forms and of their importance in the life of the Church, it intends to make reference to the artistic forms as relative to the sacred furnishings. The counterproof stands in the texts cited in the footnot: article 123 of the Constitution on the Liturgy and the allocution of Paul VI to the artists at Rome in 1964 (C.L.D., 6, pp. 64 and 735 respectively).
FROM THESE DIRECTIVES, from the NATIONAL CONFERENCE of CATHOLIC BISHOPS, all dancing, (ballet, children’s gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be “introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.” [NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (BISHOPS’ COMMITTEE on the LITURGY) NEWSLETTER. APRIL/MAY 1982.]