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Liturgical Abuses

Dance, liturgical

NOTE: There are Rites in the Church and local Roman Missals which do allow dance in the liturgy, see below. The Church in the West, is not one of them.


Considered one of the top 10 abuses by Catholic Answers, the CDW (Congregation of Divine Worship) published as essay in 1975 forbidding dance in the liturgy.


The essay was published in the CDW's publication "Notitiae." You can read the essay on the EWTN website here.

Some quotes: 

"The dance has never been made an integral part of the official worship of the Latin Church."

Liturgical ballet dancing at Mass; liturgical abuse
Red x indicating incorrect

Abuse: liturgical dance during Mass, including here during the Gloria. Screenshot source YouTube. Sign up to dance here.

"[...] 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."

"[...] it [dancing] 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."

In 2004, after the release of Redemptionis Sacramentum, EWTN's Father Edward McNamara answered a question about liturgical dancing. EWTN also has the text of Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J's entry from The Modern Catholic Dictionary. Read it here.  


In 2012, Fr. Anthony Ward, S.M. Undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments responded to a letter regarding the performance of  "liturgical dance and drama ministry" at a parish in the Philippines. The response letter, Prot. n. 544/12/L, says in part, "The liturgical law of the Roman Rite does not foresee the use of dance or drama within the Sacred Liturgy, unless particular legislation has been enacted by the Bishops' Conference and confirmed by the Holy See. Any other practice is to be considered an abuse. [....] Should the unlawful practices persist, the matter should be brought to the Bishop of the Diocese." You can see a jpg copy of the letter here

On June 26, 2022, Archbishop Emeritus Pedro Dean of the Archdiocese of Palo in Leyte, Philippines, gave a homily where he addressed liturgical dance and drama. In part, he said, "My dear brother, prayerfully and devoutly prepare the Mass. Carefully and faithfully observe the rubrics. Avoid extravagance & drama, like dancing, which often distracts not only the celebrant, but also the people themselves. Remember, remember, the Mass is a supreme act of worship, not an entertainment." You can hear more of what he said in a video clip on Buhay Liturhiya's Facebook page here:

Where Dance Is Allowed 

Particular legislation has been enacted and confirmed by the Holy See for the Zairean Rite or Zaire Use, the Congolese liturgy of the Diocese of Zaire. They have their own official Roman Missal, approved in 1998. It has elements from sub-Saharan African culture, which includes dance. See Wikipedia for more information. Patheos has an article about the rite, which is somewhat controversial. The article details some differences between the Latin Rite Roman Missal and the Zairean Roman Missal, including, "The celebrants and servers dance around the altar as a means of veneration." Read the article here:

A member of a public Facebook group, in response to a video of liturgical dancing, posted information and images from a local Indonesian Order of Mass from 2005, approved by the Congregation of Divine Worship. He wrote that the Introit says, "This procession is accompanied by singing and/or other appropriate activities, for example dancing." You can see his comments and images from their Roman Missal here and here.

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