Friday, June 13, 2003

Oh No, Not Again!

It appears as though the bishops (or at least a comittee of them) are trying again to dredge up Liturgical Dance from their box of "Bad Ideas Whose Time Should Never Come" at their meeting next week. Except for some discussion on Mark Shea's blog, there's been little attention paid to this. This could be because it's a relatively minor item on the bishops' agenda. Or it could be that a group of USCCB ecclesiats are trying to "slip through" something unnoticed, as has been attempted before regarding the liturgy. Which is the case, I don't know.

The locus of the issue this time is a paper (available for download here) by the founder of a dance company called Leaven, which is part of her self-described effort to "validate [Dance] as a desirable and appropriate form of liturgical art." This paper will be considered by the bishops at their meeting, and, in the words of Msgr. Moroney, the Executive Director of the USCCB Office of Liturgy, is "still on the 'front burner'".

Now, many people object to the use of liturgical dance because they don't want to see, as Mark Shea put it, "portly nuns with close-cropped iron grey Janet Reno hair, wearing sensible shoes and gallumphing up the aisle to the tune of some dreadful OCP hymn like "Anthem"". And indeed, the liturgical dance I have seen falls into the category of "gallumphing": Several years ago, on the occasion of a religious community's Jubilee Mass (this did not happen in my diocese of Kalamazoo), I and other Mass-goers were treated to the vision of about a dozen sturdily-built nuns in leotards and wrap-around skirts (thank God at least for those!) dancing up the aisle during the gospel procession, wafting about clay bowls of burning incense and twirling long streamers. To call this spectacle a "distraction" would be a colossal understatement.

The other variety of liturgical dance that I have seen is of the "cute" variety: This consists of girls between 8-14 years old twirling about in leotards, sometimes twirling streamers, or scattering flower petals, and "interpreting" one of the readings, or marking some symbolic event in their lives. The reaction to this is that a certain segment of women in the congregation sigh and say "Ahh, wasn't that cute!". I suppose to some eyes such displays are "cute", but the last time I checked, the Mass is supposed to be our worship of God through the re-presentation of Christ's eternal sacrifice, not an outlet for people to display their "cuteness".

Now, before some of you label me an art-hating Philistine, let me say that I have nothing against dance. I have gone to the ballet on numerous occasions, and have even gone to recitals of "modern" dance. Indeed, in college I dated a dancer, and consequently learned a little about it. One thing I learned is that much of what gets passed off as "liturgical dance" wouldn't pass the laugh test with serious dancers. If your liturgical dance was going to be performed by the Joffrey Ballet, you might have something to argue about, but saving that, please give me a break.

But apart from the issue of the quality or motivations of those advocating Liturgical Dance, to say that something is a "legitimate" art form does not mean that therefore it has a place in the Church's liturgy. For example, no form of art could be considered more "legitimate" than Homeric verse, such as the Iliad. Could you imagine a Mass which prominently featured readings of Epic tales in dactylic hexameter? The Leaven Dance Company seems to be serious about their art, and inded they may uphold the highest artistic standards. But that doesn't change the fact that dance is out of place in the liturgy of the Roman rite.

And the church has ruled more than once that dance is out of place, saying in a Notitiae on the liturgy in 1975 that dance "cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever..." It cannot be introduced because it is out of keeping with the dignity and austerity which characterizes the Roman rite. Dance is inherently a form of ecstatic expression, and as such it has always been regarded as suspect, because it turns liturgy from being "about" the objective worship of God into something focused on a subjective experience. I may going out on a limb here in saying this, but I think it is for this reason why dance is eschewed in the liturgies of practically all the Churches of apostolic origin.

The Church has made allowances for the possibility of dance being permitted in certain cultures where dance has a traditionally religious significance, such as in Africa. But even here I think caution needs to be observed, because in those cultures dance frequently also has an ecstatic, even Dionysian component. In many such cultures it is intricately bound up with animistic beliefs and rituals, and may even be connected to the cult of "posession" which characterizes some primitive religions.

In short, the Church has said there may be the possibility of permitting liturgical dance in some cultures under some circumstances, none of which remotely apply in the US, or the rest of the West. So why are the bishops still tergiversating about this? Wouldn't it be better, as Mark suggests, to help talented people use their art to glorify God in ways that are faithful to Catholic tradition?

Thrown Back Is One Year Old!

As of yesterday, that is. Things got pretty busy yesterday, and I wasn't able to blog on it.

Does the one-year anniversary still count in my case, seeing as I had to take two "time-outs" from blogging? Well, here is my first post, if you're interested in going down memory lane...

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Leave It To Blogspot!

To lose my entire blog! I entered a couple of posts, and hit "publish", and the result was an all-but-blank page.

Oddly enough, all my posts were visible in the Blogger editing window, but for some reason buried in the incomprehensibilities of Blogger, they didn't show up on the page.

I discovered that some sort of JavaScript error had corrupted the comment code in the template, so I had to reconstruct it.

All appears to be working normally again, including the comments.

In Case You Haven't Read It Yet

My article What's Wrong with Our Seminaries is now available on-line, at the Crisis Magazine website.

Have I Ever Mentioned...

What a good blog Catholic Light is? They've recently moved to a new server, so update your bookmarks!

Today there are two good posts, one by Sal Ravilla on how the "big tent" of the Democrats has become the "big brothel."

Canonist Pete Vere weighs in with an excellent post on the root cause of many, if most annulments: pre-marital sex. I can confirm the truth of Pete's assertion: My own experience in dealing with people seeking annulments is that in most cases the problems which led to the marriage's failure were apparent from the courtship. But the couple, blinded by the false feelings created by pre-marital sexual intimacy, was unwilling or unable to see those problems at the time. Many such people have said to me that they learned the hard way the truth of the Church's about sexuality. That's paying a very high price for knowledge.

Monday, June 09, 2003

The Single Most Absurd, Ridiculous Statement About Hillary's Book...

May be this howler uttered by Lisa Caputo, Hillary's former press secretary:

"She's quite candid in the book..." said Caputo.

To describe Hillary Clinton as "candid" in almost any public utterance beggars parody. This woman actually expects people to believe that she was taken by surprise by Bill's Oval Office infidelities:

"I could hardly breathe," the junior senator from New York wrote, describing her post-Lewinsky confrontation with her husband on August 15, 1998. "Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?' I was furious and getting more so by the second...I was dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged that I'd believed him at all," Hillary claimed.

Several years ago, I read David Brock's The Seduction of Hillary Rodham. Now, Brock wrote that book while he was making his way out of the conservative camp, so he was trying very hard to be sympathetic to Hillary. But even so, the portrait that emerges is that of a calculating, power-driven harridan, who made her deal with the devil (Bill) long before he became president.

It appeared ever more clearly as I read that book that at some point in college, as Hillary began to become politically active, she had to make a decision between choosing Power or Principle. Then, and at every subsequent point in her life where she has had to make that choice, she has chosen Power. Her book is simply one more calculated effort along that trajectory.

The thing that amazes me is that there could be anyone who is incapable of seeing that. Longtime Democrat insider Susan Estrich sees it, and thinks it will be the Dems' undoing. For her candor she is being given the cold shoulder by other Dems.

Are there people who are actually fooled by the Clintons? Mesmerized, svengali-like, by their charm or aura?

Or is it that their followers and apologists, like the Clintons, are likewise motivated primarily by the Will to Power?

Mark Shea has commented that the Democrats have become the Party of Abortion[TM]. And I think that the embrace of abortion and the Will to Power are not unrelated. For what is abortion but the exercise of god-like power (life and death) over another person? Pro-aborts resort to dodges like "a fetus is not a human being" but they all know it's a dodge. The most honest pro-aborts, like Peter Singer, have admitted that the fetus is a human being, but they then come up with Mengele-inspired reasons for why it's OK for us to kill those human beings.

Was the Democrats' embrace of abortion the cause, or the effect, of its becoming the Party of The Will to Power[TM]? I don't know, and it may be a chicken-and-egg argument. But the party which has never heard of an abortion it wasn't OK with, and the party which is willing to swallow patent absurdities from Hillary, is the same party.

The Democrats, in their willingness to sacrifice all for the pursuit of Power, have become the party of Folly, and the chorus of adulation for Hillary's book is the object lesson in that transformation. But to anyone who is familiar with the Christian understanding of the human person, this isn't really a surprise, and can be explained by the Dems' concurrent transformation, at the national level, into the Party of Sin[TM]. That they have become such is really, for a Catholic, beyond dispute: They have embraced sin with respect to the homosexual agenda, they have embraced sin with respect to contraception, they have embraced sin with respect to population control, and they have embraced sin with regard to abortion.

Now, in saying that the Democrats have become the Party of Sin[TM] I am NOT saying (commentors take note!) that:

(a) Republicans (or socialists or libertarians, for that matter) never commit sins.
(b) The Democratic Party advocates NO policies or programs which Catholics can or should support.
(c) It is a sin to vote for any Democrat (though it may indeed be one to vote for particular dems).
(d) The Republican Party is ordained by God to be the instrument of His will.

What I am saying is that the Democratic Party, to an extent unprecedented in this nation's history, proposes, advocates, agitates, advances and enacts policies and programs that Catholics (and other orthodox Christians) can only describe as promoting, permitting, or even enjoining sin. And I am saying that the embrace of sin and the embrace of folly are related, because the embrace of sin is, in various forms, the embrace of folly. There is nothing so foolish as sin, because sin is self-destructive.

St. Thomas Aquinas explained that sin clouds the intellect: The more one committs sins and remains unrepentant, the more one's mind loses the ability to perceive reality clearly and make appropriate judgments about that reality. One reason for this is that we seek to justify our sins: in our heart we know we have done wrong, so we try to explain our sins away or make out that they really aren't sins at all. If we go too far down this path we can get to the point that we declare that our sins are really virtues. This habit of self-deception renders us progressively unable to make moral judgments, or indeed, right judgments about anything at all.

As Mark bluntly put it: "Sin makes you stupid."

Under this analysis, that the party that which made Moloch its god has become the party that can repeat Hillary's inanities with a straight face, shouldn't come as a surprise. Sin is folly, and that the Party of Sin[TM] should become the Party of Folly[TM] is practically inevitable. They will, eventually, go the way of all foolishness. But in the meantime, the deceptions and illusions they pepetuate have and will continue to create misery, despair, and death, for themselves and for us all.


I have reloaded smaller versions of my rocket launch pictures so they should be a little more manageable on the page, and should download more rapidly for those of you who aren't blessed with a broadband connection. I still haven't been able to do anything about the appearance of the pictures with old versions of Netscape. It appears that Netscape isn't interpreting the JavaScript properly, but I don't know how to fix that.