There’s nothing like a fun video to highlight some issues we as Catholics still have in understanding our faith. If you missed the drama a few weeks ago about a couple of priests sharing the joy of dancing, please consider yourself lucky. Simply summarized, a large number of people vastly opposed priests dancing (not together, mind you, in case that wasn’t clear), felt it was a scandal, and voiced their opinions in the comments to the video. The negative reactions varied from a soft ‘I don’t think I agree with that,’ to a hard-lined ‘this is Satan’s influence!’ (paraphrased, but not much). There were also a good many positive comments, and a very good rebuttal of the negative comments was written by a priest, but by far the comments led one to wonder what exactly was going on in the video. Is it a scandal?
While this is a recent incident, it is by no means the first. Or the last. Catholics everywhere have varying interpretations of what we consider sacred and profane and how that is supposed to look in a faith-filled life.
What’s a Scandal? What’s Profane?
We’re gonna clarify a few of our terms before going forward:
Sacred is that which is set apart from the ordinary
Profane is that which is ordinary
Sacrilege is the violation of that which is sacred (object or person) (CCC 2120)
Scandal is when one leads another (through attitude or behaviour) into evil (CCC 2284)
Sordid is that which is vile
Did you ever think these words might have such interesting application? Neither did I.
Let’s take the example of priests dancing and hold them up to these definitions.
Is it sacred?
This would depend on the person, place, or thing that is sacred. I assume the argument would be referring to priests as sacred. Are they? We can look to the Catechism, which tells us that through ordination priests receive a special grace of the Holy Spirit which changes them (ontologically), that ordination enables them to act as a representative of Christ as priest, prophet and king (article 1581). Several other references make note of the interior change granted to priests so that they can be enabled to use sacred power, but the Catechism (and Lumen Gentium) are silent when referring to priests as a different kind of sacred than the rest of us.
So are they sacred? As much as all the baptised are, yes.
Is it profane?
In this situation, dancing is an ordinary thing to do. Yes. It is profane. But “profane” in this sense isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Is it sacrilegious?
Are the priests, who are no more or less sacred than the rest of us, violating that which is sacred? No. They are neither violating the ministerial priesthood nor the priesthood of all believers by dancing. Just as neither a priest who swims, nor a priest who creates microphones from scratch, nor a nun who competes in a famous singing talent show violate something sacred. Now, if the priest had been dancing like this during Mass, that might be cause for concern.
Is it scandalous?
Are these priests who dance leading others, by their attitudes or behaviours, into evil?
HA! Good gravy, I can hardly write this response without laughing. BUT this is where it gets interesting because the question comes to this: do you believe dancing is evil? This is a personal question, and if you believe that dancing is evil, perhaps it would be a good occasion to make an appointment to talk with your priest about this. I would agree that certain types of dancing are not appropriate for any of the baptized to be doing (e.g. dances that objectify bodies, the like of which you see in many a music video these days), but not all dancing is bad or sinful. And in watching the video, that is hardly what is going on. It certainly isn’t leading anyone into evil.
Is it sordid?
Is this an act that would be considered vile? No. It is not. Dancing is not vile. Vile what we think of when we think of occult practices and things leading people into evil. The dancing in this video is far from that.
How do we figure it out?
Perhaps one of the more interesting questions to reflect upon is ‘Why does this bother me so much?’ Truly, the interior state of ourselves is what becomes our rose-coloured glasses to the world outside. If I have negative thoughts about myself, believe that everyone tells me that I’m horrible, that I can’t enjoy life, that it’s all sin and we have to atone, atone, atone, then I am going to reflect that in how I view the world. If I see the goodness that God has given us finite creatures in my very being, if I remember that we are all beloved children of God, that each of us is a unique creation to the Father, then the world I view outside of myself is different and this will reflect how I interpret the world. Unfortunately, our world is not only black and white, but also many, many shades of grey. We must be discerning in knowing from where our outrage stems. Leading people to thinking something is scandalous when it rightly isn’t might (might!) be scandalous itself if it leads others to reject God’s good and joyful gifts.
We must ask ourselves ‘what is my interior motivation?’ This is not to sweep inherently evil acts under the carpet, but it does provide an opportunity for us to change ourselves to see us, to see the world, more as God sees it. God did make the world good, and humans very good. It is at the core of our Catholic being to know that we are inherently good. None of us is worthy to be children of God, yet, here we are, blessed beyond measure. Giving thanks to God brings glory, and who’s to say dancing can’t be a part of the thankfulness?
Celebrated author and radio show host Hallie Lord interviews Fr. Kyle Manno, one of the dancing priests, on her weekly Sirius XM radio show. If you’d like to take a listen, you can check it out here (at about 1 minute in).
Copyright 2017 Jane Korvemaker