Lord of the Dance
In my previous post, I expressed utter delight at the praise dancers who carried forth the incense and Book of the Gospels at today's installation in Belleville. As an aside, I snarked at how the cons would condemn the dancers and, as the self-anointed orthodoxy police know no limits, the congregation who applauded.
Lo and behold, the fury has poured itself into my inbox.... I should be surprised?
But let's talk about this as adults, without that trouble-making Lord-impersonator in the room.
Catholics should shudder whenever the universality of the church is marginalized by personal and geographical agendas. There's reason to be particularly skittish when faith is viewed not through a distinctly catholic (i.e. universal) perspective, when it is diluted and objectified by the imposition of a white, Western European cultural mentality onto a global church. This is particularly relevant on the question of liturgical dance and the broader issue of inculturation.
In his homily today, Braxton observed that "No two communities have ever answered the Gospel's question of 'Who do people say that I am?' in the exact same way." And that's a very rich statement. He's answered it by redoing the house.
But, seriously, the sense of the sacred of cultures which are not our own needs to be respected if the full potential of a truly universal church is to be realized in our time. For example, my diocese respects other cultures -- they keep a voodoo doll of me which is treated to daily acupuncture at the office.
Jeff, in his wisdom, asked "If we wonder, with Pope Benedict, whether dance is proper in the liturgy, does that make us vicious in your eyes?"
When one wonders, when one asks, there is no viciousness because there is room for dialogue, respecting the other side and the flexible status of an open question.
But when some -- acting on nothing but xenophobia and their own authority -- aim to close the question and promulgate their own (heterodox) doctrine, that is viciousness, that's anti-Catholicism (in the small "c" sense, too).
While Cardinal Ratzinger expressed a personal opinion on liturgical dance, we would be wise to recall the distinction between what Joseph Ratzinger wrote and said as an academic theologian and his formal pronouncements as prefect of the CDF. The two are not one and the same. Even he has made that clear, and he couldn't have published in his own name as prefect were that line not drawn.
We must remember, too, that we're dealing with a Pope who said in his Installation Homily that "My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church..." In that regard, many would do well to listen to the advice of the church's chief teacher as opposed to flocking to teachers who tickle their ears, like that Mother Spice down Sydneyside who wants to take us back to 1958 and hammer home the difference between black and white.
In our white, Western European milieu, we may not see dance as a sacred act and a manifestation of praise of God's creation. Therefore, it is not appropriate in a whitebread American context. But in Oceania, it is. Among African-Americans, it is. In Hawaii, it is. For Native Americans, it is -- and the list goes on. What's so heterodox about celebrating the power of God within the validity of the norms? Even Chainsaw Frank DiLorenzo -- who got the Holy See to reverse a decision against liturgical hula and routinely wore leis over his chasuble -- has no qualms with it.
I'm not keen to disenfranchise vast swaths of this church, nor denigrate the valid and beautiful cultural contributions they bring to our table. If anyone else is, go ahead -- but just know that ethnocentrism jams the notion of communio into the shredder.
The church is alive, the church is young only when we embrace it with the openness and enthusiasm of life and of youth. And as youth are uniquely keen on discovering, there is a world, and a Church, elsewhere.
As always, the comment board is open. Speak up!