Dancing Bishops Greet the Pope (and Other Such Nonsense)

Even if I were somehow able to be convinced of Rome’s unique dogmas, stuff like the above is one of the main reasons I could never become a Roman Catholic. I have been told by Rome’s apologists that these kinds of things are really just “abuses” and that the “true” culture and worship of Rome shouldn’t be like this. But if a major, global-level Catholic event like World Youth Day (this video is from the 2013 WYD) has the successors to the Apostles themselves dancing like this for the Pope himself, what exactly is the real, official stuff? This seems pretty official to me.

I’ve known more than one person who converted to Roman Catholicism because of what he read and then later saw this sort of thing (or even just the rather bland form of Lutheran-style liturgics that passes for much of American Catholic worship) and subsequently left. I can understand if someone leaves a religion because of experiencing abuse (even while I would hope they would see past it to the non-abused form of that religion), but it’s hard to argue that the liturgics of Rome that one sees nearly everywhere are abuse, particularly when they are on worldwide display with the official sanction of the Vatican. Rome’s ecclesiology with its emphasis on the papacy makes it all the harder to make that argument convincing. If the Pope says it’s okay, one has a hard time arguing that it’s an abuse.

And one also has a hard time wondering how Rome would ever be able to go back to its ancient tradition of worship, which, as St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco once said, “is far older than any of her heresies.”

One can read more on this theme from Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy contributor Fr. John Whiteford at his post today: Unfortunate Trends in the Roman Catholic Church.

Update: This article previously indicated that the dancing bishops in the video were cardinals. We have been corrected that they mostly appear to be non-cardinal bishops.

Update 2: Here’s a similar reflection from a Lutheran perspective.

Update 3: Also of note is that the Catholic-turned-Orthodox-turned-Catholic lawyer Gabriel “Venuleius/Modestinus” Sanchez has roundly excoriated the temerity of this post and decried the author as a promulgator of “pulp theology” (we’re honored he’s a reader!) while pausing briefly to complain about people who have middle names.

Update 4: Here’s a video commentary from a Roman Catholic on this incident as well as the general culture of accommodation within Roman Catholicism.


  1. After viewing this, go click on Ad Orientem’s videos of the outdoor liturgy on the Feast of St Vladimir. The contrast is amazing.

    1. Meant to include that the contrast is greater after viewing the beach liturgy on Fr. John’s post.

  2. To be fair, I don’t think those are Cardinals, at least not all of them. Cardinals wear cardinal, not magenta… those are other bishops.

  3. It is infra dignitatem, and yes, ‘unfortunate’, but it was also *not* even pretending to be liturgical. Bishops are allowed to have a bit of fun, after all. And cardinals wear red.

    1. I didn’t write that this particular instance was liturgical (nor did Fr. John). But it is certainly part of a larger culture of this sort of thing, and that most certainly includes in the middle of liturgical services, including big public events with multiple bishops. Take a look at the videos on Fr. John’s post.

      As for the identification of these bishops as cardinals, that was corrected in the post.

  4. As a Mennonite Pastor who has appreciated much of what I read on you postings, I am not sure I can agree with you critique of church dignitaries dancing and doing hand gestures at greeting of the Pope in Brazil. When I saw this I thought the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:19-20 and Colossians 3:16-17 that we are to sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to the Lord. There is time solemnity and time for exuberant celebration in Christian Worship. I hope we can do both and offer our “sacrifices of praise” to our Lord and Savior.

    1. Coming from an entirely different worship culture, I can see why you’d say that. But I also would have to ask why you believe that, after centuries upon centuries of Christian worship and culture not including tacky pastiches of secular culture, it is suddenly appropriate? Where do we have synchronized silliness in the Scripture or in Church history? Even the early Revivalists and Pentecostals would probably have found this beneath the dignity of the worship of God.

      And what is it about the liturgical worship of historical Christianity that precludes singing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in the heart to the Lord? Was all that somehow lacking until the American 1970s came along?

  5. I’m kind of with Pastor Dennis above. I’m not sure when it became uncouth for Christians to dance, but I know the Bible is full of language regarding dancing. When King David danced before the Lord in his undergarments (he was a high official, even higher than these bishops) and his wife mocked him, God didn’t send a prophet to rebuke David, but rather struck his wife infertile. Creation both sings and dances before God, why can we not do the same without fear?

    1. David danced before the Lord, yes, but he did not then instruct that the people of Israel were to organize dances in the Tabernacle or other religious events, nor did his son Solomon do so for the Temple. Nor does one find it in the New Testament or subsequent history of the Church. The ecstatic moment David had in private, mystical joy before the Lord has never been taken as a public liturgical or religious directive in the history of either Judaism or Christianity. Why should it suddenly become one now?

      The mocking of David’s wife was not corrected because she criticized dance. It was because she contradicted a genuine experience of God by her husband.

      The theme we see in both the Old and New Testament, as well as throughout Church history, is that the Church’s worship and culture should be done “decently and in order,” not that we should organize public displays of silliness and claim to be modeling them after the private ecstasy of one man.

      This is not, by the way, an observation about dancing in general, but about making it part of the Church’s worship and general culture. It is one thing to have folk dances, dancing at weddings, etc. (though it should be noted that here Church history sometimes displays a certain reticence with, for instance, the traditional proscription against clergy dancing and even, in one period, in attending wedding feasts, which had gotten quite out of hand), but it is another entirely to make them church events, in the churches, in clerical clothing, etc.

      The question is not “when it became uncouth for Christians to dance,” but when it became couth (if I may) for Christians to put dancing into their churches.

      1. Fr Stephen, I certainly respect you and know that you are much more read than myself in pretty well every topic. I’ve read a lot of the early church fathers from the first two centuries and would agree there is nothing about dancing. I would assume that is because by the time of the apostles, the Jews no longer danced.

        In regards to worship and dance, Psalm 150 says, “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” The psalm opens up mentioning praise in the sanctuary, so I get the feeling that the psalm wasn’t written as instructions on how Jews should worship in the privacy of their homes.

        I have noticed that it seems the Orthodox Church frankly ignores/disregards most of the worship instructions found in the Psalms. I don’t know why. I come from a background of being a worship leader in non-denominational churches. I frankly don’t miss it as I feel it became more about entertaining and people pleasing than actually worshiping God. I’m not attempting to criticize the Church which I have just recently joined, I am simply making an observation that there seems to be a disconnect between what was written by the psalmists and the actual practices of second temple Judaism (which greatly influenced our liturgical structure).

        1. The Psalter is not a book of liturgical instructions, though it has a few notes here and there (e.g., selah, “to the chief musician,” etc.). Leviticus is such a book, though. So when asking why Christians might not follow liturgics hinted at in the Psalms, one has to wonder why they might not follow the liturgics explicitly given in the book that really is nearly all about liturgics. One may also ask why it is Christians do not follow all the kosher laws, either.

          I am not deeply studied in these things, but my sense is that some of these kinds of things we see in the Psalms about dancing, etc., are really not about the liturgical worship of the Tabernacle or Temple, though some may be. It’s possible there may have been musical instruments, for instance. But the problem with trying to reconstruct Jewish worship from what’s in the Psalms is that it’s not a book of liturgics. And the one book about liturgics in the Old Testament (a book of Moses, no less) doesn’t mention dancing as part of worship.

          That said, there was definitely a transformation of worship that occurred with the Church, and not only in the matter of not sacrificing animals any more. Worship becomes all a capella, for instance, but there are other things. Largely speaking, though, one finds far more similarity between Orthodox worship and pretty much everything described in the Bible as worship than one would when comparing the worship in the Bible to modern revivalist Protestantism.

          (And my first name is “Andrew,” by the way. “Stephen” is my middle name.)

      2. I think this is a great discussion, I had the same question as Jeremiah and was going to post on it, but then I saw he had already asked it. I have been curious about Jewish worship and what it was like. Did it ever involve instruments or dancing, or did these things mostly happen spontaneously outside of worship like with David? I have never really heard much on this. And I have seen videos on Orthodox services in Africa where they are dancing, do the bishops/priests there agree with this, or are they trying to stop it?

  6. I watched this video the other day, and it reminded me of my own experience: Reading Christopher Dawson, James J. Walsh, G.K.C., etc. I was on the edge of conversion from a fundamentalist background to the RCC, until I started visiting actual Catholic churches, and seeing what passes for Christianity in these parishes. Sad, for an institution with apostolic ties and with so rich a history to have fallen so far.

  7. It certainly grieves me, but what also grieves me is that someone would set all doctrinal reasoning aside and refuse to enter what might be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church simply because the liturgy of those regions immersed in Western liberal culture happens to be irreverent. After all, no council has ever claimed that the pope is infallible in setting disciplinary measures, including with regard to the liturgy; you’re seriously saying you’d turn your back on the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, believing him to be so, just because he had an unfortunate taste for acoustic guitar and minimalist architecture? I was entirely aware of what went on in most Roman churches before I converted to the RCC, and I joined anyway, because I knew it remained the true Church (and I did consider Orthodoxy on the way).

    1. It’s not just a matter of doctrinal reasoning, but of the actual results of that doctrinal reasoning. This is the kind of thing that development of doctrine, papal supremacy, etc., permits and even sanctions. This is the fruit of that tree. One can insist that a tree is healthy and good, but if its fruit is neither, then it does not matter how much human reason may attempt to prove. What is apparent is what has been revealed. That is, this kind of thing puts the lie to the claim that this is indeed the true Church, that the Pope of Rome truly is the unique successor to Peter, that Christ needs a vicar, etc.

      Anyway, I don’t see how Rome could convince me of her dogmas, even if she hadn’t thrown her ancient traditions on the trash heap. But even if she somehow could, the point of the Christian life is to draw nearer to God, and if one finds it simply impossible to do so because the means offered to do so actually drive one further away, one cannot really be blamed for looking elsewhere. One can believe something with the mind yet know it nevertheless not to be true.

      All that said, though, the proof in the pudding is in the eating. If prayer is bad, there’s really no point to any of it, then, is there? It seems to me that Roman Catholics are far too willing to separate worship from dogma. Not only can they really not be separated, but it’s in worship that one really lives. One can reason that the desert is really a lush land and perhaps be convinced of it, but if one is thirsty and starving because of want of water and food, that reasoning really isn’t worth terribly much, even if there are signs everywhere that there were once great civilizations there. It’s still a desert.

      1. That’s a good point, but there are plenty of opportunities to do better for those seeking to do so, thanks to Summorum Pontificum, etc., and if those seeking truer worship are prevented, they have recourse directly to Rome. Certainly, worship and dogma cannot be separated, but one can only get right worship from right dogma, and there is right worship for those willing to seek it out. (The Church has, after all, journeyed through deserts far more literal than this.)
        That which we see in the modern West, and in the Catholic Church, is the fruit of the “Reformation” (I’ve often thought Revolution would be more accurate), and though certain of its roots can be traced to the less fortunate parts of medieval Western theology, there is no more reason to characterise it as a necessary result of papal supremacy than there is to characterise papal supremacy as a necessary result of Eastern phyletism and doctrinal disunity.

        1. Why is it that the right worship for RCs has to be sought out? Are you really suggesting that the majority of RC parishes which have something else have the wrong dogma, while those who do it right have the right dogma? Either worship is a result of dogma or it isn’t. If the majority of RC parishes are worshiping wrongly, on what basis can you claim that the RCC has the right dogma?

          Yes, it may well be that the degradation of RC worship is the result of the Reformation’s influence, but if so, then why couldn’t the infallible papacy have stopped it? It’s not like this has all been done and the Pope is in the Vatican telling everyone to stop.

          Anyway, I did not say that RC worship is the “necessary result of papal supremacy,” but that it is permitted and sanctioned by it. There are numerous other heretical distortions of church life that have also been permitted and sanctioned by such a papacy, though not all are ascendent these days. And there are some which are indeed, if not necessary results, almost impossible to avoid, such as papal infallibility and the papal stewardship of indulgences.

          As for “Eastern phyletism and doctrinal disunity,” well, you’re really going to have to spell out what you mean by that shot in the dark. Ethnophyletism (the racial check in establishing bishoprics) has been condemned as a heresy and is not practiced anywhere in Orthodoxy, and all Orthodox believe in the same doctrine.

          Look, this stuff should be a major embarrassment for the RCC, and it should provoke some serious soul-searching. Telling the rest of the world that they just have to come in and put up with it and go hide in some “extraordinary form” conclave somewhere isn’t going to solve it. It’s high time y’all asked yourselves what’s wrong with the core dogma of the RCC such that these things aren’t just little aberrations here and there but have become the actual norm, sanctioned from top to bottom. The aberration now, sadly, is those who remember what it used to be like.

          The revisionist spirit has persisted in RCism for centuries. Y’all haven’t offered any reason why it might be stopping any time soon, so even if someone does convert, there is the real possibility that what RCIA taught them to believe and to practice today might get changed tomorrow. And no doubt, so will the worship, and I suspect it won’t be for the better.

      2. Well, they do have one wrong dogma in particular: that belief that worship should reflect the imagined need to make the Church relevant, and not reflect the Church’s tradition. However, this dogma has never been proclaimed ex cathedra, nor indeed could it be, as liturgy is outside that purview. I would agree that even Pope Francis seems to believe this false dogma, as Pope Honorius believed in Monothelitism. As I once read when beginning to learn about the faith, no pope has ever claimed infallibility in not defining a doctrine, and Pope Francis is certainly being extremely negligent here. Besides, even were he to take a stand on the issue, as Pope Benedict (and even Popes Paul VI and John Paul II) was beginning to do, papal infallibility, like the infallibility of councils, in no way guarantees that people will listen. The popes named all condemned the abuses of the liturgy, and the people of the Church simply ignored them.

        In my experience of the use of the term “phyletism”, it has been used in a much broader sense by Orthodox, and I use that sense here, encompassing everything from the ethnic insularity of Orthodox immigrants in North America, to the Serbian Patriarch pronouncing recognition of Kosovo as a sin, to the Russian and Georgian churches being used as tools of foreign policy in the Caucasus over Abkhazia. As for doctrinal disunity, I speak of the entirety of the eastern churches, Chalcedonian, Oriental, and Assyrian, not to mention the Old Believers and Old Calendarists within the Eastern Orthodox church, a plurality which is entirely a fruit of the attitude towards doctrine in the popeless east: in its simplest form, that true doctrine is that which is believed by true orthodox Christians, who are those which believe true doctrine, etc., etc. True, this has not resulted in the liberalism of the West, but it has greatly affected the eastern churches in its own way, and as Eastern Europe and the Middle East continue to buy into Western liberalism after being preserved from it for so long, the eastern churches face a challenge for which they remain largely untested.

        Yes. This should be a horrible embarrassment. The RCC badly needs to do some soul-searching, to reassess the importance of apostolic tradition, and, indeed, to learn a bit from the Orthodox on how to preserve tradition without necessarily relying on papal authority for every single thing. Many people have been driven away by the mutability and outright heresy of some RCIA classes, and frankly I don’t blame them. But I didn’t get most of my instruction in the faith from RCIA. I got it from the testimony of the papacy through church history, and from the Church Fathers, and from the Ecumenical Councils, and all the other carriers of apostolic tradition. I have no idea when this is going to stop, but I know that it will, and anyone looking for the true Church is going to have to shoulder an extra cross or two for the moment.

        1. Why should someone looking for the true Church have to accept heresy?

          In any event, if, as you say, the majority of RCs have indeed accepted a false dogma, why are they not being subjected to excommunication? How can one remain knowingly in communion with heretics?

          Regarding “phyletism,” what you are really talking about is nationalism, which has plagued RCism, as well. Try walking into a Polish Catholic parish as an Irishman just 75 years ago. Or what about the near-schism in which American Catholicism operates?

          As for the “doctrinal disunity of the Eastern churches,” well, if you’re going to paint Orthodoxy with that, then it is only right to paint Rome with the stain of the Reformation, which is much more clearly a child of Rome than (for instance) the Assyrians are of the Chalcedonian Orthodox. If the “popeless east” is responsible for that disunity, then the whole of the West stands testament to what happens when one has an infallible, supreme pope, and I daresay that is a far sight more of a mess than anything seen if all Eastern Christians are taken together. Fair’s fair. Or perhaps one is not actually responsible for the heresies of those with whom one is not in communion.

          The problem really is that, though, isn’t it? You have to apologize for the heresy of those with whom you choose to remain in communion—and it is heresy, too, as you have said. That is not the same thing as merely tolerating sinners. We all do that, though we should be more vigilant. But heresy is something else. It is not merely turning a blind eye when things are not going the right way. It is actually rejecting the right way.

          You are what you’re in communion with.

      3. I am a traditionalist Roman Catholic who is quite sympathetic to your position, and quite agree about the link between doctrine and liturgy – which is why I will NOT attend the Novus Ordo Mass (post Vatican II.) Just one point, a significant portion of what was taught at Vatican II was actually a departure from the authentic Catholic doctrine (notably teachings on ecumenism, “collegiality” and religious liberty.) Catholic doctrinal development really does not allow for all that has happened and much of what was taught since the Council. St. Pius X (re: Pascendi Gregis and the Anti-Modernist Oath) as well as the FIRST Vatican Council (Dei Filius) are quite in accord with authentic Catholic Tradition in stating:

        [A Catholic is bound to] “… sincerely hold that the doctrine of Faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same explanation.” (Anti-modernist oath of St. Pius X.) Traditionalist Catholics reject the notion as heretical that dogmas can evolve and change from one meaning to another that is understood in a different sense than that which the Church previously held. We accept the papacy and infallibility as clearly defined by Vatican I, but reject the “nouvelle theologie” implemented at Vatican II. Many conservative Catholics have a false understanding of the papacy and its prerogatives. Where it is clear that liturgy or doctrine emanating from the “conciliar/post-conciliar” era are a departure from established Catholic teaching, we reject it. Personally (no one has to accept this) I believe we are in the era of the great Apostasy described in Sacred Scripture. Certain Catholic prophecies also seem to foresee a time when the Papacy and the teaching authority of the Church would be eclipsed. We recognize that no Roman Pontiff has the authority to teach anything other than to hand down what was received in the Deposit of Faith.

        I know you will not find this convincing, Father, so this is just to note that not all Catholics have lost their senses, and many of us are appalled at what we see happening around us daily. It is hard to endure, but the Church is our mother. We cannot abandon her.

  8. Father, interesting take, but perhaps a bit one-sided. There are plenty of mainstream Orthodox at the highest levels who do the same things. A capella? Not if you’re Greek (the majority) and some Antiochian. And since many of the Metropolis’s are fit that way, I would have to assume that this is church policy. Look at Atlanta as a great example. We’re in communion with them. Liturgical dancing? Have you ever seen the Myrrh-bearing teenagers during Greek Paschal vespers? The most solemn night of Holy Week, and they prance about in diaphonous white garments like the caryatids they evoke. We’re in communion with them. Monks who deal real estate from their monasteries on Athos? We’re in communion with them. Monks who deal real estate fraudulently from their monasteries on Athos? Those, too, we’re in communion with. yet when I go to the Roman Catholic Basilica of Saint Panteleimon in Cologne, one of the oldest continually operating Roman Catholic temples in the world, I feel very much at home. We’re in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, who fifty years ago lifted the anathemas with the Pope. I’m all for finding some practices aberrant, which one can do without using that “heresy” word. That word should be applied sparingly, because it could very easily be applied to a lot of Orthodox practice. I pray for and expect our curches to be reunited in my lifetime.

    1. The only things you mention here that are really relevant to the discussion are the use of instrumental accompaniment in church and the bit about the “Myrrh-bearing teenagers” (the sins of monks are just sins; so what?). Those don’t really compare, though, and here’s why:

      1. It is indeed the normative practice of Orthodox music to be a capella, but musical instruments (usually only organ) are not themselves a radical distortion of the liturgical life the way that things like dancing and Barney costumes are. That said, this is on the way out, in my experience, and it’s certainly not the norm.

      2. I’ve never heard of the “Myrrh-bearing teenagers” before now, so I don’t really know what you’re referring to. Is this during a church service? Even if it is, though, the fact that it’s so obscure also makes it not really a valid comparison. Again, not a norm.

      The point of this post is not to highlight abuses (which is pretty much everything you name), but things that have truly become the norm, a genuine sea change in worship standards. Organs and “Myrrh-bearing teenagers” are not the norm in Orthodoxy. But the stuff in these videos has truly become the norm for RCism.

  9. “…I also would have to ask why you believe that, after centuries upon centuries of Christian worship and culture not including tacky pastiches of secular culture, it is suddenly appropriate? Where do we have synchronized silliness in the Scripture or in Church history? Even the early Revivalists and Pentecostals would probably have found this beneath the dignity of the worship of God.
    And what is it about the liturgical worship of historical Christianity that precludes singing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in the heart to the Lord? Was all that somehow lacking until the American 1970s came along?”

    This, from earlier in the thread, says it all. Now we have the Pope himself promulgating the 20th century notion that the Church should be “culturally relative,” effectively prodding his flock toward enmity with God. Just goes to show, two good Popes does not a Pillar make.

    1. hmm…”culturally relative”…. a ’20th century notion…(leading)’ toward enmity with God.
      20th Century??? I have in front of me my copy of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom open to one of the early petitions in the great litany ” For her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, this country, its Prime Minister, … (and 60 years ago, for his Majesty King George) – that is to say, the monarch changed, the Liturgy didn’t: Our Liturgy has remained (more-or-less) culturally relevant) since its inception, and even now, “language-of-the-people” without all the to do of a Vatican II to ‘authorize’ it.
      For two millennia we have been ‘culturally relevant’ to draw us closer to God.

  10. Also of note is that the Catholic-turned-Orthodox-turned-Catholic lawyer Gabriel “Modestinus” Sanchez has roundly excoriated the temerity of this post and decried the author as a promulgator of “pulp theology” (we’re honored he’s a reader!) while pausing briefly to complain about people who have middle names.

    1. I didn’t complain about your middle name. Calm down.

      Do you think your book isn’t pulp theology? It’s a sub-academic work aimed at a popular audience from a press that isn’t known for the intellectual rigor of his output. I think most of the claims in it are standard fare by this point, but I won’t deny that there is always room, in any confessional circle, for informative books aimed at broad audiences. I just don’t want to credit you with an achievement you haven’t attained to. Heaven forbid your work should be confused as being of the same genre as what your co-religionists like Fr. John Behr, Marcus Plested, or even David Bradshaw (whose work I can’t stand, but that’s another matter) put out.

      1. I wasn’t aware that all works touching on religion which weren’t strictly academic pieces were “pulp theology.” I’ll have to see about getting the publisher to change the classification on the ISBN page so that libraries and bookstores can file it correctly.

        Thanks for the heads-up!

      2. BTW, you mention in the comments on your post (which really are a hoot) that we have a “history” together. Honestly, though, I wracked my brain and can’t remember ever actually interacting before today. I could be wrong, of course.

      3. Maybe I am confusing you with another Fr. Andrew of the Antiochian Archdiocese. If so, I will correct it, but I assumed, since you knew my name, that you were around on the old Ochlophobist blog. If not, my mistake.

  11. The very first sentence of this article is rather troubling to me. It insinuates that, even if the author knew well that Catholicism were true, he would be unable to convert because of a sense of aesthetics he feels Catholicism lacks. Such an admission causes a person to wonder about the priorities of the author, at the very least.

    The author writes, elsewhere, “Look, this stuff should be a major embarrassment for the RCC, and it should provoke some serious soul-searching. ”

    Maybe I’m a fool, but these dancing bishops do not bother me, and this is not the way in which to examine the claims of Catholicism. Going again to the first sentence of the article, it’s clearly admitted that such things _could_ exist simultaneously within the context of the true Church that Christ established. It’s therefore illogical to somehow use such events as a means through which to somehow bash Catholicism’s truth claims.

    Let me also say, that what I _would_ be embarrassed by, is if I read an intelligent and thoughtful Catholic blogger posting a video of a Reformed Protestant gathering, and mocking how ugly or ridiculous they were behaving. Sneering at others is not Christian dignity, I think we would all agree.

    The very first sentence of this article admits that, even if the author thought that Catholicism were true, events like this are too below him to allow pursuing such truth above his own views of the proper behaviour of bishops. Forgive me, but this sort of bias undermines a source as being credible.

    A sincere question: when was the last time an entire country’s worth of Orhtodox bishops got together with hundreds of thousands of youths to share the light of Christ with them in a week-long event? Let us not forget such a context, or point to 3 minutes of a silly dance as being somehow “abusive” of something. To bash Catholicism for something like this is truly grasping at straws.

    [Editor’s note: You posted very similar comments within about 15 minutes of each other. We weren’t sure which one you wanted, so we’ve combined them into a single comment here with a “—” between them. We haven’t altered the text as submitted in any way.]

    1. Reducing worship and ecclesial culture to mere aesthetics is a theologically dangerous thing to do, don’t you think? It’s indicative of a deeper theological problem with Rome, though, one that it can’t quite seem to shake, and that is its legalism. As long as certain validating factors are kept in place, what happens around them isn’t terribly important. We’ve still got the Words of Institution and Apostolic Succession, so what does it matter if those Words are surrounded by unworthy silliness or those Successors make fools of themselves in public while wearing their cassocks, cinctures swaying in a Vatican-sanctioned spectacle?

      This latest expression of legalism as an almost Gnostic approach to the materiality of Christianity stands in strong contrast even to your own tradition, which for nearly 20 centuries never saw a need to do this sort of thing and would have considered it not only unbecoming the dignity of the episcopacy, but blasphemous when such things are inserted into the mass. But now it happens all the time, and even those who are not subjected to it on a weekly basis can see it on display for the world on YouTube.

      So in the end, my comment about being convinced of Rome’s dogmas is not really the same thing as believing that Catholicism is true. You see, beauty and truth have always been bound up with one another, and so even if I can be convinced of something, that does not mean that I believe it to be true. Like it or not, the kind of stuff one sees in that video and the other videos Fr. John posted is Catholicism. This is official, public stuff. And I don’t find it to be true.

      Anyway, y’all aren’t going to convince me of your unique dogmas, either. I’ve studied them for years and always come away with the same conclusions.

      And this isn’t mocking, by the way. I was quite serious about everything I wrote, and I wasn’t making fun but commenting on a real problem. But the nature of this video is such that I think that even posting it without any commentary would be considered mocking. But that’s not my doing. This is something you did to yourselves.

      You ask: …when was the last time an entire country’s worth of Orhtodox bishops got together with hundreds of thousands of youths to share the light of Christ with them in a week-long event?

      Holy Week. Though instead of making everyone travel across the globe to do it, it was offered in their home towns.

  12. Fr. Andrew, in light of this story, what is your take on the Orthodox Church liturgy in Africa? I have seen videos of dancing during the liturgy. This seemed to be done in a tasteful way though, and I thought it was complimentary. Dance is such a part of the culture there that it seems to just happen spontaneously. The video of the bishops dancing though seemed pretty silly and unnecessary.

    1. I have only ever seen one such video, and I really do not know whether that is the norm or not. I haven’t seen it in any other videos of liturgy in Africa, though. Africa is a very large place with many cultures.

      I am not their bishop, of course, but it seems to me that such dance has a quite different place in African cultures than it does in the US, and the one video I saw was not dance as a performance but rather as a spontaneous expression of piety while in line for communion.

      1. Fr. Andrew, dance as performance vs. dance as indigenous cultural expression of piety seems to be a very important distinction. I remember seeing this video of the end of an Orthodox Paschal Liturgy in Ghana (link below), and it appears the dancing is during the dismissal line where the parishioners are singing the Paschal Troparion and receiving the blessed bread (not Communion) from the Priest.


      2. I agree that the distinction between dance as performance and dance as indigenous cultural expression of piety is very important. I watched a couple more videos of Orthodoxy in Ghana, and the dancing was during the dismissal line also. Here is an interesting article about Orthodoxy in Ghana:


    2. Even though it’s Oriental Orthodox.. You’ll find some ‘dancing’, of the very ancient sort, during feast days at Ethiopian Orthodox churches. Here’s a link:

      I want to make clear that I am making absolutely no link with the dancing in Roman Catholic churches. This is just to help further understanding of how Orthodox liturgy should be.

      1. Interesting, this does definitely seem to be an indigenous cultural expression of piety. I think it’s great that this can be accepted and valued as part of Orthodox tradition.

  13. I don’t want to open up another can of worms here, but here goes. The original post of the video is correct in pointing to the problems with contemporary Roman Catholic worship, but it may contribute to the further problem of idealizing pre-Vatican II worship. A brief recent trip to Rome reminded me of how much I like Renaissance and Baroque visual art and music aesthetically and how much I dislike them liturgically. This is not simply my personal experience but a repeated observation of Orthodox observers through the centuries. Already, one of the bishops at the Council of Ferrara-Florence said as much about the paintings in one of the churches where a session was held. Rome’s deviations in worship began a long time ago. This is not to say that there are not forms and settings of the Tridentine liturgy that are not dignified and compunctionate, but that even before Vatican II these may have themselves been the exception rather than the norm. Strangely, the pop-culture affectations of post-Vatican II are the logical continuation of the naturalistic painting of the Sistine Chapel — in terms of adaptation to contemporary culture, not of quality of art qua art, I should add!

  14. I noticed that the WYD organizers toned down the bizarre liturgical practices normally seen at the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida for the Papal Mass, but the video below compares what normally happens at that Basilica with a liturgy in Moscow:

    1. This is definitely a shocking contrast, but I have read RC commenters who say that this Brazilian basilica is known for their bizarre spectacles, and these are not at all typical of Cathedral Masses (one would certainly hope not!). Still, it is unimaginable that anything like this would occur anywhere in the Orthodox world, ever. Even the Pentecostal services I attended in my Evangelical days didn’t rival this circus atmosphere, but in stark contrast were quite reverent and sober around the reading and preaching of God’s word. Boggles the mind.

  15. Here’s a video commentary from a Roman Catholic on this incident as well as the general culture of accommodation within Roman Catholicism:


  16. This is a comment sort of related to the dancing and singing for the Lord mentioned in the psalms, it made me think of traditional celebrations (switch to faux Russian accent) in glorious Old Country. Those celebrations after the liturgical rites finish involve dancing and singing semi-religious songs, drinking, feasting, and sometimes gunshots! At any rate, I agree with Fr. Andrew about the awkwardness of this and other Roman Catholic religious occasions. I can’t imagine anyone greeting our Patriarchs like this. However, after liturgy on Holy Pascha I’m sure they might take a little quiet delight in the song and dance of the festival. Perhaps that kind of atmosphere of rejoicing after our feast days is something that’s lacking a little for us here in the States. I leave that to wiser men then I to decide.

    1. There’s certainly a difference between liturgy and the celebrating afterward, but historically clergy are held to a stricter standard even in the latter. In most Orthodox cultures (also in Roman Catholic and Protestant ones too until the recent past) clergy were expected to refrain from normal lay activities such as dancing, smoking, and frequenting cafes or taverns. There’s in fact a canon or three (of course!) against clergy in taverns and I think it goes all the way down the hierarchy to lectors. This went along with special clerical attire, etc. These canons and customs were not always obeyed, but that was the standard. Of course, that is all complicated by the fact that many Fathers even frowned on such activities by laypeople, at least in the crypto-pagan forms in which they continued for many centuries. But that’s another story . . .

  17. As a traditionalist Roman Catholic, I am as disgusted by this nonsense as you are, Father. It grieves me that the complete collapse of the Roman Liturgy in the West is yet another obstacle to a reconciliation between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox. But I don’t think that the abuse of legitimate authority means that the authority doesn’t exist. And a question to ponder: would the devil attack a Church in such an overt fashion if it wasn’t a threat to his plans? We are told in both Scripture and Tradition that there will be a great apostasy before the end of the world. Perhaps this falling away is part of that apostasy. When the Theotokos triumphs and this godless age comes to an end, I pray that all Christians who trace their lineage to the Apostles will be united to bring the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the world.

    1. Why bother? He certainly seems to judge the True Church by dancing men at an open air youth gathering. As someone who attends the Traditional Latin Mass as well, I wonder why both he and other commentators don’t compare the Latin Mass with Orthodox Liturgy, but rather pick a sketchy Mass to compare ALL OF ROMAN LITURGY with the Orthodox one. I wonder if, having the Eastern Catholic Churches part of the One True Church, the Catholic Church, they do not compare the Melkite Liturgy with, say, the Russian Orthodox one… and maybe then try to mock dancing men after that. As an Eastern Catholic myself, having attended Eastern churches, Divine Liturgy in both Catholic and Orthodox churches, I have NOT found the beauty that I have in the Latin Mass of the Roman Rite, one of MANY rites of the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church, that people on this blog seem to forget is made up of several rites.
      I know the Catholic Church to be the One True Church, and if even the pope started prancing around in a pink dress during Mass, I will NOT leave what Church is the True one, not based on anybody’s understanding of Catholicism, or on how people think of catholic youth gatherings.

      1. It is indeed true that there are 22 sui juris churches included in Rome’s communion aside from the Church of Rome. But their total combined population is not quite 18 million people, which puts them at just about 1.4% of the total population of that communion. So unless one is specifically trying to keep track of such things, it is of course quite easy to miss them. And if there is something wrong in the Latin Rite (i.e., the other 98.6%), one is reasonably justified in saying that there is something wrong in that communion.

        In any event, dancing bishops are of course not a sole reason to reject Rome’s claims. But they are a symptom that something is amiss, representative as they are of a much larger culture of this sort of thing in Rome’s churches, all with the official approval of the Vatican, which, according to RC theology, speaks with total authority for the communion. Orthodox Christians would argue that, without that kind of exclusive authority (which is what we find most objectionable and untraditional), such widespread chaos would not be possible.

  18. 1-The number of “Faithful” (I wish even half of the numbers you give were actually faithful to the faith, what a joy it would be!) under each “rite” is what is causing the power struggle between the Russian and Constantinople Patriarchs (I’ll look for the letters between the two, each “decrying the vaticanism” of the other (ironic term, no?) Numbers do not determine importance!! I should also restate that dancing circus people are not what a Roman Mass is!! Have you seen a Novus Ordo Mass done reverently? Yeah, we DO differentiate between what is a reverent Mass and what isn’t, and even if the Pope himself decided to have a small circus in Mass, it doesn’t change what we know Mass to be, although you seem to be an authority on what is the Roman Rite Mass, what is accepted as the norm, etc… Popes have done worse things in the past, we are aware of that, I wish the Orthodox would, ironically, realize that the Catholics do not think the Pope is the Immaculate Demi-God of Perfection that everybody says we make him!
    2-Are we in communion with people who aren’t perfect at liturgical practices? YEAH! Thank God the Church keeps me part of Herself, because trust me, liturgical practice is the least of my sad failures in Christian Life!
    3-The Orthodox Church is still in Communion with people who support Putin, hah, the Orthodox Church in Russia SUPPORTS Putin, and to me, this allegiance to a hypocritical maniacal dictator recalls the days of the Orthodox Church that Allied itself to Stalin, I’m sure you know the whole story with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and, you know, the OTHER Russian Orthodox Church. (am I missing a couple still?) I’d rather have bishops who dance at a YOUTH GATHERING, and people who are ignorant to realize what their way of worship is reflecting, than to be “in communion” with corrupt as hell bishops loaded with money, supporting and supported by a creeping dictatorship in Russia that, as a political science student, reminds me of sad historical cases. (mind you, Catholics have their share of corrupted bishops, but I’m trying to show you how your way of taking a specific “largest numbers” case and saying it means the Catholic Church is wrong, is a fallible way of thinking.) Lets not discuss the case of the Orthodox Church and Bachar Al Assad’s massacres in Syria, as well. (mind you, I am of Middle Eastern origins :P, neither a supporter of the Syrian jihadists, nor a Free and Brave American raising the anti-Russian banner of Capitalism…) See? everybody can use exaggeration on the internet to make false statements about Church validity… or maybe they are valid? I choose my church based on Truth, not on how the sinful people act.
    4-In past heresies, like iconoclasm, it was the “97%” that you talk off, specifically here “eastern”, which supported those heresies, and it was the Roman church which stood firm against them. Should I use that as an example that we can’t be in Communion “with these sad heretics who make up most of the Eastern Churches”????
    5-This post is not mine to argue on, and I’m only here in a link from a Catholic website, but I would like to suggest less mockery (because as we see, it can be used both ways, to “outlaw” both churches), and maybe more prayer for the unity of Christ’s children. I don’t think dancing bishops is what is pushing people away from the faith, but rather the divisions and unChristian ethics we often display.
    With this, I wish you a nice time. (I won’t come back to answer, since I know how it goes on the internet, and for what REALLY matters, which is dogmatic differences, there already exist a million websites handling that.)
    Have a blessed day!

  19. Much ado about nothing here. This event didn’t occur during a Liturgy, ergo, NO RULE WAS BROKEN. What remains is aesthetics. You don’t like bishops swaying chastely to a rhythm? Fine. Me, I don’t care. There will be plenty of dancing in the world to come. Sourpusses on this earth can sit it out and celebrate the Wedding of the Lamb in a manner suitable to their preferences.

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