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Scriptures, Councils & Church Fathers
Condemn Dances & Balls

It has become common among today's Catholics to consider the gathering of youth for dances and balls as innocent entertainment insofar as they do not play the latest radical music. Even if the evil of such dances may seen diluted when compared to other completely indecent such entertainment, they are also to be avoided. If you doubt it, read this compilation on the topic taken from pastoral letters by a past Cardinal of Seville.

Card. Segura y Saenz - Part I

What is the attitude Catholics should have regarding dances and balls? It is a frequently asked question, and it does not always receive a clear, prudent response. However, Catholic doctrine on this topic is perfectly defined. It is exposed with great richness of argument in various pastoral letters by the Archbishop of Seville, Cardinal Segura y Saenz (1880-1957). Here we [the monthly magazine Catolicismo] publish a summary of these important documents.

Throughout the whole world today, we are seeing the spread of a disproportionate inclination for dances and balls, which, according to common knowledge, are corrupted in such way that they frequently are incompatible with the most elementary principles of decency.

Notwithstanding, there are persons who believe that, without risk, they can exercise a type of apostolate that is very dangerous for the soul, which consists in frequenting dances and balls with the aim of improving their moral atmosphere. Because of the danger that dances can cause, as well as the bad example given by those who frequent them, it is opportune to deal with this delicate matter with apostolic frankness.

What are balls

Blessed Friar Diogo de Cadiz, writing in the year 1792 to the Duchess of Medinaceli about the problem of the licitness of balls, defined them in this way: “The ball is a gathering or grouping of richly dressed men and women whose aim is to amuse and enjoy themselves, not according to God and the spirit, but following the joys of the world and the flesh. Mixing together, they dance to music of various instruments and perhaps sweet and soft songs for an extended period of time.”

It is certain not all the balls entail the same gravity. Speaking of those in our century, Fr. Remigio Vilarino of the Society of Jesus wrote in an article published in 1916: “Balls are gravely sinful and illicit because the way of dancing strongly incites one to sin.” He enumerates some of these ways, and adds: “Today we have gone very far and we are going even further since, to our disgrace, other new dances are being admitted that are much more indecent and dangerous.”

In his generic designation of dances, the Cardinal of Seville expressly affirms he does not include classical dances or traditional folkloric dances, which he does not choose to deal with at this time.

Holy Scriptures, dances and balls

The Books of the Old and New Testament speak only occasionally of dances or balls, because among the Chosen People governed by the Old Law, as well as the first followers of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, they were not in use, although they were frequent among the pagans.

However, in the Book of Ecclesiastes the Holy Spirit says this about dances, “Use not much the company of her that is a dancer, and hearken not to her, lest thou perish by the force of her charms. Gaze not upon a maiden, lest her beauty be a stumbling block to thee.

"Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up, and gaze not about upon another's beauty. For many have perished by the beauty of a woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as a fire." (9:49)

What caused the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist was the famous dance to which the Evangelists refer (Matt 14:6; Mark 6:22), which shows the fatal effects this type of diversion can cause.

The Councils, dances and balls

It would be too long to list all conciliar decisions that consistently condemned balls.

It suffices to record, among the older Councils, the Council of Constantinople, which says: “Public dances are prohibited under pain of excommunication.” The Council of Aix-la-Chapelle calls them “infamous things;” the Council of Rouen, a “great madness,” and the Council of Tours considers them “frauds and artifices of the Devil.”

Do no think that it was only in the early times of the Church that Councils so severely condemned dances and balls. More recent councils have likewise prohibited them.

The X Council of Baltimore, celebrated in 1869, issued a Pastoral Letter of the Conciliar Fathers about dances, warning the faithful: “We judge that it falls to our pastoral mission to warn you once again to avoid the new kind of dances, where the occasion of sin is increasingly frequent. This whole type of diversion is all the more dangerous to the degree it is considered innocent and persons fling themselves into it as if they did not profess our Religion. Notwithstanding Divine Revelation and ancient wisdom, experience and reason themselves clamor in unison warning against this type of diversion which, even when contained within the limits of modesty, always engenders more or less danger to Christian souls.”

If such judgment can be made about dances and balls that could be considered less reprehensible than those of today, how can one not severely condemn today's modern dances, which offend every sentiment of uprightness and constitute a true outrage against good customs.

The Fathers of the Church and dances

St. Ephrem, one of the oldest Fathers of the Church, said this: “Who invented the dances and balls? Was it St. Peter? Was it St. John or some of the Saints? Certainly not, but rather the Devil, the enemy of souls.”

Further, he adds, “Where there are balls, the angels are sad and the devils are jubilant.” And also, “It is not possible to jump and dance here and enjoy eternal happiness afterwards because the Lord told us ‘Woe to you that now laugh: for you shall mourn and weep.’(Lk 6:25)”

St. Basil describes dances as a “shameful showroom of obscenities.” St. John Chrysostom calls them the “school of impure passions.” St. Ambrose declares them “choirs of iniquity, destroyers of innocence and sepulchers of purity.” And he exclaims, “The daughters of infamous mothers may go to dances and balls to become like them, but those who are chaste must avoid dances if they do not want to perish.” (Lib. III de Vir.).

Continued
Catolicismo, Campos, January 1952

Posted December 5, 2009

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