This has long been a sore spot for many good Catholics, a point of contention for some, a blemish on Pope John Paul II's good name and at the least, something of a large elephant in the sanctuary.
In a noteworthy change of personnel, if not of surname, the Vatican announced today that Monsignor Guido Marini will replace Archbishop Piero Marini as the pope’s Master of Ceremonies, meaning the official in charge of how the pope celebrates the Mass and the other rites of the church.
The outgoing Marini was long seen as a more permissive counterpart to the strong traditionalism at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican’s policy-setting agency on liturgical matters. Experts have noted the irony that large-scale papal liturgies organized on Marini’s watch are sometimes more innovative than a strict reading of official policy might permit.
One of the many stumbling blocks was the frequency of liturgical dancers in papal Masses.
The Congregation for Divine Worship officially frowns on dance in the liturgy. In 1975 it issued a document titled Dance in the Liturgy, which concluded, “[Dance] cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever. That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.”Not sure that the official frowning is an official function of the Congregation for Divine Worship, but it was difficult to defend the good Pope against traditionalists whenever this topic would arise. So quietly, yet surely, Pope Benedict is cleaning up one of the neglected areas of his predecessor.
In 1998, the congregation wrote to the bishop of Honolulu to ban the use of hula dancing in any liturgical context, a custom that had become common among Catholics in Hawaii. Yet when John Paul visited Brussels in 1995 for the beatification of Father Damien DeVeuster, the famous saint of the Hawaiian lepers, a hula dance was performed smack in the middle of the ceremony.
And I rather like the quiet method. Rather than throwing around anathemas and excommunications, the gentle reproofs and cleaning up one's own house first wins more souls in the long run.