Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Catholic Magisterium Against Modern Dances

[53] The Authority of the Roman Catholic Church in General Against Modern Dances.

In the history of the Roman Catholic Church, we find that Bishops entrusted with the care of saving souls were very solicitous to eradicate the evil of dancing from their dioceses. The history of the early Church tells us that Bishops assembled in council and condemned vigorously the various dances of their day, especially the New Year's Day, the Twelfthtide, and Shrovetide dances inherited from the pagan Roman civilization. These dances were condemned by the councils of the Church, the most prominent of which was the Council of Tours, held in A.D. 567. It is true there were not round dances in those days, but we suppose that some of the dances were immodest, though not admitting the sinful pose of the present-day Waltz. The condemnation of these Bishops is still followed in the Church and is an argument against modern dancing, showing the spirit of the Church and her Bishops to be against such diversion, and we feel that were these noble men in our midst to-day, they would most emphatically cry [54] out against the sinful practice as a de facto violation of the Sixth Commandment.

Priests are impressed by Benedict XIV.'s [sic] magnificent treatise on the Diocesan Synod, of which it has been said that it should be the manual of Bishops. The true spirit of the Church eradicating abuses is found in that treatise. This great Pope saw the evil of dancing. With fiery words he pronounced balls in general to be filthy amusements. (L. XI., c. 10, No. 11.) See also Bouvier quoting him. (Vol. IV, p. 100, Edition 1868.) We are sure that no conscientious Bishop would approve filthy amusements for his flock. Benedict XIV lived in 1758. Had he lived in 1800 or thereabouts he would have been horrified at the immorality of the modern Waltz, and would in very deed have stigmatized it as the most vehement destroyer of morality.

[55] The First and Second Baltimore Plenary Council Against Modern Dances.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States were fully aware of the iniquity of modern dances introduced into this country from Germany for the corruption of society when they assembled in Baltimore in 1866 to hold the Second Plenary Council. They condemned most severely modern balls and recorded a special decree against them. (Decree 472.) They condemned them as immodest dances, which they said were increasing daily, and just now, 1904, are a perfect fury.

The Fathers certainly told the truth. Modern dances have been on the increase ever since they were introduced into this country. Dancing masters, our modern mephitic corrupters of youth, have invented more daring dances, alluring young people to practice them because of their sensual fascination. Milwaukee, Wis., may be said to be the Germany of America. A few months ago, we read a special dispatch to the "Baltimore American," to the effect that the Dancing Masters' [56] Association adopted the "Five-step" and other dances on June 12, 1902. The dances are "The Lyric," a Polka, submitted by H. L. Walker, of Buffalo; "The Pompadour," a Five-step Schottische, by Isadore Sampson; "The Delmar," a Redowa with a two-step combination, submitted by E. B. Gaynor, of Chicago; and "The Stirlings," by Austine McFaddin. This is the most complicated of any of the dances and is a combination of Minuet, Gavotte and Waltz. It is set to original music and the dancing masters say it is very attractive. Isadore Sampson also presented a children's dance, which he calls "The Eros." It is set to Mazourka music. The new dances were demonstrated before the association by their authors and were greatly admired by the teachers.

The Fathers declare such diversion to constitute an offense against God, society and the family. They included in their condemnation not only those who promote those dances, but also those who encourage them by their presence. The Bishops did not refer their condemnation to the old-style square dances, which exclude bodily contact of the different sexes and which could be performed decently, but they condemned the Waltz and other modern dances which according to the code of corrupted modern society, demand close embrace.

The First Plenary Council of Baltimore (1852) protests [57] against round dances especially, because they are highly indecent. The Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1868) says: "We consider it to be our duty to warn our people against those amusements which may easily become to them an occasion of sin, and especially against those fashionable dances, which, as at present carried on, are revolting to every feeling of decency and propriety, and are fraught with the greatest dangers to morals." And to all those priests who have the care of souls, the same council, in its 472d [sic] decree, says: "Let them ATTACK and BOLDLY condemn immodest dances, which are becoming more and more common every day. Let them admonish the faithful how much they sin, not only against God, but against society, against their families and against themselves, who take part in these dances or at least seem to countenance them by their presence. Let them teach parents particularly of how grievous a judgment they become guilty if they expose their young sons and daughters to the danger of losing purity and innocence of mind by allowing them to be thus entrapped in the snares of the devil." This is the literal translation from the Latin text.

Soon after the council, Archbishop Martin John [58] Spalding enacted in the Diocesan Synod the following statute: "As the Fathers of the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore, in their pastoral letter to the people, wholly condemned those dances which are commonly called Waltzes and round dances, we decree that they are not to be taught nor to be tolerated in the colleges, academies and schools of the diocese, even for the sake of recreation among persons of the same sex."

If the Fathers of the First and Second Plenary Council of Baltimore call modern dances immodest, they are most emphatically so by reason of the pose. And if they are immodest they essentially constitute a violation against the Sixth Commandment. Parents mark well the above quoted words of the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore. You are guilty of enormous sin by exposing your children, yet unconscious, to evil, to be entrapped by the meshes of the devil. It is a sad commentary on the conduct of some of the present-day pastors to think that this very important Decree has become null and void on account of their inactivity and their laxity in enforcing Church discipline.

This serious legislation is still in force and prevaricators only will regard it abrogated. We back up the authority of the II. Roman Plenary Baltimore Council by giving to the American young descendants of the faithful and pure Irish nation the authority of Archbishop [59] Walsh of Dublin, addressing his people in one of his Lenten Pastorals, saying: 

"Never engage in those improper dances imported from other countries and retaining foreign names, such as Polkas and Waltzes, which are so repugnant to the notions of strict morality, are condemned by many of the highest and most respectable members of society and are at direct variance with that purity and modesty of the female character for which Ireland has been ever distinguished."

In addition to the censures above quoted it might not be amiss to add the condemnation of modern dancing by Bishop McCluskey of Louisville, Ky., which is of a very recent date. In his Decree published June 16th, 1903, he says: "In view of the shockingly indecent style of modern dance we hereby forbid dancing of any kind at any of the fairs, picnics, entertainments or outings."

The Cumberland "Evening Times," Md., published the following open letter:


Thus Father Sartori Designates the Modern Dance.

The following is a copy of a letter addressed to Bishop McCluskey, of Louisville, by Rev. Father Sartori, of Midland:

Midland, Md., June 18th, 1903.

Rt. Rev. William George McCluskey,
Louisville, Ky.

Rt. Rev. and Dear Sir:

I read in the Cumberland "Evening Times," Md., June 17th, 1903, your decree condemning dancing of any kind at any of the fairs, picnics, entertainments or outings, giving as a reason for condemnation "the shockingly indecent style of the modern dance." You are right, my Lord, the Waltz is a main feature of the square dances, and together with the Polka, Gallop, Mazourka and other dances of this kind constitutes to-day the most bold and impudent vice raging in the land, threatening to overthrow the Bishops' and [61] Priests' authority for the license pandering to carnal passions.

The modern dance for high and low society is not civilization, but sheer devilization [sic]. It is nothing else but sinful gratification of the flesh. Let Catholics and Catholic Societies be ashamed to practice the modern dance, which is a downright insult to Christ and His immaculate Church.

Congratulating your Lordship, for your timely and noble stand taken in your diocese, and hoping others of your Fellow Bishops will follow your praiseworthy example, I remain, Rt. Rev. Sir,

Yours truly,

Don Luigi Sartori.

Rt. Rev. Wm. G. McCluskey, D.D.

The above condemnations show the spirit of the Roman Catholic Church to be against modern dancing, not because it is a harmless recreation, but because it is a sinful diversion and a source of still more grievous sins to all who engage in it or encourage it by their presence.


Source: Immorality of Modern Dances, ed. by Beryl and Associates (New York, NY: Everitt and Francis Co. and S.F. McLean and Co, 1904), 53–61.

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