[This document was prepared on behalf of a group of parents to address issues locally that may also be going on elsewhere in the country. It is published here as a resource for parents who may find it useful.]
Dances in the Catholic School: Parental Concerns and Suggested Remedies
This document addresses parental concerns with dances being held in diocesan Catholic schools. Dances are scheduled on weekends during the year, and at the prom. The concern is that immodest dress and immodest dancing regularly occurs at high schools throughout the diocese. Immodest dancing is unfortunately part of our current culture. Students learn immodest “dances” from videos or from other students. It is unclear whether Catholic school students are being informed that these dances are morally wrong.
An Attack on Purity
Immodest dress and dance is an attack on the purity of children. Purity is a “battle,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us in Article 9 on the 9th commandment. Through what is going on at Catholic school dances the enemy appears to be winning that battle to destroy the purity of some of God’s children. Catholic schools may have rules about dancing and dances may have chaperones. But having rules and having chaperones have proven to be an insufficient remedy and ineffective means to combat immodest dress and dance in our modern over-sexed culture.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us modesty is needed to protect purity because purity requires modesty:
Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. (2521)
Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships… Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. (2522)
CCC 2520 tells us that the “baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires,” and exhorts us to “purity of vision, external and internal… discipline of feelings and imagination.” We are warned that “appearance arouses yearning in fools.”
Francis Cardinal Arinze, then member of the Roman Curia, has stated that “some dances are wrong everywhere because they are provocative…”.
Actions Being Taken
Locally, one Christian (non-Catholic) school has banned every dance other than allowing the prom for its senior students. What was their rationale? Their simple explanation went something like this: “Nothing good comes from these dances.”
Some public schools, presumably without the benefit of Christian roots to guide them, in recognition that something has gone crazily wrong, have taken actions against immodest dancing. One public school principal who banned immodest dancing said: “We caused a stir, if you will, but I think we’ve done the right thing,” according to a Kane County Chronicle article written by Ashley Rhodebeck.
It isn’t only adults who are uncomfortable with the dancing. According to Rhodebeck, a principal explained how students are too:
“We have sensed an increasingly inappropriate style of dancing at our recent dances, and we were approached, in addition to our own observations, we were approached by a group of students who expressed to us they were extremely uncomfortable with the style of dancing that was becoming popular.”
According to Catholic News Agency, the issue of provocative dance has been addressed by the Archbishop of Santo Domingo:
During a press conference on ethics in the media Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, said human beings were not meant to engage in dances that are proper “for dogs.” …”Let’s leave the ‘doggy dance’ to the dogs,” the cardinal added. “Human beings have never had the pretension to be dogs. Therefore, let’s establish a clear and categorical difference between one thing and the other,” he stated.
Some actions that have been taken by various schools to control immodest dancing are as follows:
- Videotaping the dances
- Require parents and students sign a contract whereby they agree students will be asked to leave [and barred from future dances]if they engage in immodest dancing. (This includes banning moshing, crowd surfing and straddling legs. It also includes the latest bizarre craze where the boy dances in bodily contact behind the girl commonly called the “grind,” or “dirty dancing.” Pictures of this latter dance being done at Diocesan Catholic school dances are attached.) In some instances men chaperones are used to escort the student(s) out of the dance.
- Educating and increasing chaperones
- Stopping immodest dresses at the door and sending the girls home to put clothes on
- Screening the lyrics and beats of music
- Having the DJ stop the music as soon as immodest dancing starts.
- Establishing a “no play” list of music with unacceptable lyrics and beats and a “play” list of music with acceptable lyrics and beats.
Reports Back from Students to Parents
In several instances students from multiple diocesan Catholic schools have brought reports of inappropriate dancing back to parents. For example, when one parent tried to extract the details of a dance the student had attended, the student succinctly replied to parent: “let’s just say you wouldn’t approve.” In another instance the parent (unaware at the time of what was going on at these dances) kept prompting the student who had gone to one dance to return to future dances. The student repeatedly refused and then finally said: “If you knew what went on there, you wouldn’t want me there.” Yet another student reported to parents that the dances were “disgusting to watch.”
The Impact of Lyrics
The impact of lyrics ought to be cause for alarm. For example, we can look at the lyrics for one song played at a diocesan Catholic school dance entitled “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” There is apparently little recognition of the error in these lyrics by the Catholic school. At least one school gives a yearbook description of a school dance where the yearbook actually states the students were:
Passionately singing ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Lights,’ the students and the court danced the night away….
An excerpt of the lyrics is provided below:
Well, I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake and there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school, they were wishing they were me that night
And now our bodies are, oh, so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
C’mon, hold on tight
Oh, c’mon, hold on tight… (Repeats)
Ain’t no doubt about it we were doubly blessed
‘Cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed… (Repeats)
We’re gonna go all the way tonight
We’re gonna go all the way (repeats over and over and over and over as if to drum this into one’s head)
This is the filth into which Catholic school students have been immersed. Is it any wonder that promiscuity is such a big problem? How can we expect to succeed at instilling purity, modesty and chastity in teens while simultaneously pouring vile lyrics into their heads and souls?
Respect for the Human Person and the Body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit
Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person. (CCC 2524) The dignity of the Catholic student needs to be awakened, respected and upheld. This dignity must be upheld everywhere including school dances. Catholic school students are called to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:11) and the “light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14) They are called to “be holy” (1 Peter 1:13). These children are God’s children, baptized children, children of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own.” (1 Peter 2:9) Their bodies are “temples” of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 6:19) Scripture has told us:
The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take Christ’s members and make them the members of a prostitute? Of course not! (Or) do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For “the two,” it says, “will become one flesh.” But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:13-20)
Teachings of the Saints
What did the saints say about immodest dance? St. Ephraim said dancing is the “perdition of girls and women, the blinding of men, the grief of angels, and the joy of the devils.” The following is excerpted from “Sermons of the Cure of Ars.” These are sermons by St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests.
What blind parents! …. What lost children! …. Is there any place, any time, any occasion wherein so many sins of impurity are committed as the dance halls and their sequels? Is it not in these gatherings that people are most violently prompted against the holy virtue of purity… Is it not at these gatherings that the Devil so furiously kindles the fire of impurity in the hearts of the young people in order to annihilate in them the grace of Baptism? Is it not there that Hell enslaves as many souls as it wishes?
…Is it not there, my dear brethren, that the boys and the girls drink at the fountain of crime… Go on, shameless fathers and mothers, go on into Hell, where the fury of God awaits you, you and all the good actions you have done in letting your children run such risks. Go on, they will not be long in joining you, for you have outlined the road plainly for them.. go before your Judge to give an account of your lives, and you will see that your pastor had reason to forbid these kinds of diabolical pleasures! ….
….Dear God, can anyone really have their eyes bewitched to such an extent that they will still want to believe that there is no harm in it, while all the time it is the rope by which the Devil pulls the most souls into Hell?…
If we don’t do all we can to hinder the behavior of these children, how do we know that one day God won’t hold us responsible for it? Through Church teaching we know that He very well may. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1868) states that: “…we have responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate with them… by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so.”
Are we ignorant of what Christ said about leading His children to sin? Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matt: 18:6)
Are we regularly placing Catholic school students in near occasions of sin? Have we forgotten the words of Christ on adultery: But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28) And what about Christ’s warning that we not be deceived: Do not be deceived; neither… idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes… will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:10)
Catholic schools can no longer blindly allow the children to be subjected to the modern music promoted by the latest DJs and media broadcasts, but instead must show respect and restraint and proactively protect children from it. Christian purity “requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint.” (CCC 2525) Catholic school dances must be guided by the teachings of Christ. It is those teachings which never cease to “purify and elevate the morality of peoples.” (CCC 2527)
What is the Purpose of Dances?
What is the purpose of dances? Is it to “socialize” students? Through Facebook, cell phones, texting and modern technology, the students are in almost constant communication with each other and almost constantly “socializing.” What kind of socialization is the modern school dance providing if it is a place where girls dress provocatively and students dance that way too? If the reason for dances is socialization, then aren’t there other wholesome ways that this need could be met?
What is the purpose of dances? Is the purpose of dances to be “cool to the kids.” If we cannot say “no” to immodest dress and dance because we want to be seen as “cool to the kids,” then how will our children ever know how to say “no” to sin?
What is the purpose of dances? Is the purpose of the dances to have fun? Can’t we teach our children wholesome ways to have fun?
What is the purpose of dances? Is the purpose to “offer” all that the public school offers? If that is the purpose then we are only shooting ourselves in the feet. One of the most commonly spoken phrases by the general public these days is that “Catholic schools are no different than public schools.” It is precisely events like out of control immodest dances which perpetuates this belief among the general public.
What is the purpose of dances? Is the purpose of dances to raise funds? Aren’t there wholesome fund-raising alternatives?
Is the hosting and endorsing of modern school dances the function of the Catholic school? How does immodest dancing with impure music and immodestly dressed girls coincide with the mission of the Catholic school to bring the light of Christ into the lives of the student and from there into the world?
Further Conflicting our Young People
Young people are so conflicted. They already have so much to handle. An entire society is telling them one thing. The Church is telling them something else. Then the Catholic school does not enforce what the Church teaches. If the Catholic school proves itself incapable of battling the world, how can anyone expect the student to battle it? Why throw another source of conflict at these children? By its very nature, these dances, packed with provocatively moving bodies and wild musical beats, are out of control. Is it any wonder so many children are out of control too? Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train the young in the way they should go; even when they are old, they will not depart from it.” Is this the way we want our young people to go?
Some of the students attending these dances are freshman and young teens. How do we know they are not being intimidated into dancing immodestly by their peers? If there are erotic movements going on, how do we know the students are not being emotionally, spiritually or sexually traumatized? How do we know this isn’t a form of sexual harassment? Are some students thinking: “because the school sanctions this, maybe there is something wrong with me if I don’t go along?” Are students from good Catholic homes attending these dances and, having to choose between the morals their parents worked so hard to instill in them, and the immorality of the dances, and ultimately succumbing to the immorality of the dances? Is the authority of the parents, who have entrusted their children to the school, being undermined by the Catholic school itself? Do all parents know what goes on at these dances? Don’t we have enough problems without bringing this on ourselves? How can we still blindly persist in saying things are as innocent as we want them to be?
Catholic Schools Can Be a Light
Catholic schools can elevate the students and themselves and become a moral light to a world that is in darkness when it comes to what goes on at dances simply by stopping them and displacing them with a wholesome activity. But if that is impossible the schools could take actions already taken by other schools (as outlined previously in this report on page 2.) And there are other things we can do.
- Pray for the purity of the children and teach students and parents to pray as well. We can educate both students and parents on the teachings of the Church in matters of purity, modesty and chastity. Modesty is no longer taught in the Catholic school (at least not to the degree that it needs to be taught) and it can be taught starting at very young ages and reinforced year after year. Students need to be taught Theology of the Body and need to know their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Schools can work to bring parents on board. We can work to educate parents and students on the now novel concept of growing in holiness.
- Guide the students in wholesome dance alternatives. Many dances are done in organized lines and don’t involve bodies tightly packed together going wild. For example: country line dancing, square dancing, reels etc. Dances like “Cotton Eyed Joe” done in somewhat organized lines are great fun for teens, involve a lot of stamping that lets them get their energy out, yet are not impure. Students could be taught these types of dances in their gym classes. Formal (ballroom) dancing can be taught in a context that trains the boys to respect the girls, while it gives the girls a sense of dignity. European children are taught ballroom dancing all through school and become accomplished at it. Where it is taught here in America, it gives the children a social grace they can use their entire lives and through the etiquette learned, a way to interact with people of all ages. At a wedding, one can see a teen boy confidently leading his grandmother or a teen girl dancing delightedly with her father. All of these wholesome dance alternatives bring generations together rather than enforcing the worldly concept of a generation gap.
- Have school leaders and the diocese review videotapes of dances to ensure that school leaders and the diocese are aware of what is going on there and to help establish appropriate boundaries. If students know they are being videotaped, they may be less likely to engage in provocative dancing.
- Stop Catholic elementary school dances which encourage “coupling” and thus early dating. How is it the role of the Catholic school to encourage children to couple up? Statistics show that the earlier a child begins dating the more likely it is that he or she will engage in promiscuous behavior. In some instances these schools dances are started as early as 6th grade. The purpose of being a “couple” and dating is to find your life-time spouse. Are sixth graders seeking a spouse? Like our culture, do we have something against letting children be children? Elementary school dances could be limited to those types of dances which can be done in a group or line. Better yet, stop the dances, and give them an obstacle course to run instead.
- Stop dimming the lights at elementary school and high school dances as if to promote romance. Keep the lights on, and don’t allow “strobe” lighting. Introduce Christian music.
- Before the prom, one Catholic school outside of our diocese brought all the students into Adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament. To have this Eucharistic grace with us at these moments in our lives is what it means to be Catholic. If we can accustom the students to Adoration then doing this would be a great blessing. And if we can accustom them to praying the Rosary then we could have them pray the Rosary before their dances. Blessed Mother would surely take care of a lot of our problems after that. At a minimum, a priest could be there to say a prayer before the dance starts reminding the students that they are in the presence of God and should act accordingly. And it might be a good idea for the priest to stay for the duration of the dance to see exactly what is going on.
Finally, stopping immodest dancing may not be easy. Who has time to review all the music and lyrics? So much of modern music endorses extramarital relationships. How do you decide what to tolerate? Who will review the videotapes of the dances? Some dances (other than organized, formal or line dancing) are filled with hundreds of students with bodies packed tightly together. Chaperoning such a crowd is no easy task. How can the chaperones even see what is going on let alone enforce rules? Different chaperones have different tolerance levels. How do you enforce modest dance and dress uniformly? How do we send immodestly dressed girls home to put clothes on if they live far away and they have been dropped off?
If the Catholic school cannot prevent immodest dancing, then it could simply stop the dances until it can find a way to prevent immodest dance. Are dances so important to the Catholic school that they should be allowed to continue to contaminate our children, cause so much grief and lure us to sin? And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt. 5:30)
If Catholic schools are to be truly Catholic, then they need to be Catholic in every area and that includes the dances that they host and endorse. Understanding that provocative dress leads to impure thoughts and sometimes provocative dancing, we need to work to educate across the board on purity, modesty and chastity. We need to expose the lies of the culture and educate others that we don’t need to follow its lies and errors—that there is another and a better way. The Catholic school can be an agent for heightening awareness and supporting and encouraging mothers and fathers in their parental roles and in their God-given vocations as mothers and fathers.
We need to find a way to control immodest dress and the immodest dancing that is occurring at dances. This is not easy. How tempting it is to throw in the towel and compromise, or turn our back on the matter and give up entirely. But Catholic schools cannot give up. To give up is to surrender our children to the enemy. The purity of our children must become top priority.
We must re-double our efforts to battle the messages coming at the children from the world. Through prayer and with help from the Father, we must engage in the battle to reclaim and defend the purity of God’s children whom He has entrusted to us. With protection from the Blessed Mother, Catholic schools must put on the “armor of God.” For this battle is “not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph. 6:12)
In writing this report we are fulfilling our parental duties as outlined by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education: …it is the task of the whole educative community to ensure that a distinctive Christian educational environment is maintained in practice. This responsibility applies chiefly to Christian parents who confide their children to the school. Having chosen it does not relieve them of a personal duty to give their children a Christian upbringing. They are bound to… make certain that the school remains faithful to Christian principles of education… Where difficulties and conflicts arise about the authentic Christian character of the Catholic school, hierarchical authority can and must intervene… (The Catholic School #71)