Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal. Register file photo.

Dance filmed in church sparks new protocol

By 
  • August 7, 2019

OTTAWA -- The filming of a homoerotic dance in the sanctuary of a downtown church has prompted the Montreal archdiocese to develop protocols to prevent the wrongful use of sacred spaces.

Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal was caught off guard when a former Cirque Du Soleil performer filmed two male dancers portraying homosexual love inside the Church of St. Peter the Apostle in central Montreal in May.

“Unfortunately, we became aware of it after the fact,” said Erika Jacinto, communications director for the Montreal archdiocese. The incident has prompted the archdiocese to strengthen its protocol for approving any filming inside churches that must go through the chancery.

Jacinto is now tasked with reviewing any film projects. She says the filming of the five-and-a-half minute Matthew Richardson production — two men dancing to the song ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen — would “probably not” have been approved under the new protocols, especially since the dance was filmed inside the sanctuary.

“The sanctuary is the location of the altar in all churches and of the tabernacle in most,” Jacinto said in an e-mail. “As such, it is considered sacred space and cannot be used in the manner of a simple public space. She quoted the Code of Canon Law that says: “In a sacred space only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness of the place is forbidden.”

“In this particular case, no permission was requested by the parish and therefore, we were not aware that this kind of production was approved,” said Jacinto. 

News of the film catapulted into conservative Catholic social media in early August.

“For my part, I consider it a desecration of that church and the celebration of something demonic,” wrote popular priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf in an Aug. 2 post at wdtprs.com. “That church needs to be ritually purified.”

The new policy requires requests for approval to film inside a church to include the entire script of the film, details of the scene performed on the church location and the parish priest’s approval.

The film must have “nothing against the Church; nothing of a pornographic nature; it will not be a horror film; the locations will not be used for other purposes (using a confessional for an interview, for instance; and no same-sex marriages, weird funerals etc.,” according to the new protocols.

New Ways Ministries, an LGBT-friendly group, had posted an article lauding the production on June 3 and quoted Richardsaon as saying the church “welcomed me, my message, and our creation with open arms.”

St. Peter the Apostle has served the city’s gay community for decades.

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