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Dutch blogger Beautiful Blues writes about an online test that reveals one’s level of homophobia. He describes the various questions posed and the answers to choose from, and also his reasoning behind the answers he chose. The questions deal with anti-gay demonstrations. homosexuality in other social groups, gay ‘marriage’, punishment for homosexuals, homosexuality and communion (of course), separate Olympics for homosexuals (huh?), and gay rights as parts of development aid.
And what’s the result when answering these questions from a Catholic perspective, as Beautiful Blues and a number of his commenters have done? A homophobia level of 13 to 16%.
Not excessively high, I would say.
As mentioned in a previous post, I’ll pay some attention to the great plans that Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has revealed for the coming year in his archdiocese. The text of the letter introducing and explaining the plans for a Year of the Eucharist can be found on the archdiocesan website.
The plans are not small. The section titled ‘Events and matters of general importance’ describes the preparation needed to be done in individual parishes and congregations. What I find striking is that the archbishop not only invites but also expects. “Every parish is expected to participate in this event along with their pastors, without exception”, he writes when discussing the opening of the Year of the Eucharist. As becomes clear from the tone of the rest of the letter, this is an example of the vital importance the archbishop attaches to the Eucharist and the liturgy that revolves around it. In the opening paragraphs of the letter he writes [emphases mine]:
“The Eucharistic Lord sustains the universal Church, and strengthens it so that it could withstand any evil onslaught from both within and without. This is effected by means of our intimate communion with Him. Each time we receive Him, in a state of grace, He draws us into His act of self-oblation; absorbs us unto Himself, and transforms us into His own likeness. That is the life-giving principle of the most Holy Eucharist. The Church is thus powerfully transformed and becomes the continuous presence of Christ in history. Each local Church participating in this mystical heavenly food becomes part of that supreme presence.”
Another very interesting element in the letter is the connection between the Eucharist and our reception and worship with the wider world and our role in it. That is something not often read in publications that chiefly discuss the Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament.
“I very earnestly request all priests, religious and the laity to combine devotion with animation to show our love for the poor and the less fortunate people in our society by engaging in works of corporal mercy. Let our love extend not only to the poor people, but also towards mother nature so that our Eucharistic spirituality would incorporate also an eco-spirituality. Let us not forget that the bread which becomes the body of Christ, and the wine which becomes the Blood of Christ are God’s gifts and fruits of the earth’s fertility which are produced as food through human labour.”
The better part of the second chapter of the letter, the part titled ‘Specific goals’, is then devoted the eliminating misconceptions, faulty practices and ignorance of the Eucharist – something not unknown to us in the west, to put it mildly. And all this in the vein of Vatican II, which is the opposite of the misappropriated ‘spirit of Vatican II’ that has lead to ignorance, protestantisation, loss of faith here in the west.
I think that this big effort undertaken in the Archdiocese of Colombo can also be inspirational and educational for Catholics, clergy and laity alike, who live outside its borders.
Various media have reported on the reactions triggered by a homily from Deacon Edwin Veldman, in which he spoke about homosexual acts being inherently sinful. It caused some people to leave the church before the end of Mass and Fr. Cor Mennen, pastor of the parish in which Deacon Veldman works, to pay attention to it in an article on Catholica.
At the same time, the COC has announced that they want to take their discussion with the parish council in ‘s-Hertogenbosch to a higher level: the bishops. The topic of the discussion is, of course, the question of actively homosexual people receiving Communion. The Church teaches that only people in a state of grace can receive Communion, and with homosexual acts being a sin, those practicing them are not in a state of grace. The Dutch situation is complicated further by the fact that many people apart from homosexuals receive Communion in a state of sin, but the attention is on the latter. A feeling of them being singled out is perhaps understandable in that light. But that, of course, changes nothing about the actual teachings around the reception of Communion.
Judging from the articles I read, the focus of the discussion now revolves around homosexuals ‘feeling welcome’ in parishes and services. That has, of course, never been questioned. The Church welcomes (or should welcome) everyone, but she can not close her eyes to their errors, mistakes and sins. The purpose of the Church is to lead people to God and so also to prepare them for the encounter with Him. Since God transcends us so much (he literally stands outside creation) it is logical to assume that we need to prepare, often even change before we can meet Him. And we meet Him most closely in the Eucharist, when we receive Him at Communion. If we don’t prepare ourselves for Him, by conforming to Him as much as we can (which, admittedly, is not a lot), if we don’t take His commandments and words seriously, Communion is an empty ritual. Worse, since it is the Lord we receive, it becomes a profanation. We place ourselves above Him, consider ourselves more important, better judges of ourselves than He is. In another context, Archbishop Ranjith of Colombo calls this ‘self-idolatry’ (A special circular on the Year of the Eucharist, 2.1*).
Anyway, back to the COC’s plan to take their issues to the bishops. Obviously, they, like everyone else, have a right to contact the bishops about anything they wish, and I think this specific issue deserves an official response from the bishops. That won’t just benefit the Church, but also the faithful, the COC and other parties involved. What we need, everyone who has something at stake here, is clarity. An explanation about Church teachings and the reasons why some things are possible and some are not. And, most importantly, we deserve clear, expansive and thorough education about the Eucharist and Communion.
* I will pay attention to this letter at a later time.
On 5 June I wrote about an announcement that Archbishop François Bacqué, the Apostolic Nuncio (basically the Vatican ambassador) to the Netherlands, would be celebrating a Mass according to the Extraordinary Form at the St. Agnes church in Amsterdam. I also wrote that it would be a unique event, being the first pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form to be celebrated in the Netherlands in many years.
I was not entirely correct, it now turns out.
An announcement at Catholica offers more details. A priest, deacon and subdeacon will be celebrating the Mass on the 15 August, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, and Msgr. Bacqué will be presiding ‘from the throne’. Now I’m no expert on the Extraordinary Form, so I’ll freely admit I don’t know all the details of what that means, apart from that it does not seem that the archbishop will merely be sitting there; he does have his duties during the celebration of the Mass.
In my post of 5 June I spoke about the significance of this event, so I won’t repeat myself here. But I will share the details of when and where the Mass will take place.
Mass will start at 11am in the church of St. Agnes, located at Amstelveenseweg 163 in Amsterdam. Find the church’s website, in Dutch, here.
It doesn’t seem that I missed a whole lot in my week-long absence from the Internet, at least not when it comes to Catholic news in the Netherlands. Everyone still seems upset with the whole Fr. Vlaar business, even though the measures taken by Bishop Punt seem clear: a month at a convent or abbey, followed by another month doing some other work, before the question of Fr. Vlaar’s return to Obdam becomes an issue again.
The media devote much time and space to the issue (something reflected in a fairly consistent increase in the page views of my blog, too). The Protestant newspaper ‘Reformatorisch Dagblad’ publishes an interview with various people about the question of why things have gone so far as we have seen in Obdam (and which we also see elsewhere). One of those people in Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The interviewer asked him about a point raised in the bishop’s (clumsily translated) letter to the faithful in his diocese: “Frankly speaking I was very surprised and disappointed that the faithful do not spontaneously apprehend/understand that this goes way too far.”
Bishop Punt elucidates:
“In my opinion it is connected to the secularisation which has taken place in the past decades in the Netherlands. We have placed ourselves and our needs and desires in the centre of attention. God has become at most a function of ourselves. What does He mean to me? What do I get out of faith? If He is able to increase our happiness, we are willing to let Him into our lives. But if not, we part ways.
“That God is alive and that we were created in His image and owe our existence to Him, that awareness has strongly weakened. Apparently the Church failed in her duty to raise people in the truths of the faith [I’ll say…]. This makes it pertinent for us to find new ways to bring the reality of God and His purpose with our lives powerfully to people’s attention. They no longer know who He is. They don’t know Him anymore. They have lost sight of Him.”
Like any society, the Dutch one is pluriform. There are generalities, but the individualistic nature of modern western society has enlarged the individuality that is already present in modern man; their unique person, their customs, habits and priorities. To generalise will therefore never do complete justice to the situation. However, I do believe Bishop Punt is correct when he makes the above sweeping statements about the Church in the Netherlands.
In a recent discussion in the chat room at SQPN.com, Fr. Roderick Vonhögen explained about the situation in the Netherlands regarding liturgical abuses. A mainly international audience such as the one at SQPN, while undoubtedly aware of abuses, generally has no full sense of the extent of the problem. Fr. Roderick said that the situation is 100 times worse than it is in the United States, and I don’t think he is wrong.
Bishop Punt’s raising of new ways to educate people is indeed pertinent. At the moment the Church does not succeed in that. Existing methods gather to a minority of existing Catholics and are invisible beyond the Church. Faith education must be lifelong (since we never stop learning and growing closer to (or further away from) God), thorough, consistent and suited to modern society and modern people. That does not mean denying the truths of the faith in order to achieve that. But truths that are at right angles to modern life must be stated forcefully, not softly whispered.
In that context, the above statements from the bishop are a start. A good start, perhaps, but just a start nonetheless.
I am back from a week (which seemed to go by far too quickly, as all such things do) at the Credimus Bootcamp. I enjoyed the hospitality of Father David van Dijk, and the company of good, intelligent and faithful friends. Many topics were discussed, both in interactive workshops and in lectures, and some may find their way into this blog in due time. But for now I will make do with a selection of photos I took over the course of the week.
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are clean already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch — and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and are burnt. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for whatever you please and you will get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit and be my disciples.’
Gospel of John 15: 1-8
In fact, through the Law I am dead to the Law so that I can be alive to God. I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. The life that I am now living, subject to the limitation of human nature, I am living in faith, faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians 2: 19-20
The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah is being fulfilled: Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive! This people’s heart has grown coarse, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear, their heart to understand, changing their ways and being healed by me. ‘But blessed are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! In truth I tell you, many prophets and upright people longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it. ‘So pay attention to the parable of the sower.
Matthew 13: 13-18