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The parishes of San Salvator in Den Bosch and Beheading of Saint John the Baptist in Liempde are some 20 kilometers apart, but when it comes to parish councils, they could be neighbours. Both have been in the news lately, with stories of disregard of Catholic teaching and a frank misunderstanding of authority, both theirs and others’.
In both parishes, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts has been working to resolve things, but with little result as far as the parish councils are concerned. In San Salvator, the parish council is now on the lookout for an alternate location to continue their fake Masses and Protestant church services. The parish church belongs to the diocese, after all, and if the parish no longer considers itself part of that diocese, it is only sensible that they can no longer pretend that are properly Catholic by using Catholic buildings and furnishings.
In Liempde, three of the seven parish council members have quit after Father Norbert van der Sluis (pictured)was not transferred to another parish. The council wanted that transfer after Fr. van der Sluis did not allow a funeral Mass for a man who died through euthanasia.
And this is the basic problem, both at San Salvator and in Liempde: parish councils overstepping their bounds. It’s a matter of understanding exactly what a parish council is for. It is not a democratic representation of the faithful, and neither does is decide on Catholic teachings and ‘policies’. A parish council exists to assist the parish priest in running a parish, with the pastoral and educational duties remaining those of the priest.
It is a matter of fact that the Catholic Church has a hierarchy; not a hierarchy for the sake of power, but for the sake of the faith. Our bishops and priests are our shepherds, they lead us towards God and teach us how to live our faith. Priests are called to these responsibilities and receive the Spirit to take them on through ordination. Their pastoral work does not happen in a vacuum, but within the context of parish and diocese, and ultimately the world Church. A parish council assists the priests in taking care of the worldly affairs of a faith community. For example, they take care of the finances, of maintenance of the buildings used by the parish, of scheduling programs and events, and keeping a proper record of the things that are done. The parish priest remains ultimately responsible for all that, though, but he can delegate. What he can’t delegate are such things as the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and education (although laity may assist in these).
Parish council members can’t take these things solely on themselves, even if they are without a priest for a certain time. They certainly can’t pretend to be able to overrule decisions taken by the priest in these matters, nor can they refuse the appointment of a priest, even if he’s the allegedly ‘very orthodox’ auxiliary bishop.
These things are not new. The same responsibilities of priest and parish council exist since the 1960s, so the council members of San Salvator and Beheading of St. John have no excuse to be unaware of them, let along of the faith of the Church, which has one or two things to say about the need for priests.