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In the final weeks of last year, at least two prominent Dutch politicians – Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen (a Catholic, pictured)  and SGP party leader Kees van der Staaij (Reformed Protestant) - have suggested that it would be a good thing if one or more Dutch bishops would resign in the wake of the Deetman report. While both men received a certain amount of criticism for a perceived breach of the separation of Church and state, I think it’s more interesting to take these sentiments seriously. Not to say that I agree with them (I don’t), but they are interesting to look into.

We’ve seen it happen in Ireland, where several bishops resigned following conclusions about their conduct in handling abuse cases under their jurisdiction. These things are not unprecedented, but neither are they without context and reason. Although, as the Dutch bishops have confirmed, a bishop inherits a certain responsibility from his predecessor because of the fact that he is a bishop, they, like everyone else, can not be held responsible for the actions of another man. If one bishop mishandled specific cases of abuse, another bishop can’t be legally blamed for it, although he has a moral responsibility as shepherd and prelate of the Church.

A hypothetical resignation of any Dutch bishop, to atone for actions that were or were not taken under another man’s watch, would be meaningless, in my opinion. Other acts of atonement for the Church as a whole, or the diocese of which a bishop is the shepherd, can be far more effective and meaningful.

Simply looking at the numbers, it is unlikely (though of course not impossible) that any of the sitting bishops in the Netherlands will be found guilty of gross misconduct. The vast majority of them were not bishops when the peak of the abuse cases occurred. This is something that the media often seems to forget, that the bishops of the 1960s and 70s are not the same men as today.

A far more important consideration in this matter is that a bishop can be far more effective in working towards a solution if he stays in office. And here we must consider what a bishop is. Unlike what many want us to believe, he is not the CEO of a major company. A CEO may, sometimes even should, resign if stocks fall, production drops and profit plummets. A bishop is a father for the faithful in his diocese. And, to borrow a simile from somewhere else, who has heard of a father severing all contact with his family when some disaster happens? Exactly then it is a father’s duty to stay with his family, protect them, and help them in dealing with whatever horror has afflicted them (and him as well, of course). That is also what Bishop Gerard de Korte said in an interview on 17 December:

“I don’t think the victims are waiting for the resignation of a bishop, but rather that the current bishops act in such a way that they will be helped. What matters now is that we try to stand by the victims and act adequately.”

If a bishop were to resign, we should have a good answer to the question “why?” And then we must ask what good this resignation will bring. In the meantime, we must ask, inspire and pray for our bishops to do what is right, as fathers of the local church.

Photo credit: ANP

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?

Copyright

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Netherlands License.

The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

Blog and media

Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin, Katholiek.nl, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

17 November: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Toespraak voor de conferentie over de complementariteit tussen man en vrouw.

10 November: [English] Pope Francis - Letter to the Church of the Frisians.

22 October: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - The doctrine of the Church must always be actualised.

9 October: [English] Godfried Cardinal Danneels - Intervention at the Synod.

3 October: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - A ministry of mercy.

26 September: [English] Bishop Rob Mutsaerts - The Synod will not be about the divorced and remarried.

6 August: [English] Pope Francis - Address to German altar servers.

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This blog is a voluntary and free effort. I don't get paid for it, and money is never the main motivator for me to write the things I write.

But, since time is money, as they say, I am most certainly open to donations from readers who enjoy my writings or who agree with me that it communicating the faith and the news that directly affects us as Catholics, is a good thing.

Via the button you may contribute any amount you see fit to the Paypal account of this blog. The donation swill be used for further development of this blog or other goals associated with communicating the faith and the new of the Church.

Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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