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September 26, 2014 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands | Tags: beatification, bible, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishops, communion, divorce, eucharist, evangelisation, family, humanae vitae, jesus christ, marriage, pope francis, pope paul vi, raymond cardinal burke, sacraments, synod of bishops, translation, walter cardinal kasper | 2 comments
The Dutch bishops have not yet spoken much in public about the upcoming Synod, but today Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary of ‘s Hertogenbosch, does. And he makes a point that has been emphasised before by both Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Burke: the Synod is not about divorce, remarriage and admission to the Eucharist. The question is a bigger one, as Bishop Mutsaerts explains:
“With the extraordinary Synod of the Family which opens on 5 October, Pope Francis mostly aims for a greater appreciation of the Christian marriage as a sacrament. It is clear that in today’s culture the Biblical vision on marriage and family is considered to be virtually unattainable, and is seen more as a burden than as good news. Perhaps that is the reason for Pope Francis to have scheduled the beatification of Paul VI at the end of the Synod, as a closing statement.
Paul VI was a staunch defender of Christian marriage. His famed and infamous encyclical Humanae Vitae, however, achieved the opposite according to public opinion. The Biblical ideal was almost completely forgotten. It is to be hoped that October’s Synod will not result in a repetition of Humanae Vitae. Expectations, after all, are high. Some fervently hope that the Pope will change the Church’s teaching about divorced and remarried people; others fear he will. That would result in a repetition of Humanae Vitae. And that is exactly what Pope Francis is afraid of: “I have not been happy that so many people – even church people, priests – have said: “Ah, the Synod will be about giving communion to the divorced”, and went straight to that point”, the Pope told reporters on the return flight from Israel.
The questions is much broader. The family is in crisis. Young people rarely choose marriage. They choose others ways of living together. The family is in crisis because marriage is in crisis, according to the firm opinion of Francis.
I hope that the Pope will get the Synod he has in mind, and not the Synod which is mainly concerned with the single question of divorced and remarried faithful. That is certainly a genuine problem, but a far more complex problem lies at its root: few understand marriage as a Christian vocation, strengthened by sacramental mercy. Not without reason did the Pope give it “The pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelisation” as title, and he placed it as such emphatically within the context of evangelisation. Evangelisation is without meaning if we consider it without the Gospel. The words of Jesus to both the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery was hard to accept for those who heard it then and those who hear it now. Don’t forget that the Apostles thought that Jesus’ teachings about marriage were so difficult that it would be better not to marry. If the Synod is true to the Gospel – can she be otherwise? – she can expect the same response, and it will be her duty to inspire confidence that the Christian marriage is still recommendable.
Pope Francis is keen to emphasise that Christian marriage is a sacrament. Much of the confusion surrounding marriage and divorce arises when we lose sight of the fact that marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is not indissoluble because two people make a promise for life. The Church can dispense people from their promises. That is een true for the vows of religious. But the Church can’t undo a sacrament. Marriage is indissoluble for the same reason that we have tabernacles: a consecrated host can’t be ‘deconsecrated’, just like Baptism or the ordination of a priest can’t be undone. Even a priest who has ben laicised remains a priest, even though he can’t exercise the office of priest (although he can hear confessions in emergencies). Nobody, no Synod and also no Pope, can undo a valid sacrament. That’s simply how it is. We shouldn’t therefore expect a relaxation of rules regarding divorced and remarried people in regard to their receiving Holy Communion. Those who do expect this will be disappointed from the outset.
Most Catholics are unaware of the sacramental character of their marriage. Marriage, by the way, is the only of the seven sacrament which is not administered by a priest or deacon, but by lay people, by husband and wife when they say yes to each other. This is the sacrament that gives strength and mercy to be able to keep promises. That is what it is about for the Pope.”
December 31, 2013 in reflections | Tags: abortion, abuse, ad limina, adoration, adrianus cardinal simonis, angelus, anna kruse, annemarie scheerboom, archbishop andré-joseph léonard, archbishop georg gänswein, archbishop gerhard müller, archbishop jean-claude périsset, archbishop ludwig averkamp, archbishop nikola eterovic, archbishop pietro parolin, archbishop robert zollitsch, ascension, baptism, bas plaisier, belgium, birthday, bishop aloys jousten, bishop ansgar puff, bishop bernhard rieger, bishop ernst gutting, bishop franz eder, bishop franz-peter tebartz-van elst, bishop georg weinhold, bishop gerard de korte, bishop heiner koch, bishop hugo van steekelenburg, bishop jan hendriks, bishop jan liesen, bishop jan van burgsteden, bishop jean-pierre delville, bishop joannes gijsen, bishop johannes bluyssen, bishop johannes wübbe, bishop jos punt, bishop joseph lescrauwaet, bishop max georg von twickel, bishop michael gerber, bishop rainer klug, bishop reinhard lettmann, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishop rudolf voderholzer, bishop tiny muskens, bishop werner radspieler, bishops, blessed sacrament, boris dittrich, cathedral of saint eric, christmas, cnmc, college of cardinals, communication, conclave, consistory, contraception, council of cardinals, curia reforms, deetman commission, diocese of 's hertogenbosch, diocese of liège, diocese of namur, domenico cardinal bartolucci, dominican order, easter, ecumenism, ersilio cardinal tonini, eucharistic prayer, evangelii gaudium, exorcism, extraordinary form, father roderick vonhögen, femen, gender, general audience, german bishops' conference, germany, gianfranco cardinal ravasi, giovanni cardinal cheli, giovanni cardinal lajolo, god, homosexuality, in hac tanta, internet, interview, józef cardinal glemp, jean cardinal honoré, jesus christ, joachim cardinal meisner, josef-léon cardinal cardijn, julien cardinal ries, keith cardinal o'brien, king willem alexander, legal action, lent, liturgy, lorenzo cardinal antonetti, lumen fidei, magisterium, marriage, mass, medardo joseph cardinal mazombwe, michael voris, msgr. paul tighe, music, one of us, ordination, our lady with the golden heart basilica, p, palliative care, papal visit, pauspetitie, pope benedict xvi, pope francis, prayer, pro-life, queen máxima, raymond cardinal burke, redemption, retreat, rocardo cardinal carles gordó, sacra liturgia 2013, sacraments, saint boniface, sede vacante, simon cardinal pimenta, slovenia, social media, st. peter's basilica in oirschot, stanislaw cardinal nagy, statistics, synod of bishops, syria, television, the passion, timothy cardinal dolan, translation, twitter, ukrainian catholic church, united nations, wim cardinal eijk, world communications day, world day of peace, world youth days | Leave a comment
Even without digging into the details, I can comfortably say that 2013 has been the strangest, most unexpected, most challenging and most rollercoaster-like year in recent memory. From the historical retirement of Pope Benedict XVI to the long-awaited ad limina visit of the Dutch bishops, a Catholic blogger with his eye on current Church events had plenty of things to write about. A look back on the past twelve months.
“Dear fathers, dear mothers, let God be great amid your family, so that your children can grow up in the security of His love.”
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, shortly after his consecration as Bishop of Regensburg, 26 January 2013
January was a month of ongoing affairs, although some new issues also appeared. One example of this was the question of the ad limina visit of the Dutch bishops. Otherwise, things went on as usual as Pope Benedict XVI continued much as he had done in earlier years: he consecrated Archbishop Gänswein (pictured), baptised children, created a diocese for the Ukrainian Catholics in western Europe, performed some damage control on the issue of marriage, gender and sacraments, released his Message for World Communications Day, and tweeted his support for life. Little did we expect how much that would soon change…
Locally, things were not too much out of the ordinary. In the abuse crisis, Cardinal Simonis was not prosecuted, Bishop van Burgsteden was announced to be offering a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the bishops made it easier to leave the Church, and Cardinal Eijk spoke on palliative care,
“…well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant…”
Pope Benedict XVI, 11 February 2013
The year really started on 11 February, with the shock announcement of Pope Benedict XVI that he would retire by the month’s end. So much of what would characterise the rest of 2013 has its roots in that decision and announcement. With it we started to wrap up a pontificate, with a lot of final things. The faithful were certainly loath to see Papa Benedetto go, as both his final general audiences and his last Angelus show. And then that last farewell came, for me the one moment which stands out in this year.
But before all that took place, there were also other developments. Pope Benedict released his Message for Lent and begin his Lenten retreat, this time led by the tweeting Cardinal Ravasi. In Germany, the bishops made some iffy decisions regarding contraception, and in Scotland, Cardinal O’Brien fell from grace.
Locally the Dutch bishops decided to limit their tv appearances (a decision later corrected by Pope Francis), and they also responded to the Pope’s retirement, collectively and individually. There were also some changes to the Eucharistic Prayer, triggered by the sede vacante.
Pope Francis, first words to the world after his election, 13 March
In March a new chapter was opened. Whereas Pope Benedict XVI had educated us about the faith, Pope Francis would show us how to put it into practice. The tone was set from that first shy “good evening”. But before all that took place, we had to wait while the cardinal electors met and sketched a profile of the new pontiff. As the conclave opened, all eyes were on a humble chimney, about as humble as the Pope it announced after five ballots.
Of course, there were many reactions to the election of Pope Francis, such as the one by Archbishop Léonard. But live in the Church also went on. Cardinal Dolan reminded us of what really mattered, the Vatican guarded communication to the outside, the second Deetman report on excessive physical abuse in the Church came out, Bishop Jos Punt returned from three weeks living as a hermit in Spain, Pope Francis directed our attention to what it’s all about and he met with his predecessor, and it was also Easter.
“Christ is everything for me, the centre of my life, from Baptism to death. He is the personification of God, showing us how to live in intimate union with God, how to literally embody that great and incomprehensible God. Or, as the Gospel of John tells us, “Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father”. When you become the Body of Christ together, you experience in a fundamental way that you belong together and support one another.”
Words from Bishop Tiny Muskens, quoted by Bishop Liesen in the eulogy for the late bishop of Breda.
A month of settling into the new papacy and all the impressions that brings. Things returned to normal, and an overview of April is basically a list of events, with no major overarching themes.
The Dutch Church got a 25th basilica, 300 young Dutch Catholics signed up for the World Youth Days in Rio, the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch plays it hard regarding rebellious priests, Pope Francis established a group of eight cardinals to advice in the reform of the Curia, Bishop Tiny Muskens (pictured) passes away, with Bishop Jan Liesen offering his funeral Mass, a group of Dutch professors published a strange manifesto against the bishops, Archbishop Léonard was attacked and taught us a lesson by his reaction, Pope Francis met with the future King and Queen of the Netherlands, and I wrote my first post on the upcoming Sacra Liturgia conference.
“I am very thankful that you have taken the effort to send me some words of support and solidarity after the protest action of the Femen group. Your words have been very comforting for me.”
Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, in a letter sent to those who wrote to him in support after the attack on him by leftwing protesters in April
A quiet month which nonetheless closed the the events of the first few months, as the Pope emeritus came home (pictured). In other events, we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord, Michael Voris commented on the state of the Church in the Netherlands, the bishops of Belgium offered a status report of the sexual abuse crisis in their country, Bishop de Korte responded to last month’s professors’ manifesto, The Pope did not perform an exorcism, nine new priests were to be ordained, and Archbishop Léonard sent a gracious letter to all those who supported him after the Femen attack.
In addition to all that, I offered some thoughts on reform proposals from the German bishops, abortion and the right to life, the fact that the Church does not condone violence against homosexuals, and Pope Francis’ comment that Christ redeemed everyone.
“He was a bishop with a vision, not conservative in the sense that he wanted to return to the time before the Second Vatican Council. On the contrary, with heart and soul he wanted to be a bishop who stood in and for that council and wanted to put it into practice.”
Bishop Jan Hendriks remembers Bishop Jo Gijsen, who passed away on 24 June
At the start of June the world gathered around the Blessed Sacrament, a new bishop was appointed to Liège, a successful Europe-wide pro-life initiative got underway, auxiliary bishops were appointed to Freiburg im Breisgau, Cologne and Osnabrück, one of the last Dutch missionary bishops (and host to a group of Dutch World Youth Day pilgrims) retires, and Bishop Jo Gijsen (pictured), emeritus of both Roermond and Reykjavík, passes away.
I also made the first Dutch translation (as far as I was able to find) of Pope Benedict XV’s encyclical In Hac Tanta, on St. Boniface, and I wrote about the issue of same-sex marriage from the viewpoints of two seeming opposites.
“It is impossible to serve God without going to the human brother, met on the path of our lives. But it is also impossible to substantially love the neighbor without understanding that this is the Son of God himself who first became the neighbour of every man.”
Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, in the homily at the consecration of Bishop Jean-Pierre Delville of Liège, 14 July
The summer months saw the stream of blog posts shrink to a trickle, and a mere 10 posts were made in July. Among those things that I did write about were the first encyclical of Pope Francis, the United Nations launching a rather one-sided demand to the Holy See about sexual abuse, the launch of the cause for the beatification of Belgian Cardinal Cardijn (pictured), Dutch pilgrims departing for Rio, the consecration of Bishop Delville of Liège, and a young Dutch woman’s encounter with the Pope.
“As John took Mary into his home, you took Bishop Bluyssen into your home. There is of course a great difference between giving someone a space to live and giving someone a home. You have done the latter.”
Bishop Antoon Hurkmans to the sisters of the Mariënburg monastery, 13 August
Still summer, and I visited a foreign cathedral, in Slovenia the effects of Pope Francis’ reforms are first felt, Bishop Johannes Bluyssen passes away, Namur gains a new basilica, and the Church a new Secretary of State (pictured). Another quiet month, but the things that did happen were sometimes quite momentous. A sign of more to come.
“I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”
Pope Francis, 1 September
In Germany, the biggest story of the year erupted in Limburg (Bishop Tebartz-van Elst pictured), and Cardinal Lajolo was sent to settle things, for now. Pope Francis called for prayer for Syria (and armed interventions were averted). In Osnabrück, Freiburg and Cologne, bishops were consecrated, and Freiburg’s Archbishop Zollitsch retired soon afterwards. The pro-life “One of Us” initiative collected 1 million signatures, and the Dutch bishops appointed a new spokeswoman (who would soon undergo her baptism by fire in the ad limina visit). And then, Pope Francis was interviewed.
“The Eucharist (which refers to the Last Supper of Jesus Christ) is the most important sacrament, in which the faithful celebrate their unity with God and each other.”
Wim Cardinal Eijk, responding to liturgical abuse by an overly creative priest, 7 October
In this very busy month, the Council of Cardinals got to work, and the first fruits of Pope Francis’ reforms became visible in the Synod of Bishops, which sent a questionnaire to the world’s Catholics at the end of the month. Rumours surfaced that the Dutch bishops would be going on their ad limina visit soon, rumours which would soon be confirmed. One of the most notable efforts to spring up in relation to this was the so-called Pauspetitie. Back home, Cardinal Eijk (pictured) made a stand against excessive liturgical abuse, which revealed how rotten some parts of the Church are. Later that month, the cardinal also wrote a letter to the faithful about church closings. In other news, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications’ Msgr. Paul Tighe spoke at the CNMC in Boston about the Holy See’s work in social media, and a solution was found for the Limburg situation. The Holy See announced a consistory for February, in which Pope Francis will be creating his first class of cardinals.
With the help of Fr. Roderick’s more faithful translation of last month’s papal interview, I drafted an improved English translation. All this before later developments would seriously invalidate the level of accuracy, as the interviewer admitted to not having recorded the interview or taking notes.
“Due to the aforementioned discrepancies, the draft text is to be withdrawn and revised, so that no pastoral directions are sanctioned which are in opposition to Church teaching. Because the text has raised questions not only in Germany, but in many parts of the world as well, and has led to uncertainties in a delicate pastoral issue, I felt obliged to inform Pope Francis about it.”
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, in a letter to the bishops of Germany, 11 November
A bit a weird month, mostly devoted to looking ahead to the upcoming ad limina, but there were also some other topics which needed discussion or correction.
First of all, there was good news as we learned that annual television spectacle The Passion would be visiting my home town in 2014. The Dutch bishops decided on the fastest and most efficient means to deal with the Synod of Bishops’ questionnaire. On 19 November, Bishop Joseph Lescrauwaet passed away. Most attention internationally, however, was for Archbishop Müller’s letter to the German bishops, informing them that their pastoral initiative on marriage and the sacraments needed revising. In Germany, things remained rebellious. On the ad limina visit, Bishop de Korte looked ahead, and I took a closer look at the general report that the bishops published.
Oh, and then there was a little Apostolic Exhortation called Evangelii Gaudium…
“Finally, the Pope also asked us a sort of question of conscience. Where do you yourself, as bishops, find the strength, your hope and joy amid all the concerns and problems? The Gospel must always be visible as the Good News of forgiveness, salvation and redemption. He urged us to always quench our thirst from that and communicate it to others. The Church, the Pope indicated, grows from an authentically experienced faith and through honest attraction. She is being sent to awaken and plant faith, hope and love in people.”
Bishop Jos Punt, looking back on the ad limina visit, 14 December
And so, after nine years, the bishops returned to Rome and we launched into the 2013 ad limina visit. Opening with the audience with Pope Francis, the ad limina was a hopeful occasion, for both bishops and faithful back home. Although a fair few had expected otherwise, the bishops received encouraging scenes to continue on the path they were on, especially regarding how they dealt with the sexual abuse crisis. Very helpful and enjoyable was the daily reporting by various bishops as events unfolded. After returning home, several bishops felt called to write down their experiences once more.
December was also the month of Cologne’s Cardinal Meisner, who looked ahead to his upcoming retirement, spoke frankly about some current affairs and saw Christmas day – and his 80th birthday – marked by desecration.
In other news, Michael Voris put the spotlight on a Dutch bishop, Archbishop Müller clarified what clear minds had logically assumed from the start, Archbishop Zollitsch made some worrisome comments,, the Pope marked his 1st birthday on Twitter and his 77th real birthday, Pope Francis released his Message for the World Day of Peace, Cardinal Koch expressed some concern about papal popularity, Cardinal Burke was demoted (but only in the minds of some) and there was some excitement when a papal visit to the Netherlands was discussed. And it was Christmas.
Who we lost:
- Jozéf Cardinal Glemp, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere, passed away on 23 January, aged 83
- Giovanni Cardinal Cheli, Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano, passed away on 8 February, aged 94
- Julien Cardinal Ries, Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Antonio di Padova a Circonvallazione Appia, passed away on 23 February, aged 92
- Jean Cardinal Honoré, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria della Salute a Primavalle, passed away on 28 February, aged 92
Bishop Bernard Rieger, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, passed away on 10 April, aged 90
- Lorenzo Cardinal Antonetti, Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Agnese in Agone, passed away on 10 April, aged 90
- Bishop Reinard Lettmann, bishop emeritus of Münster, passed away on 16 April, aged 80
- Bishop Martinus Petrus Maria Muskens, bishop emeritus of Breda, passed away on 16 April, aged 77
- Stanislaw Cardinal Nagy, Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala, passed away on 5 June, aged 91
- Bishop Franz Xaver Eder, bishop emeritus of Passau, passed away on 20 June, aged 87
- Bishop Joannes Baptist Matthijs Gijsen, bishop emeritus of Reykjavík, passed away on 24 June, aged 80
- Simon Ignatius Cardinal Pimenta, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria «Regina Mundi» a Torre Spaccata, passed away on 19 July, aged 93
- Ersilio Cardinal Tonini, Cardinal-Priest of Santissimo Redentore a Valmelaina, passed away on 28 July, aged 99
- Archbishop Ludwig Averkamp, archbishop emeritus of Hamburg, passed away on 29 July, aged 86
- Bishop Johannes Willem Maria Bluyssen, bishop emeritus of ‘s Hertogenbosch, passed away on 8 August, aged 87
- Medardo Joseph Cardinal Mazombwe, Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Emerenziana a Tor Fiorenza, passed away on 29 August, aged 81
- Bishop Ernst Gutting, auxiliary bishop emeritus Speyer, passed away on 27 September, aged 94
- Bishop Georg Weinhold, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Dresden-Meiβen, passed away on 10 October, aged 78
- Domenica Cardinal Bartolucci, Cardinal-Deacon of Santissimi Nomi di Gesù e Maria in Via Lata, passed away on 11 November, aged 96
- Bishop Joseph Frans Lescrauwaet, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Haarlem, passed away on 19 November, aged 90
- Bishop Max Georg von Twickel, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Münster, passed away on 28 November, aged 87
- Ricardo María Cardinal Carles Gordó, Cardinal-Priest of Santa Marie Consolatrice al Tiburtino, passed away on 17 December, aged 86
New appointments and consecrations in the dioceses of northwestern Europe:
- Bishop Heiner Koch, auxiliary bishop of Köln, was appointed as bishop of Dresden-Meiβen on 18 January and installed on 18 March
- Fr. Rudolf Voderholzer was consecrated as bishop of Regensburg on 26 January
- Fr. Jean-Pierre Delville was appointed as bishop of Liège on 31 May and consecrated on 14 July.
- Bishop Aloys Jousten retired as bishop of Liège on 31 May
- Fr. Michael Gerber was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Freiburg im Freisgau on 12 June and consecrated on 8 September
- Fr. Ansgar Puff was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Köln on 14 June and consecrated on 21 September
- Fr. Johannes Wübbe was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Osnabrück on 18 June and consecrated on 1 September
- Bishop Werner Radspieler retired as auxiliary bishop of Bamberg on 9 September
- Archbishop Robert Zollitsch retired as archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau on 17 September
- Archbishop Nikola Eterovic was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio to Germany on 21 September; Archbishop Jean-Claude Périsset retired as such on the same day
- Bishop Rainer Klug retired as auxiliary bishop of Freiburg im Breisgau on 21 November
In the past year, my blog enjoyed 113,702 visits, some 26,000 more than in 2012. The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, the following conclave and the election of Pope Francis, the Scalfari interview and the corrected English translation I provided, the letter of Archbishop Müller to the German bishops and the upcoming election of the successor of Cardinal Meisner, Evangelii Gaudium and Cardinal Eijk’s sanction against the Dominican priest who was excessively creative are among the topics and events that drew most readers. A good year. Much gratitude and encouragement to continue merrily onwards into 2014.
May your new year be blessed and joyful!
December 3, 2013 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands | Tags: ad limina, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishops, communication, language, michael voris, pope francis, separation of church and state, the vortex | 1 comment
For the second time, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts made an appearance on Michael Voris’ Churchmilitant.tv, causing some concerns about the bluntness of his statements. While I don’t think that the statements are wholly incorrect or ill-advised, I do have my concerns.
Bishop Mutsaerts appears in the video below at the 9:58 mark.
My concerns are twofold, and they are related to context. Michael Voris has a very clear goal with this video: he wants to explain why he makes his show The Vortex the way he does, and he uses the bishop’s words as proof that it is needed. What we don’t get to see, however, is the context of these words, the conversation they were a part of.
Michael Voris spoke with Bishop Mutsaerts during an earlier visit to the Netherlands in May of this year. I wrote about it the time. I assume the footage we see in yesterday’s video was recorded then.
Bishop Mutsaerts’ words are only a short blurb, clearly a part of a larger conversation. We don’t know the context of that conversation, which could account for the apparent bluntness of the bishop’s words. That is one concern.
Secondly, it is is clear that English is not the bishop’s first language. While he takes care not to speak too fast, trying to find the right words for what he wants to express, this can still very easily open the door for misconceptions and using the wrong words for what he wants to say. Unfamiliarity with a language often leads to using the easiest and most general words available to the speaker. This too could be taking place in the blurb.
I fear that the impression I get is that Voris uses Bishop Mutsaerts’ words for his own goal, removing the context of the conversation as it took place at the time. And that can lead to confusion, not least among Catholics in the Netherlands, whose eyes are on the bishops during this week’s ad limina anyway.
And that leads to yet another concern, which has nothing to do with Michael Voris or any bishop directly. All eyes in secular and Catholic media, and among many faithful, are on the bishops, and rightly so, but anything that is not positive sign or statement is too often disregarded as unwarranted negativity and the incorrect attitude to things. Yesterday, the bishops were visibly very happy about their audience with Pope Francis, and that is great to see, and an encouragement. But that joy does not in any way invalidate any concerns and serious words or opinions that anyone may have. We can’t limit our ideas and opinions of the ad limina to mere feelings of optimism or pessimism, joy or annoyance.
Does the video above help or should we have our questions about its usefulness? In the end, it is too short to have much use beyond what Michael Voris has for it: a validation for his Internet activities. Support those as you may, or not (and I have some concerns about Voris’ approach), I don’t think Bishop Mutsaerts’ comments are much to get excited about. Yes, there are significant tensions between faith and society, Church and state, and it is disconcerting to look back and see how the ideas from the 1960s have taken society hostage, but is that something that we don’t know? I guess, for those who don’t, it could be useful as an eye opener. But beyond that… there’s little more to say about it.
Far more important is what we do with those facts, so let’s focus on that question as the ad limina continues.
November 29, 2013 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands | Tags: abuse, ad limina, art, baptism, beatification, bible, bishop antoon hurkmans, bishop everard de jong, bishop frans wiertz, bishop gerard de korte, bishop hans van den hende, bishop herman woorts, bishop jan hendriks, bishop jan liesen, bishop jan van burgsteden, bishop jos punt, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishop theodorus hoogenboom, bishops, books, buddhism, canonisation, catechesis, catholic youth day, commission of the bishops' conference of the european community, communication, communion, confirmation, deus caritas est, ecumenism, education, ethics, evangelical alliance, faculty of catholic theology, family, finances, healthcare, hinduism, internet, islam, judaism, liturgy, marriage, media, missal, mission, music, old catholic church, orthodox church, pentecostals, pilgrimage, politics, pontifical council for the laity, pope francis, protestantse kerk nederland, religious life, secularisation, social media, social teachings, tiltenberg, vaticanum ii, vocation, week of prayer for christian unity, wim cardinal eijk | 1 comment
Continuing with our translation of the general report that the Dutch bishops will be handing to Pope Francis in the first week of December, we arrive at the second part, in which the various portfolios within the Bishops’ Conference are described, as well as some developments within the fields they cover.
It would seem that each portfolio holder has written a short text. These are sadly not written for easy reading. They are dry texts intended to convey information, and their length prevents the inclusion of much detail.
Below, I will briefly list the main points in each text.
Vocations and Education to Church Ministry (Wim Cardinal Eijk): Mentions the intended merger between the three Catholic theological faculties in the country. The Faculty of Catholic Theology (logo pictured) of the University of Tilburg, but located in Utrecht, was the result. Two faculties participated, while the third lost the right to dispense ecclesiastical grades. No mention is made of the seminaries.
Liturgy, Church Music, Bible and Christian Art (Bishop Jan Liesen): This department tries to emphasise the fullness of liturgical life through letters and liturgical books. There is special attention for new translations of the Roman Missal and the Bible as used in the liturgy.
Catechesis (Bishop Rob Mutsaerts): There are projects about First Communion and Confirmation, a series of six catechetical magazines on topics like birth, suffering, forgiveness and education, a catechesis method for children and teenagers. New goals are new forms of evangelisation and catechesis and more investing in the volunteer force.
Education (Bishop Jan Hendriks): Government policy and secularisation put pressure on Catholic education. Ways are sought to improve relations between Church and schools and increase religious knowledge of teachers.
Youth (Bishop Rob Mutsaerts): Pastoral care is mostly presented in national events (Catholic Youth Day, diocesan events). The number of youth groups is slowly decreasing, but young Catholics are increasingly present on the Internet and in social media.
Communication and Media (Bishop Frans Wiertz): Little interest from secular media in Church and faith, except for the sexual abuse crisis and the election of Pope Francis. Fewer financial means to invest in communication. There seem to be new chances in new media (seriously? Seem to be?)
Pastoral care in Justice and Health Care (Bishop Everard de Jong): Pastoral care in prisons takes place in close cooperation with the state. Most hospitals and nursing homes are secularised, making providing pastoral care more difficult. It is being ‘professionalised’ and thus becoming more secular. There are very few priests available in this area, and the challenge is to strengthen the bonds between caregivers and dioceses, and dioceses and institutions.
Church and Society (Bishop Gerard de Korte): The bishop meets twice annually with representatives from various areas of society, including political parties and unions. The bishop tries to spread Catholic social thought via the media.
Ecumenism and Contacts with the Eastern Rites (Bishop Hans van den Hende): There are direct ecumenical contacts with the Protestant Church, the Old Catholic Church, the Oriental and Orthodox Churches, the Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal churches. Expressions of ecumenism include a joint declaration on Baptism and a nationwide Week of Prayer for Unity.
Interreligious Dialogue (Bishop Jan van Burgsteden): Cooperation exists with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Deus Caritas Est and the Vatican II documents are basis for further contacts.
Mission and Development (Bishop Jos Punt): There is solidarity and creativity in the parishes, often aimed at local projects. These can be integrated in national actions. There is also a decline in financial contributions to missionary projects. (At left: Bishop Punt on a missionary visit to Ethiopia)
Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) (Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom): The bishop participates in the two meetings per year of the COMECE, and subsequently reports to the bishops’ conference about it. Several COMECE projects are put into practice in the Netherlands.
Marriage and Family (Bishop Antoon Hurkmans): Good marriage preparation and family amenities are promoted for the new parishes. Numerous movements assist the Church in these goals.
Medical Ethics (Wim Cardinal Eijk): The cardinal lectures on this topic in the Netherlands and abroad, and also teaches the subject at the seminary of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, and writes articles for various publications. He also maintains political contacts to emphasise the topic, and has published a handbook on medical ethics (pictured), which is currently being translated into English and Italian.
Relations with Judaism (Bishop Herman Woorts): Several meetings between Jewish and Christian communities take place, in relation to the remembrance of the Holocaust and several Jewish feasts. All dioceses should have their own working group for relations with Judaism.
Movements and New Communities (Bishop Jan van Burgsteden): These are fourteen movements and communities recognised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Religious and Secular Institutes (Bishop Jan van Burgsteden): Three to four meetings per year have led to mutual dialogue and confidence and has brought bishops and religious closer together.
Church and the Elderly (Bishop Gerard de Korte): Two elements are important: representation and comfort on the one hand, and questions of life and death, the younger generations and hope on the other. This is achieved through celebrations and speaking engagements.
Church and Women (Bishop Gerard de Korte): Consisting mainly of contacts with the Union of Dutch Catholic Women, in two meetings per year.
Pilgrimages (Bishop Herman Woorts): The bishop takes part in the annual meeting of the three official pilgrimage organisations. Important now is the creation of a new pilgrims’ book related to the publication of an interrim Missal, probably sometime in 2014. The bishop takes part in various pilgrimages and celebrations.
Pastoral Care for Workers in Carnivals, Circuses and Shipping (Bishop Antoon Hurkmans): There is a well-ordered nationwide parish for shipping workers, with its own parish priest and group of volunteers. There is an annual meeting with the bishop.
Beatifications and Canonisations (Bishop Frans Wiertz): There have been four canonisations and three beatifications in the Dutch Church province since 1998. There are three Blesseds awaiting canonisation. There are 13 further cases, of which three have reached the stage of Venerable. Three cases have had their file sent to Rome, and two files have been handed over to dioceses abroad. Three or four more candidates are being considered to have their processes started.
The reports are very factual and while the describe intentions, plans and wishes, there is no indication of how these are to be realised, nor how effective any projects are.
Striking – and disappointing – is the conclusion from Bishop Wiertz as holder of the communications portfolio that “here seem to be new chances in new media”. These chances have been there for years, and many Catholics in the world are exploiting them. There is a world to be won on the Internet for the Church in the Netherlands, a world that is barely being explored at this time.
November 17, 2013 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands | Tags: ad limina, archbishop gerhard müller, bishop antoon hurkmans, bishop gerard de korte, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishops, communication, curia, ecumenism, education, eucharist, faith, friesch dagblad, jesus christ, pope francis, secularisation, wim cardinal eijk | 1 comment
The first bishop to do so, Bishop Gerard de Korte looks ahead to the upcoming ad limina visit in his regular contribution to Friesch Dagblad and the diocesan website. For those who know the bishop, his two main topics should come as no surprise: ecumenism and the speechlessness of the faithful have been at the heart of his work since his arrival in Groningen in 2008.
In the first week of December all Dutch bishops will go to Rome. We will visit the graves of the Apostles Peter and Paul, celebrate the Eucharist in several places and for a full week we will have numerous meetings with the closest collaborators of the Pope and with Pope Francis personally. This visit, which has been prepared intensively in the Netherlands over the past months, invites to mark time. Probing questions must be answered: what is the state of the Church today? What is the future of ecclesiastical life in our country? Very important as well is the question of what sort of leadership the Christian community needs today and tomorrow. In that context, you could consider all officials in the churches, but from my position I primarily think of the interpretation of the office of the bishop within the Roman Church.
For more than half a century our Dutch culture is characterised by great prosperity and an increasingly educated population. Partly because of this our society is marked by individualism, a deep desire for participation and democracy, and, not least, a rapid moral liberalisation. Christian faith communities in general and the Roman in particular must come to terms with this cultural state of affairs. Powerful individualisation has caused many parishes and faith communities to shrink. The Church in our country has become extremely vulnerable. Numerous families no longer succeed to socialise the younger generations into the Church. Even more tense, I think, is the crisis of content of the faith. Many Catholics, but other Christians as well, are speechless about the content of their faith and can no longer articulate very well what motivates them. The big question is how church officials in general and bishops especially should make policy today. In my opinion contextual leadership is the only fruitful way. One thing and another implies to me a substantively clear message centred on Christ in combination with a cordial attitude and openness to dialogue.
Encounter and cordiality
In the modern Netherlands, where self determination and assertiveness are important values, religious searchers are today scared off by ecclesiastical ritualism and legalism. Most faithful appreciate a faith community’s cordiality and inspiration in faith and do not think in terms of legal or illegal. When a Church official or ecclesiastical office does do the latter, they immediately are at a disadvantage in communication. In case of a conflict the vast majority expects both within and without the Church no one-sided disciplinary measures, but a two-sided dialogue.
Encounter and cordiality are indispensable to really reach people’s hearts. In that sense I consider Pope Francis’ actions to be an important example on how to approach people as bishop of the North. Christian faith is in the first place a relational faith. Christian truth, after all, is a person, Jesus Christ Himself. To come to faith requires process oriented thought. After a process of initiation people can ultimately make the leap of faith and find with Christ direction for the journey of life that we all make. A bishop has various duties. As a teacher he must protect the teaching of the Church that has been handed down, and at the same time he is a shepherd for his people. The combination of teacher and shepherd is not always easy. A teacher in the Church today is wise to shape that teaching pastorally, without denying the truth of the Christian faith. In that context no bishop will be able to avoid disciplinary measures every now and then. But this does require great pastoral wisdom and prudence.
Dutch culture’s profound individualisation does not leave the churches unaffected, on the contrary. Many young, but also older people no longer see any reason to be art of a parish of church community. There is a crisis of transmission on a broad front. Church leaders must therefore give priority to finding new forms of church building for the progression of the Gospel. Church life, after all, principally requires community building. When people experience their faith as separate atoms that means the end for the Christian community. In that context Church leadership, in my deepest conviction, also needs ecumenical involvement. As a hopefully vital minority Christians of different traditions are called to continue searching for more unity around the living Christ. I sincerely hope that bishops, but also officials in other Christian communities, will make a fundamental choice for that path.
It is hard not to read the bishop’s comment about pastoral leadership and disciplinary measures as a criticism of the actions of Cardinal Eijk and other bishops (notably Bishops Hurkmans and Mutsaerts) who have had to correct priests and other faithful in their dioceses over the past years. While he is of course right that pastoral wisdom and prudence are required assets for a bishop in such situations, there are also cases in which these have reached their limit and other steps need to be taken for the wellbeing of the faithful and the truth of the faith.
The balance between pastoral sensitivity and the need to defend the faith via stricter actions (between teacher and shepherd, as Bishop de Korte puts it) is one that will come increasingly to the fore everywhere, I think. Pope Francis has firmly placed the former at the heart of his papacy, leaving the latter to those working with him. We have seen that, I think, in the recent writings of Archbishop Müller about marriage, divorce and the sacraments. Rather than some form of tension between Pope and Curia, we should see this is the modus operandi of the Francis papacy.m
It is good to recall that the Dutch bishops will not only be meeting the Pope, but also the prefects and presidents of the dicasteries of the Curia.
October 12, 2013 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands | Tags: ad limina, adrianus cardinal simonis, bishop ad van luyn, bishop gerard de korte, bishop hans van den hende, bishop herman woorts, bishop jan hendriks, bishop jan liesen, bishop jan van burgsteden, bishop johannes de kok, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishop theodorus hoogenboom, bishop tiny muskens, bishops, conclave, curia, health, pope benedict xvi, pope francis, pope john paul ii, trouw, wim cardinal eijk | 1 comment
After many months of speculation and a few days of ever stronger rumours, it was finally confirmed yesterday. Daily newspaper Trouw enquired with the bishops and later that same day an official confirmation was released via the Church province: yes, after nine years, the Dutch bishops are making their ad limina visit to Rome.
The details: Scheduled for five days, the ad limina visit will take place from 2 to 7 December. The bishops will be received in audience by Pope Francis on 5 December. Before and after that there will be meetings with the various offices of the Curia. Every bishops will present a report about the situation in their diocese. These reports will remain confidential. A report on the Church in the Netherlands, compiled by the bishops’ conference as a whole, will be released to the public on the first day of the ad limina.
The reason for the long delay (ad limina visits should theoretically be made very five years, although it is usually longer; nine years, however, is exceptional) is given by the bishops as the backlog created by the ailing health and death of Blessed Pope John Paul II, the conclave of 2005, the time that Pope Benedict XVI needed to get started as Pope, the slower rate of visits in his later years as Holy Father, the conclave of this year and the first months of the papacy of Pope Francis.
Of the 12 or 13 bishops that make up the conference (it is yet unclear of Bishop Jan van Burgsteden is going: he is retired, but retains some functions within the conference), Six wil be making their first ad limina. Of these, two bishops are ordinaries and four auxilairies. They are Bishops Jan Hendriks, Theodorus Hoogenboom, Jan Liesen, Rob Mutsaerts, Hans van den Hende and Herman Woorts. Of the seven who are making their second ad limina, three are doing so in other functions: Cardinal Eijk was Bishop of Groningen and is now Archbishop of Utrecht (and cardinal), Bishop de Korte was Auxiliary of Utrecht and is now Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden, and Bishop van Burgsteden was Auxiliary of Haarlem is now Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Haarlem-Amsterdam.
Finally, some who were there in 2004 are now absent: Cardinal Simonis has retired as Archbishop of Utrecht; Bishop Jan de Kok as Auxiliary Bishop of the same; Bishop Ad van Luyn as Bishop of Rotterdam; and Bishop Tiny Muskens as Bishop of Breda (he has passed away since).
Some of the bishops, such as Bishops Punt and Hendriks last month, as pictured at left, have met Pope Francis before, while others haven’t. Cardinal Eijk, who is leading the delegation as president of the bishop’s conference commented: “I have met Pope Francis several times, also before he became Pope. For me it is a very special occasion to now speak more closely with him about the developments in the archdiocese and our Church province. I am really looking forward to it.”
Photo credit: arsacal.nl
October 4, 2013 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands | Tags: ad limina, archbishop lorenzo baldisseri, bishop rob mutsaerts, bishops, church in need, congregation for bishops, finances, icon, prayer, rkk, twitter | 1 comment
In the past I wrote about the next ad limina visit of the Dutch bishops to Rome. In April of 2012 we heard that it would perhaps be taking place some time in 2013. In January of this year, the Congregation for Bishops proudly announced that all the world’s bishops’ conferences had visited the Pope on their ad limina visits. All, except the Dutch. But, as Archbishop Baldisseri, then still with the Congregation, subsequently assured us, the Dutch ad limina would take place no later than early 2014. Hopefully.
Since then it’s been quiet, but that need not mean that nothing is being prepared. We may know nothing yet, the bishops seem to do, and so does, for example, Church in Need, who recently presented an ‘Icon of Faith’ which Bishop Rob Mutsaerts will present to Pope Francis on behalf of the Dutch faithful… during the ad limina in early December!
Church in Need will not be collecting donations and prayer intentions for nothing, so we assume they know something we don’t. The 12-man strong conference will be among the first to visit Pope Francis on their official ad limina apostolorum visit. As reported earlier, the last time this happened was almost a decade ago, in 2004. About time, I would say.
EDIT: A short conversation on Twitter has removed all doubt, as the Catholic media office promises ample coverage of the visit.
July 13, 2013 in Catholic Church in the Netherlands, World Church | Tags: bishop everard de jong, bishop hans van den hende, bishop jan hendriks, bishop rob mutsaerts, blessing, brazil, catechesis, diocese of almenara, suriname, world youth day | 1 comment
As young Catholics gather in the chapel of Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Bishop Everard de Jong offers a blessing for their journey to South America.
Some 300 young Dutch Catholics are travelling to destinations in Suriname and Brazil before joining hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Rio to partake in the 2013 edition of World Youth Day, which will take place from 23 to 28 July.
Travelling with the pilgrims are Bishop Hans van den Hende, who will join the group heading for Suriname, and Bishop de Jong, who will be with the group in Almenara. In Rio, they will be joined by Bishops Rob Mutsaerts and Jan Hendriks. The latter three will be the three Dutch bishops holding catechesis talks during the days in Rio.
Happy anniversary to Bishop Robertus Gerardus Leonia Maria Mutsaerts, who today marks the 20th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Bishop Mutsaerts is Titular Bishop of Uccula and Auxiliary Bishop of ‘s Hertogenbosch. On 5 June 1993 he was ordained by Bishop Joannes ter Schure, at the time the ordinary of ‘s Hertogenbosch.
Last week, American social media evangelist and orthodox Catholic Michael Voris visited the Netherlands for two lectures. He also recorded an episode of The Vortex, his regular program on ChurchMilitant.tv. Watch it below:
Some may disregard Voris as overly alarmist, but I think he is rather spot-on. When it comes to transmitting the faith in its entirety, we are faced with enormous challenges in the Netherlands, a society which generally does not accept the existence of absolute truths and a division between right and wrong.
I am also glad to see that he is evidently not alone in this, as Bishop Rob Mutsaerts’ words, quoted by Voris, fit in well with the general theme of this talk.