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Sigh… sometimes you have to wonder what people are thinking, not least people who provide a professional service to the Church and the faithful. One such case erupted this afternoon, and was smothered within hours, but not before the damage was done. And the guilty party? Not just the media who should do a lot more fact checking when writing about the Church, but also the publishers of Mass booklets in the Netherlands, the Norbertine abbey of Berne.
We’re no longer allowed to sing Silent Night at Christmas Mass this year, they panicked. When making the Mass booklets they felt so bad about all the songs the bishops wouldn’t allow them to print anymore: the aforementioned Christmas staple, but also the songs by Huub Oosterhuis (a good thing if those were banned). And although the order came from Rome, they said, they Vatican wasn’t to blame, because the ‘fluffiest Pope evur’ surely wouldn’t allow such a nasty thing. No, the Dutch bishops had told Rome to ban the songs. Bad bishops.
Well, reality is a bit different, as Father Cor Mennen (pictured), advisor to the Nationale Raad voor Liturgie (National Liturgy Council), explains. The Mass booklets are printed according to a list of approved songs. As Bishop Jan Liesen, who holds the liturgy portfolio in the Bishops’ Conference, confirms, Silent Night and others songs may be added to the list in the future, but at this time they have not which is why they are not included in the booklets. This is a new process, as in the past every song would have to be individually approved. As Fr. Mennen says:
“With this approach we want to avoid having to discuss every individual song. Silent Night isn’t on the list yet, but the approval is, as far as I know, only a matter of time. The song is uncontroversial. Parishes arent doing anything wrong if they sing it.”
Now why on earth didn’t the publishers know this? Or rather, why did they choose such a panicky reaction, which was eagerly lapped up by the media? They really should have known better. The only thing this achieves is a bad image in the papers. Oh, look at that silly Church and those power-hungry bishops banning everything the people like… And I wouldn’t want to feed the people who now think those songs really are banned.
Pretty irresponsible behaviour, I would say.
Coming full circle, a topic from the start of the year reaches a conclusion at the end of it. Bishop Antoon Hurkmans and Fathers Cor Mennen, Luc Buyens and Geert-Jan van Rossem will not be prosecuted for denying Communion to practising homosexuals and for defending that Church law.
Two men had lodged complaints in the wake of Fr. Buyens’ decision and the subsequent protests during Mass at the cathedral of St. John in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. They accused the priest, his bishop, the cathedral administrator Fr. van Rossem and blogging priest Fr. Mennen for discrimination and incitement to hatred. But the court decided yesterday that there is no case of this according to criminal law. Church law is outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Father Mennen’s blog posts fall under his right to express his convictions. He didn’t address homosexuals in general, the court ruled, but discussed a case within the Church which he considers unacceptable. That is his right.
It’s Mad Tuesday at the annual fair in the town of Oss. A day that has been annexed by the homosexualists* to celebrate an excessively sexualised lifestyle, in addition to the other days that have been created for that same purpose. Part of this year’s addition was a demonstration at the Catholic church in the centre of the town, where Father Cor Mennen is parish priest. Some 200 people handed out pink roses and placed more at the church. Fr. Mennen was, as he had said earlier, not in town (he is unavailable for comment at his vacation address in Switzerland), so the demonstrators were prevented from giving roses to him personally. In the end some 500 roses were left at the church.
What was the purpose of this demonstration, which I discussed in this blog earlier? Organiser Cor Strik and COC chief Henk Krol said it was to invite the priest to enter into dialogue with the homosexualists. This after Fr. Mennen had already spoken with Mr. Strik last week, even sending him a bunch of white and yellow roses and the wish that he have an enjoyable Mad Tuesday. That was evidently not the kind of dialogue that Strik and Krol had envisioned, so the demonstration went ahead.
Mr. Strik also revealed he did learn something, when he said that “a host is not something to demand, but respect is.” Sadly, that sentence was preceded by the statement that, “Our action is not aimed at [Fr. Mennen] personally, but against the Catholic Church as a whole.” So that means that it was aimed at Fr. Mennen personally, and against all practicing Catholics. You can’t say, “Oh, we’re going to attack some of your beliefs, but it’s nothing personal”. That’s just naive and condescending.
So what is their purpose? What ‘dialogue’ do they want? Weekly meetings in which Fr. Mennen repeats Catholic teachings about Communion, sin and sexuality? Or could it be that they do not want true dialogue, in which both parties participate, but which does not automatically assume the total acceptance of one opinion over the other, but instead want the Catholic Church to say: “No, you’re right. We were wrong in teaching that the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of our Lord, is too important to be approached with any sort of preparation or received without consequence. Our understanding of sexuality was wrong: it is okay to do whatever anyone wants to, and yes, your sexual preference is the most important part of who you are as a person. In fact, we were wrong to teach anything, to have any rules at all. So we’ll just lie down here and you can walk all over us and everything that we hold dear, okay?”
Sorry, but as along as there are Catholics who take their faith seriously, who understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ, that can never happen. Is that wrongful discrimination? No, that is teaching for the benefit of all who are called (all who are called, so not all who feel like it) to receive their Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament and in their hearts. Just as we understand that the education of our children is important, and that parents act out of the best interest for their children, so we should understand that the Church educates and acts with regards to the faithful she is responsible for.
*A word not coined by me, but which I use here to refer to those people who treat sexual preference as the overriding defining characteristic of a person – as if sexuality solely dictates who I am as a person – and furthermore use it as a political tool.
Photo by Hans van der Poel
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.
A few days late, but here they are nonetheless (mostly for myself, I’ll admit)
June was a slightly better month than May, although the news and the topics I wrote about diminished a bit in the second half of the month. 3,652 page views were registered, bringing the total since the beginning of January to 22,582. As I thought, it did indeed cross the 20,000 somewhere around mid-June.
The ten most popular posts were the following:
1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (167)
2: St. Boniface Day 2010 (130)
3: Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops (81)
4: The curious case of Bishop Walter Mixa (68)
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced (62)
6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (60)
7: Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow (54)
8: Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Amsterdam (52)
9: A difficult choice in the voting booth (48)
10: Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps (44)
The high ranking of my post about the St. Boniface Day is mainly due to a link from my favourite Dutch blogger (for a giving value of ‘favourite’), who saw fit to use it as one more tool to attack my bishop, albeit not very convincingly (seriously, I’m suddenly an authority on how many people attend an event?). Anyway, spike in stats – always nice.
Speaking of bishops, they and other curia members were the trend in the search terms. Msgr. Gänswein (yes, still), Bishop Mixa and the Venerable Cardinal Newman were all popular.
And lastly, can I say how very happy I am to see my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address on the liturgy still lingering in the top 10? Oh, I just did.
It’s probably a good time to think about going to bed, but I just came across a piece of text which simply begs for a fisking. The text was published at Rorate, a Catholic (this is important) news collection site which has the annoying habit of not citing sources or even authors. One can only assume that they either approve or are indifferent about the text in question.
Rorate is a Dutch website, so I’ll use an translation of the text.
Pink roses for Father Cor Mennen
OSS (RKnieuws.net) – During the traditional Mad Tuesday fair in Oss, which will be held this year on the 24th of August, five hundred pink roses will be offered to Father Cor Mennen, the Gay Krant reports this week.
Cor Mennen became known nationally as the censor of songs sung in the Roman Catholic Church. He banned many of the songs by Huub Oosterhuis, very popular among the faithful. [No, he did not. As a censor, Fr. Mennen advises. It is the bishops who act upon that advice as they please. So far they have not banned anything. Also: this is completely unrelated to the rest of the article.]
Mennen was also in the news because he went back on his own bishop, who, in Mennen’s opinion, was far too yielding during the so-called host-riot in Reusel and Den Bosch [That again? I thought that storm had abated after media-hungry protester had had their day in the sun]. Mennen called the faithful gays and their supporters [read 'irreverent protesters'], who had come to the episcopal St. John [we call that a cathedral] with an appeal [a disgraceful and loudmouthed protest], the ‘Amsterdam gay mafia’ [with reason. It was a by-the-book setup, organised by the Gay Krant and certain politicans, abusing grievances they do not understand, or even wish to understand].
Cor Strik, organiser of Mad Tuesday, will have five hundred visitors of this fair deliver pink roses to the Grote Kerk, where Mennen is the shepherd [what's with the stupid terms? He's the parish priest]. Strik hopes that many people will also bring roses and pink toy animals themselves [Is this a trend? Why do the organisers of such 'protests' always use others to do their dirty work for them? Can't they find enough people who really have grievances? It's just an excuse to have a media circus. Then again, the man does organise fairs...].
“You should see this as a gesture of love [Ha!] and an invitation to Mennen to enter into dialogue with homosexuals.” [A dialogue about what? Father Mennen specifically has been very clear about what the Church believes and teaches regarding homosexuality. That won't be changing].
In a press release, the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch [Fr. Mennen is not the diocese, or even the bishop] itself expressed the desire for such a dialogue, but despite several attempts from the Gay Krant and the COC it remains quite in the bishop’s palace. “We choose compassion [or intimidation], not an argument”, Strik tells the Gay Krant.
During the floral tribute [Oh, it's suddenly not an attempt at enforcing 'dialogue'?] an aubade will also be delivered to Mennen and other Church leaders [An aubade, Wikipedia tells us, is a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn, or generally involving daybreak... what?]
Perhaps Fr. Mennen can start running a flower stand. You know, as a source of extra income. I’m sure he can find a use for some extra cash in his parish.
The ‘gay mafia’ to use but a phrase, gets clarity about the Church’s teachings, as a foundation for further dialogue. Said dialogue is supposed to be with the diocese. Despite silence from said diocese, the reasons of which are unknown to me, they return to the man who was one of their opponents in the initial media debate. And they offer him pink roses. What will this accomplish. Media attention, of course. The Church in a bad light, unless Father Mennen comes up with a cunning plan (or hardly anyone shows up to do Strik’s work for him…). What it won’t do is further the dialogue. On the contrary.
In Lyon, France, young Catholic faithful successfully prevented a protest by homosexual activists. It’s probably wishful thinking that the same will happen in Oss, but one can hope…
For the third time I’ll be attending the so-called Credimus Bootcamp, this year from 17 to 23 July. It’s been suggested I should advertise it a bit here, and I gladly do so.
So, what is this Bootcamp thing? On the website it is described as a ‘Catholic catechesis camp for young people who want to learn more about their faith’, and that’s as good a description as I can think of. Whereas conventional catechesis in most parishes is necessarily general and superficial, the Credimus Bootcamp wants to delve into the depths of the Catholic faith, to answer the difficult questions and come up with all manner of treasures from the wealth of our faith.
In my experience it is not only a learning experience where you’re made to think and learn, both intellectually and spiritually, but also a pleasant week spent with like-minded people. Serious Catholics can have fun too, and Bootcamp offers plenty of fun.
During most days, guest speakers (priests, religious and lay people) will come and speak about subjects in their field of expertise, we will have Mass in both forms of the Latin rite, we will pray the Liturgy of the Hours together and of course sit down for meals and a drink or two in the evenings.
Of the guest speakers there have already been three confirmed for this year: Father Marc Heemels, parish priest in the parish of St. John the Baptist/Holy Curé of Ars in Eygelshoven in the Diocese of Roermond; Brother Federico of the Institute of the Incarnate Word; and Father Harry van der Vegt, cathedral administrator of the cathedral of St. Catherine and priest of the church of St. Willibrord, both in Utrecht.
Past speakers (who have included Father Tim Finigan, Father Cor Mennen, Deacon Peter Vermaat and Brother Hugo) discussed all manner of topics, ranging from the liturgy to the saints to ecclesiology. Anyone with a functioning brain should be able to follow the lectures and meetings, even if they go deeper than what you’re used to.
This years edition will take place in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen in Geffen, in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, where Father David van Dijk will host us for the second time.
For more information you can hop over to the Bootcamp website and sign up. Bootcamp will be in Dutch, although many attendees will speak English too.
Because of the current international events in the Church and the dust-up between Archbishop Eijk and Bishop de Korte, national news service ANP suddenly display an interest in the monthly meetings of the bishops’ conference. After the latest one, which took place yesterday, they asked Bishop de Korte some questions. Most interesting are the questions relating to the confusion about the work of the two diocesan censors: Auxiliary Bishop Herman Woorts in Utrecht and Father Cor Mennen in ‘s Hertogenbosch.
ANP asked Bishop de Korte why the discussion about this was so fierce. He answers:
”The songs from the Sunday missalettes, the liturgy booklets used in the service, have been examined by two diocesan censors. In this case a censor of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch and one of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. Every bishop is free to submit to an examination. About some songs it has now been said that they are less suitable for the service. Media reports created the image that the rejected songs were not allowed to be sung in any diocese. That caused unrest in my diocese.”
The songs may still be sung?
“Yes, until the Dutch bishops formulate a new policy together. That is what was discussed yesterday during the meeting of the bishops. The work of the censors concerns the booklets published in their dioceses but does not have national implications. Every diocesan bishop has his own responsibility for liturgical policy. The so-called ‘rejected’ songs can therefore still be sung by choirs in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. They are also in the other collection of music used in many parishes.”
The bishop’s explanation is not unlike my assumptions earlier. The situation does, once more, outline the importance of clear communication to the faithful in every diocese. This caused unrest which was very much avoidable.
About the disagreement between him and the archbishop, Bishop de Korte admitted there was some old pain between them. They, together with the two auxiliaries of Utrecht, will meet and talk it out. “We realise we are faced with a very different, great challenge: the sexual abuse file. So good cooperation between us now has the highest priority,” the bishop said. And so it should be.
I had decided to not spend a lot of time on the work of the two censors who are working to investigate the songs used in the liturgy, but I think that it always helps to give some clarity on an issue which at least keeps certain Dutch Catholics occupied.
It’s always nice to see one’s own opinions confirmed by people in the know. Following Bishop Hurkmans of ‘s Hertogenbosch, Auxiliary Bishop Herman Woorts wrote a letter to the parish councils and emeritus priests in the Archdiocese of Utrecht to clarify the work of the censors of liturgical music. And since a bishop’s words rightly carry more weight than those of a random blogger, here is Bishop Woorts’ letter.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
As Church we are a celebrating community. When we celebrate the liturgy there is frequent singing, both by choirs and the entire gathered assembly. A lot of time, care and attention is devoted to the music and songs in our churches, because we worship God with them, it feeds our faith and binds us together as a faith community. We are blessed with a wealth of songs, old and new, in Latin, Dutch or another language.
In service to the celebrations in our parishes and in other places where the faithful meet for the liturgy, publishers Gooi en Sticht and Berne Heeswijk publish booklets. It is the duty of the bishops in whose dioceses these publishers are located to make sure that the contents are in agreement with our Catholic faith and the liturgy of the Church. If the content is approved, they give their ‘imprimatur’ so that the booklets can be printed and distributed.
In order to be able to give their imprimatur, the bishops of Utrecht and ‘s Hertogenbosch (the dioceses in which the aforementioned publishers are located) have both appointed a ‘censor’. For the archdiocese I have been appointed as censor for the booklets from Gooi en Sticht. A censor must examine if the texts come from the altar missal, if the readings from Holy Scripture are printed in the prescribed translation and if songs and texts on the back are in concord with faith and morals.
The content of the songs is considered: are they theologically sound, in agreement with our Catholic faith? The suitability for the liturgy is considered (both in general and specifically for the Sunday in question). And the text os considered to see whether it clearly expresses what we confess and celebrate in our faith, and if it doesn’t cause confusion. All this will lead to the finding that a song is or is not suited for inclusion in aforementioned liturgy booklets. The finding that a song is or not suite for the liturgy is not dictated by personal preferences. The identity of the author also does not play a part.
Sadly, several media have reported that certain songs – from a specific author or not – have been declared forbidden or placed on an index. This is not the case. The censor is not appointed or able to do that. The suitability for the publications is per song the basis for the advice to the bishop to give his imprimatur. Some newspapers list specific songs which are said to have been rejected. These lists also included songs which have been approved for the liturgy or which have been included although they are not preferred. These media also named songs which were not forbidden, but which do await further scrutiny, since they require discussion before a verdict can be done about their suitability.
These media reports cause responses from people who are disappointed because something they hold dear is now said to be forbidden, but also from people who welcome a thorough consideration of the contents of the songs, because certainly not all songs are considered suitable by all.
We know there is or can be disagreement on the choice of what can and can not be included in the liturgy booklets. Convictions, visions, experience and emotions all play their part in that. I hope that this letter will give you some insight in the censor’s tasks and his methods. For every song the question is whether or not it is suitable for the Sundays for which the booklets are considered.
Diocesan vicar for the liturgy and censor for the Archdiocese
It’s not a letter that says much, really, but considering that it was written to comfort people and explain what is actually happening, it does its job. Unlike Father Cor Mennen, the other censor, and somewhat like Bishop Hurkmans, Bishop Woorts simply wants to explain and focusses on the importance of discussion. Of course, if you’re going to change things it is good to have the people who are going to be affected by that change on your side. But I hope that, if the difficult decisions need to be made – if, for example, some popular songs from Huub Oosterhuis are no longer allowed - , the bishops are able and willing to take these decisions. It will cause protests, yes, many people will be unhappy, but more important is the liturgy. It is an organic whole and can’t contain elements that deny part or all of the liturgy or the faith. Also important to realise in that respect is that the liturgy is educational: it teaches us about our faith, especially when our active (and receptive, as Father Z emphasises in his analysis of Bishop Marc Aillet’s talk) participation opens our heart and brings us into the mystery of God. Just as the liturgy is focussed on and about Him, so should the music contained in the liturgy be. Not that a song can’t have texts about the community off faithful or shared celebration, but if, as Father Mennen said, the songs could be just as easily an introduction to a birthday party, it has lost its liturgical focus.
In a radio interview, Father Leo van Ulden OFM, vicar general of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, spoke about the censorship of certain songs used in the liturgy. Father Cor Mennen of the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Msgr. Herman Woorts, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht have recommended that at least 29 songs be no longer used in the liturgy. Father van Ulden says that the assumption of the Liturgy Workgroup Heeswijk, who publishes the liturgy sheets for many parishes in the Netherlands, that the censorship is a decision, is incorrect. It is premature to says so, he claims. The final decision on what can and cannot be sung in the liturgy rests with the bishops’ conference, and Father van Ulden says that, were he the publisher of the songs, he would inform the bishops: “we await your judgement and keep on singing.”
I’ve seen Father van Ulden’s comments presented as an attack against the censorship and a sign of disagreement among the bishops, but I don’t think that’s true. Rather, he points out the difference between advice and decision. When it comes to hymn books which are used throughout the Church province, it would be logical that any decision about this is made on a provincial level. On that level, it is the bishops’ conference who have that power.
Of course, in their own dioceses, bishops can take a lot of decisions. Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond, for example, has long since decided to use a different hymn book than the one used in the rest of the country. He doesn’t ask the publisher to change their hymn book, but simply chooses to use something else.
The Liturgy Workgroup Heeswijk and publisher Gooi en Sticht are based in the diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch and the Archdiocese of Utrecht respectively. Upon the request of the bishop’s conference, the bishops of the dioceses where workgroup and publisher reside have appointed censors: Father Mennen and Bishop Woorts. Since the request stems from the conference, it is they, and not the censors, who will make a decision.
Father van Ulden’s words are not strange or out of line. They are a clarification, or even simply an affirmation, of the process. The media coverage is a bit clumsy, though.