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As I had hoped earlier, Bishop Frans Wiertz’ opening address of the symposium on new evangelisation, which took place at Rolduc seminary on Monday and Tuesday, has been made available on the website of the Diocese of Roermond. As may be expected, I have created an English translation.
Speaking about the need for a road map for the new evangelisation, the bishop took the Acts of the Apostles and Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as the prime elements to draw this map. Both these sources and the actual address are worth a read. The latter was quite well received at the symposium and on Twitter, as it was reported on live by two attending seminarians. It is both thoughtful, a bit playful and practically applicable.
Photo credit: Diocese of Roermond
On today’s list that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints regularly publishes to announce the names of people whose miracles, martyrdoms or heroic virtues have officially been recognised by the Church and confirmed by the pope is the name of a Dutch priest: Father Louis Tijssen (1865-1929), the ‘Holy Dean of Sittard’.
The announcement comes some six months after the remains of Fr. Tijssen were reinterred in the church of Saint Peter in Sittard, Diocese of Roermond. This exhumation was part of the process to come to a future beatification or even canonisation of the beloved priest, whose life was considered exemplary by many around him (confirmed now by the Church), even when he was still alive. The remains were confirmed to be those of Fr. Tijssen, and his new resting place within the church will better allow future pilgrimages and veneration.
Venerable - as we may now refer to him – Louis Tijssen was born in 1865 and ordained a priest in 1888. He taught at the diocesan seminary of Rolduc and was appointed as parish priest of Susteren in 1911. In 1919, he was appointed as Dean of Sittard. He died there in 1929. People admired him for his devout prayer life and priestly ministry. Several prayers were answered upon his intercession and his beatification process was opened in 1957. All we need now, as the diocese notes, is a miracle.
The last Dutchman to be canonised was Saint Charles of Mount Argus, a Passionist priest, also from the Diocese of Roermond, who worked mainly in Ireland. He was declared a saint in 2007.
In September of last year I wrote about an abuse complaint lodged against Bishop Jo Gijsen, emeritus of Roermond and Reykjavik. The complaint was about the future bishop having spied upon a student at Rolduc seminary while the latter masturbated in bed, sometimes between 1959 and 1961. Msgr. Gijsen continues to deny that anything untoward happened, saying last year, in response to the accusation: “If it is true what is being said, it must be a case of mistaken identity. I could not have been that, because I wasn’t in the situation. That they may know me could be true, because I was a teacher. But I could not have done that.”
The complaints commission of the Catholic Church, working to get to the truth in numerous abuse cases, has now deemed otherwise. It considers the story of the former student “credible and honest”, NRC reports today. But the commission then continues with deciding the complaint inadmissible, since it does not deal with sexual abuse per se. The student did not forced to masturbate, and neither did it happen in a situation where one person was dependent on the other.
It would seem that the investigation of this claim halted at the stadium of deciding its believability. Msgr. Gijsen claims that the facts reported are not true. Since the complaints commission makes no judgement on that, we must be extremely careful in deciding what is and is not true here. But what remains is a serious indictment of the behaviour of a cleric in a time when much of the abuse that services now took place.
Who knows, maybe Bishop Gijsen is right in claiming that the complaint is based on things that never happened or involved someone else altogether. What we do know is that the complains had been deemed believable, and that Bishop Gijsen, if he did it, greatly overstepped the boundaries of propriety, to paraphrase the NRC report.
In September 2010, when the claim first surfaced, the Diocese of Roermond let it be known that it had passed the matter on to the public prosecutor. It is unknown what, if anything, they are doing, or will do, with it.
A second complaint against Bishop Gijsen is still being investigated.
Photo credit: Gerard Klaasen/RKK
With the academic year well underway (in fact, the first break is happening this week), the numbers of new students at the Dutch seminaries have been released. With 18 new seminarians (some of whom are pictured to the left, at the Tiltenberg seminary) there is an ever-so-slight drop from last year, when 20 new names were added to the books. With several ordinations having taken place in the previous academic year, the total number of students at the four seminaries in the Netherlands remains at exactly 100.
A breakdown per seminary:
Rolduc, Diocese of Roermond, received 2 new students, both from the Neocatechumenal Way. The total number at Rolduc is now 29.
Tiltenberg, Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: 7 new seminarians, with another way possibly joining them later. The total number is now 44.
Bovendonk, Diocese of Breda, als has seven, with four of hem starting in the first year. The three others, because of previous education, join a later year. Bovendonk now has 18 part-time students.
Saint John’s Centre, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: 2 new students, bringing the total to 12.
The Tiltenberg comfortably holds on to its top position when it comes to the numbers, which can be explained in part because it remains the only seminary above the great rivers. It is home to students from at least four dioceses.
Looking at the numbers per diocese then:
Breda: 4 (2 of whom study independently at the FCT)
‘s Hertogenbosch: 2
Utrecht: 4 (maybe 5)
The ‘harvest’ is… okay, but the need for further vocational promotion and formation should be clear.
Things are moving fast now in the process towards the beatification of Servant of God Dorothea Visser. Yesterday saw the installation of the ecclesiastical court that is to analyse and judge her life and virtues. The three-man court consists of a delegatus episcopalis (delegate of the bishop), a promoter iustitae (promotor of justice) and a notarius (secretary). This is the fourth step towards a possible future beatification, following the judgement of a miracle, the appointment of a postulator in Rome and the creation of a historical commission.
Archbishop Eijk of Utrecht, the archdiocese in which Dorothea Visser lived, and which therefore is responsible for the proceedings, offered the following prayer at the start of the installation of the court:
God our Father,
You are a God of mercy and Love.
We have come together here to open the Process of Beatification
of the Servant of God
She was a dedicated and obliging woman,
who suffered and prayed much.
Who shared in a special way
in the suffering of Your Son Jesus Christ
through her stigmata.
She dedicated this suffering for the conversion of sinner
And the sanctification of Your Church.
We ask you,
May she soon be elevated to the honour of the altars
through a beatification.
We thank you for the witness
of Dorothea Visser
Through Christ our Lord.
Appointed to the court are Msgr. Dr. Stefaan van Calster, priest of the Archdiocese of Mechlin-Brussels and professor at Rolduc Seminary; Father Frenk Schyns, vice-head of the ecclesiastical court of the Archdiocese of Utrecht and the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, and priest of the former; and Dr. A. Habets, delegate for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Utrecht.
In addition to this court, Msgr. Jan van Peijnenburg has been added to the historical commission as additional expert. Msgr. van Peijnenburg is the former archivist of the Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Msgr. Van Calster invites anyone with useful information regarding the beatification to approach the court. The official address to write to is:
Kerkelijke rechtbank inzake zaligverklaringsproces Dorothea Visser
attn. Mgr. dr. S. van Calster, delegatus episcopalis
p/a Maliebaan 38-40
3581 CR Utrecht
The five Dutch seminaries have begun the new academic year with a small number of new students, much in line with previous years. The numbers are small when considered per seminary, but the total is not bad for such a heavily secularised country. 36 new seminarians start their education and formation on the road towards the priesthood.
The largest number will study at the Tiltenberg seminary in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, which also houses seminarians for Groningen-Leeuwarden, Utrecht and the Neocatechumenal Way. 20 new students are starting there (although the seminarians of the Neocatechumenal Way live at their own Redemptoris Mater seminary).
The St. John’s seminary in Den Bosch welcomed six new seminarians, and Rolduc in the Diocese of Roermond has four.
Bovendonk, which is the seminary for late vocation, where students study part-time, sees five new enrolments.
Last in the line is Vronesteyn in the Diocese of Rotterdam, which has one new student.
The Archdiocese of Utrecht, perhaps because of the closing of its own seminary last year, has no new students this year. On the other hand, with such low numbers of seminarians per diocese, there are bound to be years when there are no new students.
Bishop Jo Gijsen, emeritus of the Dioceses of Roermond (1972-1993) and Reykjavik (1996-2007), is being accused of sexual abuse, it became known today. A former student at the Rolduc seminary lodged the complaint which states that Bishop Gijsen, then a teacher there, would peek at the student in his bed, while the latter was masturbating. Bishop Gijsen denies the accusation, which relates to the period between 1959 and 1961.
He states: “If it is true what is being said, it must be a case of mistaken identity. I could not have been that, because I wasn’t in the situation. That they may know me could be true, because I was a teacher. But I could not have done that.” What Bishop Gijsen means with ‘not having been in the situation’ remains to be seen. At the moment the complaint, which was lodged in May, is being investigated by Hulp en Recht.
Bishop Gijsen further says he received two letters from Hulp en Recht, informing him of the accusation against him. “I received the last letter at the end of July or beginning of August. I am not under the impression that any more is forthcoming from Hulp en Recht, or that there is anything I need to do now.”
I find myself fervently hoping the accusation is unfounded. We do not need a Dutch version of the Vangheluwe mess. Please let Bishop Gijsen, Hulp en Recht, the alleged victim and all other parties involved be as open and honest as they possible can. Don’t let them sit back and wait, but let them take action to dig out the truth as soon as possible, even, and especially, if it doesn’t fit the agenda of the secular media. I hope it doesn’t fit that agenda.
The Diocese of Roermond announces that, following today’s news reports, it has been familiar with the accusation against Emeritus Bishop Gijsen. Bishop Frans Wiertz, who succeeded Bishop Gijsen in 1993, has informed the Public Prosecutor immediately, as is policy. Since the accusations concern a bishop, the papal Nuncio has also been informed.
Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam was in Rome last week, where he met with officials of the Secretariat of State and a number of Congregations. He also met with Pope Benedict, with whom he spoke about recent developments in the Church in the Netherlands, as well as other topics.
There’s one conversation I would have loved to have heard…
Pope Benedict is not unfamiliar with the Dutch Church. He is able to speak Dutch with a certain degree of fluency, and considers himself a ‘spiritual architect’ of the Rolduc seminary in the Diocese of Roermond, the first of its kind in the Netherlands after Vatican II when it was established in 1974 by Bishop Jo Gijssen.