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Dropping to 123, still 3 above the loose maximum, the cardinal electors today loose Cardinal Egan as one of their members. The former archbishop of New York turns 80 today, and so loses his vote in the conclave.
Born in 1932 as the third of four children in a family of Irish descent in Illinois, Edward Michael Egan received his education and formation for the priesthood at seminaries in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and later at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. In 1957, he received his ordination to the priesthood from his former rector at the North American College, Archbishop Martin O’Connor, then the first President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Father Egan earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian and returned to Chicago to serve as curate of the cathedral, assistant chancellor of the archdiocese and secretary of the archbishop, Cardinal Meyer.
From 1960 to 1964, Fr. Egan again studied and taught and the North American College, after which he once more returned to serve as secretary, this time to Cardinal Cody. Taking on various important position in the archdiocese, he returned once more to Rome to teach and be a consultor for the Roman Rota and various Congregations. He was once of six canonists who reviewed the new Code of Canon Law before its publication in 1983.
Fr. Egan was appointed as auxiliary bishop of New York, with the titular see of Allegheny, in 1985, and in 1988 he moved to the Diocese of Bridgeport, to be its ordinary. In the early summer of 2000, Bishop Egan was appointed as archbishop of New York. As archbishop, Msgr. Egan concerned himself much with the education of future priests in the Archdiocese of New York. In February of 2001, Archbishop Egan was created a cardinal and given the title church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Soon afterwards, he was faced with the tragedy of 9/11, which saw the cardinal minister to the dead and dying amid the rubble of the World Trade Center.
Cardinal Egan was accused of concealing names of priests who had molested children, but was found not guilty. Much doubt about the cardinal’s role in dealing with abuse cases was cast last February, when he retracted an earlier apology about abuse cases in the Diocese of Bridgeport and repeatedly stated that nothing happened when he was bishop there.
Upon his resignation, in 2009, Cardinal Egan remained a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
More than two years ago, the abuse crisis started to explode in Europe. One of the first, and still one of the most significant, steps taken by the Holy See was the organisation of a thorough inspection of the Church in Ireland. Soon afterwards, countries like Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands were forced to deal with the similar abuse cases from the past, but none of these countries has been subjected to a process like Ireland has. Here, the pope wrote an unprecedented letter to all the faithful of Ireland, bishops were fired and five foreign prelates from the Irish diaspora were appointed to lead the Visitation and the country’s four Metropolitan Archdioceses and the seminaries. Further visitators were appointed for the religious communities in Ireland.
Yesterday, the findings of the Visitation, which was inherently pastoral in nature, were published. Although it recognises the progress that has been made in recent years, it does call for further unification of the programs of formation, continued cooperation with state-appointed officials, and generally more control, both from the laity up as from the bishops, even Rome, down.
Like the letter that Pope Benedict wrote to the Irish Catholics in 2010, these findings may also be considered an example for the Church in other abuse-hit countries. Hence my decision to offer a Dutch translation.
Photo credit: Irish Episcopal Conference
On the Italian Zenit today, an interview with Ad Cardinal Simonis, emeritus Archbishop of Utrecht, on the post-conciliar period in the Netherlands. The title, In Olanda c’è stata una sbagliata interpretazione del Concilio (‘In Holland there was a wrong interpretation of the Council’) leaves little doubt about the gist of the interview.
Once the voice of orthodoxy at the pastoral council of Noordwijkerhout, the cardinal now looks back and summarises what went wrong:
“Yes, it’s true: there has been a wrong interpretation of the Council. Not reading the documents, but merely arguing, based on the so-called “spirit of the Council”, that is: anything goes, everything can change.”
Cardinal Simonis, who studied in Rome during the years of the Second Vatican Council, offers a misleadingly simple solution: “Catechesis, catechesis, catechesis,” especially for the youth. That is a sentiment that the bishops today share, but which has yet to reach anything approaching its full potential.
It is a bleak but accurate picture the cardinal paints: the Dutch, Catholics included, generally do not know the concept of sin, hence the virtual disappearance of the sacrament of Confession over the course of the recent decades. The cardinal’s message to Dutch seminarians is an urgent one:
“I tell them that they should first learn to think and reflect. And then to pray, pray, pray. Prayer is important, and it must be the foundation of human life, but in Holland we do not pray because we do not believe in a personal God but only in a vague entity.”
The cardinal concludes the interview with a reflection on his 27 years as cardinal, in which he tried to maintain “the spirit of service to the Church and the Lord”.
“I tried to live in this spirit as a cardinal for 27 years. Now I’m an old cardinal, I turned 80 and I can not elect the Pope, but I can still be elected! (Bursts into laughter) But do not worry, that will not happen!”
I think the cardinal is pretty realistic, but that does not mean there are no signs of hope. There are, but these must be cared for and cultivated. A first step towards that is indicated by the following quote from the interview:
“The truth is that in the Netherlands we need a total conversion.”
“I realise very well that a priest today is a walking question mark. I consciously wear a Roman collar. Older people are often surprised. Younger people recognise it mostly from movies. Because they can more easily recognise me as a priest, I can meet many people who entrust me with their questions.
Today we should, I think, in addition to the social engagement we have as Christians, dare to focus more on the vertical axis, on the spiritual: to bring people to God”.
Words from Belgian Father Filip Hacour in an interview for Kerk & Leven. Fr. Hacour is a group leader for seminarians at the John XXIII seminary in Louvain, and it seems that he gets that the priesthood is more than just being socially active in a parish.
More than one person, it would seem, has asked for Bishop Jos Punt’s homily, given during the consecration Mass of Bishop Jan Hendriks, to be published on the website. And so it has, as the most recent edition of the semi-regular Word of the Bishop feature. My translation is available here.
As may be expected from one of the best homilists among the Dutch bishops, it is a personal, thoughtful and passionate text. The bishop, writing as a personal friend of the newly-consecrated, paints a picture of the environment in which a new bishop finds himself, calling it “fascinating, but also dramatic”. But, speaking about the difficulties the Church may find herself in from time to time, the bishop says that we “know all too well that the Church is always holy and sinful at the same time. The Lord, after all, does not work with spirits or superhumans, but with average weak people to bring others to God. That is how it has always been.”
As one of the most striking elements of this homily, which later continues about the importance of faith and the unique Triune nature of God, the third paragraph stands out. In it, Bishop Punt speaks about the abuse crisis, and mentions that several victims – “with whom we have had much contact” – were present at the Mass.
The personal nature of the homily, which I mentioned above as coming from the personal friendship which has developed between the two bishops since their time at seminary, is also noticeable. The following anecdote is an example of that: “From our time in seminary, I remember that, shortly after my arrival, it was my turn to be acolyte. I had never been one and for years I had been estranged from the Church. I did not know what to do at all. You, and others too, tried to point me in the right direction with violent gestures and loud calls. Without much success, by the way. In the end I brought everything to the altar in one go, with the thought that it would at least all be there. By now I have made up arrears, and we not only share the knowledge of content and form, but also a deep respect for this great sacrament of God’s presence among people.”
It’s a worthwhile read about the faith, the nature of God, the duties of bishops, the current problems we face as Christians and the unimaginable gifts that we have received.
Photo credit: Tiltenberg
Next Saturday’s consecration of Msgr. Jan Hendriks as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam will be one of the two final achievements of our current nuncio. Having reached the age of 75 in September, Archbishop François Bacqué will soon have his resignation accepted, and the Dutch Church and state may get ready for a new official papal representative. The only other appointment prepared under his guidance is that of Breda’s Bishop Liesen, whose installation will take place on 28 January.
The general impression of Saturday’s ceremony, then, is that of a farewell to the nuncio, an impression further strengthened by his reception by the bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam a week ago. There, Bishop Punt made a point of expressing his appreciation for Archbishop Bacqué’s work for the Dutch Church.
And that is quite a body of work. Perhaps the most visible job of a papal nuncio is preparing the appointment of new bishops. The nuncio not only announces new appointments, but also works with diocesan clergy, the bishops’ conference, the Congregation for Bishops in Rome and ultimately the pope in making the right choice. The nuncio has a key role in investigating the priests nominated as possible new bishops and forwards his conclusions to Rome, where the Holy Father ultimately makes the decision.
Archbishop Bacqué was appointed as Papal Nuncio to the Netherlands on 27 February 2001, the 11th papal representative in an unbroken line since the future Cardinal Tacci Porcelli arrived on these shores in 1911. Only one of the nine men between these two had a longer time here: the wartime nuncio Paolo Giobbe (1935-1959). In the 11 years that Archbishop Bacqué represented the Holy See and Father here, he has been responsible for no less than twelve appointments, listed below:
- 11 April 2001: Gerard de Korte as Auxiliary Bishop of Utrecht and Titular Bishop of Caesarea in Mauretania
- 21 July 2001: Jos Punt as Bishop of Haarlem
- 9 September 2006: Hans van den Hende as Coadjutor Bishop of Breda
- 11 December 2007: Wim Eijk as Archbishop of Utrecht
- 18 June 2008: Gerard de Korte as Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden
- 7 December 2009: Theodorus Hoogenboom as Auxiliary Bishop of Utrecht and Titular Bishop of Bistue
- 7 December 2009: Herman Woorts as Auxiliary Bishop of Utrecht and Titular Bishop of Giufi Salaria
- 15 July 2010: Jan Liesen as Auxiliary Bishop of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Titular Bishop of Tunnuna
- 15 July 2010: Rob Mutsaerts as Auxiliary Bishop of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Titular Bishop of Uccula
- 10 May 2011: Hans van den Hende as Bishop of Rotterdam
- 25 October 2011: Jan Hendriks as Auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam and Titular Bishop of Arsacal
- 26 November 2011: Jan Liesen as Bishop of Breda
Saturday’s consecration will certainly be the last one resulting from Archbishop Bacqué’s work, and that body of work will leave a lasting impression on the Dutch Church. The current episcopate in the Netherlands is young and has been almost completely overhauled in the past decade. We may yet be surprised by future developments, but the time of new appointments will be over for the foreseeable future. For now, most dioceses are led by bishops appointed following Archbishop Bacqué’s advice. The only exceptions are the ordinaries of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Roermond, Bishops Antoon Hurkmans and Frans Wiertz, and the latter diocese’s auxiliary, Bishop Everard de Jong.
Archbishop Bacqué’s work here will finally be recognised in part by the presence of all Dutch bishops (barring one or two emeriti), the rectors of several seminaries, the abbot of St. Adalbert Abbey, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Polycarp, representatives of the Order of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and, on behalf of the government, defence secretary Hans Hillen, at the coming consecration of Msgr. Hendriks.
 Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam
 Bisdom Rotterdam
The disobedient actions of priests in Austria (there most visibly, but similar feelings are also present among clergy in other countries), who call for married priests, ordination of women and lay people ‘celebrating’ the Eucharist (a sheer impossibility, equal to, say, having fish wait tables), has also spread to Belgium. From the Diocese of Bruges, to be exact. A manifest titled “Faithful have their say” (‘Gelovigen nemen het woord’) has by now been signed by several hundred people, among them 155 priests. The full text, along with the names of the priests who signed it, is available, in Dutch, here.
The seriousness of the blatant disobedience of these people to their faith, Church, faithful and bishop, is explained by theologian Stijn Van Den Bossche, in an article he wrote for Tertio:
“The manifest at least remains more careful, but because of that also vaguer than its Austrian compeer. It expresses the wish that formed ‘fellow faithful’ be allowed to ‘lead Sunday celebrations’. If that means lay people leading the Eucharist – as is proposed in Austria – this is not only forbidden to Catholic and Orthodox understanding, but it also results in an invalid sacrament – therefore we do not receive a sacrament there.”
The manifest itself expresses the concerns of its author(s) in the form of propositions to which they want answers (provided, I fear, that these answers suit their agenda). The problem that, they say, needs solving is the existence of parishes without priests, Masses on unsuitable hours and prayer services without Communion. While this ‘problem’ in itself already showcases the serious lack of understanding of such things as Holy Orders, the sacraments and the nature of Communion (the latter being not a right of ours), the proposed solutions, presented in the form of aforementioned propositions, are equally untenable.
Let’s go over the propositions one by one, and analyse them. It may seem that I am a bit strict in my definitions of the ‘rules’, so to speak, but for clarity’s sake, I think it’s good to present things as bare-bones as possible. That does not mean that exceptions and adaptations are not possible, but these do not change the rules, of course.
- We do not understand why the leadership of our local communities (such as parishes) is not entrusted to a man or woman, married or unmarried, professional or volunteer, who received the necessary formation. The innate nature of the priest is to be a shepherd, in name of the local bishop, of a set group of faithful. This is not just a purely administrative task or a job description given to a man in a clerical collar. Just like Jesus appointed twelve men (specifically men) to lead the developing Church, and gave them the means and abilities to do so because of their faith, so He still appoints men to do so. These men are ordained to be shepherds and to administer the sacraments. That is a core element of our faith and understanding of how God works among His people. The priests, once they are sent to a group of faithful to be their shepherd in the faith, do that 24-7. It’s not a job, so it’s not a question of being a volunteer or a professional. It goes beyond that: through his ordination, a priest is a priest forever. After all, ordination is a sacrament, and a sacrament is forever. It goes without saying that a priest must be an example to the faithful: he needs to practice what he preaches, so to speak. The Latin Church today asks her priests to be celibate, in order to fully devote their life to the Lord and His Church. There are exceptions, such as married Anglican clergy who convert and are later ordained as Catholic priests. But these are exceptions, which change nothing about the rule. In short, The Church established by Christ had a structure, a hierarchy, which she maintains to this day. That means that it is not a matter of simple appointing someone who was ‘formed properly’ to do the work of a priest, who is specifically tasked to lead an educate. Of course, there are such things as parish councils, but these work with the priests and do not, can not, replace him.
- We need dedicated shepherds. We do not understand why these fellow faithful cannot lead Sunday services. As already touched upon in the previous answer, a layman or -woman is unable to administer the sacraments. It really is as simple as that. God has chosen to work to specific people when it comes to the sacraments, thus providing structure and certainty. A layman can obviously lead a prayer service – any faithful can pray. He can also read from the Bible and speak about the faith. He can not consecrate or hear confession.
- In every living community we need liturgical leaders. We do not understand why – when there is no priest – a service of Word and Communion is not allowed.As far as I understand, this is allowed. But care must be taken that such services remain the exception and do not become the rule. The heart of our faith is the Eucharist: God who became man and saved us through His death and Resurrection. Because of this importance, the Church asks us to attend the Eucharist every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. A service of Word and Communion, despite the value of the Word and of receiving the Lord, does not fulfill this obligation. To pretend it does, is depriving the faithful of a valuable treasure.
- We do not understand why skilled laypeople and formed religious educators can not preach. We need the Word of God. We do. And we get it, every time we read our Bibles. But the context of the Mass is not the same as us reading our Bible at home. In the Mass, Christ is present: in the people, but certainly also in the priest and most of all in the Blessed Sacrament once consecrated. We hear the Word of God in the readings, after which the priest exercises his shepherdly duties of interpretation, education and encouragement. In essence, because the priest is the alter Christus during the Mass, we hear Christ speak to us. A priest is formed and ordained to be able to do this. A priest can not sit back and let someone else discourse about hat he has just read. That would be negligent and deceptive, and possibly simply lazy.
- We do not understand why faithful of good will who remarried after a divorce have to be denied Communion. They are equally part of the community. True, but Communion is not a matter of being a community together. It is about being in communion with Christ. In Christ, we form a community. We cannot be a Christian community without Him. Marriage is a sacrament, and as I said above, sacraments are forever. The Church can’t pretend this is otherwise, and therefore can’t allow divorce or remarriage. This doesn’t change of people divorce and remarry all the same. From the position of the Church it is a pretense. This creates a barrier between the people involved and the community of faithful-in-Christ, the Church. The demand Communion anyway is to pretend there is no such barrier.
- We plead that, as soon as possible, both married men and woman are allowed to the priesthood. We, faithful, desperately need them. The necessity of priests is not in questions, but altering their identity, or pretending such identity exists, is not the answer. We would be lying to ourselves. As I wrote above, the nature of the priesthood is such that only men are called to it. It is the law of the Church that these men can best fulfill there priestly duties if they remain unmarried and celibate. And besides, the bishops of Belgium, or of any country, can’t change this, since the nature of the priesthood is not a local thing. It’s universal.
Questions about such matters are only understandable, and should be encouraged. Through questions we arrive at understanding, after all. But we must not stop at questioning others, but we must also question our motives when we want to change these things. Do I consider myself above the community, above the Church, above God? Our do I see myself as one who needs God and the community?
The priests who signed this manifest, however… Were these men not educated in seminary? Have they no idea of what they received at their ordination? Do they not know what their duties are to the people and the Church? Are they, I must wonder, their own little bishops and popes?