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I watched the interview with Archbishop Wim Eijk on TV last night, and while there was much information that we already knew, I generally liked the impression that the archbishop gave. A self-proclaimed hesitant media figure – he does not like giving interviews – he came across as serious, knowledgeable and firm, while some personal touches did shine through.
I won’t go over the reasons for his past decisions here – those have been covered extensively elsewhere – but some quotes are worth taking a look at.
On his decisive style of management, he said
I am someone who is decisive, yes. I discuss well, I orient myself. I first try to get a good picture of what is going on, or else you can’t take any decisions. I think I’m also very clear in that, in what I want. I am also someone who knows what he wants, that also makes a difference, of course.
No, avoiding conflicts is not my nature, not at all. On the contrary, I believe that if you ignore a problem, it will come back later with double the force. No, you really must deal with a problem.
See, management… in the first place it is a matter of common sense. Just using your common sense. And in the second place you have to take good advice. [...] You absolutely have to delegate certain things, some things you simply can’t do yourself. But I am ultimately a manager who is the spider in the web.
That’s certainly the unpopular position to take in our culture. But the fact remains that the Church is not a democracy. As the archbishop also said, the Church works with a one-man responsibility. He is the man, he has the responsibility.
On the criticism against his unpopular decisions:
Cutting and reorganising are never fun. At a certain point it becomes a fact, and people can’t deny it any longer [...] And for those concerned it is never enjoyable. But, no matter you bring the message, it is still a bad message. But I think that people sometimes say things without really having full knowledge.
I agree. Most of the emotional outpouring following some of the archbishop’s decisions were not based in a through knowledge of the case. Not that that makes them less valid, though.
On the letter that a few emeritus priests wrote to him, and which they made public:
See, there are numerous ways in which, and people do that, in which you can offer criticism, and ask questions.
Did you blame them?
Yes, I do blame them.
Like the Stienstra case, it is simply not ethical to make a personal disagreement public. It doesn’t do anything to reach a solution, so the only point can be to play the blame game.
On the disagreement with Bishop de Korte about closing the Ariënskonvikt:
We have spoken extensively about it together. I also explained to him why it was necessary en we decided to – he did hear before I told the students, but in the end we spoke about it and we also decided not to discuss it publically.
This actually made me quite happy. It’s no fun to know that your former and your current bishop are arguing about something.
On the Stienstra case:
Well, see, I think Ms Stienstra was rather fond of the Ariënskonvikt, for valid personal reasons. See, of course you can criticise the decisions of an institute, en perhaps also the way in which they are made. That is all possible. But what you obviously can’t do is say that false motives were used. [...] You are actually saying that the bishops lies. The word wasn’t used, but it did come down to that.
On his public image of a cold manager:
When I go to parishes people say “up close you’re not so bad.” The really appreciate the Eucharistic celebrations and i also hear, via my driver and others that the appearance is appreciated.
That’s certainly how I got to know the archbishop. He is a very pleasant, pastoral man when you talk to him face to face.