Political support from an unexpected corner

The disruption of Mass in Den Bosch has not gone unnoticed in parliament. Of course, PvdA chair Lilianne Ploumen and local representatives of the same parties called for these disruptions (so inciting an unconstitutional act), but other parties remained very quiet. But now the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, the SGP, spoke up in defense. Remarkable, since the SGP is hardcore Protestant and traditionally quite anti-Catholic. But now they intend to ask questions in a general Christian context. After all, who’s to say that it’ll end with disrupting Mass? Protestant services run the same risk.

On the party’s website are the questions that MP Kees van der Staaij has sent to the Justice and Home secretaries. He specifically focusses on the protests as criminal acts according to Article 146 of the criminal code, which states:

Below are MP van der Staaij’s questions to the secretaries:

1 Did you take notice of reports that protesters disturbed a church service in ‘s Hertogenbosch and intend to protest more often like this?

2 How do you judge such forms of protest? Is the government willing to distance itself forcefully from utterances sich as demonstrative hand clapping and loud protests that disturb church services?

3 Does the Public Prosecutor, also in light of article 146 of the criminal code, intend to take steps against these church service disruptions? If not, why not?

4 To what extend can calling for protests at or during church services with the risk of actual disruptions of church services be tackled according to criminal law?

5 What options do justice and police, or mayors have to undertake anything against threatening disruptions of church services? What will the government undertake to prevent a repeat of such disruptions?

6 Are you willing to answer these questions as soon as possible?

Good questions, although I am skeptical about the answer to them. I sadly doubt that this is a priority for any other party.

Stats for February 2010

The second month of my blogging here saw a small decrease in viewers, but that was not unexpected. After all, Father Tim and other influential bloggers did not link to me this time around. In total 3,096 views were registered, which is a good number. Certainly more than I had expected two months ago.

Four topics drew lots of viewers: Medjugorje, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and Communion & homosexuality. The latter three are the stereotypical topics that the secular world always connects to the Church and the blog stats meter could tell.

Below is the top ten of best-viewed posts. I am very happy to see some of my translations making it in there.

1: Het Probleem Medjugorje: 121
2: The problems of choosing death: 94
3: Some thoughts on same-sex marriage: 84
4: STS-130: The Rise of the Cupola: 72
5: Boodschap voor de Vastentijd 2010: 71
6: ”I did not want this disturbance” – Fr. Luc Buyens’ homily: 68
7: Diocesan decision: no Communion: 59
8: STS-130 launch report: 54
9: ”The Belgian Church has been too passive”: 53
10: Further developments around Reusel and Priest attacked… for being Catholic: 50

People who found my blog via search engines where mostly interested in Lent, Father Luc Buyens, STS-130 and Fr. Manfred Hauke. An  unusual search string was “endeavour two engines”, a term used during the ascent of space shuttle Endeavour that indicates that the orbiter can make it to a given destination (orbit, abort site) on two engines. And indeed, Google coughs up just two results for that search, the first of them being my blog.

Two homilies

Two homilies, one from Den Bosch, the other from Brussels. Delivered under radically different circumstances too. The first is Fr. van Rossem’s homily that he delivered yesterday morning. I doubt many people heard it all, because certain people decided they weren’t getting enough attention. At the end of Mass, Father van Rossem said he’d put his homily online, and he did. The original is here and my translation can be read here.

The second homily is a far more festive one. It was delivered by Archbishop Léonard at his installation Mass. In it, he engages everyone in his archdiocese to work with him in the Church. How anyone could read this as distant, cold and hostile is a big question, but many people in Belgium accuse Msgr. Léonard of just that. But judging by this homily, he is a man with a job to do, and a willingness to do that job with everyone involved. Read the original or my translation.

Installation of Archbishop Léonard

Some positive news than. On Saturday, Msgr. André-Joseph Léonard was installed as archbishop of Malines-Brussels. He succeeds Godfried Kardinaal Daneels and is the twentieth or twenty-first* archbishop in Malines. 

A trio of photos, courtesy of Kerknet

Archbishop Léonard amid the other bishops of Belgium and the papal nuncio.


The new archbishop during his homily.


Priests of the archdiocese


*Twenty-first only if we count Jean de Wachtendonck, who was appointed very shortly before his death in 1668. He was, incidentally, als bishop of Namur, just like Msgr. Léonard was.

Eyewitness account of a disgrace

The back of the cathedral, just after people had noisily left during the homily. The atmosphere was hostile.


 “Christ decides who receives Communion, not you!”   


An example of the heckling towards Father Geertjan van Rossem, and his reply, during yesterday morning’s Mass at the cathedral of St. John in Den Bosch.   

I was there. I felt I should in order to defend my faith and my Church, in whatever minute way one person can. And I can tell is was a disgraceful display of inflated egos and refusal to objectively listen. The protesters, by and large, seemed to me people who were unable to move on from the initial emotion reaction to a measured objective debate. It was about them, and anyone who actually attended Mass for God (what a shocking concept!) be damned.   

I was dependent on the trains, so I arrived at the cathedral a few minutes after the start of Mass. Father van Rossem was saying a short word of welcome, which already elicited some booing. I found a standing place in the back, since the cathedral was really full: a fair number of people who were clearly only there for the protests (pink triangles on their clothes and all) and regular parishioners in the pews in the front. A formidable media presence was towards the left of the sanctuary.   

From my position I could see people coming in (including some ladies in pink wigs and pink ‘habits’ who wanted to walk towards the sanctuary but were stopped by the sacristans who were out in full force). The kyrie, the readings and the responsory psalm went without problem. I got some looks from the back pews for actually saying the responses and singing along with the psalm… Maybe people were amazed that people would attend Mass for other reasons than to air their egotistical grievances?   

Things went south during the homily. It was a good homily, starting with the texts of today and eventually leading towards a discourse about the Eucharist and our attitude towards it and Communion. As soon as certain people felt personally addressed they got up out of their pews (and since the pews in the cathedral have wooden doors that was accompanied by a lot of noise) and left the church. Then it was evident that they were only there to protest, not to act responsibly and actually listen. That was too much to ask. Father van Rossem paused for a while to wait for the noise to subside and then continued. As people got up, I moved from my place in the back to midway in the main aisle. There was security guy standing at the sanctuary, but if I could help stop some mad person for making a dash towards the altar, I would. Luckily, people just left or found a place to stand in the back.   

As Mass continued, things settled down a bit, until it was time for Communion. The diocese had already announced that the risk of profanation of the Blessed Sacrament was too high and that there would be no Communion for the congregation. The faithful present understood, heard Father van Rossem when he said that a spiritual Communion would be just as valid as a physical one, and were united with the priest when he received the Body and Blood of Christ. The protesters started clapping their hands and singing from the back. They once again wanted attention at the high point of Mass… It was sickening.   

After Mass the cathedral emptied pretty quickly. The protesters had their minds set on getting more attention, this time from the media, the faithful sat down to pray or went home, and I went for a cup of tea with a friend. We were all shaken by the experience, by this profanation of the holy liturgy. The mindlessness of people, their self-centeredness is sometimes staggering, and this was a new low for me.   

They homosexual rights groups have announced continued protests for the coming seven weeks… Not to achieve anything, because that’s not possible in this way. Debate is not possible: these people will only accept their own opinion – they own the truth, or so they think, and anyone who disagrees has no rights.   

It’s maddening and also very sad. The thing that we as faithful can and should do is not stoop to their level: maintain the integrity and sanctity of Mass, and transcend the childishness of the emotional response. Emotion is fine, but if we want to achieve any sense of agreement we need objective and measured discussion and not hissy fits.   

The second reading, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians,  seems perfectly fitting to what I witnessed yesterday:   

Brothers, be united in imitating me. Keep your eyes fixed on those who act according to the example you have from me. For there are so many people of whom I have often warned you, and now I warn you again with tears in my eyes, who behave like the enemies of Christ’s cross. They are destined to be lost; their god is the stomach; they glory in what they should think shameful, since their minds are set on earthly things.   

But our homeland is in heaven and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,
who will transfigure the wretched body of ours into the mould of his glorious body, through the working of the power which he has, even to bring all things under his mastery.   

So then, my brothers and dear friends whom I miss so much, my joy and my crown, hold firm in the Lord, dear friends.   

Writing about all this once again makes me feel ill…