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Msgr. Karel Kasteel is the most senior Dutch prelate in the Vatican and works as the secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and Dean of the Apostolic Chamber. Last week he given another job, loftily called postulator of the apostolic phase in the beatification processes of Alphons Ariëns and Dora Visser. Archbishop Wim Eijk had suggested Msgr. Kasteel for that role and the Holy See agreed.
I met Msgr. Kasteel once; a very jovial man and a storyteller.
In his new function, he will have to provide evidence that the would-be beatified people heroically displayed Christian virtues, and will have to provide evidence of any miracles achieved on their intercession.
The process for Father Alphons Ariëns started seriously in 2005, when the Archdiocese of Utrecht invited people to come forward with testimonies. Father Ariëns (1860-1928) was a priest of the archdiocese who fought for improved workers’ conditions in the textile mills of Twente, and also combatted alcohol abuse.
Dora, or Dorothea, Visser (1819-1876) was a mystic, partly paralysed from youth and suffered the stigmata since 1843. In 2005, a diocesan court judged that a man was cured in 1999 on her intercession. A vita documentata, an account of her life, is being collected to be sent on to Rome, when the final decision must be made.
The entire process of beatification is an intricate and interesting one, which sometimes can take decades. Let’s hope, at the very least for Msgr. Kasteel’s sake, that it won’t take as long in these two cases.
In various media I am seeing deceptive headlines claiming that homosexual people are once again welcome to receive Communion. This likely in the light of an announcement from the diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch that Communion will be distributed at Mass next Sunday, despite the threat of further protests.
For clarity’s sake, and this is important to remember in the debate: people are and never have been denied Communion based on their sexual orientation. There is a single deciding factor for a priest to say no to someone presenting him- or herself for Communion, and that is that person’s lifestyle. If a priest is aware that someone undeniably lives a life that is not in agreement with the Catholic faith, he can deny someone Communion. But, to stress it, the priest must be convinced. If there is any shred of doubt, a priest should err on the side of caution and give Communion anyway.
Receiving Communion is, among other things, a profession of faith, a sign that you agree with the Church and are willing to do your best to live according to her teachings. There is no guarantee that people will always succeed in that, but that is why we have the sacrament of confession: an acknowledgement that you failed in something and that you are willing to remedy that.
Someone who knows that he does not live according to the faith and still has no intention to remedy that, can’t pretend that he can still receive Communion. After all, he can’t claim to live in accordance with the faith.
Furthermore, the decision to come up and receive Communion is first and foremost one that must be made by the person himself. We should all do an examination of conscience to see if we are able to receive Communion, before we stand up and walk towards the priest. That has been sadly neglected in the education of the faithful in this country: nowadays, people come forward as a matter of habit, because everyone else is doing it, because it’s what’s expected, or so many think. That is something that must change, since the Eucharist is source and summit of our faith: if we don’t know what it is any longer, how can we know our faith?
A priest will, perhaps a bit naively these days, assume that the person in front of him can receive Communion unless, and I can’t repeat this enough, he undeniably knows that not to be the case.
EDIT: And I just read that the announced protests at the cathedral in Den Bosch will be postponed! Great news. Among the reasons cited is the fact that there are groups who no longer wish to keep the protests – which the organisers call an appeal – dignified. Well, since they didn’t succeed in keeping things dignified at their very first protest I’d say that is a correct assessment.