A note from Rome

Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ

The rapid response from the bishops’ conference on the sexual abuse cases has not gone unnoticed in Rome. Father Federico Lombardi SJ, chief of the Vatican press office, has released a note about how the cases are handled in the countries where they occurred: Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. He acknowledges the seriousness of the crimes against the victims, but also notes the necessity of finding solutions which are not limited solely to the Church, but rather to society as a whole. Without denying the reprehensibility of sexual abuse in ecclesiastical institutions, by priests and others, he rightly notes that these cases are not exclusive to the Church. A solution must therefore neither be sought exclusively by the Church.

My translation of Fr. Lombardi’s note is here.


Press release from the bishops on abuse

Below is the official press release from the Dutch bishops, following their meeting earlier today, where they discussed their response to the sexual abuse cases that occurred in the 1950s to 1970s in several Catholic institutions.

The Dutch Bishops’ Conference, in consultation with the Conference of Dutch Religious (KNR), announces the following:

Like the management of the KNR, the bishops are deeply moved by the heartrending stories of sexual abuse which have been revealed these past days. Any form of sexual abuse must be forcefully condemned because it is at odds with the Gospel and the dignity of the human person. It is a painful realisation and a sin to be confessed that proper care for children and young people, especially in the middle of the last century, was lacking in a number of priests and religious. Contacts must obviously be pure, transparent and respectful, especially with the smallest among us (cf. Matt. 18, 1-6). To those who were victim of abuse in Catholic boarding schools, religious and bishops offer their heartfelt sympathies and apologies.

It is clear that there is a great need among the victims to be heard and so recognised. This is the first responsibility of the separate dioceses, orders and congregations. It is desireable that victims are brought in contact with the responsible people of order, congregation or diocese.

The number of reports of abuse in former Catholic formative and educational institutions requires further investigation. The bishops’ conference and the KNR prefer a broad, external and independent investigation. Such a complex investigation must be done carefully. Under the guidance of drs. W. J. Deetman, the required expertise will be collected in the near future, a plan of investigation will be established and a timeline will be laid out.

To assure optimal cooperation with the investigation, the bishop’s conference has Msgr. Dr. G. de Korte, bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden, to be referent and spokesman. From the KNR, secretary general prof. dr. mr. P. Chatelion Counet will take that role upon himself.

The bishops point out that Hulp & Recht remains the address for all reports.  (Postbus 13277, 3507 LG Utrecht, beleidsmedewerker@hulpenrecht.nl). Here a careful investigation of individual reports will take place. For more information on Hulp & Recht, see www.hulpenrecht.nl.

Professor Chatelion Counet, Bishop Punt, Bishop de Korte and Bishop Wiertz at the press conference

Extraordinary Form in Groningen?

Fr. David van Dijk offers Mass ad orientem, the direction of Mass also used in much of the Extraordinary Form

Het Bisdomblad, the monthly magazine published on behalf of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, features an interesting one-page article by Father Leo van Ulden ofm, the vicar general, about the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite. Most of the piece deals with some general considerations about the form and the rituals, as well as the sense of sacrality. There are a few dubious points, mainly about the pope’s intention in allowing the Extraordinary Form to be used (it was never disallowed to begin with, really), but the interesting bit is at the end. 

Fr. van Ulden writes that the pope has asked the dioceses to offer space for people who want to celebrate Mass in this ‘somewhat unusual form’. Quoting (and translating): 

“In our diocese there are two churches open to this: the cathedral of Saint Joseph in Groningen and the parish church of Saint Martin in Sneek. Both still have the liturgical layout and atmosphere suited for a Tridentine Mass. […] Should a reasonable number of people be interested in this form of the liturgy, they can contact the author.” 

I know that asking for ‘a reasonable’ amount of interest is in fact discouraged by Rome (numbers should play no part in offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form – a priest can in fact decide to do this without any request from his parish), but I believe that the above quote should be welcomed warmly. As far as I know it is one of the first positive steps towards implementing the motu proprio ‘Summorum Pontificum’ in our diocese, and as such comes with some practical considerations: finding a priest who can say Mass in this form, for example. 

I’d be very interested to see positive developments in this.

A good example

The Church in Malaysia is fighting its own struggles but manages to show the best way of dealing with it.    

The focus of the conflict is the use of the name ‘Allah’ for God by the country’s only Catholic newspaper, the Catholic Herald. This has traditionally always been the word for God in the Malay language, but in the past years, Muslim clerics and media outlets have been attempting to lay exclusive claim to it, so that ‘Allah’ may only be used to refer to Islam’s concept of God. It has even been taken to the courts. 

Fr. Lawrence Andrew

Recently, reporters of the magazine Al Islam had been working on an article about Muslims who had converted to Christianity.  In the course of their investigations, they attended a Mass and received Communion, only to spit it out. They later wrote about this, greatly upsetting the Catholics in Malaysia, of course.    

In a statement, the editors of Al Islam have declared that the reporters were unaware of the insulting nature of their act, and that they have no intention of insulting Christianity or to desecrate Christian places of worship. 

Father Lawrence Andrew, chief editor of the Catholic Herald, replied: “We accept this public apology. We do not hold a grudge and trust that this will not happen again.” 

A good example. In the face of insults and attacks, we should never lose the willingness to forgive.