Two points of view on the abuse case, and further developments.

In all affected countries there has been a lot of discussion about the abuse of minors committed by priests, religious and employees of Catholic institutions. Cardinals Kasper and Schönborn have both called for a thorough investigation and a review of the education and formation of priests, respectively. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference is in Rome to confer with the Holy Father.

Closer to home, Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam has written a pastoral letter to all the faithful in his diocese, explaining the situation and the decisions made by the bishops’ conference. He points out that the issue is not exclusive to the Church, that it is symptomatic of the excessive sexualisation of society, but he understands society’s need to first look to the Church in this case. He hopes that the victims of abuse in non-ecclesiastic contexts may also be heard.

The bishop’s letter is available, in my translation, here.

In the mean time, the media is abuzz with all kinds of reports. A lawyer wishes to prosecute the Archdiocese of Utrecht as a criminal organisation, two men in Limburg have expressed the desire to financially undress the Church… all understandably emotional responses, but hardly constructive.

From the Protestant side, Dr. A.H. Veerman, preacher in the protestant community in ‘t Harde, offers some thoughts as well. He sees the abuse issue as damaging for all churches. “Most people don’t make a distinction between Catholic and protestant. This is greatly damaging to the Name and case of Jesus Christ.”

Dr. Veerman  was promoted in 2005 on a case study on sexual abuse among preachers. “We really can’t say that sexual abuse occurs more in the Roman Catholic Church than in protestant churches. It is true that the abuse that is now revealed in the Roman Catholic Church more often concerns children and young people. In protestant churches it is more about preachers who are sexually out of line towards adults.”

He says that research shows that abuse does not happen more often within churches than without. “But not less either. But that is no excuse – because it shouldn’t happen in the church at all.”

Veerman also says that the structure of the protestant church prevented much serialised abuse. The structure of Catholic boarding schools, for example, meant that one person could do a lot of damage.

When asked if he thought that the celibate life of a priest is one of the causes, he said: “No, not celibacy in itself. I once read somewhere that celibacy is not wrong, but the fact that people with a problematic sexuality use celibacy as an excuse to not work on their problems. That is certainly true. I don’t see celibacy in itself as the cause of this kind of derailment. In protestant churches for example, there are many narcissistic preachers. That is not because of the preacherhood, but of the character of people abusing the preacherhood.”

Lastly, Drs. Wim Deetman, the former cabinet secretary and mayor of The Hague, has spoken today about his task as head of the committee to investigate abuse in the Catholic Church. Some statements:

“My work will focus on the following targets: formulating the research question; establishing methods and fields of investigation; manning the eventual committee; establishing a timeline and guaranteeing an independent, careful and transparent investigation.”

“To achieve these goals I will call on external expertise. In the past days several people have already offered this expertise. That is understandable, but not decisive in the choice that will be made. This phase too will be independent.”

“I expect to finish my work in six to eight weeks. Until that time there will be no further statement to the press.”

About the decision to choose him for the role of principal investigator he said: “I am the right person for this role? I am not Catholic. In Catholic circles there are people with much more knowledge. But the wish to emphasise independence is more important. There is a lot of pain, a lot of sorrow. In such a case, you must have a very good reason to say no.”

Sources: Reformatorisch Dagblad, and Rorate


Impressions of St. Joseph

I took the chance to snap some photos of the interior of the cathedral today, having some extra time to spend in the afternoon. Here’s a small impression:

The sanctuary with an open tabernacle. My friend Inge had to snap some photos for a brochure about the sacrality of the church, to be handed out when there are concerts.
The great crucifix over the sanctuary
In the choir loft someone plays the organ for an otherwise empty church.
One of the many stained glass windows in the cathedral. This one shows Christ as the good shepherd.
The coats of arms of the current and previous bishops of the diocese. Johannes Knijff (1559-1576), Petrus Nierman (1956-1969), Johann Möller (1969-1999), Wim Eijk (1999-2008) and Gerard de Korte (2008-)

Rules and regulations

I heard a nice little parable a few days ago that discussed how it can sometimes seem – to believers and nonbelievers alike – that the relationship between God and His people is only about rules; that it comes down to us having to follow His rules in order to be happy. In essence that is true, of course, but not because of some divine need to be obeyed.

It is rather like a man in a dark room who has to open the curtains to let in light. But he doesn’t want to get up out of his chair to do it. He wants the light, nothing more, but doesn’t believe he should have to do anything to get it. Our relationship with God is like that too. God is life, and our choice for life, in whatever form or shape or context, requires a decision to get out of our chair and pull open the curtains, so to speak. Not because God otherwise holds it back, but because it is a simple and logical requirement. Just like curtains don’t open by themselves.

Rules are therefore not simple rules for the sake of being rules. Rather, they are necessities to acquire what we want or need. If God desires lasting happiness for His people, and I’d like to think He does, He will provide us with the means to achieve that. In that sense He is indeed our Father: parents ideally raise their children in a framework of rules, not out of some need to be despots, but because they want the best for their children, who are yet unable to achieve happiness and fulfill their potential by themselves.

That is how we should consider the recent ruckus about Communion and who can receive it. In order to let the life of God enter us, we must be able to receive it. We must get up and make the changes in ourselves to remove the obstacles that can block that life. God’s love is not human love, it far exceeds it. The latter must therefore never block the former, since that would be detrimental to the people. And if there’s one thing God would not want, it is to keep His people back.