Nissen’s departure, good or bad?

Dutch historian Peter Nissen, one of the go-to Catholics in the Dutch media landscape, announced yesterday that he has left the Church and joined the Remonstrants. This after a history of criticism against the Church and the pope. Only last week did he call for the pope to abolish himself and dismantle the entire apparatus of the Catholic Church. He’s sort of the Dutch Hans Küng, in that respect.

Should we welcome his departure? I don’t think so. In the first place because it is never good news when someone leaves the Church (out of ignorance or for other reasons). Nissen consciously distances himself from Christ and His sacraments, with all the risks that entails.

A second reason why it’s not good news is that it may not change anything. Nissen was certainly an unwelcome critic in the Church, using his status as professor of history to voice opinions which showcased, paradoxically, his ignorance. Will that change now that he is outside the Church? He’s still a historian, the media still have his phone number…

Maybe he will keep quiet about pope and Church now, to focus on his newfound home among the Remonstrants, and my concerns may turn out to be unfounded.

But I hesitate to share in the opinion of those who say that Nissen couldn’t have left soon enough. The question of why he still considered himself Catholic when he attacked so many Catholic concepts is a valid one, and at the very least Nissen was honest enough to act upon his opinions and leave. How many people who think likewise still cling to a claim of Catholicity?

Ignorance and personal pain has led someone astray. That is never good.


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