Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps

Fr. Cor Mennen

It’s probably a good time to think about going to bed, but I just came across a piece of text which simply begs for a fisking. The text was published at Rorate, a Catholic (this is important) news collection site which has the annoying habit of not citing sources or even authors. One can only assume that they either approve or are indifferent about the text in question.

Rorate is a Dutch website, so I’ll use an translation of the text.


Pink roses for Father Cor Mennen

OSS (RKnieuws.net) – During the traditional Mad Tuesday fair in Oss, which will be held this year on the 24th of August, five hundred pink roses will be offered to Father Cor Mennen, the Gay Krant reports this week.

Cor Mennen became known nationally as the censor of songs sung in the Roman Catholic Church. He banned many of the songs by Huub Oosterhuis, very popular among the faithful. [No, he did not. As a censor, Fr. Mennen advises. It is the bishops who act upon that advice as they please. So far they have not banned anything. Also: this is completely unrelated to the rest of the article.]

Mennen was also in the news because he went back on his own bishop, who, in Mennen’s opinion, was far too yielding during the so-called host-riot in Reusel and Den Bosch [That again? I thought that storm had abated after media-hungry protester had had their day in the sun]. Mennen called the faithful gays and their supporters [read ‘irreverent protesters’], who had come to the episcopal St. John [we call that a cathedral] with an appeal [a disgraceful and loudmouthed protest], the ‘Amsterdam gay mafia’ [with reason. It was a by-the-book setup, organised by the Gay Krant and certain politicans, abusing grievances they do not understand, or even wish to understand].

Cor Strik, organiser of Mad Tuesday, will have five hundred visitors of this fair deliver pink roses to the Grote Kerk, where Mennen is the shepherd [what’s with the stupid terms? He’s the parish priest]. Strik hopes that many people will also bring roses and pink toy animals themselves [Is this a trend? Why do the organisers of such ‘protests’ always use others to do their dirty work for them? Can’t they find enough people who really have grievances? It’s just an excuse to have a media circus. Then again, the man does organise fairs…].

“You should see this as a gesture of love [Ha!] and an invitation to Mennen to enter into dialogue with homosexuals.” [A dialogue about what? Father Mennen specifically has been very clear about what the Church believes and teaches regarding homosexuality. That won’t be changing].

In a press release, the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch [Fr. Mennen is not the diocese, or even the bishop] itself expressed the desire for such a dialogue, but despite several attempts from the Gay Krant and the COC it remains quite in the bishop’s palace. “We choose compassion [or intimidation], not an argument”, Strik tells the Gay Krant.

During the floral tribute [Oh, it’s suddenly not an attempt at enforcing ‘dialogue’?] an aubade will also be delivered to Mennen and other Church leaders [An aubade, Wikipedia tells us, is a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn, or generally involving daybreak… what?]


Perhaps Fr. Mennen can start running a flower stand. You know, as a source of extra income. I’m sure he can find a use for some extra cash in his parish.

The ‘gay mafia’ to use but a phrase, gets clarity about the Church’s teachings, as a foundation for further dialogue. Said dialogue is supposed to be with the diocese. Despite silence from said diocese, the reasons of which are unknown to me, they return to the man who was one of their opponents in the initial media debate. And they offer him pink roses. What will this accomplish. Media attention, of course. The Church in a bad light, unless Father Mennen comes up with a cunning plan (or hardly anyone shows up to do Strik’s work for him…). What it won’t do is further the dialogue. On the contrary.

In Lyon, France, young Catholic faithful successfully prevented a protest by homosexual activists. It’s probably wishful thinking that the same will happen in Oss, but one can hope…


The language of the liturgy

Late last night I was reading some thoughts about the new English translation of the Missal, and one point in specific made me think about my own introduction to the mysteries of the liturgy. The poll mentioned in Father Z’s post includes the statement “I worry that young people and those considering joining the church will be turned off by a liturgy that sounds esoteric or out of touch to their ears“, to which a vast majority seemingly answered in agreement. I’m not even going to answer the question of whether the new translation really is ‘esoteric and out of touch’ because it uses ‘difficult’ words, but I would like to consider if it is fear grounded in reality, that “young people will be turned off”.

When I first attended Mass, in Advent of 2005, language did not play a big part in my experience. Of course, I noticed that the priest was speaking, and I paid attention (still do) during the homily and the readings, trying to apply them to my own life. But the wording of the Eucharistic Prayer, for example, which also in Dutch includes words that are not used in daily conversation, was not instrumental in my decision to return and attend more Masses. It did not turn me off.

Was that because I didn’t pay attention? Not really, as I indicated above. Rather, the entire structure of the liturgy – rituals, gestures, words – was something to get to know. I did not separate one piece to try and understand before I turned my attention on the next bit. And if I did not understand something immediately (which, in the beginning, was basically all the time) I considered it more of a challenge to learn than a reason to be put off. 

The liturgy and its language have nothing to do with quick satisfaction and the lowest common denominator. Rather,  it must invite and challenge. The liturgy is, after all, primarily something that is supposed to bring us closer to God, not about making things easy for us. And I think that a correct liturgy will have that effect on people: they will notice that the priest is not there to entertain them, but to commune with God on behalf of, and with, the people. 

Difficult words – for a given value of difficult – are really quite secondary to that. And people are smart enough to realise that. The only prerequisite is that the priest knows what he’s doing and performs his liturgical duties correctly. But that goes for many people in many situations.  

My point, or perhaps a point, is that the liturgy is always going to be strange and new to people who are first introduced to it, regardless of the language used. Yet people continue to join the Church every year. These people knew that they were not going to understand everything they saw immediately. It is not only okay to use different words in the liturgy, it is even necessary. The liturgy is more than a social gathering or a community meeting, and the language must reflect that. Then it is one of the things that will elevate people, allowing them to join the priest in transcending the mundane practicalities of ink, paper and everyday words. A movement upwards, towards God.