Musical cardinal

A funny little aside from The Bitter Pill (apparently good for more than Fr. Tim-bashing):

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has agreed to perform The Hippopotamus Song at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral on 28 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The cardinal, evidently not always the serious man in the photo, will be accompanied by what is called The Really Terrible Orchestra, consisting of “the cream of Edinburgh’s musically disadvantaged”.

The Hippopotamus Song is a gently satirical song written and performed by the musical comedy duo Flanders & Swann in the late 1950s.

Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow

Bishop Jozef De Kesel
Bishop Jozef De Kesel

He’s been moved around a bit within the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, but now the news breaks that Bishop Jozef De Kesel will be the new Bishop of Bruges. Only in March did Archbishop Léonard name him vicar general for the vicariate Flemish Brabant and Malines. With this appointment, Léonard is left with no auxiliaries, despite his express desire to have a third one appointed. But then Bishop Vancottem was sent to Namur and now Bishop De Kesel goes to Bruges.

Seen from the archdiocese, it looks like stages in a new start. First the most orthodox bishop in the Church province is sent there and now the former auxiliaries are sent off to head their own dioceses. That certainly leaves Archbishop Léonard free to suggest his own candidates for the episcopate.

As for Bruges, it went unexpectedly fast. The previous bishop, Msgr. Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April and the expectation was then that it would take at least a year before a new bishop was appointed. In the end it took almost exactly two months. Bruges has been left in shock by the unexpected news of Vangheluwe’s abuse history, so I can imagine the diocese will benefit greatly with having a new bishop so soon. After all, a clear head of the diocese provides a sense of stability.

Msgr. De Kesel, then, was quite popular in his time in Malines-Brussels. He has been auxiliary bishop there since 2002. His recent appointments, first to a new vicariate and now to Bruges, may also show some measure of confidence in him from Brussels and Rome.

Some facts about the bishop-elect: Msgr. De Kesel is 63, born in Ghand, where he was also ordained a priest in 1972. His uncle was Bishop Leo De Kesel, auxiliary bishop of Ghand from 1961 to 1990. Between 1980 and 1996, Msgr. De Kesel was rector of the seminary in Ghand, where he also taught dogmatic and fundamental theology. He also taught at the Diocesan Religious Institute in that city, and taught Christology at the Catholic University of Louvain. An educated man, it would seem, with his theological roots firmly in the very basis of theology.

Despite all the bad news from Belgium today and yesterday, this is a reason to be glad, especially for Bruges.

A reasonable overhaul

Yesterday’s police intervention in the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels now looks to have been excessively forceful. Not only didn’t the police find any ‘held back paedophilia files’, but in order to do that, they detained all Belgian bishops for nine hours. The bishops had gathered for their monthly meeting. Together with the personnel they were held in one room, forced to surrender their mobile phones and other communication equipment. Although the bishops have stated to have full confidence in the Justice Department, which is why they cooperated fully, to me this sounds as if the bishops are already considered criminals. The only thing lacking is evidence. A very worrying development.

But this, together with the disruptions in the German Diocese of Augsburg, where Bishop Mixa has now accepted his resignation and promised not to challenge it again, is what we can expect more of in the near future. The abuse crisis can lead to nothing else but a full overhaul of everything that helped in covering up the crimes. And that will mean resignations, police investigations and the like. But, as in all things, these need good reason and agreements between all parties to have full effect. If one party does not agree with a bishop’s resignation, we get an Augsburgian situation. If the Justice department ignores agreements made and decides to investigate cases which are many years old and thus subject to the statute of limitations, we get Belgian situations.

A major overhaul, with all the discomfort and chaos it entails, is a simple necessity. But it must be done right to have full effect. And that’s still not happening everywhere.

Translation of the press statement from the bishops, which I linked to above:

“The bishops of Belgium were present in the Archbishop’s house around 10:15 this morning, Thursday 24 June 2010, for the monthly meeting of the Bishops’ Conference. A short while later, around 10:30, members of the Justice department and police officers arrived with a search warrant. At the basis of this are said to have been complaints of sexual abuse within the territory of the archdiocese. More explanation was not given to those present, but immediately all documents and mobile phones were confiscated. No one was allowed to leave the building. Only at 19:30 was that lifted.

Everyone, both the members of the Bishops’ Conference and the personnel of the archdiocese, was interrogated. That was not automatically a pleasant experience, but everything was handled correctly. The bishops have always said that they have full confidence in the courts and their work. They underwent the search of this morning with the same confidence and that is also the reason why they will refrain from any comment at this time.

On the other hand, with Prof. Peter Adriaenssens, chairman of the ‘Committee for the investigation of sexual abuse in the framework of a pastoral relation’, they regret that all the files of the committee were seized during another search. This goes against the right on confidentiality which the victims who have contacted the committee have. An action like this seriously affects the necessary and exemplary work of the committee.”