Archbishop Koch’s ecumenism

Zenit has an interview with Archbishop Kurt Koch, the new head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In it the archbishop (he was given that personal title upon his appointment – a cardinal’s hat is virtually assured at some later date) talks about why he was appointed and how he sees the future of ecumenism by the Church.

One answer from the interview sums up the differences in ecumenism with the Orthodox and ‘western’ Protestants. Here in western Europe, we’re used to only think of the churches of the Reformation when we consider ecumenism, but on a worldwide scale, the Orthodox churches are far closer partners.

Archbishop Koch: “The churches and ecclesial communities born of the Reformation in Switzerland are a special case in the world of the reformed churches. With the Orthodox, we have a common foundation of faith, but great cultural diversity. Instead, with the churches of the Reformation, the foundation of faith is not so common, but we have the same culture. Because of this, with them, it is a different way of engaging in ecumenism that is not always easy.”

Those two elements – faith and culture – can be tricky. It often seems as if it should not be a such a problem for Protestants and Catholics to grow closer, and that is true when looked at from the cultural point of view. But of course, ecumenism is about faith, first and foremost. It is the less visible but more important element of the two.

Poland visits my blog

Looking at the stats of my blog, it seems that something like half of Poland was online two days ago.

Why Poland? Well, a Polish news-gathering website linked to my blog post about the alleged pornographic photo found on Cardinal Danneels’ computer. And evidently that website is a popular one. While on average my website has between the 100 and 150 visitors per day, two days ago the visits peaked at well over 14,000.

Well, all in can say is: welcome Poland!

What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam?

Many will have heard or read about the so-called ‘World Cup Mass’ that Fr. Paul Vlaar of the parish of St. Victor in Obdam celebrated. It’s been doing the rounds for the past few days, both nationally and internationally, so I think it’s good to pay attention to it in my blog as well. With the priest dressed in an orange chasuble, and the church adorned with footballs, goals and orange banners, the Mass was a celebration of football, which is of course not only ridiculous, but also blasphemous. The Mass is the actualisation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the Eucharist  source and summit of our faith.

The footage is below. It may be shocking in its blatant display of sacrilege.

Understandably, such nonsense puts the Church in the Netherlands, which doesn’t have a very good reputation anyway, in a bad light. As is often the case, the efforts of many good priests can be undone by the work of one bad priest. The comments on the post that the American Papist devoted to it speak for themselves. And there is room for a whole lot of improvement in the Netherlands, but the only thing that I want to add now is that these ‘Mass’ is not representative for the vast majority of parishes. Thank God it is not.

Is there something we can do to try and stop such blasphemy in the future? I think there is. If it is improvement we ask for, dialogue and debate online is not enough. That serves well to bring things to people’s attention, but ultimately it is the people in charge who need to implement changes.

The parish in Obdam, where this took place, is part of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the ordinary of which is Msgr. Jozef Punt. I suggest writing him a formal and polite letter, explaining what you have seen and think about it. Explain your concerns and the reasons for it, but do not try and tell the bishop what he should do. That’s his decision, and for all we know he may well be aware of this and is already working on it. The fact that we don’t know if he is, says nothing.

You can contact the bishop at this address: Nieuwe Gracht 80, 2011 NJ, Haarlem. Be polite but clear, write in Dutch if you can, and keep the letter as short as possible (a bishop has more to do than read long letters).

If we want to do something about the ignorance about and blatant disrespect for the Lord that still occurs too often in our parishes, we must do that in communion with our priests and bishops. I know Bishop Punt slightly, and in my opinion he won’t just brush your concerns aside. But it is he, not us, who will decide what will be done, and that’s important to remember.

EDIT: Credit where credit’s due: the idea for this post was inspired by my friend Ismael.

EDIT 2: Some more thought later, I think it is also good to remain open for dialogue with Fr. Vlaar and his parish, especially since other Dutch bloggers picked up my post and have offered advice. So if you want to contact Father Paul Vlaar about this, I suggest the very same things as I did for a letter to the bishop. Be clear, polite and not excessively longwinded, and write in Dutch if at all possible. The website of the parish has a contact form that you can use, but there is also an address on the site: St. Victorparochie, Dorpsstraat 149, 1713 HE, Obdam.

Should Fr. Vlaar himself come across this post, he is welcome to respond, of course, in Dutch or English. For the sake of consistency, I keep this blog in English as much as possible, but I have been known to speak Dutch too.