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.