Transmitting the reality of faith

It doesn’t seem that I missed a whole lot in my week-long absence from the Internet, at least not when it comes to Catholic news in the Netherlands. Everyone still seems upset with the whole Fr. Vlaar business, even though the measures taken by Bishop Punt seem clear: a month at a convent or abbey, followed by another month doing some other work, before the question of Fr. Vlaar’s return to Obdam becomes an issue again.

The media devote much time and space to the issue (something reflected in a fairly consistent increase in the page views of my blog, too).  The Protestant newspaper ‘Reformatorisch Dagblad’ publishes an interview with various people about the  question of why things have gone so far as we have seen in Obdam (and which we also see elsewhere). One of those people in Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The interviewer asked him about a point raised in the bishop’s (clumsily translated) letter to the faithful in his diocese: “Frankly speaking I was very surprised and disappointed that the faithful do not spontaneously apprehend/understand that this goes way too far.”

Bishop Punt elucidates:

“In my opinion it is connected to the secularisation which has taken place in the past decades in the Netherlands. We have placed ourselves and our needs and desires in the centre of attention. God has become at most a function of ourselves. What does He mean to me? What do I get out of faith? If He is able to increase our happiness, we are willing to let Him into our lives. But if not, we part ways.

“That God is alive and that we were created in His image and owe our existence to Him, that awareness has strongly weakened. Apparently the Church failed in her duty to raise people in the truths of the faith [I’ll say…]. This makes it pertinent for us to find new ways to bring the reality of God and His purpose with our lives powerfully to people’s attention. They no longer know who He is. They don’t know Him anymore. They have lost sight of Him.”

Like any society, the Dutch one is pluriform. There are generalities, but the individualistic nature of modern western society has enlarged the individuality that is already present in modern man; their unique person, their customs, habits and priorities. To generalise will therefore never do complete justice to the situation. However, I do believe Bishop Punt is correct when he makes the above sweeping statements about the Church in the Netherlands.

In a recent discussion in the chat room at SQPN.com, Fr. Roderick Vonhögen explained about the situation in the Netherlands regarding liturgical abuses. A mainly international audience such as the one at SQPN, while undoubtedly aware of abuses, generally has no full sense of the extent of the problem. Fr. Roderick said that the situation is 100 times worse than it is in the United States, and I don’t think he is wrong.

Bishop Punt’s raising of new ways to educate people is indeed pertinent. At the moment the Church does not succeed in that. Existing methods gather to a minority of existing Catholics and are invisible beyond the Church. Faith education must be lifelong (since we never stop learning and growing closer to (or further away from) God), thorough, consistent and suited to modern society and modern people. That does not mean denying the truths of the faith in order to achieve that. But truths that are at right angles to modern life must be stated forcefully, not softly whispered.

In that context, the above statements from the bishop are a start. A good start, perhaps, but just a start nonetheless.

4 thoughts on “Transmitting the reality of faith”

  1. Msgr. Punt’s statements (he’s actually my bishop, by the way) are most certainly a start. Let’s hope they are really a start and things will, at the end of the day, not be left the way they are, because nothing less than the future of the Church in The Netherlands is at stake. Unfortunally, the Dutch bishops have a long history of inactivity with regard to abuses, so please don’t blame me for not being too optimistic. Catholic faithful who just want to be that (and I’m just one of them) feel neglected by their bishops for much too long (it’s really not just modernists who “suffer from the Church”), yet they remain loyal, but I hope and pray their patience will not be put to the test much longer and the bishops will finally do what they are supposed to do.

    1. I understand what you’re saying. The inactivity of the Church in the Netherlands as a whole (not just the bishops) is a problem. Of course, there are numerous active volunteers and clergy who do their very best, but on the whole the picture is not good. So I share your lack of optimism.

      But that does not mean we can give up, of course (not that you are suggesting that). I firmly believe that the best way forward lies in loyalty to the magisterium of the Church (which includes supporting the bishops when needed, instead of calling them names and worse, as some bloggers do) and doing what we can as lay people. I think that in the area of education and awareness we too can and should take our responsibility and do what we can (which is a lot). Maybe in that way we can slowly inspire the bishops to do the same.

      Support for a letter like Bishop Punt’s is therefore more important than criticising its perceived errors. It’s not a perfect letter, but it can very well serve as a start for all Catholics.

      Right, I’ll get off my soap box now 😉

      1. Been to Hyde Park? 😉 I think we are in agreement. By the way, are you referring to the same blogger who called you an episcopolatrist (obviously her favourite invective)?

  2. Haha, I have been to Hyde Park, actually. Years ago. 😛 No soapboxes were involved then, though…

    I’m referring to a number of bloggers. I think most people who read Dutch Catholic blogs can find some names that suit my description.

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