What to say about the Danneels/Vangheluwe tapes, the recorded conversation between then-Bishop Vangheluwe, Cardinal Danneels and Vangheluwe’s nephew who was sexually abused by him? Well, generally there is nothing to say that hasn’t been already been said. I’ll add one thing, and that is my fear (and, I suspect, a reasonable one) that this is, once more, an example of the incredible naivety in the Church in western Europe. In Belgium, but also in the Netherlands and other countries.
From lay Catholics with delusions of grandeur to bishops who stumble in interviews by giving overly complicated answers to protect their own or others’ image, naivety or misguidedness rears its ugly head often. This should be alien to the Church if she wishes to follow the words and commandments of Christ: like He was very much aware of how the world works, so too the Church must be.
I’ve been slacking a bit when it comes to blogging, I realise. Part of the reason is that the summer is still not completely over (although the weather would have us believe otherwise) and in the Church ordinary time trundles along, only punctuated here and there with some significant solemnities and Marian feasts. In other words, not a whole lot seems to be happening when it comes to the Church in the Netherlands.
But there is something interesting to write all the same. Wim Deetman, the chairman of the commission investigating abuse in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, has given an update on the progress made so far. The commission has collected some 900 reports of abuse and pans to host two or three major meetings with victims in the autumn. These will of course be closed meetings, for which everyone who has come forward receives a personal invitation.
Mr. Deetman seems to use a very practical approach with an eye chiefly on the victims. He wants to open a separate channel for aid and care, since many victims do not wish to make use of the existing Hulp & Recht institute, which was established by the Church some ten years ago. “In that case you must investigate alternatives,” Mr. Deetman said. “It is important that the aid has an institutionalised framework.”
The vast majority of reports are about things that happened many years ago. “We’re still busy collating and investigating all reports, and we have not drawn conclusions. But I can already say that that the cases not subject to the statute of limitations can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The vast majority of facts dates from long ago.”
Deetman also expresses his amazement at how people could keep these facts to themselves for so long.”Why did no one sound the alarm before? […] You hear and read things that are beyond me. How do you even conceive of doing such things with children?”
In the meantime, the media prove to be a bit of an obstacle. Deetman has asked the editors of several media outlets for permission to use the facts they know in his investigation as well. But none seem to be too eager. About the 400 reports in their possession, NRC Handelsblad says, “just as we don’t cooperate with police requests, I don’t think we will be passing on the data which we have collected as journalists to Deetman.” The Wereldomroep says likewise,”We won’t give Deetman access to our files just like that. We have told people that we would treat their information with care. We will pass on Deetman’s request to the people who have come forward to us, so that they can decide for themselves.”
Freedom of press and all is fine, but this seems to be very counterproductive. The position taken by the Wereldomroep is understandable when it comes to leaving the decision to the victims, but generally keeping the data secret seems to me like a willful prevention of reaching the openness and honesty that the same media demanded from the Church earlier.
Father Paul Vlaar will return to the parish in Obdam on 19 September. This marks the end of two-month dispensation following his much-criticised Orange Mass. He has spent four weeks at the abbey in Egmond, in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the same diocese where he also works. Thursday he left as a pilgrim for Lourdes, and he will offer his first Mass in Obdam on the aforementioned 19 September.
Of the past two months, Fr. Vlaar himself says: “I felt seriously punished and I was very recalcitrant. I was at a loose end. […] I had promised improvement to the bishop before. But I broke that promise with the ‘orange Mass’. A response from the bishop was only a matter of time.”
A hopeful comment on the whole situation, which, after all, must have been difficult for Fr. Vlaar just as much as it was for other parties involved.The issues raised following the orange Mass were of various natures, but there were all serious concerns, chiefly when it comes to liturgy and pastoral care. Both of these influence one another as well: liturgy is also a form of pastoral care, since a priest leads his congregation to God by means of the liturgy.
Let’s hope and pray that the reflection of the past two months and the influence of abbey and Lourdes will support Fr. Vlaar in his future ministry.
The homily that Archbishop Bacqué gave at the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in the church of St. Agnes has been published online. The text, unsurprisingly, is in Dutch, but I have taken the liberty of making an English translation. The nuncio focuses on the motherhood of Mary in its various forms, and I found it noteworthy that he also referred to her as the mother of the new evangelisation. This in light, of course, of the recent creation by the pope of a dicastery devoted to exactly that new evangelisation in the heavily secularised west.
Via the first link is the text above you’ll also find more photos of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form which Msgr. Bacqué presided over. There is also a video of the procession around the roundabout in front of the church. Browse through the links underneath the header ‘Special Maria Tenhemelopneming 2010’.
You’ll also find the my translation on the ‘translations’ page, as usual.
It’s Mad Tuesday at the annual fair in the town of Oss. A day that has been annexed by the homosexualists* to celebrate an excessively sexualised lifestyle, in addition to the other days that have been created for that same purpose. Part of this year’s addition was a demonstration at the Catholic church in the centre of the town, where Father Cor Mennen is parish priest. Some 200 people handed out pink roses and placed more at the church. Fr. Mennen was, as he had said earlier, not in town (he is unavailable for comment at his vacation address in Switzerland), so the demonstrators were prevented from giving roses to him personally. In the end some 500 roses were left at the church.
What was the purpose of this demonstration, which I discussed in this blog earlier? Organiser Cor Strik and COC chief Henk Krol said it was to invite the priest to enter into dialogue with the homosexualists. This after Fr. Mennen had already spoken with Mr. Strik last week, even sending him a bunch of white and yellow roses and the wish that he have an enjoyable Mad Tuesday. That was evidently not the kind of dialogue that Strik and Krol had envisioned, so the demonstration went ahead.
Mr. Strik also revealed he did learn something, when he said that “a host is not something to demand, but respect is.” Sadly, that sentence was preceded by the statement that, “Our action is not aimed at [Fr. Mennen] personally, but against the Catholic Church as a whole.” So that means that it was aimed at Fr. Mennen personally, and against all practicing Catholics. You can’t say, “Oh, we’re going to attack some of your beliefs, but it’s nothing personal”. That’s just naive and condescending.
So what is their purpose? What ‘dialogue’ do they want? Weekly meetings in which Fr. Mennen repeats Catholic teachings about Communion, sin and sexuality? Or could it be that they do not want true dialogue, in which both parties participate, but which does not automatically assume the total acceptance of one opinion over the other, but instead want the Catholic Church to say: “No, you’re right. We were wrong in teaching that the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of our Lord, is too important to be approached with any sort of preparation or received without consequence. Our understanding of sexuality was wrong: it is okay to do whatever anyone wants to, and yes, your sexual preference is the most important part of who you are as a person. In fact, we were wrong to teach anything, to have any rules at all. So we’ll just lie down here and you can walk all over us and everything that we hold dear, okay?”
Sorry, but as along as there are Catholics who take their faith seriously, who understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ, that can never happen. Is that wrongful discrimination? No, that is teaching for the benefit of all who are called (all who are called, so not all who feel like it) to receive their Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament and in their hearts. Just as we understand that the education of our children is important, and that parents act out of the best interest for their children, so we should understand that the Church educates and acts with regards to the faithful she is responsible for.
*A word not coined by me, but which I use here to refer to those people who treat sexual preference as the overriding defining characteristic of a person – as if sexuality solely dictates who I am as a person – and furthermore use it as a political tool.
Last Friday, Fathers Arjen Bultsma, Victor Maagd and John de Zwart led some 150 of their parishioners on a pilgrimage to the German Marian shrine at Kevelaer. The website of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden presents this as the revival of an old tradition, and it would seem that the three priests plan another pilgrimage next year. There is a photo report of here, One photo struck me. Taken from the choir loft it shows people coming forward to receive Communion at the communion rail.
While not unknown in certain parishes in the diocese, this way of receiving is rare enough to be remarkable, certainly on a pilgrimage like this, which included people of all generations.
I happen to know the three priests in question as liturgically fairly sensible men (some more than others, but name me any group of three people in which all are identical), but it was certainly nice to see. And yes, I do notice that not everyone in the photo receives kneeling. But, as they say, brick by brick, and as long as reception on the hand is a valid way of receiving I won’t tell anyone off for doing it.
Bishop Richard Williamson – indeed, he of the Holocaust denial – has shared some more of his wonderful thoughts with the world. This time it is about the ongoing discussions between Rome and the SSPX fraternity, of which Williamson is a member. The SSPX does not accept the Second Vatican Council, with some adherents even being sedevacantist: they do not accept the authority of any pope since Venerable Pope Pius XII. The SSPX has placed itself outside the Church by believing they, instead of the Church, have the authority to decide what is true Catholicism.
Williamson’s entire text is available here, but I want to focus on the following paragraph:
“The rumour from Rome is precisely that [the pope] is thinking of a “Motu Proprio” which would accept the SSPX “back into the Church” once and for all, yet require from the SSPX no explicit acceptance of Vatican II or the New Mass, but only, for instance, the acceptance of John-Paul[sic] II’s 1992 “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which is substantially modernist but in a quiet way. Thus the SSPX would not appear to its followers to be accepting the Council or the New Mass, yet it would be softly, softly, beginning to go along with the substance of neo-modernism.”
Still a bit mad then.
I wonder if Williamson is even involved with the talks with Rome – if the SSPX is smart, he is not – so where he gets these ideas is anyone’s guess. But suppose it’s true. Suppose that the otherwise intelligent Pope Benedict XVI would welcome the SSPX back into the fold of the Church while not asking anything of them but some acceptance of the latest edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That means allowing a schismatic group to continue being schismatic while at the same time presenting themselves as part of the unity of the Church. Something doesn’t fit there.
The Second Vatican Council is not dogmatic. It does not contain anything new that was not part of the faith before. The expression of many aspects of the faith was adapted and changed, that is true, but the faith itself was left unchanged, as of course it should have been. But it is a fact that it happened, that it is part of the recent history of the Church. Denying it is then much more then denying cosmetic changes, it is a denial of truths of faith. Cosmetic changes can be debated and accepted or not accepted. The Fraternity of St. Peter did exactly that: it chose the older form of the Mass exclusively, but does not deny the Council. Again, denying that is denying the authority of the popes and bishops, of the Church, an authority that Christ Himself gave. It is denying Christ.
And if we take our faith seriously, we must continue to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things, also in the things we may not like very much. If the SSPX denies a Church council, they indirectly deny the Holy Spirit.
If such a group is allowed back into the fold, it opens the door for other schismatic and dubious groups as well. No, if you want to be Catholic, you’ll have to be Catholic, not some arbitrary form of Catholicism containing only those bits you like.
Pope Benedict XVI is undeniable smarter than to do this.
Granted, he did so over the course of a few years, but it’s still a high number. What crimes did these people commit?
Father Marijan Jelinic is priest of the church of St. Blaise in Vodnjan, Croatia. It is located in Istria, the destination of many tourists in summer. The church contains many relics and the priest thinks these remains of saints deserve all due respect. He is right, of course, and that is at the root of the reason that he expelled so many from the church. People, often tourists in their summer clothing, need to be properly dressed when they enter a sacred place. In a Catholic church not only the remains of saints are present, but most importantly, Jesus Christ Himself is. That fact alone should influence the way we behave when in a church. That is part of the reason why people usually limit themselves to whispering, for example (even if they’re not really aware of it). What is less known, I think, is that a dress code is also assumed.
People don’t need to dress up to the nines before stepping across the threshold of a church, of course, but short or revealing clothing are usually a big no. This article, from which I got the information above, mentions a dress code that was not respected. If Fr. Jelinic had placed signs at the door, explaining appropriate attire, he is totally right when he asks people who don’t abide to leave. That’s what they do in Rome as well. No shorts or revealing tops at St. Peter’s, please. If it’s frowned upon there, why not in any other Catholic church in the world?
I think that these rules actually add to the experience of attending Mass, or even just visiting a church. The realisation that this is some special place you are visiting is all the easier to reach when you have to go through some effort to do so. And that realisation could, God willing, grow into a fuller one: you are not just in a special place, but in the most special place, where Christ is physically among us, where our salvation is within arm’s reach, so to speak.
Of course, Fr. Jelinic has his share of opposition. People say he scares away young people with his draconian measures. Well, I highly doubt that. I think that a priest who has the guts to be clear and enforce certain simple rules gets more respect, especially from young people, than one who goes with every flow.
“I maintain that I do not understand De Troy’s position. Why does this man flagrantly keep saying no? And an unfounded no at that. And if he has motives, let him make them known to us. Because I do not think he would wait with communicating this long if the court had agreed with him wholeheartedly.”
I”m no expert on the Belgian court system, but as far as I understand it, the court that Secretary De Clerck refers to is one which investigated the exact proceedings of the raid and the police investigation into the bishops of Belgium. It would have limited itself to statements about the legality of those proceedings. I’m not sure that that court had the power to forbid continuing investigation.
De Clerck met with court representatives (excluding De Troy) to figure out how the verdict could be made public as soon as possible, “for the benefit of all parties involved”, despite De Troy’s command to keep quiet. Only a full publication will give certainty of what will happen next. Will all the files, computers and paperwork indeed be returned to the bishops, the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and the offices of the formers Adriaenssens committee? Wait and see.