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.