As part of the preparation for the upcoming consistory (5 days from now), one of the two future cardinals who weren’t bishops yet was consecrated two days ago. Archbishop (a personal title, it would seem) Walter Brandmüller, the former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, was made a bishop since canon law dictates that only bishops are to be created cardinals. That said, in an example of Catholic flexibility, future cardinals can request to be allowed not to be consecrated bishops. Future cardinal Domenico Bartolucci is said to have requested exactly that.
But back to Archbishop Brandmüller. As non-ordinary (ie. a bishop who is not the head of a diocese) he was given a titular see. And in that see, he is the second successor to my own bishop. Bishop Gerard de Korte held the titular see of Caesarea in Mauretania when he was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht. In July of 2009, more than six months after the see became vacant, Bishop Stanislaus Magombo, auxiliary bishop of Lilongwe in Malawi, succeeded him. Bishop Magombo sadly died almost exactly a year later, only 42 years old. And now the soon to be Cardinal Brandmüller takes over the reigns of the non-existent diocese.
Possibly in response to questions raised (especially in the United States) about the legal position of dioceses, religious orders, bishops, and the Vatican when it comes to child abuse cases, the Dutch bishops and the Conference of Dutch Religious have created a commission that will look into exactly that. The three-person commission consists of Prof. Mr. Siewert D. Lindenbergh (chairman), professor in Civil Law at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam; Mr. Jacqueline Meyst-Michels, a lawyer specialising in liability and injury law, especially in the medical field; and Mr. Joost Wildeboer, a lawyer specialising in injury and insurance law.
The new commission is tasked to take all relevant aspects of limitations, liability and damages according to civil and church law into account and come with an advice in early 2011. Until then, they will be working in private, being unavailable for the media until the aforementioned aspects have been considered.
An attempt to save skins, or to create clarity? The optimist in me favours the latter, and I think it has things going for it. Although the Netherlands is not (yet) a society as fond of the courtroom as the United States, the legal battles fought there do offer a lesson. How should the law treat a diocese or a bishop? Are they autonomous entities or employees of the Vatican or the local archbishop? Church law and customs have answers, but are these the same as the answers that civil law has?
The abuse crisis is not over. The accusations and stories of terrible crimes are being collected now. It remains to be seen how the legal battle turns out.
Words from Bishop Wim de Bekker of Paramaribo, Suriname, during the reconsecration of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, yesterday. The cathedral, which is the largest all-wood church in the world, had been out of use for 25 years after dry-rot, termites and ground settlement had rendered it unsafe for use. With the exterior renovated, the cathedral is once again ready to fulfill its role as the church of Suriname’s only diocese.
As part of the renovation efforts, the remains of Blessed Petrus Donders, a Dutch priest who worked as a missionary among the lepers in the nineteenth century, was entombed in a specially-designed chapel.
Representing the Netherlands, of which Suriname was a colony until 1975, was Bishop Ad van Luyn of Rotterdam, who presented a silver-embossed Evangeliarium and consecrated the altar dedicated to Blessed Petrus Donders. Also present was the nuncio to many of the smaller central American and Caribbean countries, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson. He consecrated the Mary altar, while Bishop de Bekker consecrated the main altar.
The first part of Verbum Domini (the introduction) is translated into Dutch and available here. In it, Pope Benedict XVI grounds the text and the Synod that preceded it in the Gospel of John and the Tradition of the Church. He recalls preceding papal documents (most notably “Dei Verbum”), and reflects on the actual proceedings of the Synod of Bishops. With these two lines of thought, Verbum Domini no longer stands alone; it is a development, a part of the ongoing Tradition of the Church, the ongoing development in man’s relation to God (and His word), and an ongoing inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostolic Exhortation is available in several languages, such as English, on the Vatican website.