Mettepenningen speaks again. And still understands nothing

Seriously, how did this man ever make it to official spokesman of the archbishop of Brussels? The two are polar opposites in intelligence, intention and willingness to go against the grain.

Yesterday, Archbishop Léonard offered a Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Brussels; the first time a Belgian archbishop has done so in over 40 years. Belgian daily De Standaard reports some 500 people attending the Mass, but plays the number down by saying that these were mostly just “curious”. Sure.

Disgraced spokesman Jürgen Mettepenningen also opened his mouth about it: “I have never known of Cardinal Danneels having done the same. This is not the signal that a Church that wants to be contemporary should send out. It fits within an attitude that falls back on the past, when the liturgy was still something between priest and God.”

Honestly, just about every sentence is rife with errors. Cardinal Danneels not having done anything like this fits within the general trend in the Low Countries, as well as with the cardinal’s own priorities. It says nothing about Archbishop Léonard. This is indeed the signal of a contemporary Church; a Church willing to embrace the complete package of Tradition, liturgy and doctrine, instead of the politically correct bits and pieces in an attempt to speak to the masses by not being too difficult. Acknowledging and making use of Tradition, the 2,000-year development of Church, faith and philosophy could be considered falling back on the past: the past being, in this case, the rich treasure chest from which we draw so much of our identity, knowledge, faith and, yes, knowledge of the Lord. And then, lastly, the liturgy being between priest and God? Ridiculous nonsense. The liturgy is always a matter of God and His people. In that order. God first, people second, in an eternal dialogue of love and teaching. The priest faces the Lord together with the people: all face the same direction, because before God all men and women are equal, be they priest or laity. The liturgy of the Mass is not about ‘having something to do’; it is about prayer, about getting to know God (something with which we are never finished), communicating with Him, and He with us, not according to our own standards, but to His, the standards which were part of His plan for us ever since the Fall.

Abp. Léonard offers Mass in the Extraordinary Form

Mettepenningen’s comments are characteristic of the shallow idea of ‘being Church’ that has spread so heavily in the west in the past decades. Church is not something we make together: it is something given to us by Christ as the prime means of our salvation. It is therefore not a social club, not a self-help centre, not an opportunity to be constructive by being the centre of attention. The liturgy of the Mass is the uniting of the people of God to the heart of Christ, in prayer, as part of the world Church, and thus as something much, much greater than we are.

Photo credit: (2) Bart Dewaele/De Standaard


More episcopal EF Masses

Bishop Kozon

It seems that the FSSP-run St. Agnes church in Amsterdam is building upon the success of the first episcopal Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Netherlands, last August. Their website announces that this year a bishop and a cardinal will come to offer Mass in this form. In August, of course, Nuncio Archbishop Bacqué presided over a Mass, rather than celebrate it.

On Passion Sunday, 10 April, Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen will offer the Mass, and on 17 September Raymond Cardinal Burke will be the celebrant. The latter date marks the five-year anniversary of the re-introduction of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at St. Agnes.

It took a while, but I think it can be said  the EF is fairly well rooted in the Dutch Catholic landscape. Not only is the St. Agnes host  to prelates (albeit foreign ones) coming to preside at or offer the EF Mass, in Utrecht the cathedral administrator also offers Mass in both forms, and the Tiltenberg seminary offers a course for priests and seminaries to learn the older form. In other dioceses, individual priests have learned or are learning as well. It’ll be interesting to follow the development over the coming years.

Bishop Schneider speaks again, this time on Vatican II

Over the past days I have been blogging less than usual, and the reason is due to this man: Msgr. Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. In orthodox circles his name is not unknown, being the author of the book Dominus Est (It is the Lord) in which he powerfully advocates a return to Communion on the tongue. His is an educated and eloquent voice, very much the seminary professor (which he, in fact, is).

His latest work, which has made a moderate impact in the Catholic blogosphere, is an address he held in December at a conference about the Second Vatican Council seen in the light of the Tradition of the Church.

I have been working on a Dutch translation of that address, of which you may find an English translation here. In it, Bishop Schneider, expands on seven points dealing with the pastoral theory and practice, points which are listed on the Council’s Decree on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, which I’ll quote here:

The Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance [Jn. 17:3; Lk. 24:17; Ac 2:38]. To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded [Mt. 28:20], and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ’s faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men. (SC, 9).

Pope Pius IX, who issued his Syllabus of Errors in 1864

Bishop Schneider takes each point in turn and, making extensive use of a number of Conciliar documents, as well as addresses and homilies by the Conciliar popes, Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI, uses them to explain the aim of the Council on various doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral topics. In this way, he not only attempts (and succeeds, I think) to explain the actual texts of the documents, but also the intentions of the popes and the Council Fathers.

Ultimately, his address leads to a call for a new Syllabus to counter the errors which have crept into the interpretation of the Council. He takes Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus Errorum (Syllabus of Errors) as a model for his proposed Syllabus. In contrast to the earlier Syllabus, Bishop Schneider’s proposal is triggered not solely by errors from outside the Church. He names both groupings who wish to ‘protestantise’ the Church “doctrinally, liturgically and pastorally”, and traditionalist groups who reject the Council, “submitting for now only to the invisible Head of the Church”.

Bishop Schneider’s scholarly approach to the subject makes that this address is not only food for thought in orthodox circles. It is a source of education for all Catholics about the Council, as well as a call to action, to fully understand what it means to be Catholic and act accordingly.

My Dutch translation will follow soon.

“No need for discussion”

Impression of the March for Life in Washington DC

In the week that Catholics in the United States march for life, a minor pro-life/abortion discussion erupts among Dutch Catholics and others on Twitter. Several political parties have made proposals about lowering the maximum age of unborn children being killed through abortion. Katholiek Nieuwsblad editor Mariska Orbán-de Haas – who has made quite a splash in the (social) media since her appointment – makes no secret of her pro-life attitude, going so far as to personally address politicians about their opinions and actions against life. Bishop de Jong’s letter to all members of parliament was the first major trigger of that.

Today, she addressed former GreenLeft head Femke Halsema on the topic. The political left prides itself on tolerance and openness, but today, in the voice of Halsema, shows its other side.

Femke Halsema

Mrs. Orbán-de Haas was joined by others in addressing Ms. Halsema about her anti-life attitude, and while I can understand that that may come across as some sort of attack (although a politician should be used to that), the response was firmly unsatisfactory: “No need for discussion”.

In a nation where abortion is increasingly considered as a right and a normal part of health care, there is most certainly a need for discussion, especially when that country and its leaders pride themselves on their tolerance.

Pope’s message for World Communication Day (incl. Dutch translation)

In his message for the 45th World Communications Day, released today, Pope Benedict XVI stresses the importance of a Christian presence on the digital world. He explains what that constitutes: it is more than a religious content being communicated, but an attitude, a way of behaving towards others on the web. He also stresses the importance of responsibility and truth; especially the latter should not be subject to popularity, but deserves nothing less than an integral and honest communication.

I am pleasantly surprised to see such a positive message from the Holy Father; in some circles it was feared that this message would be predominantly negative about social media and the use of it by Catholics, especially young people. But it is not. Like so many things, the pope presents this too as a challenge that we are called to rise up to.

World Communication Day is on 5 June, but papal messages tend to be released on significant dates well before that. In this case, on the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press, educators, writers and journalists.

Read the original text here and my Dutch translation here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

A real church, “not one of those multifunctional things”

Some encouraging signs of solid faith come from Belgium, from a 13-year-old boy. Joey Wolfs is a devoted and enthusiastic altar sever in churches in Diepenbeek and surroundings, in the Diocese of Hasselt. One of those churches is the Regina Pacis in Lutselus, which collapsed mere hours after the Christmas Eve Mass a few weeks ago. The municipal council of Diepenbeek is deliberating what to put in the church’s place, but Joey has already made up his mind.

“Lutselus needs a new church. A real one. Not one of those multifunctional things where there’s a Mass in the morning, a meeting of the elderly in the afternoon, and a youth gathering in the evening,” he says in local newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “You can’t be dancing between pulpit, baptismal font and altar, right? In a place where just before Our Lord was a guest?”

In order to make sure that the right thing happens, Joey has already collected more than a thousands signatures of local residents. With next year’s council elections, Joey is pretty certain of himself and his cause.”Everywhere I go, people say: that boy is right. The people of Diepenbeek come and ask if they can sign the petition. If there’s not going to be a new church, people will not forget that in the voting booth.” In other words, the town council had better take him seriously.

In a country where the faith of so many has been hit hard be recent events, and in an area of the world where new churches tend to be community churches instead of sacred spaces, Joey’s initiative is a hopeful witness of faith and sensibility.

Unsurpisingly, Joey wants to be a priest when he is old enough.

Gearing up for Bootcamp 2011

The flyer for Bootcamp 2010, designed by Brother Hugo

When good Catholic catechesis and education beyond the basic topics is hard to find, you sometimes need to provide for it yourself. That is the basic reason why the Credimus Bootcamp was held for the first time in 2008. This year it will be organised for the fourth time and already the PR machine is gearing up. To the left you’ll notice the design of the flyer by Brother Hugo, the diocesan hermit who has been involved with Bootcamp from the start. He was also the host of the first edition.

The topic of Bootcamp 2011 is ‘shepherds’. I don’t know anything beyond that either, but I am sure that, over the course of the coming months, we will find out a bit more.

Bootcamp 2011 will be held from 16 to 22 July in Geffen, Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where Father David van Dijk will be host for the third time running.

An impression of my experiences of Bootcamp 2010 can be found in my blog post Back from Bootcamp.

Credimus Bootcamp is a week of liturgy and lectures, but also social activities and relaxation, aimed at people roughly between 16 and 35. There will be daily Mass in both forms of the Latin rite, offered by various guest priests, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, and every day guests will come and speak about all kinds of topics (past topics included the sacrifice of the Mass, Gregorian chant (also in workshop form), ecclesiology, a first-hand account of an approved miracle and people’s innate urge to find God.

Next to that, there is ample time for relaxation, meals together, a day trip on the free day in the middle of the week and random Catholic encounters with people, traditions and artifacts from the dark attic of the faith, to paraphrase Brother Hugo. For most people attending it is also a week that does not leave them unaffected: in the end, Bootcamp is all about the encounter with the living God.

Follow the Bootcamp organisation, which includes the authors of Ingrid Airam and David’s Weblog, on Twitter via CmusBootcamp and on Facebook.

Right and left hands

Once more, a fact-finding legal investigation into a clerical abuse case shows how stunningly underdeveloped the communication between Church bodies has been and – for all we know – still is. In the southwest Dutch town of Middelburg, Bishop Hans van den Hende of Breda and Father Herman Spronck, provincial of the Dutch Salesians have been heard this week about an abuse case involving a Salesian priest who was employed as a parish priest by the Diocese of Breda in the 1980s and was convicted of sexual abuse of minors in 1990. It later transpired that he had been guilty of abuse before coming to work in Breda. The ordinary at the time, Bishop Huub Ernst, immediately fired the priest when his history became known.

Fr. Spronck has explained in a letter to the court that the Salesians never bothered to inform the diocesan curia of Breda about the priest’s past. The letter also makes clear that the priest fell under the jurisdiction of the Salesians and not the diocese, which is the core of the case that the victim tries to build: who can be held responsible for the priest’s crimes?

The Salesian letter says “that, at the time of the appointment of Mr. N. to Terneuzen, they did not communicate at all with the diocese about the history of Mr. N. This happened neither before or over the course of the appointment.” Fr. Spronck also said that the Diocese of Breda should have investigated the priest they appointed themselves as well.

Bishop van den Hende declared before the court that the diocesan archives contain nothing but the appointment and dismissal letters of the priest in question. All that the bishop knows about the case is second-hand, which makes sense, since he was only appointed to Breda in 2006.

I don’t think this is what Christ meant when he said, “Let not your left hand know what your right hand does” (Matt. 6:3).

A voice from the past

69 years after his death, Blessed Titus Brandsma has a Twitter account. He may be followed via PaterTitus42 (in Dutch) or FatherTitus42 (English).

But what can the beatified Carmelite priest, who worked closely with the Dutch bishops against the Nazi restrictions of press during World War II, and who died in the Dachau concentration camp, be twittering about? Well, starting on 19 January, the day of his arrest in 1942, a Catholic Radio 5 program and the Dutch Carmelite Institute will publish daily tweets about what happened to Blessed Titus, what he did and with whom he spoke. The project will last six months, ending on 26 July, the day of his death.

The press release calls it a world premier, a form of ‘real-time history’ that has never been done on Twitter. I do think that something similar has been done before, albeit not in a Catholic context.

Blessed Titus Brandsma was beatified in 1985 and is one of the few ‘modern’ Blesseds from the Netherlands, let alone from the north. He was a born Frisian, although he worked and lived mostly in Nijmegen.

During the war and the German occupation of the Netherlands, Blessed Titus, who was a trained journalist, worked closely with the Dutch bishops, led by Cardinal Jan de Jong. Shortly before being arrested, Blessed Titus travelled across the country to convince editors of newspapers not to run pro-German adverts and articles. The occupier was none too pleased about it, and had the Carmelite priest arrested. Blessed Titus arrived in Dachau in June and was killed by lethal injection a month later.

Heartfelt congratulations

Having left detailed blogging about the newly-established Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to the eloquent bloggers and reporters across the North Sea, it is such a momentous occasion in the modern Church that I won’t completely ignore it.

Three Anglican bishops have taken up Pope Benedict’s invitation to come home to the Catholic Church, and now, as priests, they are to lead the ordinariate in England and Wales that exists to allow groups of Anglicans to return while maintaining their centuries-old traditions, liturgy and spirituality. But they will be Catholics again.

Yesterday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster ordained these three former bishops to the Catholic priesthood.

Father Keith Newton, pictured here with his wife, is appointed as the first ordinary of the ordinariate. He was formerly the Anglican bishop of Richborough.
Father Andrew Burnham, formerly bishop of Ebbsfleet, is congratulated by Archbishop Nichols following his ordination.
Father John Broadhurst, until recently the Anglican bishop of Fulham.

In the next months, two more former bishops and some fifty Anglican priests intend to be received in the Catholic Church.

Photo credit: Mazur/