A surprise to no one, a Dutch politician in favour of rampant secularisation

On the day that the Netherlands vote for the States Provincial, a Dutch politician in another layer of politics – the European Parliament – displays her unique concept of religious freedom. By opposing a theoretical visit of the pope to the Europarliament.

MP Sophie in ‘t Veld, leader of the D66 fraction (part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe political group) ,was alerted by a Dutch priest on Twitter about the audience that Europarliament President Jerzy Buzek had with Pope Benedict three days ago. Buzek apparently issued an invitation to the pope to come and address the parliament some time.

President Buzek and the Holy Father at the end of their audience

MP In ‘t Veld responded today to that invitation, which has not yet received an official response (if it ever will), in the following words:

“A parliament meeting is a session in which substantial decisions are made for five hundred million Europeans, regardless of their convictions, faith or religion. It is inappropriate if this official meeting would be used as a stage for religious message.”

In ‘t Veld continues by assuring us that it is not about the pope:

“The European Parliament is a place for every possible opinion, faith or religion. But religious freedom is not a collective right, but a private matter.”

So what she actually seems to say here – ignoring for now that those two sentences are in apparent contradiction to each other – is that freedom of religion is only a right for individuals, not for groups of people. It is also a right that assumes that those who have it never share their religion, faith or opinion – as if these things are the same or even similar – in public. That is a reading of this particular constitutional freedom which can be backed by exactly nothing. Freedom of religion, in the first place, protects the citizen’s right to live according to their faith without fear of persecution. It has nothing to say about religious leaders addressing politicians.

What In ‘t Veld may think she means is that this is a transgression of the separation between church and state. But that, too, is incorrect. The separation between church and state protects the rights and duties of both. Again, it says nothing about mere communication between them. In fact, communication and equal standing seems to have been assumed and intended by James Madison, when he said: “practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both” in an 1811 letter. The separation of church and state limits the level of interference the one can have in the other. An address by a religious leader is of course nothing of the sort.

As an aside, I wonder what In ‘t Veld made of the visit of the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament in 2008…

Photo credit: [2] REUTERS/Andrew Medichini/Pool

“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19)

In the aftermath of my post on Bishop Schilder, I wondered how many other Dutch bishops are serving abroad, or, at least, are still alive. In a twist of irony, the Netherlands was at one time something of an exporter of missionary priests and religious and some of those ended up climbing the ranks to become bishops of a diocese on another continent.

A glance at the unrivaled repository of all things bishop that is Catholic-Hierarchy, I found a list of all living bishops who in some way have something to do with the Netherlands. Among them the bishops who were born here but who put on the mitre somewhere else. There are twelve of them. Eight have already retired, and four are still active.

They are the following:

  • Monsignor Everardus Antonius M. Baaij, S.C.I. 89 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Aliwal, South Africa. Ordinary from 1973 to 1981
  • Monsignor Wilhelmus Josephus Adrianus Maria de Bekker. 71 years old. Bishop of Paramaribo, Suriname. Ordinary since 2004.
  • Monsignor Wilhelmus Joannes Demarteau, M.S.F. 94 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Banjarmasin, Indonesia. Ordinary from 1961 to 1983. From 1954 to 1961 he was the Vicar Apostolic of Banjarmasin, then not yet a diocese.
  • Monsignor Henk Kronenberg, S.M. 76 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Ordinary from 1999 to 2009.
  • Monsignor Herman Ferdinandus Maria Münninghoff, O.F.M. 89 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Jayapura, Indonesia. Ordinary from 1972 to 1997.
  • Monsignor Joseph John Oudeman, O.F.M. Cap. 69 years old (exactly 69 today, by the way). Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane, Australia. Auxiliary since 2002.
  • Monsignor Cornelius Schilder, M.H.M. 69 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Ngong, Kenya. Ordinary from 2002 to 2009.
  • Monsignor Andreas Peter Cornelius Sol, M.S.C. 95 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Amboina, Indonesia. Appointed Coadjutor Bishop in 1963, ordinary from 1965 to 1994.
  • Bishop van Steekelenburg

    Monsignor Johannes Henricus J. Te Maarssen, S.V.D. 77 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea. Ordinary from 2000 to 2009.

  • Monsignor Theodorus van Ruijven, C.M. 72 years old. Vicar Apostolic of Nekemte, Ethiopia. Appointed Prefect of Jimma-Bonga in 1998, Vicar Apostolic of Nekemte since 2009.
  • Monsignor Hugo María van Steekelenburg, O.F.M. 73 years old. Bishop of Almenara, Brazil. Ordinary since 1999.
  • Monsignor Vital João Geraldo Wilderink, O. Carm. 79 years old. Emeritus Bishop of Itaguaí, Brazil. Appointed Auxiliary BIshop of Barra do Piraí-Volta Redonda in 1978, ordinary of Itaguaí from 1980 to 1998.

All but one of these bishops belong to religious orders or congregations, indicated by the abbreviations behind their names, evidence that all of them once joined the mission as priests. The twelve also represented at least two distinct generations. The first in the late 80s and 90s, and the second, still serving for the most part, in their 60s and 70s. The youngest, Bishop Oudeman, being 69, does show that this Dutch presence among the bishops of other nations is slowly coming to an end. After all, it is not unheard of that priests in their 40s or 50s are appointed bishops, but these men are well beyond that age. Besides, most of the countries named above are now ‘homegrowing’ their own bishops, so there is less need to fall back on the mission.

But, as it is, these twelve men of God remind us of a part of the recent history of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands which seems quite unusual to our modern eyes.

Stats for February (and a bit of March) 2011

A return to the monthly stats reports, this one includes February and a tiny bit of March, a period which saw 4,154 visits to my blog, a pretty average number. In the top 10, it is striking to note a number of old posts (numbers 6, 8 and 9) as well as a very recent one at number 4. The situation around Bishop Schilder is of interest to many, it would seem.

I have noticed that a growing number of my blog posts tend to discuss hierarchical topics. In other words, the accusation leveled against me from some corners, that I am a bishop worshipper (or, in the words of a commenter here, an episcopolatrist), seems to develop some basis in fact. Of course I don’t worship bishops, but I do acknowledge their important role in the world Church. In many ways, I consider myself inspired by a blog like Whispers in the Loggia which discusses news topics about the hierarchy in the American Church. In my own small and inadequate way, I would like to offer something similar for the Church in northwestern Europe.

Anyway, on to the top 10:

1: A real church, “not one of those multifunctional things” 145
2: Another blogging bishop 80
3: Berlin is vacant, herald of things to come? 72
4: Dutch missionary bishop in the dock, Saint Valentine the Unknown 63
5: The archbishop gets his wish, Saint Paul’s prophetic words and Peter Seewald on the attack 56
6: The Stations of the Cross 52
7: Facing a difficult situation with “good humour” – Belgium veruss the archbishop 50
8: Another timely reminder, Het probleem Medjugorje 39
9: A poignant photo 34
10: Anti-life proposals questioned by its ‘target audience’ 31