Confusion about a line from a homily

In his homily at the Chrism Mass yesterday evening, Bishop Gerard de Korte briefly referred to the upheavals in the Church. The Vangheluwe case was mentioned, but also the very recent hubbub about the Volkskrant article, and especially the rumour that Archbishop Eijk wants Bishop de Korte removed from office as ordinary of Groningen-Leeuwarden. In a sort of reply to that whole rumour, he said:

“I can tell you that, God willing, I intend to be with you for a long time yet.”

I have been thinking about what this line implies. Seen in the context of the entire introduction of the homily, I think it was unnecessary lacking. The bishop referred to what we have all read in the media regarding the archbishop. I think it can be safely assumed that most people are aware of the Volkskrant piece, but how many have heard of the bishops’ joint statement that that piece was nonsense? Too few, I fear. So, with only the former piece of writing in mind, and the image that creates of Archbishop Eijk, the line from Bishop de Korte can very easily be understood as an act of defiance against the archbishop, as if what the Volkskrant wrote is true.

“I do not intend to give in to the demands of the archbishop, and will be with you a long time yet.” There is no denial of the claims, no clear refutation of their accuracy. To the ears of many, I fear, it will be understood of a confirmation that something is amiss in the relationships between the bishops of Groningen-Leeuwarden and Utrecht. And be fair, it is clear that there is. But to this extent? I hope,a nd actually think, not.

Bishop de Korte is being unnecessarily unclear. As a member of the Dutch bishops’ conference, he is one of the signatories of the statement that refuted the claims made in the Volkskrant, but now, in his homily, he seems to suggest something different.

Personally, I don’t like to see my current and former bishop in disagreement. We are a small enough Church province as it is, with only seven ordinaries. We don’t need disagreement, we need a clear voice of the Church in society. That is our task as faithful, but most certainly also the duty of the bishops.

But I guess that is how it sometimes works. Msgrs. Eijk and De Korte are two very different men, with different personalities and different approaches to things. But the focus should instead be on what they share, and, through their ordination as priests and consecration as bishops they share a lot.