In the ongoing saga around Father Norbert van der Sluis, which I wrote about recently, things keep developing. Yesterday, the news broke that the priest, now persona non grata in his parish in the town of Liempde, has been put on two weeks’ leave by the diocese, to let the emotions settle for a bit, as the official reason is.
With the parish council having declared publically hat they no longer wish to work with Fr. van der Sluis, the diocese is sending auxiliary Bishop Robert Mutsaerts to Liempde to engage the parish in conversation.
The bishop, ever a voice for orthodoxy and common sense, will be one of the clergymen taking over from Fr. van der Sluis during his absence. On 3 September, he will offer the evening Mass, after which the meeting with council and parishioners is planned.
It is right to take time for the emotions to settle and force both sides in the conflict to come with reasoned arguments. A parish priest has final authority in a parish. The parish council has an advisory and assisting role. While a priest will usually follow the plans laid out in cooperation with the council, he has no obligation to do so. He makes the final decision. Father van der Sluis has done that, in following his own conscience and Catholic teaching. That the parish council does not like that, is understandable, but that they now think they have the power or right to enforce the appointment of a new priest in the parish, they are sorely mistaken.
Let’s hope that Bishop Mutsaerts is able to get this across to them, and that both parties can come to a mutual understanding, which will eventually allow Fr. van der Sluis to return to active ministry.