Next Wednesday, the 4th of April, looks to be an important day in the search for facts in the ongoing abuse crisis, and more specifically the recent news about past castrations of minors in the care of the Church. On that day, the parliamentary Commissions for Justice and Security and Health Care, Welfare and Sports will hear journalist Joep Dohmen (pictured), who broke the news in the NRC daily, and Wim Deetman, who led last year’s extensive investigation of sexual abuse of minors within the Church.
The Note that has been prepared by the Deetman commission is an extensive refutation of claims made by Mr. Dohmen in NRC, not only about the castrations, but also about the involvement of former Prime Minister Victor Marijnen (prime minister from 1963 to 1965), who allegedly tried to have facts hushed up. The Note is built on the nature of the castration claims, which were very incomplete and contradictory, and most importantly counters claims that the Deetman investigation was incomplete.
What Mr. Dohmen intends to say on the 4th is not yet known, but he will undoubtedly defend his own research and claims. The combined parliamentary commission will hear Mr. Deetman at 10 am and Mr. Dohmen at 11.
Carlo Cardinal Martini, the 85-year-old emeritus archbishop of Milan, has written a short book in which he posits his disagreement with the Church’s opposition of same-sex relationships. “It is not bad,” he writes, “instead of casual sex between men, that two people have a certain stability.” Surely this is true, if we limit ourselves to these two choices. Stability and faithfulness always trumps casual sex with multiple partners.
But by limiting himself so much, the cardinal makes a serious mistake which is comparable to what the media thought Pope Benedict XVI said about the use of condoms being allowed in some cases. The Holy Father presented the use of condoms by a male prostitute as an example of ethical progress, but not ethically sound in its own right. And much the same may be said about the opinion of Cardinal Martini. Surely a stable same-sex relationship is better than loose, possibly unsafe, sexual contacts, but it does not make the relationship itself something that the Church can support, just like it can’t support prostitution, homosexual or otherwise, with protection or not.
And that is Cardinal Martini’s mistake. Despite his assumed good intentions, the cardinal is wrong when he says that because one thing is better than another, it must be inherently good. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as the saying goes. This is an argument of details without taking in the larger picture, and that is that the Church rightfully teaches that same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered, but that’s a topic for another time.
This article on LifeSiteNews, from which I took the above quotation from the cardinal’s book, offers some more aspects of the argument against this position.
Holy Week i rapidly approaching, and since this time last year I received some questions about Mass times in various Dutch churches for this busiest of times of the liturgical year, below follow Mass times for all Dutch cathedrals, except the cathedral of St. Catherine in Utrecht, for which I have been unable to find a schedule online. If anyone knows more, by all means, share it in the comments.
Cathedral of SS. Joseph and Martin Radesingel 4, Groningen
Palm Sunday (1 April)
9am: Holy Mass in Latin
11am: Holy Mass
5pm: Holy Mass in Polish
Maundy Thursday (5 April)
7pm: Holy Mass
Good Friday (6 April)
2pm: Stations of the Cross for children
3pm: Stations of the Cross
7pm: Service of the Passion of the Lord
Holy Saturday (7 April)
11:30pm: Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday (8 April)
9am: Holy Mass in Latin
11am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Gerard de Korte
Easter Monday (9 April)
11am: Holy Mass
Cathedral Basilica of St. Bavo Leidsevaart 146, Haarlem
10am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Jos Punt
Noon: Holy Mass for children
7:30pm: Holy Mass
3pm: Stations of the Cross
7:30: Service of the Passion of the Lord
9:30pm: Dark Matins
10pm: Easter Vigil
10pm: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Jos Punt
Noon: Holy Mass in Indonesian
10pm: Holy Mass
Cathedral of SS. Lawrence and Elisabeth Mathenesserlaan 305, Rotterdam
11pm: Holy Mass
6pm: Holy Mass
10:30am: Stations of the Cross for children
3pm: Stations of the Cross
19:30pm: Service of the Passion of the Lord
10:30pm: Easter Vigil, offered by Bishop Hans van den Hende
11am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Hans van den Hende
11am: Holy Mass
Cathedral of Saint Anthony Sint Janstraat 8, Breda
10:30am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Jan Liesen
7pm: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Jan Liesen
3pm: Service of the Passion of the Lord, presided by Bishop Jan Lisen
9pm: Easter Vigil, offered by Bishop Jan Liesen
10:30: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Jan Liesen
Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Evangelist Torenstraat 16, ‘s Hertogenbosch
11am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Antoon Hurkmans
7:30pm: Holy Mass
3pm: Service of the Passion of the Lord
7pm: Stations of the Cross
10pm: Easter Vigil
10am: Holy Mass
11:45am: Holy Mass
11am: Holy Mass
Cathedral of St. Christopher Grote Kerkstraat Bij 29, Roermond
11:30am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Frans Wiertz
3pm: Stations of the Cross, offered by Bishop Frans Wiertz
8:30pm: Easter Vigil
11:30am: Holy Mass, offered by Bishop Frans Wiertz
11:30am: Holy Mass
All this information was collected by me from various parish and diocesan websites, and so may well be far from complete. A Google search or drop by the various cathedrals may give you more and more accurate information as Holy Week approaches.
At the end of another successful apostolic journey, it’s time to look back at the days the Holy Father spent in Cuba. The island nation may be officially Communist, but that does not mean that Pope Benedict XVI was not welcome. On the contrary. In addition to an official welcome by President Raúl Castro and a private meeting with his brother Fidel, the faithful of the country came out in droves to welcome the Holy Father enthusiastically. As in Mexico, this did much to energise the pope, who at times seemed quite fatigued, judging by the many press photos I have come across.
Now, let’s highlight some of the words that the Holy Father addressed to nthe people of Cuba and the world. The original texts are, as usual, available here.
Rebirth of society
“Many parts of the world today are experiencing a time of particular economic difficulty, that not a few people regard as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person” (Welcoming ceremony, Santiago de Cuba, 26 March).
A home for humanity
“In Christ, God has truly come into the world, he has entered into our history, he has set his dwelling among us, thus fulfilling the deepest desire of human beings that the world may truly become a home worthy ofhumanity. On the other hand, when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant, for the “Yes” to the love between God and humanity who responds to him” (Homily, Santiago de Cuba, 26 March).
“It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it. And we see also how the beginning of the earthly life of the Son of God was marked by a double “Yes” to the saving plan of the Father – that of Christ and that of Mary. This obedience to God is what opens the doors of the world to the truth, to salvation” (Idem).
The lofty mission of the family
“The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church” (Idem).
“The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), claiming is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.
On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each man and woman has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.” (Homily, Havana, 28 March).
Freedom of religion
“The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col 1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world.
The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.
When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic” (Idem).
 Javier Galeano/AFP/Getty Images
,  Reuters/Tony Gentile
 Reuters/Osservatore Romano
 Esteban Felix/AFP/Getty Images
In his annual World Youth Day message, celebrated on Palm Sunday, Pope Benedict delves into the topic of joy. It is, he says, not only a defining characteristic of our faith, but also an unavoidable consequence of our encounter with the Lord. In seven subsections, the Holy Father, pictured here with children during his visit to Mexico, discusses the nature of our joy and how young people can find it, make it last and hand it on to the people around them.
“Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in his hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true!”
Read the official text via the link above, or my Dutch translation here.
With this resounding cry – “I am willing!” – Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp became Cologne’s third auxiliary bishop and, at 44, Germany’s youngest. He asked all the faithful in the Kölner Dom St. Peter und Maria to pray for him so that he could work with all his heart and confidence in God’s assistance at the start of his episcopal ministry.
Bishop Schwaderlapp, until recently the vicar general of Germany’s second oldest diocese, was consecrated by Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner, while the other two auxiliary bishops of Cologne, Heiner Koch and Manfred Melzner, served as co-consecrators. Among the bishops in choir was Rainer Cardinal Woelki, the archbishop of Berlin and Bishop Schwaderlapp’s predecessor as auxiliary bishop of Cologne.
With the first half of the ongoing apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba virtually behind us, it is time to take a look at some of the things that Pope Benedict XVI said to the faithful of Mexico, Latin America and the entire world, as the Church and the faith she teaches is never limited to geographical borders. Later today, the Holy Father will arrive in Cuba, and once that visit is wrapped up on Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the speeches and homilies given on the largest Caribbean island.
Pilgrim of faith, hope and love
“I come as a pilgrim of faith, of hope, and of love. I wish to confirm those who believe in Christ in their faith, by strengthening and encouraging them to revitalize their faith by listening to the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and living coherently. In this way, they will be able to share their faith with others as missionaries to their brothers and sisters and to act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard. This dignity is expressed especially in the fundamental right to freedom of religion, in its full meaning and integrity” [Welcoming ceremony, Guanajuato, 23 March].
“Confidence in God offers the certainty of meeting him, of receiving his grace; the believer’s hope is based on this. And, aware of this, we strive to transform the present structures and events which are less than satisfactory and seem immovable or insurmountable, while also helping those who do not see meaning or a future in life” [idem].
An instrument of good
“The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations” [Meeting with young people, Guanajuato, 24 March].
A new heart
“The history of Israel relates some great events and battles, but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud. This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same through his Son Jesus Christ” [Homily at Expo Bicenternario Park, Léon, 25 March].
Devotion to Mary
“Dear brothers and sisters, do not forget that true devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 67). To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb” [Angelus, Léon, 25 March].
“Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that … There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need” [Vespers, Léon, 25 March].
 Reuters/Claudia Daut
 Reuters/Osservatore Romano
 Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
 Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images
 Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
The Eucharist and its celebration are the source and summit of our Christian life. It’s a line that has appeared time and again on this blog and in many other places. And while at times it may seem like a snappy sound bite or handy slogan, it is an essential truth that we need to understand and practice in order to live a proper Christian life. In His Son, God has come among us and given Himself to us. If we profess to follow Christ but ignore Him in his most vulnerable presence among us, we are missing the essential point.
Our faith is an Easter faith. The death and resurrection of Christ that we remember and celebrate at Easter permeates every day and everything we do as Christians. It is the foundation and seal of the new covenant that God has made with us. To pretend otherwise is a denial of what the Lord communicates to us in the Bible and sacred Tradition.
In a letter dated to Ash Wednesday, and sent to all priests, deacons, pastoral workers and caregivers in the country, the Dutch bishops seem to want to emphasise this. Starting with the Easter Triduum of 2013, they say, the focus of the communal celebrations must return to the Eucharist. Easter, they say, is after all “the feast of feasts”. What we remember and make present at Easter is, again, our covenant’s basis and seal.
The bishops write that, in every aspect, the Easter celebrations must be dignified. They are a celebration of God’s sacrifice, not merely one of human community. The celebrations must take place in cathedrals and parish churches, provided it can be done with dignity there. These locations allow the attendance of many faithful, servants and other volunteers and the singing of at least some parts of the liturgy. Small communities, special groups and societies are urged to join these celebrations, and what is interesting about that last point is the reason given by the bishops: it will allow the celebrations to be held in the best possible form. The focus is not first on the community of faithful, but on the celebration of the sacred mysteries. And rightly so, for we are a community through the Eucharist, through Christ’s sacrifice at Easter. We don’t make that community, God does.
Simplified or shortened celebrations are to be avoided. Celebrations on the various days of the Triduum have their own unique character and timing. The Easter vigil, for example, is celebrated after sunset, and not without reason. Afternoon vigils take away an essential element of the celebration and make it subordinate to our own limitations and wishes. It should, of course, be the other way around. The ‘complete’ celebration of the Church, the bishops write, takes precedence over that of the smaller local community (and the customs and deviations that have been allowed to develop in those smaller communities over time).
As Word and Communion celebrations by laity have steadily become more and more common, especially in those areas where priests are few, the bishops’ statement that it is “of the utmost importance that, during the Easter Triduum, the faithful indeed take part in the special liturgical celebrations led by a priest” is timely.
All celebrations during those days are to be led by a priest. Other forms are not allowed. Every diocese will point out specific churches where the celebrations will be offered in their fullness, and smaller communities and new movement are expressly invited to join these celebrations.
Lastly, the bishops urge all the faithful to receive Communion at Easter, preceded by Confession.
Fifteen years ago, such a letter would have been unheard of, and if it was released then, very few faithful and clergy would have taken it seriously. I am not saying that every lay faithful, deacon or priest will happily accept it today, but it is a step in the right direction. In the western world, in western Europe especially, we must combat the individualistic life philosophies which teach us that things are good as long as they feel good, that no one has a right to tell me what to do, and that the only truth that exists is the truth that I make for myself. These trends are no less visible in the Church. By refocusing at least the Easter celebrations on their contents instead of on the superficial feelings and perceived rights of the faithful, we may begin to counter the dictatorship of relativism.
Following his retirement as bishop of Rotterdam, Msgr. Ad van Luyn has now also completed his six-year tenure as President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Community, the COMECE. Succeeding him as president of the commission that is the main channel of dialogue between the Church and the European Union is erstwhile vice-president Reinhard Cardinal Marx. The archbishop of Munich and Freising will be assisted by four vice-presidents, two more than during Bishop van Luyn’s term.
They are Bishop Gianni Ambrosio of Piacenza-Bobbio, Italy; Bishop Virgil Bercea of Oradea Mare, Romania; Bishop Piotr Jarecki, auxiliary of Warsaw, Poland; and Bishop Jean Kockerols, auxiliary of Mechelen-Brussels. Bishop Jarecki starts his third term as vice-president.
The activities of the COMECE are mainly contained to the European political arena, communicating with and about the EU on matters which touch the Church, the faith and the faithful.
Over recent months, Pope Benedict XVI has been taking increasingly been taking his advancing age in consideration. He will turn 85 in April, and since the introduction of the moveable platform he uses in St. Peter’s Basilica, more measures have been appearing to make it easier for the pope to go about his business. The visit to Mexico, which starts today, avoids the high altitude of Mexico City, opting instead for lower Léon. On Wednesday, the regular public audience was cancelled because of the preparations for the trip and, by word of Fr. Federico Lombardi, we have the assurances that, although the Holy Father is has healthy as ever, he is keeping a regular daily schedule without too much potentially harmful elements. He goes to bed early and rarely drinks a glass of wine.
This morning, we saw the first public appearance of the papal cane, which Pope Benedict used to walk to the plane that would fly him to Mexico. He has been using it in private for the last two months, sources say, simply because it makes him feel a bit more secure when walking.
Let’s keep our Holy Father in our prayers, that he may long remain healthy and able to perform his ministry as successor of St. Peter.
O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.