The fallout of the cardinal’s sanctions, or how a priest seriously fails to get it

Yesterday, I wrote about Cardinal Wim Eijk sanctioning a Dominican priest for celebrating  a Maundy Thursday Mass that was invalid because of the liberal approach to liturgy. Whereas the Archdiocese of Utrecht has remained silent after announcing the sanctions and the reasons for them, Fr. Huisintveld has not been idle, and the media have been eager to give him a stage.

harry-huisintveldFather Harry Huisintveld (pictured) has been rather unavoidable in Dutch Catholic (and some generally Christian and secular) media today, sharing the pain of the sanctions imposed upon him, as well as a seeming lack of understanding of what it means to be a Catholic priest. He showcases a highly Protestant view of liturgy and church: not the magisterium, but the individual is the deciding factor in form and content of worship. In an interview today he stated that he felt free to adapt the Maundy Thursday Mass to the perceived needs to the faithful.

By his own words, he has received much support, and that is not surprising. After all, he is curtailed in his freedom to do what he wants and that freedom is, in the eyes of modern man, the highest right of all people, one that trumps all others. By curtailing the exercise of this right, Cardinal Eijk is the legalistic bogey man wielding those mortal enemies of personal freedom: rules and regulations.

This attitude, especially when it is the attitude of an ordained Catholic priest, is a much greater affront than the strict sanctions imposed by the cardinal. Fr. Huisintveld has made himself the arbiter of what can and can not be done in and with the liturgy, thus removing all loyalty to, and even recognition of, the Magisterium of the Church. In essence, he is saying that he is under no obligation to maintain the Mass as it has been handed down for generations, and which has developed like that for good theological and pastoral reasons, when and if he perceives it is not necessary. He knows better.

If that is your attitude, that is bad enough. But to be surprised, even indignant, if the Church you belong to, but whose rules you disregard, calls you out on it (and not for the first time), is a whole other kettle of fish. That is nothing more than pandering to the superficial feelings of people who see a man’s freedom being curtailed. “Help, I’m being repressed, because I only want to be Catholic when it suits me.”

Fr. Huisintveld may be good with people, he may be a beloved priest and have many other skills which are not relevant here (although both he and the Dominican Order in the Netherlands disagree with that – “he is such a nice man, how can you do that to a nice fellow who means no harm?”), but he is a bad liturgist and a worse priest for it.

Priests are not priests for themselves. They are God’s priests for the people. They don’t get to decide what God should and should not desire in the worship that is His due.

As it  was revealed today that the liturgy for Fr. Huisintveld’s Mass was drafted by a liturgy committee, I am reminded of a comment made years ago by my own parish priest: “”The first thing you should do as a priest is to get rid of the liturgy committee.” We already have a liturgy committee. It’s called the Roman Missal.

Photo credit: Fr. Harry Huisintveld


7 thoughts on “The fallout of the cardinal’s sanctions, or how a priest seriously fails to get it”

  1. Being Catholic, I want to be able to go and celebrate the Eucharist, especially on Maundy Thursday. When a service is being advertised as ‘Mass’, I expect a celebration of the Eucharist.
    I’ve been inquiring at some churches for the availability of Sunday Mass when I was out of town and they would confirm there would be a Mass on Sunday, only for me to discover that Sunday that the ‘Mass’ was in reality a service conducted by a pastoral worker.
    There is a serious lack of knowledge and common sense in this country. I have had a month of catechesis and I can tell what a valid Mass is and what isn’t. I hope at least it’s a lack of knowledge, not an attitude of ‘I don’t care’.

  2. It sounds unbelievable, but sadly it’s not. One striking memory that I have of my time among Dutch Catholics was how I took a rather wicked delight in telling a priest who was using a made up Eucharistic prayer of dubious orthodoxy that I found him very clerical! He was quite shocked that I should say that and I had to explain that he was imposing his personal preferences on the rest of us. The mind really boggles as to how he had been allowed to get away with it for so long!

  3. The real sad thing is that parishioners have been deprived from real liturgy for such a long time that they can’t tell the difference between a Mass and any other kind of service. Lots of Dutch Catholics don’t know what the doctrinal differences are between Protestants (Calvinists) and Catholics. The faith has been watered down so much for such a long time that people can’t distinguish Jesus from a cucumber (according to a certain Dutch hermit).

  4. 22. (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

    (2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops’ conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given territories.

    (3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
    Vatican II



  5. Ingeloots wrote: The faith has been watered down so much for such a long time that people can’t distinguish Jesus from a cucumber (according to a certain Dutch hermit). Do you have any idea how offensive this is to so many people? The gap between you and the people I mean can’t be bigger. Fortunately you are not God him/herself.

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