Cardinal Eijk is going to have a full mailbox (again) soon, as no less than 12,000 signatures collected by protest group Bezield Verband will come his way. These signatures, and the group as a whole, protest the cardinal’s policy of shutting than all but 20 churches in the archdiocese and merging the existing parishes into giant monstrosities out of touch with any and all faithful. Because of this, they say, Cardinal Eijk is responsible for the alienation of thousands of faithful.
Let me first say that those faithful should take a good hard look at their own faith if it is so fickle as to be extinguished by church politics. But that’s beside the point, really, because the real problem here is that Cardinal Eijk does not have such a policy, nor does he have any desire for it.
By pretending that the cardinal is out to enforce the closure of as many churches as he can, Bezield Verband is quite simply lying. This is not policy, and the decision to close churches lies with the parish councils, not the bishop of a diocese. Of course, the latter influences the process by merging parishes and redistributing priests and pastoral workers as he deems necessary, but a church building or community ultimately costs money and people. If both these are lacking, serious questions about the future of the community, parish and even diocese must be asked. Cardinal Eijk is asking these questions and acting on the answers, and parishes must do likewise.
Will Cardinal Eijk be responding to the 12,000 signatures? Unlikely. He has already made clear that he does not consider Bezield Verband a serious conversation partner. The fact that the group is presenting untruths does not seem likely to change that.
Bezield Verband also intends to send the signatures and assorted other documents that support their position to Rome.
That said, there are plenty of questions and concerns about this entire process. And it would be good if these are acknowledged. The cardinal and the Archdicoese of Utrecht can do more in that regard, but so do the concerned faithful and the groups claiming to represent them. Everyone involved can do with more listening. And charity.