Abuse as a gender issue?

Two unrelated comments on the causes of the abuse crisis caught my eye today. One from an emeritus bishop, the other from a religious sister and teacher. The reason these two people’s comments caught my eye was that they both say similar things. Similar dubious things.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney in Australia, blamed the absence of women in the Church, in an interview. “If the feminine had been given greater importance and a much larger voice, the church would not have seen anything like the same level of abuse and would most certainly have responded far better.” Nice claims, but is there any proof? Can sexual abuse be limited to a mere gender issue? What about the claims from people who say they were abused by religious sisters? Robinson’s quote is a good soundbite, but I wonder about the validity.

He also claims that some priests guilty of sexual abuse of minors were unaware they broke their vow of celibacy. “That’s what the vow of celibacy refers to, being married. If it’s not an adult woman, then somehow they’re not breaking their vow.” I find that frankly unbelievable. Celibacy is about being married, yes, but since the Church upholds that active sexuality belongs within marriage, I don’t see how any sexual act, let alone sexual abuse, can not be  considered a violation of the priest’s vow.

Robinson thinks that the Church needs another ecumenical council to review the teachings about celibacy, sexuality and women. Please, we’re still trying to find our bearings following the previous council…

Belgian Sister Monica van Kerrebroeck also sees the crisis as a gender issue. “I am convinced that this would not happen as often with more women in the church and in important positions. In the first place it is statistically proven that women are far less than men prone to pedophilia and secondly, I think that women respond far more radical to these things. That what I do, at least.”

Would the secrecy of offenders and those around them suddenly be any less if more women would occupy high positions in the Church? Because that is often a major issue: offenders keep their crimes secret and victims are too afraid to step forward (see the Kröber interview I posted earlier). Women may be less prone to pedophilia, I don’t know. But even so, unless one actively replaces men with women, the total level of prospective offenders would remain the same, and that won’t change unless one tackles the true root: faulty formation and preparation.

Sister Monica went on: “We must thoroughly consider the automatic and mandatory coupling of celibacy and priesthood, and the laity must be taken much more serious. The Church did originally not start with ordained priests [Ahem… tell that to the Twelve…], but with experienced laymen, who were given a natural authority [You mean, like ordination?]. That’s what we must return to. To me the Church is not the pope and the bishops [Are they not exclusively the Church, or not at all? An important distinction]. The Church is the people [But most of all Christ, right?].”

 Sister Monica confuses the issue with all kinds of unrelated things. What is she concerned about? Abuse, celibacy, priesthood, the form of the Church, the role of the laity, the role of the bishops, authority? Wanting to return to the old Church of the first centuries can only be a good thing if one completely forgets the past 2,000 years of Tradition. The Church developed and grew, not just because it could, but because, as Christ promised, the Holy Spirit guided her. Suddenly saying, “Oh well, this is no good, let’s start over”, is denying the work of not just countless men and women, but also of God Himself.

Does that mean we can’t change anything? Of course not. The Church must constantly develop and change, but that does not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Considering the abuse crisis as a gender issue is like trying to solve a crossword by filling in a Sudoku. The problem (or confusing mess of problems) does not fit the alleged solution.

Finally, I don’t think that an increased feminine influence in the Church is bad. Neither do I think that an increased male influence is bad. What we need is real men and real women, so to speak: clarity. The genders, after all, complement each other, but the one should not try to be the other. It’s something that goes back as far as Genesis.

Source for the Robinson comments.
Source for the comments by Sr. Monica

Bishop de Korte opposed to celibacy? I think not

An article by Bishop de Korte in Nederlands Dagblad has – once more – greatly upset certain Dutch bloggers. “He wants to get rid of celibacy for priest!” they clamoured. Granted, it doesn’t take much for some people to get upset, and certainly not when it is Bishop de Korte who says or writes something, but I think that it is good to see what he actually wrote.

I did not translate the entire article because parts of it are taken from the pastoral letter that the bishop wrote earlier. Below are the sections in which he discusses celibacy.


Balance of power

In the media the assertion has frequently been made that celibacy is almost automatically the cause of the abuse. A life lived in abstinence must frustrate people. When sexual energy can’t be channeled normally there is a risk of derailment. But many experts have rejected the causal connection between celibacy and child abuse. Sadly, sexual abuse of minors happens in all layers of society. In sports, scouting, health care, education and, not least, within families. Experts claim that it is not celibacy but the strongly hierarchical balance of power within a fairly closed environment that is the reason for the abuse.

But did celibacy play no part whatsoever in the abuse? I think we must face this question honestly. It seems to me to be at least a good question for the committee. In that respect it is good to keep an eye on the historical dimension. Until far into the 1960s there was a strong anti-physical attitude in Catholic circles. For many sexuality was a necessary evil and prudishness was widely spread. In that environment many clerics made the vows of celibacy without an intense formation. It was mainly something of the head and hardly of the heart. It must be feared, therefore, that people with a suppressed pedosexual orientation have worked in boarding school. That is how a trail of pain and sorrow could be traced. Physical and sexual abuse have wounded children and young people for life. After many years of silence many victims only now dare to speak out.

Learning points

When it comes to experiencing sexuality, the Netherlands in 2010 is totally different. The prudishness of the past has been replaced by openness and even libertinism. It has become completely opposite of what it was in the past. Candidates for the priesthood and religious life choose celibacy in a totally different context. For years I was rector of the seminary in Utrecht. In that time I have guided young and older men towards celibate priesthood. In modern seminaries, students can reflect intensely on celibacy for years and so discover if they have the charism to live in abstinence. A happy and healthy celibacy requires a good social network of friends and family. At the same time Christian celibacy can only be understood from a friendship with Christ and the total commitment to the Kingdom of God (cf. Matt. 19:12). Loneliness and darkness of the soul are therefore the biggest threats for a well-lived celibate life.


It’s not a long text, and neither is it difficult. To conclude from it that Bishop de Korte is against celibacy for priests is ridiculous. He emphasises the need for good formation, chiefly in light of the enormous change in sexual morality (or lack thereof) in the Netherlands when compared to 30, 40, 50 years ago. And I think he is right to say that the key lies with good formation. If priests are required to live celibate, they must be able to and well prepared for it. In modern society celibacy is the polar opposite of what is considered normal. And since candidates for the priesthood are part of that society, their choice for celibacy must be a conscious choice made by head and heart.

Denouncing Küng

Father Z writes: “I suspect Fr. Kung was getting nervous about not reading his name in the paper for a while, and so he staged another little nutty for the press”. Well, said nutty wasn’t the only one the dissident priest staged. He also contributed an opinion piece to NRC, a piece which is almost to easy to poke holes in.



The Roman Catholic Church should not only be open about abuse by clergy, but also about the  impossibility of celibacy [I think we can guess where this is going.]

by Hans Küng

From the United States, Ireland and now also from Germany come reports about massive sexual abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic clergy. The fact that the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, called the abuse cases ‘terrible crimes’ and that the conference as a whole asked for forgiveness from the victims on the 25th of February, are the first steps to come clean about this unforgivable behaviour. But further steps must follow. Besides, Zollitsch’s declaration contained three errors which must be corrected [for a given value of ‘error’].

Firstly, the statement that sexual abuse by clergy has nothing to do with celibacy [Not what the German bishops said, exactly. Here’s the line from the statement in question: “Der Zölibat der Priester ist, wie uns Fachleute bestätigen, nicht Schuld am Verbrechen sexuellen Missbrauchs. Ein zölibatäres Leben kann aber nur versprechen, wer dazu die nötige menschliche und emotionale Reife hat” (source). Off-the-cuff translation: “Priestly celibacy is, as experts assure us, not the cause of the crime of sexual abuse. A celibate life can only succeed in someone who has the necessary human and emotional maturity”. Reality is not as simplistic as Küng would have us believe.]

It can not be denied that abuse also happens in families, schools and churches that do not know celibacy.  But why does it happen so excessively in the Catholic Church with celibate leaders? [It does not. Statistics show that celibacy actually occurs less in Catholic institutions than in families or other Christian denominations. See here for some arguments.] Of course celibacy is not the only cause of misbehaviour. But it is the most important – and it is structurally the most decisive expression the of the strict attitude of the ecclesiastic hierarchy towards sexuality in general [Ah, now we get to the bee in Küng’s bonnet].

A look at the New Testament makes it clear: Jesus and St. Paul lived in exemplary celibacy in service to their priesthood, but allowed every individual total freedom in that area [Any theologian and Church historian worth his mettle would agree: celibacy is not based on the Bible, at least not totally, as will become clear. Küng use of the New Testament to disprove the value of celibacy is therefore pointless].  Seen from a biblical perspective celibacy can only been considered a freely chosen vocation, not as a generally applicable law [True, and every man or woman still makes that choice freely]. Paul expressly argued against people who were of the opinion that it is “a good thing for a man not to touch a woman” by answering: “yet to avoid immorality every man should have his own wife and every woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7: 1-2). According to the first letter to Timothy, “the presiding elder must have an impeccable character. Husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2). It does not say, “Husband of no wife.” [The Timothy passage addresses the impeccability of the elder in general, and does not make express statements about being married or unmarried. 1 Corinthians too has a lot to say about married life, and also states that those who are unmarried can try to remain so, to follow the example of St. Paul. He never demands that priests can’t live celibate.]

Secondly, that it is not right to blame the abuse cases on a systematic error within the Catholic Church [I am not sure what Küng refers to here, to be honest.]

The rule of celibacy practically did not exist during the first millennium of the Church [Not true. Church fathers such as Origen (185-254) advocated it, and since Pope Saint Siricius (late 4th century) it is discussed in papal decretals. It didn’t become mandatory until the 11th century, but that is not the same as ‘practically not existing’]. It was introduced in the 11th century in the West by monks (who freely chose celibacy) – especially by Pope Gregory VII – and was enforced despite heavy resistance by the clergy in Italy and Germany, where resistance was so strong that only three bishops dared enforce the Roman law. Thousands of priests protested against the new law [In itself, protest says nothing about the validity of a law, only about its popularity. Küng skilfully uses this emphasis on protest to depict the Roman hierarchy as evil and oppressive].

The rule of celibacy – coupled with the absolute rule of the pope and mandatory clericalism – became one of the central pillars of the ‘Roman system’. In contrast to the clergy of the eastern churches [which also maintain a distance between clergy and laity], the clergy in the west was completely separated from the rest of Christian society, especially because of celibacy: a unique and dominant class which was radically superior to the lay population, but totally subject to the pope in Rome [This is peripheral to the abuse issue, if factual at all]. Mandatory celibacy is responsible for the disastrous shortage of priests today, for the fatal neglect of the Eucharist and the sad deterioration of the personal pastoral priesthood in many places [These are all problems of the last fifty years, whereas celibacy has been around for at least sixteen centuries. Küng’s reasoning falls flat]. What would be the best solution for the recruitment of future priests? Simple: get rid of the rule of celibacy and allow women into the priesthood [That last point came out of the blue, but it’s not unexpected from Küng: it’s his other pet peeve. But since Christian denominations without celibacy and with female ministers suffer much the same problems as the Catholic Church does today, it is, at the very least, highly doubtful that these are any sort of solution].

Third, that the bishops have taken enough responsibility [I can’t find any statement to this effect in the bishop’s declaration either].

Of course it is good to hear that concrete steps are taken to reveal abuse cases and to avoid them in the future. But aren’t the bishops themselves responsible for the decades-long practice of hiding abuse cases, and often not doing much more than secretly relocating the offenders? Are the secretive bishops of the past suddenly reliable investigators? [Küng seems to assume that the bishops of 40 years ago are the same as today. People do die and new people do get appointed…] Shouldn’t there be independent committees to handle such cases? [Er… there are, both in Germany and in other countries.]

Until now barely one bishop has taken part of the blame, while the bishops can perfectly prove that they followed the instructions of Rome. For the cause of discretion [or for the cause of clarity and bureaucratic ease] the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith demanded exclusive legal jurisdiction for all cases of sexual abuse by clergy, and so, between 1981 and 2005, these all ended up on the desk of its prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger [Untrue. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not become solely responsible until 2002, on the initiative of Cardinal Ratzinger]. On 18 May 2001 he sent and Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus to all the bishops in the world, indicating all forms of abuse which fell under secretum Pontificium or ‘pontifical secrecy’ [Catholic.org has a clarification of this letter here. Note especially: “[This document deals] with the Church’s internal judicial acts, at the canonical level. Therefore they do not deal with the accusations and the provisions of the civil courts of states, which must be carried out according to their own laws. Whoever has addressed or addresses the ecclesiastical court can also address the civil court, to denounce similar crimes. Therefore the action of the Church is not aimed at retracting these crimes from the jurisdiction of the state and keeping them hidden”]. Does the Church not have a right to a mea culpa from the pope, in solidarity with the bishops [I don’t get Küng. First he calls for the bishops to stand along side the accused and now they deserve the pope’s solidarity? Besides he pretends there is a gap between pope and Church, whereas they are one]? The same openness with which the Church finally comes to terms with the abuse is now needed to confront one of the main structural causes: the rule of celibacy. The bishops should expressly propose that to Pope Benedict XVI.

Hans Küng is emeritus professor ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen. In 1980 the Vatican removed his license to teach.

The place of the tabernacle

On Maundy Thursday, the day that the Church remembers the Last Supper and so the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood, Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria in the United States sent out a letter to all the clergy and faithful in his diocese. He writes about the location of the tabernacle in churches and chapels, and since tabernacles hold the Blessed Sacrament, their location will reflect the place of the Eucharist in our liturgy and faith.

I decided to share the letter in my blog, because the topic is not endemic to Peoria, or even the United States. Here in the Netherlands too, tabernacles are sometimes found in side altars or off to the side in the main sanctuary.

Emphases mine, to underline some points that are vital, in my opinion.


April 1, 2010
+Holy Thursday

Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Peoria,

The Mass, of course, is our most important act of worship — the very source and summit of all we do as a Church. A profound reverence for the Reserved Sacrament is also intrinsically related to the Eucharistic liturgy.

The Reserved Sacrament must therefore be treated with the greatest possible respect, because at all times the Blessed Sacrament within that tabernacle, as in the Eucharistic Liturgy, is to be given that worship called latria, which is the adoration given to Almighty God. This intentional honor is incomparably greater than the reverence we give to sacramentals, sacred images, the Baptistry, the Holy Oils, or the Paschal Candle. The Sacrament is reserved not only so that the Eucharist can be brought to the dying and to those unable to attend Mass, but also as the heart and locus of a parish’s prayer and devotion.

There is a kind of bundle of rituals in our Catholic tradition with which we surround the Tabernacle. As we enter or leave the church, we bless ourselves with holy water, we genuflect towards the Tabernacle, we prepare for Mass or give thanks after Mass, consciously in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. At prayers and devotions, during the Liturgy of the Hours, in any private prayer which takes place in a Catholic Church, we truly pray before the Risen Christ substantially and really present in the Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle.

These core Catholic convictions and their architectural ramifications have recently been reaffirmed by many Bishops in the United States. As bishop of this Diocese, I am also convinced that where we place the Tabernacle — and how we ritually reverence the Reserved Sacrament — is as important for the continuing Eucharistic catechesis as is all our preaching and teaching. With Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament at the physical center of our places of worship, how can He not also more firmly become the center of our spiritual lives as well?

After consultation with my Presbyteral Council, I am therefore asking that those few parish churches and chapels where the tabernacle is not in the direct center at the back of the sanctuary, that these spaces be redesigned in such a way that the Reserved Sacrament would be placed at the center. In some cases, this change can be easily achieved, but given financial and design restraints, plans for redesign may be submitted to the Office of Divine Worship at any time during the next five years. Monastic communities whose chapels are open to the faithful as semi-public oratories may also request a dispensation from this general regulation according to the norms of their particular liturgical tradition. There may also be some very tiny chapels where a change could be impossible. These requests should be submitted in writing to my office.

I would also like to remind everyone in our Diocese that at Mass, in accord with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Tabernacle should only be reverenced at the beginning and end of the liturgy or when the Sacrament is being taken from or returned to the Tabernacle. At all other moments and movements in the liturgy it is the Altar of Sacrifice that is to be reverenced. [Er… Yes, this is perfectly in line with the rubrics of the Novus Ordo, but it is so counter-intuitive once one is aware that Christ is truly present in the tabernacle. Outside of Mass I genuflect when passing the tabernacle, so not doing that when I’m performing my duties during Mass just seems… wrong.]

It is my conviction that Eucharistic Liturgy and Eucharistic devotion are never in competition but rather inform and strengthen our shared worship and reverence. May all in our Diocese grow in greater love and appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C.

The Gathering Storm

A few weeks ago, Michael Cook of MercatorNet wrote an article about the abuse crisis in the Church and the skewed media coverage of it. Eric Masseus has a Dutch translation at his blog. It’s a good article that looks at things from an angle often ignored by the mainstream media.


The scandal of sexual abuse by priests in Europe is distracting us from an even bigger scandal in the future, one which the media helped to create.

Media coverage of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Europe is being formatted according to the Watergate template: sensational crimes, decades-long cover-ups, dogged reporters, denials from official hacks, half-apologies from quivering bureaucrats, threads leading to the dark lair of lies and obstruction. Only Deep Throat is missing.

“Abuse Scandal in Germany Edges Closer to Pope” was the headline in the New York Times a week ago. The Times has even set up a special blog to track and interpret the unfolding story.

Day by day, the drumbeat grows louder. Earlier this week the media’s favourite atheist, Christopher Hitchens, bundled together a handful of yellowing newspaper clippings and packaged it as a sulphurous attack in the on-line magazine Slate: “The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it.”

Tomorrow Benedict XVI is to publish a letter to the Irish Catholic bishops about the horrendous scandal there. No doubt this will prompt more speculation about whether sexual abuse in Germany will be the Pope’s Watergate, about whether he will be forced to resign, about whether the Catholic Church will have to abandon its tradition of clerical celibacy [a seemingly endless discussion. Celibacy in itself is not the cause of abuse. Faulty formation and preparation for a celibate life may be.].

The scandal of clergy who sexually abused children is diabolically real. It has to be confronted humbly and courageously by the bishops who run the Catholic Church. Clergy who are found guilty should be punished. Higher-ups who shielded them should resign.

There is no doubt that Pope Benedict is ready to take a tough line on this. After all – contrary to what Hitchens claims – it was he who established clear guidelines and he has enforced them sternly. On several occasions he has spoken of the “deep shame” he feels at revelations that some priests had betrayed their calling and preyed upon innocent children. When he addressed American bishops in 2008 he spoke with a hint of sarcasm, quoting their own words to say that the crisis had been “sometimes very badly handled”.

But it’s important to remember that these scandals relate to priests who offended decades ago. Wannabee Woodwards and Bernsteins are deflecting attention from the crisis that is happening right now, a crisis from which the media is averting its eyes, just as the bishops did 30 years ago, a crisis in which they play an active role.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel got it right this week. She denounced sexual abuse of minors as “a despicable crime” but refused to single out the Catholic Church for special criticism. “Let’s not oversimplify things,” she said. “We need to speak about [changing] the statute of limitations, we can address the idea of compensation, but the main issue is that this is a major challenge for our society.”

The huge, unreported story is that we are in denial about a widespread, deliberate, systemic encouragement of people not to control their sexuality. [Amen] It’s as if a health department allowed witch doctors and Reiki therapists to edge out surgeons. Or as if a defence department allowed its tanks to rust. Fundamental principles of a civilized society like sexual restraint, fidelity in marriage, and nurturing families, are being undermined. The mind-numbing list of politicians caught with their pants down, the tsunami of pornography, sky-rocketing teen sex – all these are warning bells about the consequences of creating a hyper-sexualised culture.

Just take this week’s announcement by an Australian company that it had sold the licensing rights to a testosterone roll-on underarm deodorant to boost men’s flagging sex drive for US$335 million to pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

Or the news that the International Planned Parenthood Federation recently gave girl scouts a glossy pamphlet encouraging them to have “lots of different ways to have sex and lots of different types of sex”.

Or the UK government’s new guidelines for sex education for children as young as five.

If a priest had suggested these ideas, they would have been called grooming. And in fact, they are grooming — for a lifetime of commercial exploitation. What kind of society are we creating if we actively encourage children to treat sex as  entertainment and encourage men to remain in a constant state of arousal? Sex is not a toy. Without clear moral standards, it is a natural passion which easily becomes an unnatural addiction. Does anyone seriously believe that in 30 years’ time there will be less sex abuse after giving children classroom lessons in how to masturbate?

Of all our social institutions, it seems that only the Church realizes that a crisis is brewing for which we are going to pay dearly in the years ahead. As Benedict told American bishops:

Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person… What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?

Contrary to the impression conveyed in the media, the Catholic Church has been incredibly successful in teaching its priests how to control and channel their sexuality. There are 400,000 celibate priests in the world. The number who have been accused of sexual misconduct is a minuscule fraction, even though the Pope surely feels that a single failure is too many. True, bishops and priests should rend their garments in shame for the bestial crimes of their associates. But that must not keep them from warning the world about the next abuse crisis.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 

Settling the matter?

A very interesting development in the ongoing argument concerning Archbishop Eijk’s decision to fire a volunteer, Ms. Nelly Stienstra, from parish duties, after she had publically made him out to be a liar. As we know she then went public with her allegations, some true, others not, and her lawyer, Ms. Erica Schruer, followed suit by publishing a private letter to the archbishop on her blog. It now becomes clear that the archbishop forwarded the issue to Rome, where Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, concerned himself with clarifying matters. He sent a letter to Archbishop Eijk, dated 18 January, and that letter has now been released to the public. Here is the Dutch version, and the English translation is at the bottom of this post.

There is a press release from the archdiocese here, from which I highlight the second paragraph:

“Earlier this month, Archbishop Eijk had made an appointment to meet with Ms. Stienstra and her advisor, Ms. Schruer, to give her the opportunity to explain her vision and actions. But this meeting was cancelled by both ladies a few days in advance, because of “the archbishop’s comments in the media about Ms. Stienstra.” Ms. Stienstra requested mediation from Msgr. van Luyn or Msgr. de Korte. When asked about it, both said not to be willing. If mediation would prove to be not possible, Ms. Stienstra wanted to go to the diocesan office of litigation. The archdiocese points out that Stienstra’s advisor, Ms. Schruer, has depicted Archbishop Eijk in the past weeks as someone who lies and who follows a “culture of account settlement”. She has also suggested that Msgr. Eijk was unable to find co-consecrators for the consecration of this Saturday, a fact [sic] that he could use “when tendering his resignation on health grounds, because his work would have been made impossible, losing the logic of cause and effect out of sight – but that is a chronic problem with this patient.”

All the same, Msgr. Eijk was willing to have an open conversation, but that is now no longer an option. Putting the question to the diocesan litigation office is, following the letter from Msgr. Piacenza, now also pointless: Rome has already decided that Msgr. Eijk acted within his rights. The litigation office can’t judge that.”

The difference in attitude between the archbishop on the one hand and Ms. Stienstra and her advisor on the other is striking. Whereas the archbishop only went public to correct the allegations made against him or to communicate something factual, his opponents published every allegation, private communication and even dragged in other events (such as the consecration of the two auxiliary bishops, other issues in the archdiocese and Church province and even abroad) to take potshots at the archbishop.

I wonder what they’ll try next. To me it seems the matter is settled. It’s not a nice situation, but the archbishop was within his rights.


Congregation for the Clergy

From the Vatican, 18 January 2010

Most Reverend Excellency,

Concerning the question if your Excellency can prevent a lay person from performing the duties of lector during the Eucharist in the cathedral, the following:

According to can. 230, $2 of the Code of Canon Law, “Lay persons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation…” the judgement of suitability for this appointment lies in the first place with the diocesan bishop and only subordinately to the priest who performs pastoral care for the community he is responsible for “under the authority of the diocesan bishop.” (can. 519).

Since, as can. 838, $1, says: “The direction of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, according to the norm of law, the diocesan bishop.” The regulation of the holy liturgy is solely submitted to the authority of the Church. In a specific Church it is the diocesan bishop who, iure nativo, is repsonsible for the liturgy, he regulates is and at the ministry of the sacrament (cf. cann. 838 $1 and 4, 841).

Within the bounds of his own authority and in agreement with the regulations published by the Holy See, the bishop is allowed to establish norms for the liturgy, taking into account special circumstances and local needs. Clergy and faithful are bound to these norms, including any exempt institutes: “Within the limits of his competence, it pertains to the diocesan bishop in the Church entrusted to him to issue liturgical norms which bind everyone.” (Can 838, $4)

Since the faithful, “even in their own manner of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church” (209, $1) and “are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church” (212, $1), is, seen in this perspective, he who incites a hostile attitude, in word and deed, to the bishop, clearly not suited for the role of lector in liturgical acts. The bishop can very well take comparable steps, since he “is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws”(can. 392, $1) and “he is to exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially regarding the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the saints…” (can. 392, $2).

Wishing your loyal pastoral care much fruitfulness,
In greatest regard,
Yours in the Lord,

+Mauro Piacenza
Tit. Archbishop of Vittoriana

The other side of the coin

In a rather surprisingly rapid move, the bishop’s conference have issued a response to the press release of Solidaridad regarding their spat. The press release has appeared on the websites of a number of Dutch dioceses and comes from the pen of Msgr. Jos Punt, bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam and referent for Mission & Development corrects the incorrect and incomplete story from Solidaridad. An excerpt (emphases mine):

Solidarid has been going through a period of ‘generalisation’ for a while now, and has expanded her originally Christian identity. For that reason the Protestant Church in the Netherlands has already statutory distanced herself  from Solidaridad. Solidaridad recently also requested the Dutch bishops’ conference to be allowed to drop the last conditions that still bind her to the Catholic Church. Msgr. Punt, bishop referent for Mission & Development has replied to that by saying that, if Solidaridad keeps managing the Advent charity project, there are two possibilities: either they relinquish the statutory changes and reinforce their identity, or they continue as an ‘implementing organisation’ and accepts that the final responsibility moves to a to-be-established ‘Episcopal Committee for Mission and Development’ (ECMD).
Msgr. Punt: “In service to the parishes and the faithful the bishops must obviously set these conditions to fulfill their duties of supervision and to guarantee total transparency about the utilisation of funds collected by the Advent charity. But Solidaridad chose to continue her development completely separate from the churches. The bishops respect this choice and will find a new realisation for the Advent charity.”
The 10 February press release by Solidaridad, and also their letter to the parishes, incorrectly puts ‘churches help the poor’ opposite the episcopal standpoint of ‘churches help churches’. Of course this means that ecclesiastic channels will be used for charity as much as possible. Goal is the make it possible for the churches in the south to set their own priorities in the care for the poor and their diaconate mission, instead of us deciding it for them. Many parishes already have good experiences with that and sometimes also suggest projects themselves. The Catholic Church has, after all, a unique worldwide network with very short lines – through missionaries, dioceses, congregations, partner parishes, etc. – which makes fast, cheap and reliable relief possible.
There is constructive dialogue with the other missionary organisations to reach good new agreements and procedures. Solidaridad’s public ‘slip-up’, because of premature and one-sided publicity, did cross the scheduled and careful supply of information to the faithful and parishes. More information will follow when the new structure is ready, in cooperation with the missionary organisations.
So, in essence, what Solidaridad wants is basically what the bishops also want: to allow local people to decide what the funds will be used for. But by dragging unrelated issues into it, Solidaridad presented the disagreement as one caused by the bishops, while it was the change in direction from Solidaridad that led the bishops to set terms for continued cooperation. It’s a bit sad, actually, and something that a little more care and objectivity could well have prevented.