Head of the Dutch bishops meets the Pope – some speculations about how the Church fights abuse

Although no details have emerged about yesterday’s private audience of Bishop Hans van den Hende and Dr. Wim Deetman with Pope Francis, the mere names of the participants make it virtually impossible to not conclude that the abuse crisis must have been at the heart of the encounter.

DSC_2699_31481e79b67ab70c5ca711c62299f166Bishop van den Hende (at right) is the bishop of Rotterdam and the president of the Dutch Bishops’ Conference and, as such, will take part in February’s meeting in Rome with all the heads of the world’s bishops’ conference to discuss the abuse crisis and formulate a unified response. Dr. Deetman, former education minister and mayor of The Hague, headed the investigation into historical sexual abuse within the Catholic Church on behalf of the bishops and the Conference of Dutch Religious.

A recent study by the Dutch Broadcast Foundation (NOS) reveals that, in the seen years since the publication of the Deetman Commission’s conclusions, there have been 103 background checks on priests who were under consideration of being transferred or appointed in one of the Dutch dioceses. In one case a bishop blocked such a transfer or appointment because of past abuse claims against the priest involved. Similarly, a further 46 claims of “unacceptable behaviour” have been made since 2015, eight of which involved sexually unacceptable behaviour committed after the publication of the Deetman report. These all involved adults, not minors, and three of the claims are still under investigation. Two of the claims involve an unnamed religious movement which does not fall under the authority of a bishop and is also not a member of the Conference of Dutch Religious. An unidentified auxiliary bishop has informed the Vatican and the police about the movement and the claims against them, as well as his own bishop, who is keeping an eye on the developing situation.

Also interesting in light of the private audience is a letter sent to the participants in the meeting on “The Protection of Minors in the Church”, scheduled to take place from 21 to 24 February. The letter, issued by the organising committee consisting of Cardinals Cupich and Gracias, Archbishop Scicluna and Father Zollner, emphasised that “Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.” The authors urge the Conference presidents to reach out to and meet with victims before the meeting, something which the Dutch bishops, as well as bishops from other countries, have been doing over the last few years. In other countries, however, this is something new.* The letter concludes: “[E]ach of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility, and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency, and holding everyone in the Church accountable.”

As said, it will probably remain unknown what Bishop van den Hende and Dr. Deetman discussed with the Pope, unless one of them chooses to reveal something, but if the abuse crisis was discussed, perhaps the actions of the Dutch bishops, which can be an example of correct policies, not just for the Church, but for society as a whole, will influence the preparations of the February meeting in a constructive and positive way.

* A recent development from the Archdiocese of Cologne comes to mind, where a priest from Cameroon had been working among the French-speaking faithful. This despite the fact that he had been laicised in his home diocese. However, for his work abroad, his bishop is said to have issued letters confirming his good standing… The exact details remain unclear. The laicisation is aid to have taken place in 2013, and there is talk of an emeritus bishop of the Archdiocese of Bertoua having provided credentials to the former priest. The only living emeritus archbishop of that see is Belgian-born Roger Pirenne, who retired in 2009. Why credentials were seemingly issued by a retired bishop, instead of current Archbishop Joseph Atanga, remains unclear. It is clear, however, that the abuse issues is not yet being taken seriously in all parts of the world. Let’s hope that the February meeting can do something to change that.

Photo credit: KN/Jan Peeters

38 pallia on 29 June

The papal pallium, in the design introduced in 2008

On 28 June, the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, 38 metropolitan archbishops will receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI. The 38 are archbishops which have been appointed in the past year, and the pallium is the symbol of their jurisdiction as bestowed upon them by the pope. It is therefore also a sign of the bond between the archbishops and Rome, and thus between the Church on the local level and the worldwide level.

A pallium bestowed signifies the pastoral power of an archbishop in an archdiocese and Church province, and is tied to that jurisdiction. If an archbishop is installed in another archdiocese (as happened in the past year to Archbishop Peter Smith, who moved from Cardiff to Southwark), he will receive a new pallium.

A metropolitan archbishop has supervisory rights in the so-called suffragan dioceses outside his own archdiocese. For example, in the Netherlands, Utrecht is the archdiocese and the other dioceses are are suffragans. Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht can, for example, intervene in legal matters in the other Dutch dioceses

The Vatican Information Service has the complete list new metropolitans:

– Archbishop Luis Gerardo Herrera O.F.M. of Cuenca, Ecuador
– Archbishop Alex Thomas Kaliyanil S.V.D. of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
– Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi O.M.I. of Maseru, Lesotho
– Archbishop Antonio Fernando Saburido O.S.B. of Olinda and Recife, Brazil
– Archbishop Albert Legatt of Saint-Boniface, Canada
– Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia – Citta della Pieve, Italy
– Archbishop Andrea Bruno Mazzocato of Udine, Italy

Archbishop Mazzocato

– Archbishop Gabriel Mblinghi C.S.Sp. of Lubango, Angola
– Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines
– Archbishop Constancio Miranda Weckmann of Chihuahua, Mexico
– Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England
– Archbishop Juan Jose Asenjo Pelegrina of Seville, Spain.
– Archbishop Jerome Edward Lisecki of Milwaukee, U.S.A
– Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala, Cameroon

Archbishop Kleda

– Archbishop Jesus Sanz Montes O.F.M. of Oviedo, Spain
– Archbishop Anton Stres C.M. of Ljubljana, Slovenia
– Archbishop Joseph Atanga S.J. of Bertoua, Cameroon
– Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa
– Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, U.S.A
– Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa of Belem do Para, Brazil
– Archbishop Andre-Mutien [sic] Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium

Archbishop Léonard

– Archbishop Antonio Lanfranchi of Modena – Nonantola, Italy
– Archbishop Dominik Duka O.P. of Prague, Czech Republic
– Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobon Restrepo of Medellin, Colombia
– Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta O.S.A. of Panama, Panama
– Archbishop Francis Kallarakal of Verapoly, India
– Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar
– Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain

Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez

– Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, Korea
– Archbishop Luis Madrid Merlano of Nueva Pamplona, Colombia
– Archbishop Thomas Gerard Wenski of Miami, U.S.A
– Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, England
– Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk of Gniezno, Poland
– Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Vietnam

Archbishop Nguyen Van Nhon

– Archbishop Matthias Kobena Nketsiah of Cape Coast, Ghana
– Archbishop Bernard Bober of Kosice, Slovakia
– Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Acapulco, Mexico
– Archbishop Luigi Moretti of Salerno – Campagna – Acerno, Italy