The wide reach of Anders Breivik

Observant readers may have noticed that  I have not yet written about the horrible murders that hit Norway a week ago today. There is a reason for that, and that is that I try to stick to a fairly narrow field of interest in this blog – Catholic news from the Netherlands and the countries around it. But I also don’t want to pretend that Catholic news is segregated from other news. So attention to the gruesome events that left 77 people dead does seem warranted. After all, I did so as well when other types of disasters – natural ones – hit Haiti, Japan and New Zealand. But there is one obstacle with two sides that kept me from writing: the fact that I know not nearly enough about the political leanings of the murderer, which do play a major part in the story, and that other writers have written about it much better than I can.

Flowers on the shore of Utøya, where 68 people where murdered

But one part of the entire story did present itself to me these past few days, and I think that that is well-suited to be discussed here. It’s the effect that the perpetrator of the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, had on Catholic media and Catholic blogs over here and abroad.

The first example of Breivik’s twisted thoughts and acts affecting a fellow blogger came to me a few days ago. Father Dwight Longenecker discovered that Breivik read his blog, via a link from a Norwegian website that the killer contributed to. The comments that Breivik made about a post by Fr. Longenecker were

“nothing extreme or weird in itself.

Nevertheless, to think that my blog is out there as part of this new global publishing phenomenon and that anybody at all can read it is always amazing. To think that this madman read at least one post on my blog was disturbing at first. Naturally I wondered if I had written anything to prompt such hatred and violence.

I don’t think I have.” [Blog post Creepy and Disturbing]

Fr. Longenecker concludes that all we can do is “be silent and pray”. Which is a bit harder when the link between the murderer and you becomes even more personal, which happened to Catholica editor Tom Zwitser and contributor Erik van Goor. The politically conservative and Catholic orthodox writers both received the 1,600-page manifesto that Breivik had e-mailed to what he assumed were ‘kindred spirits’. Zwitser seemingly shrugged it off, although he does conclude that Breivik consciously tried to harm him and other conservative authors and politicians, since the list of recipients consisted of people Breivik did not know personally, but who are now linked to the criminal acts of 22 July. On 27 July, Zwitser wrote on Twitter:

My email address is public. Breivik, who has never read a word from me, thought that I would have any interest in his twisted ideas. Should I now start tweeting and blogging in Norwegian that I have more in common with a proper Muslim than with a dangerous liberal/neocon like him?

For Erik van Goor, the link between Breivik and him was even more of a surprise, and the consequences go farther. As he writes in an announcement, when the attacks happened, Van Goor was on vacation, and only upon coming home did he hear that his name was among those to whom the manifesto was sent. He writes:

“Even though many people, among them numerous friends, have assured me that I don carry any blame (my email address appeared and appears to be circulating freely on the Internet), this whole affair is to me a continuous stone which does not simply go away. The association between my name and the events in Norway may be reasoned away, but emotionally it makes me sick.”

With the ensuing flood of media attention for him, Van Goor decides to step back for now as contributor to Catholica and focus on his duties as husband and father until this storm abates.

And so, on an unprecedented large scale, Catholic bloggers and writers are hit by the backlash of one man’s gruesome actions. I don’t know why Breivik selected Fr. Longenecker, Tom Zwitser, Erik van Goor and all those others to be inspired by or to drag into his ‘project’ (for it does seem to be a well-planned socio-political endeavour), but it does make them into victims, especially since more than a few people now do exactly what Breivik wanted: linking them recipients of his manifesto to the horrible murders committed by him, as if to show that a certain school of thought automatically leads to murder.

I agree with Fr. Longenecker when he says that all we can do is be silent and pray. But while we, as Catholics, as bloggers, as people who made a small corner of the Internet their own, do that, we can take a lesson from all this. Our writings are out there for the world to read. And sometimes they are read – even commented on and written about – by people who do stupid and terrible things. But as long as we take the following words by Pope Benedict XVI to heart, I don’t think we need to worry about that too much.

It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). [Message for the 45th World Day of Communications].

But all the same, such events do affect us personally. We may be able to reason much of it away, but they are a small cross we nonetheless bear, at least temporarily.

As Norway mourns and buries her dead, and as Anders Breivik goes to meet his earthly judgement, may all those unwillingly linked to horror and death be given the time and chance to process all of this.

Photo credit: [1] Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay

Brick minus brick in Groningen

At Catholica, editor Tom Zwitser shares some discouraging news. After two Masses, the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite of the Mass at the cathedral of St. Joseph is to be discontinued immediately. Sad news, and the reasons for this decision not only highlight the lack of communication (which I, in a different context, have also experienced) within the parish and the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, but also the contradictory position with the world Church taken by the diocese. Both the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, issued by Pope Benedict XVI and Ecclesia Dei respectively, are quite clear in the duties that a diocesan bishop has towards a group of faithful who wish to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Aforementioned texts are quite clear in the regulations surrounding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form in any given diocese or jurisdiction. Below a summary from the texts:

It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. [UE 14]

In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church. [SP 5.1]

A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter existens (“existing in a stable manner”), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose [UE 15].

Three paragraphs only, which illustrate that priests and bishops are to generously grant the wish of a stable group of faithful (the size of that group does not factor into the occasion) to celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. These texts are not difficult or unclear.

EF Mass on 8 May, offered by Fr. Andreas Komorowski, FSSP

But what is now happening in Groningen? After two EF Masses in April and May (announced as to take place on every first Sunday of the month, celebrated out of necessity by priests from outside the diocese, initially until summer, but with the implied possibility that they may continue after that if an average of 30 faithful would be attending at that point), a decision was made to limit the number of Masses to four per year. This, as Mr. Zwitser quotes, “not to encourage a division of spirits within the parish”.  It must be said, at this point, that finding qualified priests, acolytes and volunteers willing to organise and celebrate these Masses is difficult in this diocese, with such a small number of clergy and faithful to begin with. This difficulty, coupled with, in his words, the lack of cooperation he received, led Mr. Zwitser to decide not to continue as the lone mandated organiser.

Maybe the diocese will continue offering EF Masses, but this first attempt can be considered a failure. It’s quite sad that there seems to be such opposition to the older form of the Mass, especially when Rome has been quite clear in this respect. Of course, lack of volunteers, clergy and personnel are hurdles to overcome, but Universae Ecclesiae foresaw in this:

In Dioceses without qualified priests, Diocesan Bishops can request assistance from priests of the Institutes erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, either to the celebrate the forma extraordinaria or to teach others how to celebrate it [22].

Again, this is not difficult, and it works: the two Masses in Groningen have been offered by qualified priests from the Diocese of Roermond and the FSSP. Travelling costs remain as the sole obstacle.

Rumours have it that EF Masses may continue at the church of St. Martin in Sneek. A place and church not as easy to reach for people as the cathedral in Groningen is, and also lacking a qualified priest. This is then a rumoured solution that only relocates the problem.

At this moment, the reintroduction of the Extraordinary Form in Groningen seems to be nipped in the bud. Promises seem to be broken, cooperation not given as much as it could, and the instructions from Rome and the personal wish of the Holy Father not given due consideration.I expressly say ‘seems’, because much of this is hearsay and second-hand information. As in the world Church, the local Church too has much to grow in communication.

Cardinal Burke to speak at St. Agnes

As announced before, Raymond Cardinal Burke will be offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form on 17 September at the church of St. Agnes in Amsterdam. That day marks the fifth anniversary of the FSSP apostolate in that church.

But today Catholica announces that the cardinal will also speak at the annual Catholica conference, on the afternoon of that same day. His topic will be Summorum Pontificum and the Church after Vatican II. The high-ranking prelate is known to celebrate Mass in both forms, and is in many circles considered to be a man to be watched. The 62-year-old Burke was made a cardinal during the most recent consistory and serves as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Roman Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Church and overseer of the administration of justice in the Church. Before his appointment, Cardinal Burke was bishop of La Crosse (1994-2003) and archbishop of Saint Louis (2003-2008) in the United States.

Catholica is, in the Dutch Catholic media landscape, a voice for orthodoxy, made clear in its advocacy for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as well as a return to a Catholic practice that has mostly disappeared from the Netherlands. In recent months, it has been a platform for debate about the nature of the Second Vatican Council and how it should be understood and implemented.

Other organisers of the conference are the Benelux region of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Ecclesia Dei foundation in Delft.

Translation on Archbishop Ranjith’s ‘Year of the Eucharist’

Upon the request of several people I have made a Dutch translation of the article on Rorate Caeli that discusses the liturgical plans of Archbishop Ranjith in Colombo. The translation can be found on the Translation page here and on Catholica.

More clarity needed about Communion

Various media have reported on the reactions triggered by a homily from Deacon Edwin Veldman, in which he spoke about homosexual acts being inherently sinful. It caused some people to leave the church before the end of Mass and Fr. Cor Mennen, pastor of the parish in which Deacon Veldman works, to pay attention to it in an article on Catholica.

At the same time, the COC has announced that they want to take their discussion with the parish council in ‘s-Hertogenbosch to a higher level: the bishops. The topic of the discussion is, of course, the question of actively homosexual people receiving Communion. The Church teaches that only people in a state of grace can receive Communion, and with homosexual acts being a sin, those practicing them are not in a state of grace. The Dutch situation is complicated further by the fact that many people apart from homosexuals receive Communion in a state of sin, but the attention is on the latter. A feeling of them being singled out is perhaps understandable in that light. But that, of course, changes nothing about the actual teachings around the reception of Communion.

Judging from the articles I read, the focus of the discussion now revolves around homosexuals ‘feeling welcome’ in parishes and services. That has, of course, never been questioned. The Church welcomes (or should welcome) everyone, but she can not close her eyes to their errors, mistakes and sins. The purpose of the Church is to lead people to God and so also to prepare them for the encounter with Him. Since God transcends us so much (he literally stands outside creation) it is logical to assume that we need to prepare, often even change before we can meet Him. And we meet Him most closely in the Eucharist, when we receive Him at Communion. If we don’t prepare ourselves for Him, by conforming to Him as much as we can (which, admittedly, is not a lot), if we don’t take His commandments and words seriously, Communion is an empty ritual. Worse, since it is the Lord we receive, it becomes a profanation. We place ourselves above Him, consider ourselves more important, better judges of ourselves than He is. In another context, Archbishop Ranjith of Colombo calls this ‘self-idolatry’ (A special circular on the Year of the Eucharist, 2.1*).

Anyway, back to the COC’s plan to take their issues to the bishops. Obviously, they, like everyone else, have a right to contact the bishops about anything they wish, and I think this specific issue deserves an official response from the bishops. That won’t just benefit the Church, but also the faithful, the COC and other parties involved. What we need, everyone who has something at stake here, is clarity. An explanation about Church teachings and the reasons why some things are possible and some are not. And, most importantly, we deserve clear, expansive and thorough education about the Eucharist and Communion.

* I will pay attention to this letter at a later time.

More information on the pontifical EF Mass in Amsterdam

On 5 June I wrote about an announcement that Archbishop François Bacqué, the Apostolic Nuncio (basically the Vatican ambassador) to the Netherlands, would be celebrating a Mass according to the Extraordinary Form at the St. Agnes church in Amsterdam. I also wrote that it would be a unique event, being the first pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form to be celebrated in the Netherlands in many years.

I was not entirely correct, it now turns out.

An announcement at Catholica offers more details. A priest, deacon and subdeacon will be celebrating the Mass on the 15 August, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, and Msgr. Bacqué will be presiding ‘from the throne’. Now I’m no expert on the Extraordinary Form, so I’ll freely admit I don’t know all the details of what that means, apart from that it does not seem that the archbishop will merely be sitting there; he does have his duties during the celebration of the Mass.

In my post of 5 June I spoke about the significance of this event, so I won’t repeat myself here. But I will share the details of when and where the Mass will take place.

Mass will start at 11am in the church of St. Agnes, located at Amstelveenseweg 163 in Amsterdam. Find the church’s website, in Dutch,  here.

Mixing up words, a pet peeve

After a discussion last night (which started with an analysis of Psalm 111 of all things) I got to thinking about a strange and undesirable habit among many Dutch Catholics: the adoption of Protestant terms for Catholic concepts and the urge to hide their Catholic identity, which is a result of that.

In Dutch we have a specific term for a priest who is responsible for one or more parishes: he is a ‘pastoor’. The word clearly derives from pastor, meaning a spiritual shepherd of a congregation. A priest who is not in charge of a parish, but does work in one, used to be called a ‘kapelaan’, or chaplain. In the south of the Netherlands that word is still used without problem. In the north, the area where I live, however, the word ‘kapelaan’ has fallen out of use. Perhaps this is due to the shortage of priests: there is no need to distinguish between two priests in one parish, because there usually only ever is one (if the parish is lucky). In parishes where there is no priest, or he is also responsible for a handful of other parishes, lay people are often appointed to lead prayer services and perform some pastoral duties. These are pastoral workers, not ordained, often married with a family and a job on the side.  They assist the priest in his work and make life just a bit more manageable for him.

But here is the problem. It has become habit for these pastoral workers to refer to themselves as ‘pastor’. A word awfully close to ‘pastoor’, and often the ‘o’ and ‘oo’ sounds are hard to distinguish in speech. Chaplains, too, have taken to this title. The distinction between ‘pastoors’, chaplains and pastoral workers becomes muddled, and not just in their titles, but also in their identity. I would not want to feed the people who claim their pastoral worker is actually a priest who should be allowed to offer the Eucharist, or the people who couldn’t tell you why that is not so.

Making matters worse, certain Protestant ministers have also taken to this title of ‘pastor’.

I often wonder about this apparent need to invent a new term when there is a perfectly clear one available? Is it lack of knowledge or sheer thick-headedness (something which we Dutch excel at)?

In the first paragraph I referred to the adoption of Protestant terms. An example is the use of the name for someone who leads a service, be it a prayer service or Mass: ‘voorganger’, literally someone who leads the congregation. Even in Catholic media this very Protestant word has been used to refer to priests. “Father so-and-so will be the ‘voorganger’ in this service” instead of “Father so-and-so will offer (or celebrate) this Mass.”

It may sound trivial, and seen from a purely practical view it may be. But this is the tip of an iceberg of ignorance. If even the media do not use the terms that directly refer to a person or object’s Catholic identity, how are people going to know this identity, how are they going to be urged to be aware of this identity?

Priest are not lay people, lay people are not ordained, Protestant ministers are not Catholic: these people are not the same, not in their faith, their duties, their vocation, their ordination (or lack thereof)… In the end it comes down to this: the Catholic identity is slowly becoming invisible.

I don’t have any solutions to reverse that trend, but perhaps a good start would be to rediscover our Catholic identity in the words we use. Talk about ‘pastoors’ and ‘kapelaans’, pastoral workers and ‘dominees’, but don’t pretend the one is the other. I’d even be all for introducing the Orthodox and international Catholic tradition of calling our priests ‘Father’.

This little piece of writing is also available in Dutch at Catholica.

Stats for January 2010

One month in, and my new blog has had a fair share of views.  Looking at the most popular posts, the dominant topics have been the two archbishops, Msgr. Eijk and Msgr. Léonard. The translation of the interview with the latter is far in the lead, thanks to links to it from such well-read blogs as Fr. Tim Finigan’s The Hermeneutic of Continuity and New Liturgical Movement.

I am also quite pleased to see that my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address has now reached 120 views. It has also been published at Catholica (although it seems to have vanished from their website now) and I have also received a request from the Latin Liturgy Society to use an edited version of the translation in the Easter edition of their bulletin. This is exactly what I had hoped to achieve with this blog: that important documents, interviews, speeches and what have you be available – and read! – in Dutch.

This is the top ten as of today:

1: ”The Belgian Church has been too passive” 858 views

2: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie 120 views

3: Why Belgium needs Msgr. Léonard 103 views

4: Support the archbishop 52 views

5: Mass and snow 34 views

6: A poignant photo 31 views

7: Msgr. Léonard new archbishop of Brussels 31 views

8: ’A courageous bishop 29 views

9: Help Haiti 27 views

10: Cardinals, a game of numbers 26 views

In total the blog had 3,484 views this month.

Fr Tim and the New Liturgical Movement are also the main websites through which people find my blog. Dutch blogging priest Schoppenkoning is also among them, with well over 150 referrals. Like Fr. John Boyle, he lists me in his blogroll, with visible results. Lastly, regular links on Twitter and Facebook also help.

A fun statistic to take a look at are the search terms people use to end up on my blog. The title of the blog is the best way to do so, but the name of Pieter Delanoy, the Belgian priest who doesn’t really get it, was also popular. So were things related to the College of Cardinals, Medjugorje, the pope’s new year address, Msgr. Léonard, Rector Schnell of the Bovendonk seminary, Father George Paimpilil, Haiti, Cardinal Danneels and the pope’s visit to the Rome synagogue. One person found this blog by accident, it seems: he searched from 25-year-old Inge from Amsterdam…