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Following the quick official response to the Volkskrant article that blamed Archbishop Wim Eijk of all manner of things, the aforementioned newspaper now publishes a letter from the archbishop himself and admits that “the editorial office of the Volkskrant concludes in hindsight that more rebuttal could have been given and publishes for that reason this letter from Msgr. Eijk.”

As I wrote about the article when it was first published, it is a shoddy piece of work based on old news and unsubstantiated claims from people who believe that their own personal vendetta against the archbishop should be fought in public. It is good to see that the Volkskrant now admits almost as much and publishes the letter from the archbishop, which follows here in my translation.

The contents of the publication on the front page of the Volkskrant of Monday 18 April lead me to write a response.

Anyone is free to disagree with the policies followed by me as archbishop in the Archdiocese of Utrecht, such as the financial cuts which were deemed very necessary and thus put in practice. The fact that two Catholics apparently turned to the Pope to complain about me will not have dictated the newsworthiness to place the article on the front page. After all, anyone is free to do that as well. The newsworthiness seems to have lain in the nature of the complaints made against me.

I have need of a rebuttal in response to a number of evidently false claims which in turn are the basis of a number of complaints, although I can’t respond to all factual inaccuracies in this short letter. I am accused of having hired investigators to search the computers of my fellow bishops while I, considering the autonomy of the dioceses and the lack of hierarchical relations between me and my fellow bishops, in no way have the capacity, let alone the actual opportunity, for that. Such an investigation can therefore only take place if a detective agency would use unlawful means. This serious accusation misses any basis in fact. Since my appointment I gave not a single detective agency any assignment, let alone to investigate the private computers of other clergymen, as I am wrongly accused of in the article. There has also never been any request from my regarding the dismissal of Msgr. De Korte, bishop in Groningen-Leeuwarden.

The claim that I fired my “seriously ill financial advisor” is also incorrect. The contract with Mr. Boeser was ended after proper consultation, after Mr. Boeser had recovered from his serious illness for a number of months. In the communications regarding his departure he himself indicated to be ready for a new challenge.

I am also wrongly accused of having closed the Ariënskonvikt, the seminary in Utrecht, when this would have been unnecessary on financial grounds, considering an inheritance of several millions. This accusation seems to be based on an e-mail from Mr. Hemels to Mr. Boeser, in which Mr. Hemels refers to the possible inheritance. After having read the article in the Volkskrant, Mr. Hemels has informed the editorial office of the Volkskrant that, in an answer to his e-mail, Mr. Boeser confirmed to him that – sadly – nothing is known of this inheritance.

Msgr. dr. W.J. Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht

And now here let the whole nasty mess rest.

In all honesty, I am very pleasantly surprised – and a bit relieved – that the bishops’ conference was able to release a common statement about today’s statements in the Volkskrant. Their track record in quick responses to developing news stories has not always been the best, although I do think it is improving. Let’s see what they have to say:

The Dutch Bishops’ Conference wish it to be known that the article of 18 April in the Volkskrant contain a number of manifest errors. For example, contrary to what the Volkskrant writes, Archbishop Eijk has never submitted a request to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops to have Bishop de Korte of Groningen-Leeuwarden removed from office.

In addition, the article claims that “the relations in the Church province have worsened because Msgr. Eijk employed investigators to search the computers of clergymen for information that is displeasing to the archbishop.” This too is not the case. There has been no contact with whatever investigations company, let alone that “Msgr. Eijk himself recently sent investigators to his bishops to check their computers,” as the Volkskrant writes.

Finally, there is no case of a looming “great delay of major projects within the dioceses”: the dioceses are autonomous in realising projects, although cooperation is certainly sought and found in some areas. Neither is anything known of “putting initiatives on the back burner to turn the bad financial tide in the dioceses.”

The two sources named in the Volkskrant article, the ladies Stienstra and Schreur, have indicated that the appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy has not been sent yet. It still remains to be seen to what conclusion, if any, this sordid affair will lead.

A misleading title, old news and unsubstantiated claims: it must be a Dutch newspaper writing about the Church again. And it is.

Daily the Volkskrant devotes some space to a piece informing the readers, per the title, that Catholics think that the pope should call Archbishop Wim Eijk to order. The reason: he has apparently lost all credit with orthodox Catholics. Well, that’s news to me, but once the names of two people showed up in the piece, the claim is understandable. Ms. Nelly Stienstra and Ms. Erica Schruer have a long history of public disagreement with the archbishop, and have often turned to name-calling in blogs and public media. In my humble opinion, these two people are hardly objective sources in such matters.

The newspaper piece also presents the orthodox Contact Rooms-Katholieken group, of which Ms. Stienstra is the chair, and the Latin Liturgy Society, of which Ms. Schruer used to be the chair, as credentials, although these groups have either no official standing in either the archdiocese or in Rome, or are simple not involved in these matters at all.

A 32-page appeal sent to the Congregation for the Clergy (the current prefect of which, Cardinal Piacenza, has come out in defense of Abp. Eijk before), detailing the reasons why the archbishop should be reined in, is a mysterious document of which the archdiocese’s press chief knows nothing. Some of the reasoning in said document is detailed in the article, although the accuracy seems very doubtful. For example, it mentions that a spat between Archbishop Eijk and the accountant of his previous diocese, Groningen-Leeuwarden, caused the former to request the dismissal of that diocese’s current ordinary, Bishop Gerard de Korte. Other accusations say that the archbishop has ordered the investigation of the personal computers of clergymen – and even other bishops – for information that they are less than positive about him. Both are claims that not only seems quite ludicrous, but also very doubtful when seen in the light of (secular and canon) law.

Then there are also claims that the papal nuncio, Archbishop Bacqué, has been mediating between the archbishop and the other bishops in the Dutch Bishops’ Conference. Large financial projects of the dioceses, the article says, are being put on hold because of the archbishop’s behaviour in running the archdiocese. As if he has much of a say in the way other dioceses manage their finances.

As for the truth behind the matter? I don’t pretend to know much of it. Certainly, Archbishop Eijk and his way of working are not loved by everyone. But these claims are quite unbelievable when considering the person of the archbishop, the legality of the suggested steps taken by him, the lack of objectivity of the main sources of the story, and the lack of previous news about much of the events mentioned (there is more in it, but that is all old news).

Easter is coming. The media’s eye is on the Church even more at this time of year. And people with personal vendettas against prelates and other Church officials use it to win another battle in their ongoing war. Such a pity that the result is such very shoddy workmanship.

Once more a post in Dutch, sharing the follow-up to the wholly unsatisfactory reply from the NCRV following the open letter that was sent to the TV network on behalf of Catholics and several Protestants on the sacrilege committed in tv show Man Bijt Hond. The new letter wonders on whose behalf the reply was sent, and also asks if the author even understood the reason of our concern. We now ask for clarity and a reply to those concerns instead of an explanation of things that are, at best, peripheral.

———————

NCRV-directeur Coen Abbenhuis reageerde op maandag 15 maart met een e-mail op een Open Brief die eerder die dag namens de katholieke blog-community naar de NCRV was gestuurd om bezwaar te maken tegen heiligschennis in het tv-programma Man Bijt Hond. Abbenhuis’ antwoord is ook te vinden op de NCRV-site als officiële verklaring:

http://www.manbijthond.nl/reactiencrv

Dit antwoord is onzes inziens beneden alle peil en daarom gaat de het protest tegen deze actie van de NCRV door. De Open Brief met een actuele lijst van mensen die haar onderschrijven vindt u hier:

http://beautifulblues.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/katholiek-protest-tegen-heiligschennis-door-ncrv/

Al bijna tweehonderd namen staan onder de brief. Onder hen een twintigtal katholieke priesters en diakens. Ook komt er veel steun uit protestantse hoek en heeft een volledige parochie zich achter de Open Brief geschaard. U kunt nog steeds uw steun betuigen!

De actie wordt vanaf nu aangetrokken door blogster Observatrix (www.observatrix.nl). Onder haar naam is er, in overleg met katholieke bloggers, een antwoord verstuurd naar de NCRV. Als bijlage bij dat antwoord is de Open Brief met een actuele lijst van ondertekenaars meegestuurd. Dit is ons antwoord:

Geachte heer Abbenhuis,

Hoewel het ons nog steeds onduidelijk is of u namens het NCRV-bestuur schreef of op persoonlijke titel, nemen wij de vrijheid om toch te reageren op uw e-mailbericht van 15 maart j.l. Uw antwoord stelt teleur in twee opzichten. Ten eerste omdat u in veel woorden weinig nieuws zegt en de excuses die door de redactie van het programma “Man Bijt Hond” nog wel waren gemaakt, niet eens herhaalt. Ten tweede omdat u in uw antwoord geen blijk geeft te hebben begrepen waar de kern van ons bezwaar ligt.

In uw antwoord verwijst u naar de ‘licht-satirische’ opzet van het programma “Man Bijt Hond”. Blogger Anton de Wit benadrukte dat hij geen man met lange tenen is en satire zeer kan waarderen. Dit zal voor de meeste ondertekenaars van de Open Brief gelden. Echter wat De Wit ook aantoont is dat de heiligschennis uit “Man Bijt Hond” met geen mogelijkheid satire kan worden genoemd. Zoals het op het blog van ondergetekende Erica Schruer treffend werd geformuleerd, luidde uw antwoord in feite: jammer dat u van heiligschennis de humor niet kunt inzien. Ook christenen doen regelmatig aan satire, maar in de vorm waarin de NCRV het goot was er geen sprake van christelijke, maar juist van anti-katholieke en daarmee dus ook anti-christelijke satire. Daarmee heeft u als omroep in feite uw identiteit geloochend.

U verwijst in uw brief ook naar het protest tegen de katholieke Kerk in de St. Jan in Den Bosch, dat georganiseerd was door het COC en de Gaykrant en werd gesteund door de PvdA en de SP. Dit was de aanleiding voor het “Man Bijt Hond”-item. Voor de Kerk was ook deze gebeurtenis méér dan pijnlijk. Ten eerste omdat er een eredienst werd verstoord en het risico van een moderne ‘beeldenstorm’ nadrukkelijk in de lucht hing. Ten tweede omdat niemand behalve de SGP het opnam voor de vrijheid van eredienst, terwijl het verstoren van religieuze bijeenkomsten bij wet verboden is, en de Kerk en de gelovigen daarin bescherming en respect mogen verwachten.

Voorts spreekt u uit dat de NCRV het doel heeft mensen recht te doen, ‘ongeacht hun seksuele geaardheid’. Dit wekt de suggestie van een zeker eenzijdig respect, waarvan godsdienst geen deel uitmaakt. Als het gaat om het afkeuren van het niet uitreiken van de Communie aan homoseksuelen acht de NCRV blijkbaar elk middel geoorloofd, tot de grootste schoffering en heiligschennis aan toe. Ons protest heeft daarentegen niets te maken met de seksuele geaardheid van Wagemakers, maar met de respectloze manier waarop hij in NCRV-zendtijd met de Hostie omsprong.

De belangrijkste constatering is dat uw brief inhoudelijk niet ingaat op de bezwaren die zijn geuit in de Open Brief, die inmiddels door 150 mensen en een katholieke parochie is onderschreven en ieder uur door meer mensen wordt onderschreven. Daarnaast regent het ook negatieve reacties op de website van “Man Bijt Hond”. Door de heiligschennis die in dat programma is gepleegd, af te doen als uitingen van ‘gelijkwaardigheid en verdraagzaamheid’, toont u aan dat de betekenis die u aan die twee begrippen geeft niets meer met de christelijke visie te maken heeft. Wij kunnen ons niet aan de indruk onttrekken dat de NCRV is opgegaan in de grote massa van seculiere omroepen.

Wij verzoeken u zeer dringend uw standpunt te heroverwegen en daarvan terug te komen. Recent bij een incident in Maleisie pleegden twee medewerkers van een islamitisch tijdschrift heiligschennis door de Hostie te ontvangen en vervolgens uit te spuwen. Daarover ontstond veel commotie. Zij boden uiteindelijk daarvoor hun verontschuldigingen aan met de volgende woorden: “Het is niet de bedoeling van Al Islam om de christelijke godsdienst te beledigen, noch om christelijke bedehuizen te ontheiligen”. Van een nominatum christelijke omroep als de NCRV zou tenminste hetzelfde mogen worden verwacht. In het onverhoopt geval u niet tot betere inzichten komt, zullen wij onze bezorgdheid ook op andere plaatsen aan de orde stellen.

Met vriendelijke groeten,

—————-

The list of signatories to the open letter has continued to grow over the past days. Here is the list as it stands now:

R.T. van Mulligen
Parochie HH Michael en Clemens
G. Wilkens, priester
F. As, priester
H.J.P.T. Broers, priester
Ch. van Buijtenen, priester
J. Goris, priester
W.J.J. Grondhuis, priester
R.J.M. Kerssemakers, pastoor-deken
K. Loodts, priester
C. Mennen, priester
Pater J. Nielen MHM
M. Peeters, priester
G. van Rossem, priester
H.C.W. Schilder, priester
C. Stam, priester
G.M.J. van der Vegt, priester
W. Veth, priester
A. van Aarle, diaken
J. Grubben, diaken
A.B.M. van Kempen, diaken
I.W.G. Molenaar, diaken
Broeder Hugo, heremiet
S. Volkers, seminarist
Alina Bonen OFS
Fieke, postulante in de Carmel D.C.J.
P.M. Tassel OCDS
J. Ackermans
Angela ___
R. Bangma
G.E. van Beek
J. van Beek
A. van Berkel
A.J.M. van Berkel
A.M.C. van Berkel
F.S. Blaauw
J.J. Boekee
H. de Boer
M. Boerma
R. Bol
A. Bonen
B.S. Bosma
E. Bötticher
L. Brans
J. Brouwers
M. Buurman
W. Cromwijk
S. Dankers
O. Dhaene
J. Dhaene
B. van Dijck
M.E.A. Dommeck – Kuyt
M. Donders
G. Drijfhout
M.B.A. van Elswijk
F. Erkens
J. Erkens
Y. Fehr
L. Feskens
J. Flierman
J. Friederichs
P. Frissen
J.H. de Geest
J. van Gool
E. van Goor
J. van Gorp
T. de Groene
L. de Groene
E. de Groot
N. de Groot
W. de Groot
G.E. Hageman
N.J. Hageman
F. van der Have
W.M.C. Heemskerk
M. Hendriks
M.V. van Heusden
J. van den Heuvel
G. Holterman
P.M.A. Hoofs
P.H.W. Huiting
J.H.P. van Iperen
M. van Iperen
A.J.M. Janssen
H.A.M. Janssen – Rombouts
F.J. de Jong
J.C.M. de Jong
H. Kaptijn – Verzijlbergh
Kees ____
M.J. van Kleef
H. Knabben
A. Koole – Bart
N. Kuipers
R. Kuipers
P. Kuis
D. Lagarde
R. Lagarde
S. Leferink op Reinink
T. Letsch
N. Lioce
D.P.J. van Lith – Woestenberg
R.B. Lok
J. Lont
J.M.E. Lont
R. Marks
M.J. Marks – Meekel
F. van der Meer
F. Meijneke
F.E. Mélotte
D. Milis
T.J.M. Mom
M. Nagtegaal
J. Nederlof – Erens
C. Nelson
H. Nolden
A. Nolden
N. Nolden
J. Nolden
R. Nolden
C. Nolden
L. Nolden
M. Nolden
L. Nolden
A. van Norde
P. Offermans
D.P.J. Oostveen
J.P. Oostveen
J.J. van Peperstraten
M. Pijnenburg
M. Polkowski
M.B. Pronk
E.M. Raats
J. Rademaker
L.C.C. Reuser
A.F.M. Scheerboom
C. Scholten
H.D.L.M. Schruer
L. Schruer
P.M. Schruer – Zoetmulder
H.W. Schulkes
M. Semere
E.M. Slegers
P. Somerwil
T. Spee – van Heijster
I. Spijker
N. Stienstra
A. Spijker-Huiges
S. Steijaert
J. Strengholt
M.I.M. Terlaak
G. Tomicic
Toon ___
G.A. van der Toorn – Piebenga
J. Trum
W.L. Tuyl
S. Uiterwijk
C. van der Valk
J. van der Valk
A. Valstar
G.J.M. Vehof
A. Verboord
P. Verhoeven
J.G. Verhoeven – den Uijl
J. Vermeulen
S. Verschuur
W. Verswijveren
M. Viehoff
L. Vloedbeld
E.H.J. Vossenberg
M. de Vries
M. de Vries
M.J. Webster
W.J.M. Webster – van Gool
R. Weerdenburg
H. Westerveld
J.P. Winkels
A.J.A. de Wit
M. de Witt
M. Wolterink
F. Wouters
E. Wouterse
H.K.M.G. van Zandwijk – Bruin
P. van Zoest

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
Secretary

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

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Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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