A long expected appointment

Bishop elect Jan Hendriks in the courtyard of the Tiltenberg seminary

Earlier today, several news channels broke the news that Msgr. Dr. Johannes Willibrordus Maria (Jan for short) Hendriks has been appointed as the new auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Katholiek Nieuwsblad and Rorate both published the appointment about 90 minutes before the usual embargo was lifted at noon. Katholiek Nieuwsblad evidently realised their error and retracted the news item, before republishing it at the proper time.

The appointment comes as virtually no surprise. The name of Hendriks widely circulated when Rotterdam became vacant earlier this year, and some also mentioned him for Breda, which remains vacant still. Msgr. Hendriks is a priest of the Diocese of Rotterdam, although he has been working in the neighbouring Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam for years, most recently as rector of the Tiltenberg seminary, canon of the cathedral chapter, and canon lawyer for the legal court of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Since 2004, he has also been a consultor for the Congregation for the Clergy.

The bishop elect is a productive author, having written books and articles about such topics as canon law, the Blessed Virgin, celibacy, Vatican II and education, and various others.

The new auxiliary bishop succeeds Bishop Jan van Burgsteden, whose retirement was approved at the same time at Msgr. Hendriks’ appointment. The amiable and much-loved Van Burgsteden has been auxiliary bishop since 2000, and turned 75 in December. Despite his age, he travelled down to Madrid for August’s World Youth Days and would probably be able to function a while longer as auxiliary.

As auxiliary bishop, Msgr. Hendriks will hold the titular see of Arsacal, located in modern Algeria. The date of his consecration is announced as 10 December, but whether or not it can take place in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Bavo, which is undergoing extensive restorations, remains to be seen.

As motto, the bishop elect chose a quote from the Gospel of John: “Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite” (“Do whatever He tells you”).

And lastly for now, fittingly for an active Facebook user, Msgr. Hendriks releases his first statement via that medium: “Today it’s been announced that I have been appointed as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, with Arsacal as titular see. Heartfelt thanks to all who pray for me and wished me well.”

The bishop, clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam have received a kindhearted and intelligent auxiliary bishop and vicar general who will undoubtedly prove to be an able shepherd for the Church.

Photo credit: RKK

Reunion and hopeful signs

Yesterday I attended a reunion of the Amigos en Cristo group, six weeks after our return from Spain.  The afternoon’s program was a varied one,including workshops, a period of Adoration, lunch and a simple dinner and of course ample opportunity to catch up with the friends made on the way to and in Spain.

For me, one of the most inspiring moments took place during a group presentation in which a representative of each of the nine subgroups presented some items that the members of the group would like to see developed in the coming youth platform season. From several groups, it became clear that there is a strong desire for clear and accessible Catholic information on the Internet; not just about upcoming events (although the use of Facebook for that purpose certainly took an enormous flight since the World Youth Days) but certainly also about faith and Church. Many young people want better and more catechesis about their faith, and they see a clear role for the Internet in that respect. Listening to the wishes, suggestions and embryonic plans to develop such things got me very enthusiastic.

The existing online Catholic youth platforms may be developed to include catechesis resources from all kinds of other, explanations about Catholic teaching, current events from a Catholic point of view and such things as the liturgy, the rituals, prayer life, the hierarchy and such. There is a desire for that. And the future of the Church in the Netherlands needs to see such desires fulfilled.

Coming home to 100,000 visitors

Well, Yesterday I returned home from the World Youth Days in Madrid. It has been a pilgrimage which I could not have prepared for. Of course, the practicalities are easy to prepare, but over the course of the last two weeks there have been both physical and mental discomforts, moments of joy, emotion and new social contacts which I simply could not have taken into account before leaving. That is not to say that the journey was ill-prepared or negative – it wasn’t. But it was different, tougher, more intense than I expected.

At the moment, I am going through all the photos I took and the new social contacts I made (which translate into new Facebook friends and Twitter followers), which means that regular blogging will commence at some unspecified future time. Maybe tomorrow or, with any luck, later today.

I was happily encouraged to recommence blogging yesterday when I found that my return home coincided with the 100,000th visitor to these pages. Whoever it was, thank you for visiting. I hope that you and all those others who find their way here, find some use for what I write.

Blog shutting down. Temporarily, that is.

From now until no earlier than Tuesday 23 August, this blog will be closed.

I will be in Spain for the World Youth Day, spending a few days in Zaragoza and later in Madrid. Although this edition of the WYD is well-covered in social media, I made the decision to go silent for the duration. The reason for that is twofold. One, I simply lack the equipment necessary to continue blogging, tweeting and facebooking while not at home. And two, there are a few things I want to focus on while in Spain. I want to listen and learn, to be quiet and pray, to celebrate my faith, and to do so with the people I am with, not least among them my girlfriend. This is going to be our celebration, contemplation, adventure.

Perhaps I’ll meet some of you in Spain (don’t hesitate to come over and say hi), but in the mean time, stay safe.

God bless.

Bootcamp program unfolds

With the release of the new website the Credimus Bootcamp program is fleshed out a bit more. Announcements of speakers have been published on Twitter and Facebook before, but are now gathered online on the site which also offers practical information and a rousing invitation to sign up and join the bootcamp for its fourth installment:

Do you like good conversation while enjoying a good Trappist beer, but the silence that grabs you by the throat in an old church?

Are you curious about the tradition that is the foundation beneath the culture of which you are a part every day?

Do you want to take a peek at the power which keeps everyone and everything in existence for every second of every minute?

Then you are probably CATHOLIC (or you really need to become one).

Deacon van Grinsven

Three priests and a deacon have been confirmed to speak under the banner of this year’s topic: Shepherds. Father David van Dijk, who also hosts, will speak about the eleven popes from Pius IX onwards; Deacon John van Grinsven will discuss his work with homeless people, founded in the Gospel; Fathers Marcel Dorssers and Floris Bunschoten will speak on topics that are yet to be announced. Fathers van Dijk and Dorssers wil join the bootcamp for the fourth and third time respectively.

Father Bunschoten celebrates Mass in both forms, and he has been training priests and seminarians in the Extraordinary Form at the Tiltenberg seminary. I expect he will also offer Mass in that form at bootcamp. There will also be Masses in the ordinary form, offered by Father van Dijk and other priests.

The Credimus Bootcamp will take place from 16 to 22 July, and will cost 90 euros to attend (or less if you plan to visit for less than the full week).

The church of St. Mary Magdalen as seen from the garden of the parish house.

Bishop of Ghent twitters for new faithful

Below is a translation I made upon request for SQPN, about the tentative first steps of the Diocese of Ghent into the ‘digital continent’. The original Dutch text is here.

It’s a positive development, although still on a small scale. Dioceses and movement on Facebook and Twitter are a great opportunity to evangelise and break through the dictatorship of relativism that prevails there. Hopefully, these efforts can soon expand to be fully effective.

Anyway, the text:

GHENT – Twittering with the bishop of Ghent, or becoming a friend of the diocese on Facebook? That should be no problem, Bishop Luc Van Looy himself thinks: “Starting in October, the Diocese of Ghent, as the first in our country, will start experimenting professionally with new media.”

“That’s actually what we’ve been doing for 2,000 years,” Van Looy says. “And also more recent. When I was a missionary I used slides and 12mm films when those weren’t standard yet in schools here.”

But even though the Church was fairly quick at discovering the Internet – the Vatican very soon had a well-developed website – the recent digital developments have somewhat passed her by, Van Looy admits. “There are individuals in the Church who are working with it. But now we want to let our voice be heard as a diocese in these digital meeting places.

On Facebook alone, there are as many users as the population of an entire continent, the diocese points out. “The Church has always had the tradition of going to these people, but we are barely present in the digital community that is Facebook. But there are millions of people there. Especially young people, who we can engage there in their own language.”

According to Van Looy, the diocese does not intend to simply win souls on social network sites such as Facebook, Netlog or Twitter. “That is not how it works. But there are a lot of people there who are curious and interested in what we have to offer as Church. We can reach out to them dynamically. Creating our own Facebook page and post messages there and enter into dialogue: why not? And why not Twitter during and about, for example, Lent?”

Some thoughts on same-sex marriage

On Facebook I joined a little group with the catchy title I bet I can find 1,000,000 people AGAINST same sex marriage! The accuracy of that claim is doubtful of course (the group has some 1,600 members as of the time of writing), but it was created in response to a group with a similar title that was in favour of same-sex marriage. A classic case of sloganeering, I would say.

Anyway, the identity of the group being what it may, I nonetheless joined it and that caused two people to ask me why I am against same-sex marriage. A valid question about a very unpopular position to take, and reason to explain a bit more in this blog. I intend to put the question in a slightly larger framework. I want to take a look at what marriage is and if that idea is in agreement with the modern concept of marriage. To find an answer I want to use my own thoughts about it, obviously, and also some Catholic resources. Yes, I am a Catholic and I support the Catholic ideas about marriage. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉

What is marriage?

The Code of Canon Law tells us this: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” [Can. 1055 § 1]

There is a lot of information in these four lines. First of all, marriage is a covenant, a mutual agreement or contract, so to speak. It also involves a man and a woman who establish this agreement between themselves. Marriage is ordered to the good of the spouses, so they will benefit from it, and it will naturally include children and their education. Furthermore, although a human agreement, Christ has raised it to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. I’ll come back to marriage being a sacrament, but going over these requirement we get a pretty clear picture.

We need a man and a woman who want to be married. Marriage can not be forced. The spouses must not be opposed to having children, because that would take away one of the defining elements of marriage. The inability to conceive or carry a child to term is different, of course, but I won’t go into that here.

The natural order which is alluded to in the above quote from the Code of Canon Law can be described as an order or set of laws which are innate to nature or creation. They were not later enforced on nature, but are a part of it. Of course, like nature, natural law finds its source in God, but He did not create it separately. The natural order becomes visible in the daily tendencies of nature: animals behave in a certain way, plants develop along certain lines in certain circumstances. In humans, and when applied to marriage, we see the natural order in the sexes. Man and woman complement each other, physically but also spiritually: ” This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” [Gen. 2, 23] and “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh” [Gen. 2, 24] (emphasis mine).

Marriage as a sacrament

 Marriage is also a sacrament. What does that mean? Wikipedia tells us that a sacrament is an “outward sign that conveys spiritual grace through Christ.” I have personally heard it defined as “a sign that achieves what it symbolises.” For example, the sacrament of Baptism uses the symbol of flowing water to indicate that we are cleansed from our sins and therefore it achieves that cleansing. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are symbols of the Body and Blood of Christ and therefore they are the Body and Blood of Christ (but I won’t go into an analysis of the transubstantiation here).

The sacrament of marriage is executed by the spouses themselves (the priest serves as a witness to validate the covenant made). Through the symbols of the rings, for example, the contract is signed and that contract must then be consummated to make it binding. All very official, but that is a summary of this particular sacrament. It is clearly a true and binding contract if the requirements are all met. These requirements are indicated in Holy Scripture and communicated through Tradition. I have already some examples in the quotations above, but there are many more.

Although it is an act of free will from the spouses and they have full control over the closing of the covenant of marriage, it is a covenant made before God. He validates it through His witnesses (the priest and others). The concept of marriage is not human-made, although the execution, to a large extent, is.

Modern views of marriage

Modern society in the west obviously values marriage. Many people get married, and I read recently that an increasing number of people actually get married in churches again. So the idea of marriage as something more than a mere agreement is still present, but I am afraid it is present as a vague sense and not as a well-defined idea. In my opinion, a large number of people get married (if they get married at all) because it is expected of them, or they feel it would make for the most beautiful day of their life, or other reasons. But there is no clear sense of marriage as a covenant made before God, a concept created by Him and so outside of our decisive influence: we can’t change what marriage is, simply because we didn’t create it in the first place.

Marriage, for many people, is an agreement between two people who want to share their lives together. They love each other, they are compatible and they want to grow old together, and these are all very lofty sentiments. But the enormous increase in divorces over the past decades would seem to indicate that there is no longer a clear sense of ‘marriage is forever’. It is a covenant that can not be broken. Marriage is also no longer always by definition good for the spouses, or ordered towards having children. The idea of what marriage is has changed from the definition I outlined above.

Same-sex marriage, the sensible idea?

Taking modern society’s ideas of marriage, there is no problem for two men to get married, or two men. For them, too, it is an agreement between two people who love and each other and want to grow old together. But is that marriage? I would say no. Marriage is much more than that and, like I said, the sacrament has certain requirements that spouses need to fulfill in order for it to be a marriage.

You could argue that we then just need to change the definition of marriage, but, like I said, we can’t since we didn’t create it. It’s as impossible as changing the force of gravity or switching off the sun. Since same-sex marriage can never be marriage according to its basic definition, we shouldn’t call it such. In fact, a lot of marriages between men and women aren’t marriages anymore, for the same reasons.

I have heard people claim that the “homosexual lobby stole our sacrament!” An insensitive comment in these words, to be sure, but one with a core of truth. The old Christian concept of marriage has, over the years, been adopted and changed by an increasingly secular society. This has been a relatively gradual process and at its root lies a lack of knowledge and education for which the Church is just as much to blame as any ‘secular lobby’ you’d care to mention.

Conclusion

Why am I against same-sex marriage? Well, I think I’ve clarified it a bit: it is not marriage according to its original definition. The sacraments are means by which God communicates His grace to us. We don’t need all sacraments (some, such as marriage and Holy Orders, exclude each other), but we need the ones we do receive in their totality. We can’t choose the bits and pieces of the sacraments that we like. If two people wish to share a life together before God, they’ll get married in the fullness of that sacrament. If two people wish to share a life together just because they want and God is not included in the decision, they do not get married.

The natural order, which I mentioned above, also plays a part in this, of course. I won’t go into too much detail (this post is long enough as it is), but there is serious problem with anything that is not in agreement with this natural order. Issues like abortion, euthanasia and, indeed, homosexuality are not in agreement with the natural order and should be handled with care, so to speak.

Does that mean that I, or the Church, hate homosexuals? Not in the least. It was Gandhi who told us to love the sinner, but hate the sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it better than I can, and I’ll close this post with this (emphases mine):

2357: Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358: The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359: Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

For continued reading: Persona Humana, declaration on certain questions concerning sexual ethics, published in 1975 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may be interesting.

I realise this is a sensitive and emotional topic and that is why I want to stress that everyone is welcome to reply as long as they do not descend into personal attacks or impolite shouting. Debate is a good thing, but requires more than just emotion.

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…

Why Belgium needs Msgr. Léonard

Belgian Priest Fr. Pieter Delanoy shows why Bishop Léonard is the best choice for the archdiocese of Mechlin-Brussels, although he does not intend to do so.

In VRT News he explains why he started a Facebook group against the rumoured appointment and what he thinks the problem is. His comments are in Dutch, but here are some snippets translated into English.

Fr. Delanoy: “There were a lot of people, a lot of young people, who immediately reacted, “How can I now tell friends I believe, that I go to Church. How is it possible that when we know that things work in different ways, modern ways, that someone with such a profile apparently becomes archbishop.””

Presenter: “He really only says what the pope is saying, no more, no less.”

Fr. Delanoy: “Yes, but we think those should be implemented pastorally. That is totally different than saying, “These are the position of Rome, so we stop talking to a lot of people. So, people who are divorced, people who…”

Presenter: “Homosexuals.”

Fr. Delanoy:  “Homosexuals. Women. We stop talking to them, because they are shoved aside.”

I don’t know where Fr. Delanoy had his education, but it sounds like it was seriously lacking. Where does he get the idea that Catholics can’t talk to women, divorced people, homosexuals? Disapproving of a practice is not at all the same as disapproving of people. That’s basic knowledge.

It’s interesting to see that he does not disagree with what the pope says, but refuses to implement those statements. Equally interesting, in a sad way, is that Fr. Delanoy seems to think that dogmatic teachings are nothing more than opinions or standpoints. This is a priest of the Catholic Church who is ignorant of the position he has in the Church and even what that Church is.

And in all this, I haven’t even mentioned the blatant disrespect he shows to his superior and spiritual father. Or his lack of a Roman collar.

That is why Belgium needs Msgr. Léonard: for well-educated priests who know the faith and are not afraid to defend it.

A plea for beer

From a friend on Facebook I get the request to write about beer.

Not a problem, of course. The beer in question is called ‘La Trappe Isid’or’ and is brewed by the trappist monks at Koningshoeven Abbey on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the abbey’s brewery.

Abbot Bernardus writes about the beer and its purpose in his blog, and I translate.

In his rule, St. Benedict emphasises that the abbot should always listen to the advice of his brothers. “Do everything in good counsel, and you will not regret it later” is the good advice that he gives the abbot. Via this weblog I would like to extend the circle of brothers and invite you to give me good counsel.

For our community, 2009 was the year of the establishment of a new monastery in Uganda and the 125th anniversary of beer brewery ‘De Koningshoeven’. Especially and exclusively for this anniversary we brewed ‘La Trappe Isid’or’, named for our first brewer, Brother Isidoor Laaber. It was decided that the revenue of the beer would be spent on the building of the monastery of our daughter community in Uganda. Ethnic struggles forced the brothers out of their abbey in Kenya and they are now still temporarily housed in Uganda. The profits of Isid’or was a nice 100,000 euros! At the moment, the last bottles are taken out of our warehouse. The end of the jubilee year is the end of the jubilee beer.
But the market now calls for keeping the Isid’or in our assortment. The brewery’s directors have asked me to seriously consider this. The decision is difficult, because we already have a fair number of beers (Blond, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel, Witte Trappist and Bockbier). Another reason not to do it is that we have said that this beer would only be available during the jubilee year. What to do now? In the meantime I have listened to my brothers and they sent me back to the market. How great is the demand from the market to keep Isid’or?
And that’s the reason of this question to you, the readers of this weblog. Should Isid’or stay on the market? Yes, No, Yes, but replacing another beer. You have two weeks to responds via the links below, with a motivation if possible. I will act according to Chapter 3 of the Rule: “While listening to the brothers’ advice, he considers the case himself and does what he considers most useful.”

Via the link to the abbot’s weblog above you’ll find the option to vote for a good beer with a good purpose