Stats for June 2012

Over the past months, more than 7,000 page views per month have become standard, and so it was in June, when the total reached 7,690. As ever, thank you, dear readers, for your time and attention.

Without any further ado, on to the top 10 most read blog posts! No real standouts this time.

1: Adoro te devote, two versions and a translation: 91
2: New priests (and one to offer one of his first Masses in the Extraordinary Form): 82
3: Euro 2012 is gearing up, and Father Vlaar is at it again: 78
4: Letter to the German Bishops’ Conference: 77
5: Why am I Catholic?: 71
6: Nothing new under the sun – old heresies resurface: 66
7: Het probleem Medjugorje: 58
8: Ordination days coming up: 57
9: Council survivors: 56
10: Youth and new evangelisation as Augsburg gains an auxiliary: 47

Some have already found their way to the Paypal button in the sidebar. Once again, thanks so very much for your gracious donations!

Euro 2012 is gearing up, and Father Vlaar is at it again

As Dutch fans are getting ready for the first match of their national team at the Euro 2012 football championship tonight, Father Paul Vlaar, formerly of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam and currently of the Military Ordinariate of the Netherlands, announces his plans to organise once again a ‘football Mass’, this time on 17 June, and again in Obdam, where he still assists on the weekends. The choir will be dressed in orange, the colour of the Dutch football team, and parishioners are also asked to come in ‘appropriate dress´, which will, undoubtedly, be totally inappropriate for a celebration of Mass.

The last time Fr. Vlaar did something similar, during the 2010 World Cup, he was temporarily relieved of his duties in the parish and sent on a retreat to reflect. Now, it seems, he has learned preciously little.

Bishop Jos Punt has said that he is aware of the plans, but wants to collect some more information before issuing a response. The bishop is also apostolic administrator of the military ordinariate and as such remains Fr. Vlaar’s bishop. Thursday last he installed Fr. Vlaar in the ordinariate, at which occasion the bishop was not informed about any plans for an ‘orange Mass’.

Fr. Vlaar remains silent, apparently as part of an agreement with the Ministry of Defence to observe a media silence.

Holy Mass is the celebration and memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the moment when He comes nearest to us. It is dictated by the Lord Himself, as a reflection of the divine liturgy as reflected in the rich liturgical tradition of the Church, and not by the priorities of people. The celebration of a football competition has other suitable times and places. Our Lord’s sacrifice can not be made subservient to something trivial like this. If it is, Mass becomes a celebration of nothing more than people and community, of how nice it is to be together, to cheer our team on and have a jolly good time.

Fr. Paul Vlaar to leave diocese to join the navy

Father Paul Vlaar – in the news during the World Football Championships of 2010 because he celebrated a football-themed all-orange Mass (which led to a two-month suspension) – will be leaving the parish of Saint Victor in Obdam. He asked permission from Bishop Jos Punt to join the Military Ordinariate of the Netherlands and work as a chaplain for the Royal Dutch Navy. The bishop, who is also Apostolic Administrator of the Ordinariate, granted that permission this week, the diocese reports.

It would seem that the initiative to take this step after more than 8 years at St. Victor was taken by Fr. Vlaar himself. He says that he is looking forward to a new challenge.

The Military Ordinariate of the Netherlands, ministering to Catholics in the Navy, Army and Air Force, was created as a vicariate in 1957 and elevated to an ordinariate in 1986. Cardinals Alfrink (1957-1975 and Willebrands (1975-1982) were the first two military vicars of the Netherlands, after which Bishop Ronald Bär (from 1986 as military ordinary) took over in 1982. The ordinariate was vacant from 1993 to 1995, after which Bishop was appointed as apostolic administrator.There does not seem to be a website for the ordinariate, but Catholic Hierarchy tells us that in 2003 there were a total of 6 priests and 11 permanent deacons incardinated in it.

Photo credit: Noordhollands Dagblad

2010: an overview

On the last day of the first year of this blog’s existence, I think it’s nice to do what everyone and their dog is doing: offering an overview of the year gone by. I’ll present the ten most popular blog posts by page view, much like the monthly stats I’ve been sharing here (December’s statistics will follow tomorrow, once December is actually over).

It is clear that a blogger can’t do without a network. The top-scoring posts have reached so many viewers not only because of their topics, but to a large extent thanks to people who have linked to them. And to be honest, it is something of a feather in one’s cap if a noted blogger like Fr. Tim shares something one has written.

So, without any further ado, here’s my list:

1: Pornography or art? (17,630 views). A link from a Polish news-gathering website to this post about alleged pornography found on Belgian Cardinal Danneels’ computer (seized during the illegal police raid on his home) resulted in the largest peak in visitors this blog has yet seen. It also resulted in some discussion, here and on Twitter, about the photo itself. Some did not consider it disturbing in itself, but I maintained that the that, since it can apparently so easily be considered child pornography, there is something rotten going on regardless.

2: What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam? (1,153 views). A news item that made headlines in Catholic blogs and news sites across the world, and which led to serious discussion on my blog as well. It was one of the first times that I decided to call for specific action in my blog, suggesting people contact Father Paul Vlaar and/or Bishop Jos Punt to relate their concerns. Many people, among them parishioners from Obdam chimed in in support of Fr. Vlaar, but many others tried to clearly express why a football Mass, no matter how much fun it is, has no place in the Catholic Church.

3: “The Belgian Church has been too passive” (1,022 views). Thanks to a link from Father Tim Finigan, my translation of an old interview with the new archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Msgr. André-Joseph Léonard, gave my blog the first considerable peak in visitor traffic. Archbishop Léonard has continued to be a considerable presence in the blog throughout the year, certainly not least due to the abuse crisis, which continues to hit Belgium particularly hard.

4: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (975 views). Another translated interview, this with Msgr. Georg Gänswein about Pope Benedict XVI. Msgr. Gänswein’s popularity can be considered the main reason for this post’s popularity,but perhaps many readers also wish to know about the man in white. And who better to tell them that than the Holy Father’s personal secretary?

5: A diocesan statement about Fr. Paul Vlaar (859 views). Continuing the saga surrounding Obdam and Fr. Vlaar’s football Mass, the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam released an official statement in a very bad English translation. I re-translated the short piece, which was once more quite seriously covered across the world (the statement itself, not my translation).

6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (606 views). My first serious translation – of Msgr. Guido Marini’s address at the Clergy Conference in Rome – garnered much attention. A summarised version was published in the bulletin of the Dutch Latin Liturgy Society, and of all of my translations this has been the most popular. Not too shabby for a blog which is pretty much all in English.

7: In memoriam: Bishop Tadeusz Ploski (574 views). The tragedy of the plane crash that killed much of Poland’s government and military officials led me to write something about on of the clergymen killed. Many people, from Poland and elsewhere, found their way to that post via search engines. A blog post, therefore, that seemingly fulfilled a need for many.

8: Het probleem Medjugorje (486 views). My translation of an interview with Fr. Manfred Hauke, expert on apparitions and the Blessed Virgin, about the dubious events that led to the popular pilgrimage to Medjugorje, led not only to a considerable number of views, but also discussion. It is a topic that many people feel passionate about, and like the abuse crisis and the form of liturgy, it is often hard to have a balanced discussion about it. And, I admit, perhaps I was a bit in over my head as well when sharing this topic. A blogger, after all, has some responsibility to write about what he knows.

9: Under the Roman Sky (366 views). A very short post with the trailer to a film about the Holocaust in Rome and the role of Pope Pius XII in that. I still need to see it, by the way, and many others are interested as well, it seems. The false accusations that Venerable Pius XII was a Nazi collaborator are very persistent, and I still hope that this film can, in some small way, help to dispel those rumours.

10: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (320 views). A report of some personal experiences of mine, when I visited St. Agnes’ church in Amsterdam for a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, presided over by Archbishop François Bacqué, the nuncio to the Netherlands. An event that is still remarkable enough that it triggered some considerable attention. The website of the FSSP-run St. Agnes linked to my post, and they may be thanked as well for the traffic it received.

All in all, this first year has not at all been bad for my blog. Of course, there is always the pressure of time, especially now that I have a job as a teacher and a girlfriend to devote time to. For 2011, I hope to continue posting regularly about the things that happen in the Catholic Church worldwide and especially in the Low Countries.

For now, I wish all my readers

A VERY BLESSED NEW YEAR!

The return of Fr. Paul Vlaar

Father Paul Vlaar will return to the parish in Obdam on 19 September. This marks the end of two-month dispensation following his much-criticised Orange Mass. He has spent four weeks at the abbey in Egmond, in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the same diocese where he also works. Thursday he left as a pilgrim for Lourdes, and he will offer his first Mass in Obdam on the aforementioned 19 September.

Of the past two months, Fr. Vlaar himself says: “I felt seriously punished and I was very recalcitrant. I was at a loose end. […] I had promised improvement to the bishop before. But I broke that promise with the ‘orange Mass’. A response from the bishop was only a matter of time.”

A hopeful comment on the whole situation, which, after all, must have been difficult for Fr. Vlaar just as much as it was for other parties involved.The issues raised following the orange Mass were of various natures, but there were all serious concerns, chiefly when it comes to liturgy and pastoral care. Both of these influence one another as well: liturgy is also a form of pastoral care, since a priest leads his congregation to God by means of the liturgy.

Let’s hope and pray that the reflection of the past two months and the influence of abbey and Lourdes will support Fr. Vlaar in his future ministry.

Source

Stats for July 2010

Time for another look at the statistics of the previous month. When it comes to numbers, July has been very unusual. The number of visitors since the start of January has reached 46, 041, and more than half of those visited this month. July has seen 23,789 visits. The top 10 of most popular blog posts shows a very clear winner: the topic of the contents of Cardinal Danneels’ computer, which was linked from a Polish news site.

The news about the orange Mass in Obdam, which made international headlines, also increased the number of visits. Various international Catholic news websites linked to my blog for that. The new auxiliary bishops in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and the upcoming papal visit to England and Scotland were also moderately popular.

1: Pornography or art?: 17,415 visits
2: What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam?: 1,105
3: A diocesan statement about Fr. Paul Vlaar: 799
4: Mottos and titular sees: 108
5: Some facts about the Turin shroud: 102
6: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced: 99
7: Introductie op de geest van de liturgie – onofficiële vertaling: 78
8: Back from Bootcamp: 75
9: Closing the discussion: 64
10: The nature of the Church: 59

Transmitting the reality of faith

It doesn’t seem that I missed a whole lot in my week-long absence from the Internet, at least not when it comes to Catholic news in the Netherlands. Everyone still seems upset with the whole Fr. Vlaar business, even though the measures taken by Bishop Punt seem clear: a month at a convent or abbey, followed by another month doing some other work, before the question of Fr. Vlaar’s return to Obdam becomes an issue again.

The media devote much time and space to the issue (something reflected in a fairly consistent increase in the page views of my blog, too).  The Protestant newspaper ‘Reformatorisch Dagblad’ publishes an interview with various people about the  question of why things have gone so far as we have seen in Obdam (and which we also see elsewhere). One of those people in Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The interviewer asked him about a point raised in the bishop’s (clumsily translated) letter to the faithful in his diocese: “Frankly speaking I was very surprised and disappointed that the faithful do not spontaneously apprehend/understand that this goes way too far.”

Bishop Punt elucidates:

“In my opinion it is connected to the secularisation which has taken place in the past decades in the Netherlands. We have placed ourselves and our needs and desires in the centre of attention. God has become at most a function of ourselves. What does He mean to me? What do I get out of faith? If He is able to increase our happiness, we are willing to let Him into our lives. But if not, we part ways.

“That God is alive and that we were created in His image and owe our existence to Him, that awareness has strongly weakened. Apparently the Church failed in her duty to raise people in the truths of the faith [I’ll say…]. This makes it pertinent for us to find new ways to bring the reality of God and His purpose with our lives powerfully to people’s attention. They no longer know who He is. They don’t know Him anymore. They have lost sight of Him.”

Like any society, the Dutch one is pluriform. There are generalities, but the individualistic nature of modern western society has enlarged the individuality that is already present in modern man; their unique person, their customs, habits and priorities. To generalise will therefore never do complete justice to the situation. However, I do believe Bishop Punt is correct when he makes the above sweeping statements about the Church in the Netherlands.

In a recent discussion in the chat room at SQPN.com, Fr. Roderick Vonhögen explained about the situation in the Netherlands regarding liturgical abuses. A mainly international audience such as the one at SQPN, while undoubtedly aware of abuses, generally has no full sense of the extent of the problem. Fr. Roderick said that the situation is 100 times worse than it is in the United States, and I don’t think he is wrong.

Bishop Punt’s raising of new ways to educate people is indeed pertinent. At the moment the Church does not succeed in that. Existing methods gather to a minority of existing Catholics and are invisible beyond the Church. Faith education must be lifelong (since we never stop learning and growing closer to (or further away from) God), thorough, consistent and suited to modern society and modern people. That does not mean denying the truths of the faith in order to achieve that. But truths that are at right angles to modern life must be stated forcefully, not softly whispered.

In that context, the above statements from the bishop are a start. A good start, perhaps, but just a start nonetheless.

Closing the discussion

I have decided to stop the possibility of commenting on my blog post about the Orange Mass and Fr. Paul Vlaar. Not because I want to prevent discussion, but because the discussion there is going round in circles. Discussions have a beginning and an end, and this has reached the latter. Everything that can be said about the case has been said, repeatedly, in the comments. I thank everyone for commenting and thinking about the situation (and doing so in a civil way), and I hope that some may have taken away some new knowledge and awareness.

With my post about Fr. Vlaar I initially wanted to suggest some way for people to do something with their concerns. I also wanted to explain why there was so much opposition, both nationally and internationally. Whether I succeeded is another matter.

I certainly never wanted to attack Fr. Vlaar personally. I don’t know the man outside of media reports, and so I have to go on what I see and hear about him. And he has also made a good impression when it comes to the pastoral care for his parish. That is an important part of a priest’s life, and not every priest succeeds in that.

But, as a Catholic who believes it is every christian’s task to defend God and the faith He has given use, my main concern lies with Him. His sacrifice on the Cross, which becomes reality at every single Mass we attend, is the source and summit of our faith. Our faith springs from it and reaches its perfect expression in it. Nothing can take the place of that sacrifice, and in the actual presence of Christ there are certain ways in which we can and cannot behave. That is not a limitation for us, but a freedom for Him to work in us. Our hearts must be open, and for that we must be aware of Christ among us; in the people around us, certainly, but foremost in the bread and wine on the altar and in the tabernacle. When there is a conscious effort to draw our attention away from Him during the Mass (which is all about Him), that must be opposed.

But that opposition must happen according to the golden rule that someone in the comments on my first post on this mentioned: “Do unto others what you have others do unto you.” That means we should first address our concerns to the persons involved, in this case, Father Vlaar, and an open, civil, pastoral way. The bishop is a second step. And I admit, I made a mistake by initially suggesting people run to the bishop immediately.

For now, the discussion about Obdam, Father Vlaar, football and so on, is closed here. Let us keep the faithful of Obdam, Fr. Paul Vlaar and everyone touched by this in our prayers. The Holy Spirit has ways to make something good out of what seems to be a very bad situation. Let’s trust in Him.

PS: A second reason for wrapping the discussion up now, is that I’ll be away for all of next week. Since I’ve already seen civil discussions in blogs spiral out of control and get very ugly indeed when I was away for a while, I’d rather see this finished now.

A diocesan statement about Fr. Paul Vlaar

The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam has published a statement regarding Father Paul Vlaar and his World Cup Mass, about which I wrote a few days ago. Here is my translation:

On Sunday 11 July, Pastor Paul Vlaar of Obdam celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the spirit of the Football World Cup, wearing an orange chasuble, and did insufficient justice, in text and form, to the sanctity of the Eucharist. The footage of this has caused indignation among faithful here and abroad.

In the past the bishop had impressed upon Fr Vlaar not to mix the Holy Eucharist with profane events. The pastor has said to fully support this and promised to abide. The pastor’s pastoral zeal and commitment are not under discussion.

Following this new incident the bishop again met with Fr. Vlaar, imposed an immediate time of reflection on him and relieved him of his priestly duties for the time being. Things will once again be considered at a later date.

The situation created by the ‘orange Mass’ was a difficult and painful one for many people. The comments in my blog reflected that. I am glad to see that Bishop Punt made the best decision at this time. Change must ideally not be imposed from Rome, but must come from the person in question. A time of reflection allows for that.

Let’s keep Fr. Vlaar in our prayers, that his time of reflection may be fruitful.

What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam?

Many will have heard or read about the so-called ‘World Cup Mass’ that Fr. Paul Vlaar of the parish of St. Victor in Obdam celebrated. It’s been doing the rounds for the past few days, both nationally and internationally, so I think it’s good to pay attention to it in my blog as well. With the priest dressed in an orange chasuble, and the church adorned with footballs, goals and orange banners, the Mass was a celebration of football, which is of course not only ridiculous, but also blasphemous. The Mass is the actualisation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the Eucharist  source and summit of our faith.

The footage is below. It may be shocking in its blatant display of sacrilege.

Understandably, such nonsense puts the Church in the Netherlands, which doesn’t have a very good reputation anyway, in a bad light. As is often the case, the efforts of many good priests can be undone by the work of one bad priest. The comments on the post that the American Papist devoted to it speak for themselves. And there is room for a whole lot of improvement in the Netherlands, but the only thing that I want to add now is that these ‘Mass’ is not representative for the vast majority of parishes. Thank God it is not.

Is there something we can do to try and stop such blasphemy in the future? I think there is. If it is improvement we ask for, dialogue and debate online is not enough. That serves well to bring things to people’s attention, but ultimately it is the people in charge who need to implement changes.

The parish in Obdam, where this took place, is part of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the ordinary of which is Msgr. Jozef Punt. I suggest writing him a formal and polite letter, explaining what you have seen and think about it. Explain your concerns and the reasons for it, but do not try and tell the bishop what he should do. That’s his decision, and for all we know he may well be aware of this and is already working on it. The fact that we don’t know if he is, says nothing.

You can contact the bishop at this address: Nieuwe Gracht 80, 2011 NJ, Haarlem. Be polite but clear, write in Dutch if you can, and keep the letter as short as possible (a bishop has more to do than read long letters).

If we want to do something about the ignorance about and blatant disrespect for the Lord that still occurs too often in our parishes, we must do that in communion with our priests and bishops. I know Bishop Punt slightly, and in my opinion he won’t just brush your concerns aside. But it is he, not us, who will decide what will be done, and that’s important to remember.

EDIT: Credit where credit’s due: the idea for this post was inspired by my friend Ismael.

EDIT 2: Some more thought later, I think it is also good to remain open for dialogue with Fr. Vlaar and his parish, especially since other Dutch bloggers picked up my post and have offered advice. So if you want to contact Father Paul Vlaar about this, I suggest the very same things as I did for a letter to the bishop. Be clear, polite and not excessively longwinded, and write in Dutch if at all possible. The website of the parish has a contact form that you can use, but there is also an address on the site: St. Victorparochie, Dorpsstraat 149, 1713 HE, Obdam.

Should Fr. Vlaar himself come across this post, he is welcome to respond, of course, in Dutch or English. For the sake of consistency, I keep this blog in English as much as possible, but I have been known to speak Dutch too.