Three days ago, I wrote about a planned protest by victims of sexual abuse during or at the Mass that several Dutch bishops would be celebrating in memory of Blessed Pope John Paul II. That Mass took place yesterday, and while there was a small and silent protest outside Hengelo’s Basilica of St. Lambert, no interruption of the Mass took place. Actually, quite the contrary of such a misplaced and ineffective protest happened.
Via the local parish council Archbishop Eijk extended an invitation to the group, to meet with him over a cup of coffee after the Mass. This is the first widely-reported meeting of victims with one or more bishops (although, it must be said, several bishops have met with victims in private over the past months). The invitation was enthusiastically accepted by Mr. Frank Oude Geerdink, who had organised the protest.
To local newspaper Tubantia, Archbishop Eijk said,”When victims come forward, bishops and superiors of orders and congregations will enter into the conversation.” Yesterday, he showed that these are not mere words. Yesterday’s meeting was an initial one, but the archbishop invited Mr. Oude Geerdink also for a follow-up.
In the end, Catholics must come together to resolve the abuse crisis. This is a very encouraging first step.
It is the first year after the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and while a Blessed’s feast day is normally limited to those places where he or she was active (in this case, the city of Rome and the country of Poland), special dispensation has been given for every diocese in the world to organise one celebration in this first year. The Dutch bishops have chosen this weekend, 32 years on the day after Blessed Pope John Paul II called a special Synod on the Church on the Netherlands, for this celebration to take place.
The most high-profile Mass for the Blessed Pope will be the one in the Basilica of Saint Lambert in Hengelo, Archdiocese of Utrecht, which will be televised. Cardinal-designate Wim Eijk is the main celebrant, and most other bishops are to concelebrate.
But in this time, when the clouds of the abuse crisis still hang over us, a potential blemish has appeared. Mr. Frank Oude Geerdink, who was abused by a priest, has called for other victims to gather at the Basilica and stage a ‘silent protest’ in the presence of the bishops. Now, just like previous protests we’ve seen in the past years, this is completely misplaced. Mass is not the place for protest, since it is not primarily about policy or whatever passes between people. In essence, when a protest is staged at a Mass, the chief means by which we receive healing and reconciliation, and which belongs to God, is hijacked to merely make a point. This protest, which has trouble getting of the ground, by the way, is a protest against the lack of response from the bishops to the abuse committed by the Church. Now, the entire premise is wrong (the abuse is not committed by the Church, but by individuals) and the protesters must have missed the Deetman report and the initial reactions to it from the bishops and the religious superiors. While there is still more that needs doing for the victims the premise that the bishops stayed silent simply can not be upheld. Maybe that is the reason why, so far, only six people have signed up to join Mr. Oude Geerdink.
Two hopes, then; that the bishops continue working for the good of all the victims of sexual abuse; and that Sunday’s Mass will not be disrupted. That will simply do not an ounce of good.