Panic takes over… and all responsibility flies out the window

Sigh… sometimes you have to wonder what people are thinking, not least people who provide a professional service to the Church and the faithful. One such case erupted this afternoon, and was smothered within hours, but not before the damage was done. And the guilty party? Not just the media who should do a lot more fact checking when writing about the Church, but also the publishers of Mass booklets in the Netherlands, the Norbertine abbey of Berne.

silent_nightWe’re no longer allowed to sing Silent Night at Christmas Mass this year, they panicked. When making the Mass booklets they felt so bad about all the songs the bishops wouldn’t allow them to print anymore: the aforementioned Christmas staple, but also the songs by Huub Oosterhuis (a good thing if those were banned). And although the order came from Rome, they said, they Vatican wasn’t to blame, because the ‘fluffiest Pope evur’ surely wouldn’t allow such a nasty thing. No, the Dutch bishops had told Rome to ban the songs. Bad bishops.

frmennenWell, reality is a bit different, as Father Cor Mennen (pictured), advisor to the Nationale Raad voor Liturgie (National Liturgy Council), explains. The Mass booklets are printed according to a list of approved songs. As Bishop Jan Liesen, who holds the liturgy portfolio in the Bishops’ Conference, confirms, Silent Night and others songs may be added to the list in the future, but at this time they have not which is why they are not included in the booklets. This is a new process, as in the past every song would have to be individually approved. As Fr. Mennen says:

“With this approach we want to avoid having to discuss every individual song. Silent Night isn’t on the list yet, but the approval is, as far as I know, only a matter of time. The song is uncontroversial. Parishes arent doing anything wrong if they sing it.”

Now why on earth didn’t the publishers know this? Or rather, why did they choose such a panicky reaction, which was eagerly lapped up by the media? They really should have known better. The only thing this achieves is a bad image in the papers. Oh, look at that silly Church and those power-hungry bishops banning everything the people like… And I wouldn’t want to feed the people who now think those songs really are banned.

Pretty irresponsible behaviour, I would say.

A Catholic queen for the Netherlands?

Although it had long been expected, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands today announced that she intends to abdicate in favour of her son, who will become King William Alexander, on 30 April. Her Majesty announced so herself in a prerecorded television broadcast. And with the new king, we will also get a new queen, and she is Catholic.

máximaPrincess Máxima hails from Catholic Argentina and still seems to be practising her faith. Although she will not be head of state, she will be the first Catholic monarch in the Netherlands, member of a royal house which rose to prominence in the fight against Spanish Catholic rulers.

In reality this will not mean a whole lot. As consort of the king, Queen Máxima has no political power, nor will there be any measures that need to be taken to satisfy constitutional demands.  Those that did exist were tackled when the royal couple married in 2002.

The one question that remains is whether there will be a Catholic contribution to the investiture. Although Protestant, the royal family has for years had close personal contacts with former Catholic priest Huub Oosterhuis, who still sometimes pretends to be Catholic. But what religious form the investiture will take remains to be seen. We can, however, be sure that there will be protests at the mentioning of God in the oath that the king (“by the grace of God”) will be taking…

Photo credit: Erwin Olaf

Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps

Fr. Cor Mennen

It’s probably a good time to think about going to bed, but I just came across a piece of text which simply begs for a fisking. The text was published at Rorate, a Catholic (this is important) news collection site which has the annoying habit of not citing sources or even authors. One can only assume that they either approve or are indifferent about the text in question.

Rorate is a Dutch website, so I’ll use an translation of the text.

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Pink roses for Father Cor Mennen

OSS (RKnieuws.net) – During the traditional Mad Tuesday fair in Oss, which will be held this year on the 24th of August, five hundred pink roses will be offered to Father Cor Mennen, the Gay Krant reports this week.

Cor Mennen became known nationally as the censor of songs sung in the Roman Catholic Church. He banned many of the songs by Huub Oosterhuis, very popular among the faithful. [No, he did not. As a censor, Fr. Mennen advises. It is the bishops who act upon that advice as they please. So far they have not banned anything. Also: this is completely unrelated to the rest of the article.]

Mennen was also in the news because he went back on his own bishop, who, in Mennen’s opinion, was far too yielding during the so-called host-riot in Reusel and Den Bosch [That again? I thought that storm had abated after media-hungry protester had had their day in the sun]. Mennen called the faithful gays and their supporters [read ‘irreverent protesters’], who had come to the episcopal St. John [we call that a cathedral] with an appeal [a disgraceful and loudmouthed protest], the ‘Amsterdam gay mafia’ [with reason. It was a by-the-book setup, organised by the Gay Krant and certain politicans, abusing grievances they do not understand, or even wish to understand].

Cor Strik, organiser of Mad Tuesday, will have five hundred visitors of this fair deliver pink roses to the Grote Kerk, where Mennen is the shepherd [what’s with the stupid terms? He’s the parish priest]. Strik hopes that many people will also bring roses and pink toy animals themselves [Is this a trend? Why do the organisers of such ‘protests’ always use others to do their dirty work for them? Can’t they find enough people who really have grievances? It’s just an excuse to have a media circus. Then again, the man does organise fairs…].

“You should see this as a gesture of love [Ha!] and an invitation to Mennen to enter into dialogue with homosexuals.” [A dialogue about what? Father Mennen specifically has been very clear about what the Church believes and teaches regarding homosexuality. That won’t be changing].

In a press release, the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch [Fr. Mennen is not the diocese, or even the bishop] itself expressed the desire for such a dialogue, but despite several attempts from the Gay Krant and the COC it remains quite in the bishop’s palace. “We choose compassion [or intimidation], not an argument”, Strik tells the Gay Krant.

During the floral tribute [Oh, it’s suddenly not an attempt at enforcing ‘dialogue’?] an aubade will also be delivered to Mennen and other Church leaders [An aubade, Wikipedia tells us, is a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn, or generally involving daybreak… what?]

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Perhaps Fr. Mennen can start running a flower stand. You know, as a source of extra income. I’m sure he can find a use for some extra cash in his parish.

The ‘gay mafia’ to use but a phrase, gets clarity about the Church’s teachings, as a foundation for further dialogue. Said dialogue is supposed to be with the diocese. Despite silence from said diocese, the reasons of which are unknown to me, they return to the man who was one of their opponents in the initial media debate. And they offer him pink roses. What will this accomplish. Media attention, of course. The Church in a bad light, unless Father Mennen comes up with a cunning plan (or hardly anyone shows up to do Strik’s work for him…). What it won’t do is further the dialogue. On the contrary.

In Lyon, France, young Catholic faithful successfully prevented a protest by homosexual activists. It’s probably wishful thinking that the same will happen in Oss, but one can hope…

Banned or not? A clarification from the censor

I had decided to not spend a lot of time on the work of the two censors who are working to investigate the songs used in the liturgy, but I think that it always helps to give some clarity on an issue which at least keeps certain Dutch Catholics occupied.

It’s always nice to see one’s own opinions confirmed by people in the know. Following Bishop Hurkmans of ‘s Hertogenbosch, Auxiliary Bishop Herman Woorts wrote a letter to the parish councils and emeritus priests in the Archdiocese of Utrecht to clarify the work of the censors of liturgical music. And since a bishop’s words rightly carry more weight than those of a random blogger, here is Bishop Woorts’ letter.

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Brothers and sisters in Christ,

As Church we are a celebrating community. When we celebrate the liturgy there is frequent singing, both by choirs and the entire gathered assembly. A lot of time, care and attention is devoted to the music and songs in our churches, because we worship God with them, it feeds our faith and binds us together as a faith community. We are blessed with a wealth of songs, old and new, in Latin, Dutch or another language.

In service to the celebrations in our parishes and in other places where the faithful meet for the liturgy, publishers Gooi en Sticht and Berne Heeswijk publish booklets. It is the duty of the bishops in whose dioceses these publishers are located to make sure that the contents are in agreement with our Catholic faith and the liturgy of the Church. If the content is approved, they give their ‘imprimatur’ so that the booklets can be printed and distributed.

In order to be able to give their imprimatur, the bishops of Utrecht and ‘s Hertogenbosch (the dioceses in which the aforementioned publishers are located) have both appointed a ‘censor’. For the archdiocese I have been appointed as censor for the booklets from Gooi en Sticht. A censor must examine if the texts come from the altar missal, if the readings from Holy Scripture are printed in the prescribed translation and if songs and texts on the back are in concord with faith and morals.

The content of the songs is considered: are they theologically sound, in agreement with our Catholic faith? The suitability for the liturgy is considered (both in general and specifically for the Sunday in question). And the text os considered to see whether it clearly expresses what we confess and celebrate in our faith, and if it doesn’t cause confusion. All this will lead to the finding that a song is or is not suited for inclusion in aforementioned liturgy booklets. The finding that a song is or not suite for the liturgy is not dictated by personal preferences. The identity of the author also does not play a part.

Sadly, several media have reported that certain songs – from a specific author or not – have been declared forbidden or placed on an index. This is not the case. The censor is not appointed or able to do that. The suitability for the publications is per song the basis for the advice to the bishop to give his imprimatur. Some newspapers list specific songs which are said to have been rejected. These lists also included songs which have been approved for the liturgy or which have been included although they are not preferred. These media also named songs which were not forbidden, but which do await further scrutiny, since they require discussion before a verdict can be done about their suitability.

These media reports cause responses from people who are disappointed because something they hold dear is now said to be forbidden, but also from people who welcome a thorough consideration of the contents of the songs, because certainly not all songs are considered suitable by all.

We know there is or can be disagreement on the choice of what can and can not be included in the liturgy booklets. Convictions, visions, experience and emotions all play their part in that. I hope that this letter will give you some insight in the censor’s tasks and his methods. For every song the question is whether or not it is suitable for the Sundays for which the booklets are considered.

Regards,

+H.W. Woorts

Diocesan vicar for the liturgy and censor for the Archdiocese

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It’s not a letter that says much, really, but considering that it was written to comfort people and explain what is actually happening, it does its job. Unlike Father Cor Mennen, the other censor, and somewhat like Bishop Hurkmans, Bishop Woorts simply wants to explain and focusses on the importance of discussion. Of course, if you’re going to change things it is good to have the people who are going to be affected by that change on your side. But I hope that, if the difficult decisions need to be made – if, for example, some popular songs from Huub Oosterhuis are no longer allowed – , the bishops are able and willing to take these decisions. It will cause protests, yes, many people will be unhappy, but more important is the liturgy. It is an organic whole and can’t contain elements that deny part or all of the liturgy or the faith. Also important to realise in that respect is that the liturgy is educational: it teaches us about our faith, especially when our active (and receptive, as Father Z emphasises in his analysis of Bishop Marc Aillet’s talk) participation opens our heart and brings us into the mystery of God. Just as the liturgy is focussed on and about Him, so should the music contained in the liturgy be. Not that a song can’t have texts about the community off faithful or shared celebration, but if, as Father Mennen said, the songs could be just as easily an introduction to a birthday party, it has lost its liturgical focus.

Review of music in the liturgy

'Gezangen voor Liturgie' is generally used in Catholic churches in the Netherlands

A review of hymns and songs to be used in the liturgy of the Mass has lead, in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, to the removal of 17 songs from the roster. Father Cor Mennen is the censor in charge of the review in cooperation with the National Liturgy Council. The 17 songs come from a total of 150. Reasons for the removal are, according to Fr. Mennen, theological errors, the songs being unbecoming of the nature of the liturgy, no mention of God, or sheer banality.      

The review follows the guidelines of the Church, which indicate that liturgical songs must be texts from the Bible or based thereon, they must be theologically sound, clear and liturgically useful. “They can certainly be poetical, preferably even,” Fr. Mennen says. But he adds that the poetry must be understandable to the faithful.       

Going over the list of songs, I am happy to see that none of them have appeared in the Masses in my parish, with one exception: The Gospel acclamation U komt de lof toe. The problem with that acclamation is that it is no translation of the Deo gratias from the Missal of Paul VI.       

Huub Oosterhuis, ex-priest, heretic and sometime-decent poet

The list, which can be found in the link below, includes a number of songs by former priest Huub Oosterhuis, a man whose poetry and public statements has been point of discussion. He denies the transubstantiation, for example, and consistently attacks the Church and her teachings. For Bishop Frans Wiertz of Roermond that has been reason to ban Oosterhuis’ songs altogether. Another reason for that, in my opinion, may be the low quality of the texts. It really isn’t very good poetry: it generally paints a picture of Christ as a very nice hippie, or they focus on how nice it is to be together. It’s all a bit too nice and soft and sweet, even when they don’t denounce Catholic teaching. 

About the selection of some Oosterhuis songs, Fr. Mennen says: “There are plenty of songs by Oosterhuis which are approved. It is noticeable that his later texts are generally vaguer, more simplistic. That leads us – just concerning the contents – to disagree with that. But there are very good texts from his early years. We did not [remove some of his songs] because they’re Oosterhuis, as some people say. That could have been a reason, but not one we use.”       

Anyway, it’s a good development. After all, music is one of the means we use to communicate with God, learn about Him and come closer to His mystery, and this is especially true in that high point of the Church’s life: the celebration of the Eucharist. And if the songs we sing actively ignore or deny that mystery, it is time to change things.       

One song I’m not sad to bid farewell: the chemical song, so called because of its first line. Just for fun, a rough translation:       

From fire and iron, acid and salt,
as wide as the light, centuries old,
from everything a man is made
and always born again.
To be iron in fire,
to be salt and sweet and acid,
to be man for a man,
all are born.
       

To be water for the sea,
to be a word to others,
for no one knows how great and small
sought, known, lost.
for evening- and morningland,
to be here and other side,
to be hand in another hand,
to not to be lost.
       

To be old and wide as the light,
to be lips, water, thirst,
to be all and to be nothing,
someone goes to another.
To distance that no one knows,
through fire that welds people together,
to live in love and pain,
people go to each other.
       

It’s all very sweet and nice, but it’s not really about anything, is it?       

Source.