Happy birthday to Bishop Bär

Happy birthday to Bishop Ronald Philippe Bär, who today marks his 85th birthday.


Bishop Bär was born in Manado, in the Dutch Indies, and became a Benedictine priest, and later auxiliary bishop and bishop of the Diocese of Rotterdam, as well as bishop of the Military Ordinariate. He resigned in 1993.


Holy Week 2013, an overview of cathedral celebrations

It’s a bit late, but since there is an interest in it, here is the schedule for the Holy Week celebrations in the Dutch cathedrals. As ever, things may change at any time, but since this information is taken from the various diocesan websites, it should simply be accurate.

Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, Cathedral of St. Joseph:

st. joseph cathedralWednesday, 19:30: Chrism Mass
Maundy Thursday, 19:00: Mass offered by Bishop Gerard de Korte
Good Friday, 14:00: Stations of the Cross for children
Good Friday, 15:00: Stations of the Cross
Good Friday, 19:00: Service of the Passion of the Lord
Holy Saturday, 22:00: Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday, 11:00: Mass
Easter Monday, 11:00: Mass

Archdiocese of Utrecht, Cathedral of St. Elisabeth:

catharinakathedraal utrechtWednesday, 19:00: Chrism Mass (at the Church of St Mary in Apeldoorn).
Wednesday, 21:00: Tenebrae and Lauds, followed by silent prayer until 8 o’clock the next morning
Maundy Thursday, 19:30: Mass offered by Cardinal Wim Eijk
Maundy Thursday, 21:30 Tenebrae and Lauds
Good Friday, 8:00: Morning Prayers
Good Friday, 15:00: Stations of the Cross (at the church of St. Augustine)
Good Friday, 19:30: Service of the Passion of the Lord, led by Cardinal Eijk
Good Friday, 21:30: Tenebrae and Lauds
Holy Saturday, 16:00-17:00: Confession
Holy Saturday, 21:00: Easter Vigil, offered by Cardinal Eijk
Easter Sunday, 10:30: Mass offered by Cardinal Eijk
Easter Monday, 10:30: Mass

Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Cathedral Basilica of St. Bavo:

haarlembavo51Wednesday, 19:30: Chrism Mass (for both the diocese and the Military Ordinariate).
Maundy Thursday, 19:30: Mass
Good Friday, 15:00: Stations of the Cross
Good Friday, 19:30: Service of the Passion of the Lord, led by Bishop Jos Punt
Good Friday, 21:00: Tenebrae
Holy Saturday, 21:30: Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday, 10:00: Mass offered by Bishop Punt
Easter Monday, 10:00: Mass

Diocese of Rotterdam, Cathedral of Sts. Lawrence and Elisabeth:

Rotterdam_mathenesserlaan_kathedraalWednesday, 19:30: Chrism Mass
Maundy Thursday, 19:30: Mass, followed by a prayer vigil until 7 o’clock the next morning
Good Friday, 10:30: Stations of the Cross for children
Good Friday, 15:00: Stations of the Cross
Good Friday, 19:30: Service of the Passion of the Lord
Holy Saturday: 22:30: Easter Vigil, offered by Bishop Hans van den Hende
Easter Sunday, 11:00: Mass offered by Bishop van den Hende
Easter Monday, 11:30: Mass offered by Bishop van den Hende

Diocese of Breda, Cathedral of St. Anthony:

kathedraal bredaWednesday, 19:00: Chrism Mass (at the church of St. Gummarus in Wagenberg).
Maundy Thursday, 19:00: Mass, offered by Bishop Jan Liesen
Good Friday, 15:00: Service of the Passion of the Lord, led by Bishop Liesen
Good Friday, 19:00: Stations of the Cross, led by Bishop Liesen
Holy Saturday, 21:00: Easter Vigil, offered by Bishop Liesen
Easter Sunday, 10:30: Mass, offered by Bishop Liesen
Easter Monday, 10:30: Mass (at the Begijnhof chapel)

Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch, Cathedral Basilica of St. John:

264px-Sint-Jans-HertogenboschWednesday, 19:00: Chrism Mass
Maundy Thursday, 19:30: Mass
Good Friday, 15:00: Service of the Passion of the Lord
Good Friday, 19:00: Stations of the Cross
Holy Saturday, 22:00: Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday, 10:00: Mass
Easter Sunday, 11:45: Mass
Easter Monday, 11:00: Mass

Diocese of Roermond, Cathedral of St. Christopher:

kathedraal roermondWednesday, 19:00: Chrism Mass
Maundy Thursday, 18:30: Mass, offered by Bishop Everard de Jong (at the Munster)
Good Friday, 15:00: Stations of the Cross, led by Bishop Frans Wiertz
Good Friday, 19:00: Service of the Passion of the Lord, led by Bishop Wiertz (at the Munster)
Holy Saturday, 20:30: Easter Vigil offered by Bishop Wiertz
Easter Sunday, 11:30: Mass offered by Bishop Wiertz
Easter Monday, 11:30: Mass

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

The cesspool is deep, but where exactly is it deepest?

Media reports aplenty today about the protection given by Cardinal Ad Simonis to a convicted pedosexual priest during his tenure as archbishop of Utrecht. One such news report can be read in Dutch here. The first thing I thought, after the unpleasant sinking of my stomach, was “how strange that the title of the piece (‘Cardinal Simonis protected pedo-priest’) is presented as a quote, while the piece itself does not contain a source”. The only conclusion: it’s not a quote, but the conclusion of the author given some semblance of authority…

Anyway, that’s just a question that popped into my head. Here’s the case.

In 1991, the cardinal appointed a priest from the Diocese of Rotterdam to parishes in the town of Amersfoort. The priest’s bishop, Msgr. Ronald Bär of Rotterdam, allegedly wanted to get rid of the priest after it became clear that the latter had abused underage boys in his previous parish in Zoetermeer. So the Archdiocese of Utrecht claims. Cardinal Simonis chose not to inform the faithful of Amersfoort about their new priest’s history. He says, “That was part of the privacy of the priest involved and was no longer an issue because of restored trust. I did not offer him protection, but treated him based on a serious psychological advice. I would therefore not know what consequences I should personally attach to this question.” The cardinal also said that “a renowned development psychologist had concluded that it was responsible to give the priest a new appointment.’

Victims and parents of victims claim to have been brushed aside by the cardinal when they raised the issue, saying that ‘these things do not happen in the Catholic Church’.

Cardinal Simonis released the following statement after the news broke:

“At the time of the appointment of the priest R. in 1991 the archdiocese was aware of his history. Therapy and serious psychological advice in writing seemed enough of a basis for a new appointment. No signal about repeat offenses has ever reached the archdiocese from Amersfoort. The archdiocese has never been aware of any police investigation, neither via the victims, nor via the priest, nor via the priest R. himself. I myself heard about this for the first time yesterday.

For the victims it is seriously regrettable and I take their suffering seriously. Of course I was asked if I acted carefully enough at the time. From what I knew then: yes. Based on the then available facts action was taken after careful internal consultation. When new facts appear now, it is not easy to judge the actions of the past. We acted on what we knew then. Should it become clear now we didn’t act careful enough, based on insufficient information, that is highly regrettable and should still be remedied.”

The Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch also felt called to release a statement, following rumours that priest R. had worked in a parish in Eindhoven in 2005:

“The priest of the Archdiocese of Utrecht never had an appointment in a parish in the Diocese of Den Bosch, where he assisted on his own request. When the bishop of Den Bosch, in 2010, heard from the Archdiocese of Utrecht that there were issues with the priest, he informed the priests of the diocese that the man was no longer allowed to work in the Diocese of Den Bosch.l he then left the diocese.”

After Cardinal Simonis was succeeded by Archbishop Wim Eijk, the priest received a canonical punishment, being forbidden to perform any pastoral tasks in the archdiocese.

Lastly, for now, here is a translation of a short telephone interview with the priest in question, conducted today by katholieknederland.nl.


Have you ever abused children?

“I have never used or abused people. I admit that I did do something impermissible during my time as pastor in Zoetermeer, which I regret. I was convicted for that and received a conditional sentence for it. The court documents mention an assault, but it was no more than a touch. It was no assault, I know what happened.”

Are you a pedosexual?

“That is a hard term. I am attracted to boys of around 14 years of age. I can not help it.”

How did you deal with your feelings?

“I was unaware of my feelings in seminary. That only happened after my ordination. I have been able to control myself very well for the past 16 or 17 years. I stick to the rules.”

The article in NRC also included words from a victim. What is your reaction to the word ‘victim’?

“That is terrible. But it is his experience and I have to respect that. I did indeed approach the person mentioned. But he refused. But I did not continue. For me it was a friendship. That friendship continued, also after he had grown up. But he ended that friendship for reasons that are unknown to me.”

What did Cardinal Simonis when he knew of your past?

“The archdiocese sent me to a psychological institution, which the Church used more often. There it became clear that I no longer posed a risk.”

In 1998 the Ministry of Defence appointed you as chaplain. Apparently you passed the screening.

“At my application to the armed forces – I no longer had a criminal record – I did tell them that I had been convicted. But they did not consider that a problem then, because I was appointed as chaplain to the army. The Archdiocese of Utrecht, where I am incardinated, loaned me to the military ordinariate.”

How do you see your future?

“In all honesty? I hope I’ll get an acute cardiac arrest. What else can I do? I will not kill myself, but I will not judge people who do. I am glad I helped by good friends and former colleagues at this time.”


A cesspool, but where is it deepest? With Cardinal Simonis, with the archdiocese, with the military ordinariate? Somewhere else entirely? Above are the facts. In them I do detect the naiveté that has plagued the episcopate, and still does, to an extent. On the other hand, it is not as if Cardinal Simonis did nothing with the facts he had. He put his trust in psychology, as did the Defence Ministry. The cardinal’s took the steps he could, barring the priest from working in the archdiocese. The Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, too, immediately limited to potential damage the priest could do once they heard about his past. Legal steps need to be undertaken by the court, not any bishop.

And the accused himself? A man who needs help, who admits he did wrong, but perhaps has a skewed picture of it. Let the facts be proven, let the guilty parties be punished, but also let’s keep the old truth in mind that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.