Stats for August 2012

As always, August is slow month when it comes to blogging, which was compounded this year by some personal circumstances which prevented me from blogging more. The total number of visit remained stuck at 5,508, the lowest number since last December. Still, there have been a few posts of interest, as the top 10 shows.

1: The Michelle Martin case – Christian charity? 81
2: Het probleem Medjugorje 79
3: “It was not I who gave you the breath of life” – death merchants at the door 73
4: Adoro te devote, two versions and a translation 69
5: The male side of ‘being Church’ 65
6: Pussy Riot: free speech or scandal? 64
7: In the face of anger, Abp. Léonard about the PoorClares of Malonne 52
8: Cardinal watch: Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passes away 50
9: ‘Catholic’ education – dropping the C 42
10: On the edge of Europe, welcome home 41

Thanks to all who linked or referred to my blog via their own blogs or social media websites.

And also, of course, thanks to all who chose to contribute in some way, financial or otherwise, to the continued existence of my blog. If you are one who may be willing to contribute financially, you may do so via the Paypal link in the left side bar, which is copied below:

Thank you, and here’s to much interesting posting in September!

In the face of anger, Abp. Léonard about the Poor Clares of Malonne

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard gave a short response to the decision of Poor Clares in Namur to host Michelle Martin after a future early release. The affair has not yet died down, and the general trend seems to be one of a lack of understanding and anger. The sisters themselves, after meeting with the parents of one of Dutroux’ victims, did not retract their offer to Martin.

Here is the archbishop’s response in my translation:

“I have heard via the media the decision from the court about the conditional release of Michelle Martin. It is not to us, as Church, to comment on a decision of the courts. Whether or not Michelle Martin is released, where and under which circumstances is fully a matter for the civil and legal authorities in this country.

I am aware that the conditional release of Michelle Martin, against which the Public Prosecutor has appealed, triggers many emotions in the victims and their families. I also realise that the decision of the court leads to incomprehension and even anger in a large part of the population.

I have taken note of the statement of the Poor Clares of Malonne, released on 31 July. This statement did justice to the immeasurable suffering of the victims and to the chance for conversion that every person may get.

I wish to emphasise that the Poor Clares of Malonne do not fall under the direct authority of a bishop. After long internal discussion, they have answered positively to the request from the lawyers of Michelle Martin and from the judiciary, since there has seemingly not been found another shelter for her. The sisters made this decision completely autonomously, without consulting the bishops. They have carefully considered the conditions for this shelter which the court has imposed on Michelle Martin.

The shelter that the sisters potentially want to give Michelle Martin, can not diminish the unequivocal choice that the bishops have made to remain on the side of the victims and their relatives in the child abuse affair. This choice is and remains a priority for the bishops.

The social feasibility of the residence of Michelle Martin in Malonne is not a question that needs answering by ecclesial authorities. It is a question that falls under the domain of authority of civil and legal government. The decisions that are made there, are decisive for us.”

+André-Joseph Léonard
Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
10.08.2012

A clear explanation from the archbishop, as we may expect from him. If there is anything lacking in the above, it is some words to the effect that the decision of the sisters was also made out of Christian charity, and also some clear support for the sisters. They may not fall under the bishops’ authority, but that doesn’t mean that the bishops can’t express support, of course.

Photo credit: Phk/Kerknet

The Michelle Martin case – Christian charity?

Over the past days there has been much talk about the suggested early release of Michelle Martin, the ex-wife of Belgian child molester and murderer Marc Dutroux. Convicted in 2004 of complicity in the abuse and death of two of Dutroux’ victims, she was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment. Now, after having served 8 of those years, and having served 8 more years before her conviction, she is up for early release. Although this yet needs to be granted by a judge, a community of Poor Clares in Namur has indicated that Martin can take up residence with them following a future release.

Abbess Sister Christine spoke about their decision on 31 July.  She said, “[…] we thought that, in our society, no one would win if we would respond to violence with violence.  We are convinced that permanently locking up of criminals in their criminal past and leaving them to despair would mean a step backwards for our society.”

After much deliberation the Poor Clares of Malonne indicated two conditions. First, that the current administration of justice is fully respected, and, second, that Martin shows true progress and is able to fully commit herself safely and with the slightest chance possible for recidivism.

Following all this, there have been protests at the monastery, and altogether too many tasteless accusations that linked Martin’s crimes to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church (and, in extension, Catholics in general are made suspect). The Poor Clares’ decision to display such enormous hospitality, although it befits their vocation, is presented as if they condone the crimes and, in fact, made the decision to release Martin themselves. The latter is up to a judge to decide, and the former is, frankly insulting.

The sisters of Malonne have nothing to say about the administration of justice. Go protest at the courts of law if you are against the early release of Michelle Martin. There is nothing the Poor Clares can do about it. What they can do is provide a safe house for a person who, according to the law, paid for her crimes. A house safe for her and which makes her safe for society.

Mother Abbess emphasised that Michelle Martin will not become a sister or join the religious community in any way. She will be provided with food and lodging and required to contribute to her own life. She is kept away from the site of her crimes (the Belgian provinces of Limburg and Liège have been declared off-limits to her).

Is this a matter of justice? Not in the sense that Michelle Martin has avoided punishment for her crimes. She has served the time the law requires of her. Whether or not we believe that that time has been too short is of no matter when looking at the case from a purely legal point of view.

The Poor Clares in Malonne, in going through the effort of housing Martin, go beyond the precepts of the (secular) law, providing for these thoughts that, somehow, she hasn’t paid enough for her crimes. Michelle Martin is kept away from where she could, in theory, do harm or cause scandal.

This is not condoning misdeeds, but providing for the best solution for both Martin and society. To somehow twist this into an accusation against the sisters and Catholics in general is something I consider gravely insulting.

“Simplicity, meditation and prayer”, but, for Fr. te Velde, also repentance

In a recent interview (available as a PDF file here) for Trouw, Father Johan te Velde expounds on the major forthcoming change in his life: his entrance as a postulant in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Willibrord. He is now wrapping up his duties as parish priest and diocesan vicar in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, and his new life will start on 1 September.

Following a description of his first encounter with monastic life when he was 17, and his decision not to pursue it at as a student and young priest, Fr. te Velde goes on to explain why he has decided to do so now that he is 58. And this, in my opinion, offers an interesting insight into the motivations of this thoughtful and erudite priest, which have a poignantly current element.

“I never stopped visiting monasteries. Taizé in France, the Poor Clares in Megen, Chevetogne, an ecumenical monastery in Belgium. Three years ago, in Chevetogne, the desire for a pure and sober life in a small community returned. A return to the heart.

I am quite fed up with the society that we life in. It’s all about consumption, entertainment, about satisfying needs. People are finding it very hard to remain faithful to each other. I also see it in my parish, the sort of confusion that young people and young families are living in in that respect. Divorces, parents who are finding it hard to pass something good on to their children.

The Christian faith does have an answer, but we don’t always succeed in presenting it properly. We can say that sexuality is about love and loyalty, but when you see what we have done ourselves, as priests and monastics… As Church we have also been put in the dock.

There are bishops who have held penitential services. They laid down flat on the ground and asked for forgiveness. Others have spoken to victims. Entering the monastery is my contribution. I chose repentance, a life of simplicity, meditation and prayer. I also do this for the Church.”