About a month ago I sent a short letter to Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard to express my support and gratitude for his conduct in the incident with the Femen protestors I wrote about here. Expressing such sentiments is even more important than being critical or remaining silent, I think, although these too have their function.
Today I received a letter back from the archbishop. He writes:
I am very thankful that you have taken the effort to send me some words of support and solidarity after the protest action of the Femen group. Your words have been very comforting for me.
It would be a great help to me if you would be willing to support, through your spiritual engagement, the Maranatha movement which I launched at the star of 2013. Maranatha is a great movement of prayer for the conversion of the human heart and the healing of humanity.
More information about this movement and suggestions for prayer (novena, Rosary, Stations of the Cross, etc.) may be found on the website www.maranatha-conversion.com.
I once more thank you for your support and wholeheartedly bless you.
Msgr. André-Joseph Léonard,
Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels”
A good suggestion, the conversion of the human heart and the healing of humanity. Let’s respond positively to the archbishop request, so that events like the one that led to this exchange of letters may become increasingly rare.
While giving an address and participating in a debate about blasphemy at the ULB University in Elsene, Brussels, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard was assaulted by four women of the notorious action group ‘Femen’. Topless, they splashed him with water from bottles shaped like the Blessed Virgin. They had slogans written over their bodies that were intended to protest homophobia, but had the main effect of insulting people.
It is clear that notions like respect and freedom of speech, and even of civilised debate, are only applicable to people with the same opinions as these women. If you disagree with them, you are open to assault and insult, and to them that is fully justified.
In the meantime, a more civilised audience will recognise this as sheer lunacy and even a dangerous development. This women do not care about individual rights, they care about being right. It is very selfish behaviour. Perceived rights trump everything, from the rights of others to the integrity of and respect for their own bodies.
And Archbishop Léonard? He let the water fall, kissed one of the bottles as the women were removed and continued with what he came for. Exemplary.
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.
Rocco Palmo reports on yesterday’s demonstration/vigil of some 75 victims of sexual abuse at the Vatican. Go there to read about what happened at the event that was expressly supposed not be a protest, but which featured placards and cries of accusation nonetheless.
Vatican press head Fr. Federico Lombardi met with the protesters and addressed them with some words which are also featured at the Loggia above. My translation of this address is available here and via the ‘Translations’ tab above.
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.
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?]
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…
One of those things I didn’t come across in any Dutch media (Catholic or otherwise): A demonstration marking the 29th anniversary of the legalisation of abortion in this country, in The Hague last Wednesday. That the secular media devoted little time and space to this is not unexpected. After all, it is a very politically incorrect to be pro-life, and for many people it is, I think, not even an option to think abortion is wrong. Society is so saturated with the contrary opinion. What does surprise me somewhat is that the Christian media (Catholic or Protestant) also generally ignored it. Perhaps also because it is no longer a viable option to be pro-life? I don’t know.
I do know that, compared to other countries, the pro-life movement in the Netherlands is small and has active little support from those who should support it: the churches. When I read in the blogs of English and American priests that they or the colleagues, or even their bishops, spent time in a pro-life vigil or other events, I can’t help but wonder why that does not happen here. The same with many thousands of people marching for life in Spain or the United States.
Is it the fear of antagonising others? I would hope not. After all, if one professes a faith, it should never be just a private opinion. Certainly the Catholic faith asks that it is visible, with the consequences that entails.
Once more a post in Dutch, sharing the follow-up to the wholly unsatisfactory reply from the NCRV following the open letter that was sent to the TV network on behalf of Catholics and several Protestants on the sacrilege committed in tv show Man Bijt Hond. The new letter wonders on whose behalf the reply was sent, and also asks if the author even understood the reason of our concern. We now ask for clarity and a reply to those concerns instead of an explanation of things that are, at best, peripheral.
NCRV-directeur Coen Abbenhuis reageerde op maandag 15 maart met een e-mail op een Open Brief die eerder die dag namens de katholieke blog-community naar de NCRV was gestuurd om bezwaar te maken tegen heiligschennis in het tv-programma Man Bijt Hond. Abbenhuis’ antwoord is ook te vinden op de NCRV-site als officiële verklaring:
Al bijna tweehonderd namen staan onder de brief. Onder hen een twintigtal katholieke priesters en diakens. Ook komt er veel steun uit protestantse hoek en heeft een volledige parochie zich achter de Open Brief geschaard. U kunt nog steeds uw steun betuigen!
De actie wordt vanaf nu aangetrokken door blogster Observatrix (www.observatrix.nl). Onder haar naam is er, in overleg met katholieke bloggers, een antwoord verstuurd naar de NCRV. Als bijlage bij dat antwoord is de Open Brief met een actuele lijst van ondertekenaars meegestuurd. Dit is ons antwoord:
Geachte heer Abbenhuis,
Hoewel het ons nog steeds onduidelijk is of u namens het NCRV-bestuur schreef of op persoonlijke titel, nemen wij de vrijheid om toch te reageren op uw e-mailbericht van 15 maart j.l. Uw antwoord stelt teleur in twee opzichten. Ten eerste omdat u in veel woorden weinig nieuws zegt en de excuses die door de redactie van het programma “Man Bijt Hond” nog wel waren gemaakt, niet eens herhaalt. Ten tweede omdat u in uw antwoord geen blijk geeft te hebben begrepen waar de kern van ons bezwaar ligt.
In uw antwoord verwijst u naar de ‘licht-satirische’ opzet van het programma “Man Bijt Hond”. Blogger Anton de Wit benadrukte dat hij geen man met lange tenen is en satire zeer kan waarderen. Dit zal voor de meeste ondertekenaars van de Open Brief gelden. Echter wat De Wit ook aantoont is dat de heiligschennis uit “Man Bijt Hond” met geen mogelijkheid satire kan worden genoemd. Zoals het op het blog van ondergetekende Erica Schruer treffend werd geformuleerd, luidde uw antwoord in feite: jammer dat u van heiligschennis de humor niet kunt inzien. Ook christenen doen regelmatig aan satire, maar in de vorm waarin de NCRV het goot was er geen sprake van christelijke, maar juist van anti-katholieke en daarmee dus ook anti-christelijke satire. Daarmee heeft u als omroep in feite uw identiteit geloochend.
U verwijst in uw brief ook naar het protest tegen de katholieke Kerk in de St. Jan in Den Bosch, dat georganiseerd was door het COC en de Gaykrant en werd gesteund door de PvdA en de SP. Dit was de aanleiding voor het “Man Bijt Hond”-item. Voor de Kerk was ook deze gebeurtenis méér dan pijnlijk. Ten eerste omdat er een eredienst werd verstoord en het risico van een moderne ‘beeldenstorm’ nadrukkelijk in de lucht hing. Ten tweede omdat niemand behalve de SGP het opnam voor de vrijheid van eredienst, terwijl het verstoren van religieuze bijeenkomsten bij wet verboden is, en de Kerk en de gelovigen daarin bescherming en respect mogen verwachten.
Voorts spreekt u uit dat de NCRV het doel heeft mensen recht te doen, ‘ongeacht hun seksuele geaardheid’. Dit wekt de suggestie van een zeker eenzijdig respect, waarvan godsdienst geen deel uitmaakt. Als het gaat om het afkeuren van het niet uitreiken van de Communie aan homoseksuelen acht de NCRV blijkbaar elk middel geoorloofd, tot de grootste schoffering en heiligschennis aan toe. Ons protest heeft daarentegen niets te maken met de seksuele geaardheid van Wagemakers, maar met de respectloze manier waarop hij in NCRV-zendtijd met de Hostie omsprong.
De belangrijkste constatering is dat uw brief inhoudelijk niet ingaat op de bezwaren die zijn geuit in de Open Brief, die inmiddels door 150 mensen en een katholieke parochie is onderschreven en ieder uur door meer mensen wordt onderschreven. Daarnaast regent het ook negatieve reacties op de website van “Man Bijt Hond”. Door de heiligschennis die in dat programma is gepleegd, af te doen als uitingen van ‘gelijkwaardigheid en verdraagzaamheid’, toont u aan dat de betekenis die u aan die twee begrippen geeft niets meer met de christelijke visie te maken heeft. Wij kunnen ons niet aan de indruk onttrekken dat de NCRV is opgegaan in de grote massa van seculiere omroepen.
Wij verzoeken u zeer dringend uw standpunt te heroverwegen en daarvan terug te komen. Recent bij een incident in Maleisie pleegden twee medewerkers van een islamitisch tijdschrift heiligschennis door de Hostie te ontvangen en vervolgens uit te spuwen. Daarover ontstond veel commotie. Zij boden uiteindelijk daarvoor hun verontschuldigingen aan met de volgende woorden: “Het is niet de bedoeling van Al Islam om de christelijke godsdienst te beledigen, noch om christelijke bedehuizen te ontheiligen”. Van een nominatum christelijke omroep als de NCRV zou tenminste hetzelfde mogen worden verwacht. In het onverhoopt geval u niet tot betere inzichten komt, zullen wij onze bezorgdheid ook op andere plaatsen aan de orde stellen.
Met vriendelijke groeten,
The list of signatories to the open letter has continued to grow over the past days. Here is the list as it stands now:
R.T. van Mulligen
Parochie HH Michael en Clemens
G. Wilkens, priester
F. As, priester
H.J.P.T. Broers, priester
Ch. van Buijtenen, priester
J. Goris, priester
W.J.J. Grondhuis, priester
R.J.M. Kerssemakers, pastoor-deken
K. Loodts, priester
C. Mennen, priester
Pater J. Nielen MHM
M. Peeters, priester
G. van Rossem, priester
H.C.W. Schilder, priester
C. Stam, priester
G.M.J. van der Vegt, priester
W. Veth, priester
A. van Aarle, diaken
J. Grubben, diaken
A.B.M. van Kempen, diaken
I.W.G. Molenaar, diaken
Broeder Hugo, heremiet
S. Volkers, seminarist
Alina Bonen OFS
Fieke, postulante in de Carmel D.C.J.
P.M. Tassel OCDS
G.E. van Beek
J. van Beek
A. van Berkel
A.J.M. van Berkel
A.M.C. van Berkel
H. de Boer
B. van Dijck
M.E.A. Dommeck – Kuyt
M.B.A. van Elswijk
J.H. de Geest
J. van Gool
E. van Goor
J. van Gorp
T. de Groene
L. de Groene
E. de Groot
N. de Groot
W. de Groot
F. van der Have
M.V. van Heusden
J. van den Heuvel
J.H.P. van Iperen
M. van Iperen
H.A.M. Janssen – Rombouts
F.J. de Jong
J.C.M. de Jong
H. Kaptijn – Verzijlbergh
M.J. van Kleef
A. Koole – Bart
S. Leferink op Reinink
D.P.J. van Lith – Woestenberg
M.J. Marks – Meekel
F. van der Meer
J. Nederlof – Erens
A. van Norde
J.J. van Peperstraten
P.M. Schruer – Zoetmulder
T. Spee – van Heijster
G.A. van der Toorn – Piebenga
C. van der Valk
J. van der Valk
J.G. Verhoeven – den Uijl
M. de Vries
M. de Vries
W.J.M. Webster – van Gool
A.J.A. de Wit
M. de Witt
H.K.M.G. van Zandwijk – Bruin
P. van Zoest
You’ve got to admit: it is something of an achievement from the NCRV. They’ve managed to reply to the open letter sent to them by a number of Catholic bloggers, clergy and other people (including myself), while avoiding to actually mention any of the points of concern raised in the letter.
No mention of the three ways of sacrilege: using the Eucharist as a form of protest, taken the Host outside and threatening to throw it in a waste bin. No mention of the NCRV’s Christian origin, which made the TV-item all the more bitter. No mention of the unsatisfactory automated e-mail sent to all those who took the trouble to complain. No mention of even trying to acknowledge the Catholic faith, and the central position of the Eucharist in it.
Instead, we got this:
Following our item ‘Holy Host’ there have been protests from Roman Catholic quarters. The NCRV is pleased to reply to the open letter she received today (15 March 2010):
Man Bijt Hond is a lightly satirical program. With a smile and a tear it magnifies items in the news. The intention is to stimulate and trigger discussion. That, after all, is part of satire.
The (renewed) discussion about the position of practising homosexual people in the church lead to a violent demonstration [this was not the reason for the open letter]. And one thing was clear: the demonstration in the church of Den Bosch was painful for the church, but she was equally painful for the homosexual faithful involved [who started it, I might add]. For the editors of Man Bijt Hond this was cause to pay attention to it, in her own recognisable way.
The NCRV also has other programs which paid attention to this topic [which is totally beside the point]. In the radio show Schepper & Co, for example, there was an extensive discussion between Henk Krol, chief editor of the Gaykrant and presenter Yvo van der Goot, about the place of homosexual faithful in the church [I repeat, not the point of the open letter]. In such a conversation there is obviously space to shed light on multiple aspects on a question like this. All this in the hope of doing people justice, despite their sexual orientation [Once more, not the point of the letter. And desecrating the Eucharist is the opposite of doing anyone justice].
Equality and tolerance are important principles for the NCRV which can be seen in our programs, in each their own way [Except when that equality and tolerance should be towards Catholics, of course].
I am amazed. The letter wasn’t hard or difficult, but they still manage to totally miss the point. NCRV, congratulations, you have lost viewers. Wow.
But at least this time we got a reply without spelling errors.
In various media I am seeing deceptive headlines claiming that homosexual people are once again welcome to receive Communion. This likely in the light of an announcement from the diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch that Communion will be distributed at Mass next Sunday, despite the threat of further protests.
For clarity’s sake, and this is important to remember in the debate: people are and never have been denied Communion based on their sexual orientation. There is a single deciding factor for a priest to say no to someone presenting him- or herself for Communion, and that is that person’s lifestyle. If a priest is aware that someone undeniably lives a life that is not in agreement with the Catholic faith, he can deny someone Communion. But, to stress it, the priest must be convinced. If there is any shred of doubt, a priest should err on the side of caution and give Communion anyway.
Receiving Communion is, among other things, a profession of faith, a sign that you agree with the Church and are willing to do your best to live according to her teachings. There is no guarantee that people will always succeed in that, but that is why we have the sacrament of confession: an acknowledgement that you failed in something and that you are willing to remedy that.
Someone who knows that he does not live according to the faith and still has no intention to remedy that, can’t pretend that he can still receive Communion. After all, he can’t claim to live in accordance with the faith.
Furthermore, the decision to come up and receive Communion is first and foremost one that must be made by the person himself. We should all do an examination of conscience to see if we are able to receive Communion, before we stand up and walk towards the priest. That has been sadly neglected in the education of the faithful in this country: nowadays, people come forward as a matter of habit, because everyone else is doing it, because it’s what’s expected, or so many think. That is something that must change, since the Eucharist is source and summit of our faith: if we don’t know what it is any longer, how can we know our faith?
A priest will, perhaps a bit naively these days, assume that the person in front of him can receive Communion unless, and I can’t repeat this enough, he undeniably knows that not to be the case.
EDIT: And I just read that the announced protests at the cathedral in Den Bosch will be postponed! Great news. Among the reasons cited is the fact that there are groups who no longer wish to keep the protests – which the organisers call an appeal – dignified. Well, since they didn’t succeed in keeping things dignified at their very first protest I’d say that is a correct assessment.