For the Synod, catechesis – the focus of Cardinal Eijk

The 11 Cardinals book is published today by Ignatius Press, but at the end of last month, Rorate Caeli already posted a first review. One of the contributing authors of Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint is Cardinal Wim Eijk, and he is quoted in the review:

“Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk says it in his essay forthrightly when he speaks of a “faulty knowledge of the faith or a lack of faith per se” among the married couples today and says that “catechesis has been seriously neglected for half a century.” And he concludes:

True pastoral ministry means that the pastor leads the persons entrusted to his care to the truth definitely found in Jesus Christ who is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). We must seek the solution to the lack of knowledge and understanding of the faith by transmitting and explaining its foundations more adequately and clearly than we have done in the last half century. (p. 51)

Eijk reminds us that Christ entrusted the Church “to proclaim the truth.” Practically, he proposes to make the thorough preparation for future spouses an emphatic and persevering duty of the Church, and to ask the future spouses explicitly, at the onset, whether they accept the indissolubility of marriage. If they deny this doctrine, he says, they should be denied the sacrament of matrimony.”

eijk jerusalem ccee^Cardinal Eijk, third from left, in Jerusalem at the plenary meeting of the CCEE which took place over the past week.

The forthright and objective language used by the cardinal – the concerns and focus of the book are pastoral, but that does not mean the content and reasoning should not also be doctrinal – have once again resulted in criticism in the Netherlands. The cardinal is accused of insensitivity towards the faithful, to name an example. Certainly, the Church should be pastoral and merciful when the faithful come to her to be married or receive another sacrament, but she should not deny the faith she has been tasked to protect and communicate. Catholic teaching about marriage is clear, and when a couple is clear in their intent to follow that teaching and receive the sacrament, the Church, through her ministers, will witness to their marriage. In other circumstances however, when a couple does not agree with some element or other of the sacrament of marriage, or does not intend to accept it in its fullness, the Church can’t, in good conscience, be a witness to their marriage. Marrying in Church is not some sentimental affair or a nice photo opportunity. It is a sacrament, with rights but certainly also duties, for couple and Church alike, but which ultimately helps us on our journey towards God. God invites and enables us to accept His invitation through the grace of the sacrament, to live in the fullness of marriage, and so in the fullness of our humanity according to our vocation.

In my opinion, Cardinal Eijk is spot on about the importance of renewed catechesis. Our faith is rich and beautiful and, granted, sometimes difficult. As baptised Catholics we deserve nothing less to know it and let it transform us, to come ever closer to God. God ceaselessly invites, but we should know His invitation before we can accept it.

Cardinal Eijk’s contribution to Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint is a doctrinal treatise of a pastoral problem. He sees a lack of knowledge of the faith as the root of the problem, and it is exactly the duty of the Church’s pastors to remedy that, to help people on their way to the Truth. For that journey, people need both mercy and teaching, the first to help overcome the personal failings everyone has, the second to show our destination and help us reach our fullest human potential as creatures wanted and loved by God.

Prep for the end times – a good Advent

90_20_14---Three-Advent-Candles_webAnd just like that, Advent is upon once more. And just like that other great penitential season, Lent, Advent equally aims to prevent us for one of the Church’s great times: the Incarnation of our Lord, the birth of the most fragile and treasured of human beings, a tiny baby boy named Jesus, the Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 524) teaches us that Advent not only prepares us for the memorial of Christ’s first coming, but also renews in us the desire for His eventual second coming. And with that we have hit upon one of the most difficult precepts of our faith. We may accept the idea that Christ will return someday, but very often we take solace in the knowledge that that event may be very far away indeed. And, besides that, we have no clear way of knowing what it will be like, even though the Bible’s last book, the Revelation of John, offers us images and prophesies regarding it.

And we are an imaginative people. Truths of the faith become easier to grasp if we can understand what they were, are or will be like. But somehow we also know that the second coming may not be something in the line of Hollywood’s disaster flicks.

Still, it will happen. Our Lord has said so, after all (Matt. 24: 30-31). And it is good to prepare for this event, even though we know “neither day nor hour” (Matt. 25:13). Should we then be despondent and fearful? Not in the least, but we should take it seriously. How? For starters, we can take a good look at our faith and its expressions. Are they the foundations of our lives, or an aside reserved for the Sunday? How do we pray, how do we attend Mass? Are we attentive and charitable? Do we try to accept teachings without our egos getting in the way? And are we always willing to better ourselves?

Plenty of food for thought for Advent. But let’s not let it get us down. For we know what is coming. As the heartwrenching hymn Rorate Caeli, which we will hear once more this Advent, goes in its last verse:

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,
my salvation shall not tarry:
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why hath sorrow seized thee?
Fear not, for I will save thee:
for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

An important letter… from 70 years ago

A short post to draw attention to Rorate Caeli, who present what is presumably the first English translation of a groundbreaking Dutch text… from 70 years ago. It is the pastoral letter written by the Dutch bishops on July 20 1942, and scheduled to be read out from all pulpits on the following 26th of July. In it, the bishops condemn “the persecution of the Jews and the unfortunate lot of those who are sent to work in foreign countries”.

Go, read the text at Rorate Caeli. Rumours that the Church, local and worldwide, never spoke out against the Holocaust are, as this letter may indicate, simply untrue.

Stats for November 2011

It’s been a good month, as the momentum of last month continued well into the first half of November. Some tweaks in the WordPress stats layout show me that search engines are the most important tools by which people find this blog – 1,120 this month alone. But much gratitude must also go to those blogs who link to me, first and foremost Rorate Caeli, who keep a keen eye on the developments in the traditional field in the Netherlands. 388 people came here via them this month. The sum total number of views in November was 5,868, and here are the 10 most popular posts:

  1. The weak case of the disobedient priests 328
  2. Celebrating five years at St. Agnes 142
  3. The elderly priest and the diocese – a simple case of right and wrong? 61
  4. The change the Church needs & Berlin is vacant – herald of things to come? 40
  5. An impression of a unique occasion 39
  6. Revelations trigger revelations- further developments around Bishop Cor Schilder & Het probleem Medjugorje 37
  7. “I was not I who gave you the breath of life” – death merchants at the door 36
  8. Now official: San Salvator no longer Catholic 35
  9. Dutch missionary bishop in the dock 33
  10. The first Advent letter of 2011 & Bishop de Korte presents the new parishes of his diocese 29

A mosque in New York

Everyone will have heard of the plans that a mosque is to be built not too far from the place where the World Trade Center towers fell on 11 September 2001. Nor will the opposition in some quarters have gone unnoticed. Even our national madman, Geert Wilders, plans to protest the planned construction next month. You’d think he’d be too busy creating a coalition agreement he bears no responsibility for.

Anyway, back to the mosque (if only to keep the blood pressure down). I am, quite frankly, disappointed to see that Catholic websites, notably among them Rorate Caeli, join in the fear-mongering, painting a picture as if there is some holy war going on between Islam and Christianity. For the record, I am not a fan of Islam. I don’t agree with its tenets (I would have been a Muslim otherwise), and I think that it more easily leads to violence than most other faiths. But I will always support a Muslims right to express his belief and worship where he wants to (albeit not in Catholic churches, of course. Worship, but be sensible about it. Isn’t that one of the foundations of the Catholic faith>? I think so.

Photo showing the location of the proposed mosque relative to Ground Zero

Anyway, this mosque in New York, which won’t even be visible from Ground Zero, should be allowed out of the cherished freedom of religion that exists in the United States and most other civilised countries. And that freedom is not limited to Christianity, of course. It is thanks to this freedom, even though it is challenged more and more, that we Catholics can live our faith and worship in our own churches. To deny others the same right undermines the freedom we enjoy and renders it invalid. After all, freedom of religion is not a matter of faith or dogma. It is a legal measure, and as such not connected to any faith at all, and since it concerns all of society, that is where it belongs. Whether it is right or wrong can of course be discussed, like all legalities can, but as long as we make use of it and support it as Catholics, our protests when others want to exercise the same right have no basis in reality.

And as for the concerns that that mosque will tarnish the memories of those who died in 9/11? Rubbish. Any person capable of rational thought will realise that the terrorists acted out of terrorist motives. Perhaps their being Muslim made them more likely to be corrupted, but an unstable Christian runs the exact same risk. Look at the various crazy sects, founded on some misshapen form of Christianity, that exist.

Translation on Archbishop Ranjith’s ‘Year of the Eucharist’

Upon the request of several people I have made a Dutch translation of the article on Rorate Caeli that discusses the liturgical plans of Archbishop Ranjith in Colombo. The translation can be found on the Translation page here and on Catholica.

A Catholic tendency towards extremism?

Now that the election results are as good as in, I find what seems like a disturbing link between Catholicism and extremist views. I wonder what the reason behind that could be? Are Catholics more prone to vote right wing? Are they more susceptible to populist sloganeering? Are they just not very good thinkers? I’m generalising, of course, but the ‘evidence’ is striking.

Geert Wilders’ populist one-issue party PVV has gained a great victory nationwide (they’re the third part now, with 24 seats), but in municipalities in Limburg, the most Catholic part of the Netherlands, they are easily the largest. Maybe the fact that Wilders is from Limburg himself has something to do with that, but I wonder…

I’ve also come across other instances of Catholic intolerance and extremism, especially towards Muslims. The recent discussions about the murder of Bishop Padovese of Anatolia, which looks more and more to have been a sacrificial killing, brings out people with degrees in generalising. Examples are in the replies to this post in Father Z’s blog, and this post at Rorate Caeli.

The two situations outlined above are different, the one political, the other religious. But intolerance lies at the root of both. Maybe Catholics still feel oppressed (and in certain cases they are right to feel like that) and that they must violently oppose society’s general trends? Certain social trend deserve opposition, but surely openness  and ethical treatment of people of other faiths surely do not? We may disagree, fine, but here we see a division of “we are good and they are evil”.

It’s simplistic, dangerous and quite disconcerting.