“A shock”- The local angle

In Dutch, for a change: comments on Pope Benedict’s abdication from Father Rolf Wagenaar, administrator of the cathedral of St. Joseph, Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, and parish priest of yours truly:

“The Pope’s retiring? That’s impossible. It hasn’t let go of me since then, of course. A shock, not only for me, but for everyone, I think, and certainly for all the Catholics in the world.”

Unhappy priests?

Local news outlet RTV Noord reports unhappiness among some of the clergy of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. The reason? A string of new appointments which came into effect this month.

In general, parish priests remain in one parish (or, as is the case in the diocese in question, a cluster of parishes) for six to eight years. Among the priest that were reassigned were Father Peter Stiekema, who wrapped up twelve years in the south east of the province of Drenthe for Leeuwarden, the Frisian capital; and three young priests who are heading to their second assignment: Fathers Victor Maagd, Jos Deuling and Albert Buter. Fr. Bert van der Wal is also one of the reassigned priests. In an interview following the news of their reassignments, Fr. Stiekema and Maagd (pictured) commented on their move. “I go where I’m needed,” Fr. Stiekema said after admitting that the news had some emotional undertones for him. Fr. Maagd said, “the priesthood is a matter of being called and sent.”

Fr. Jos Deuling called the rumoured grumblings “misplaced”, and calls it “refreshing” for both priests and faithful to relocate every now and again.

While it is certainly understandable that leaving a familiar parish and beloved faithful behind is hard, it comes with the territory. As times change, so do the demands of the faithful and the diocese. Personally, knowing some of the priests in question to a certain extent, I have my doubts about the nature and extent of the unhappiness.

EDIT: Later today, Bishop Gerard de Korte offered a response that was much along the lines of what I wrote above. He understands the pain of leaving a familiar parish, but adds:

“We are of course also a Catholic Church in which the bishop can send his priests to where they are needed. So accepting that does have something to do with a bit of priestly spirituality.”

Photo credit:  DvhN/Duncan Wijting

Of canon and secular law in the abuse crisis

I would seem that the distinction between what Church and state can do in the abuse crisis is still hard to understand for many, including professors.

Fokko Oldenhuis, professor in religion and law at the University of Groningen claims that Cardinal Wim Eijk has been misleading victims by saying that the Church would not to apply the statute of limitations in abuse cases, RTV Noord reports. Professor Oldenhuis now claims that this only happened for victims who have claimed compensation from the Church. And that makes sense. How can the Church decide on matters which do not fall under her jurisdiction. A victim can choose to go to court, and let a judge decide on the matter. The Church has little to say on the proceedings then.

The statute of limitations is a legal construct laid down in law. The Church has long since decided not to apply this in cases where the perpetrator of the abuse is a cleric, even though canon law prescribes it be applied ten years after the victim has turned 18. This is canon law, quite a separate entity from civil law, but which also knows the statute of limitations. A civil judge is under no obligation to follow canon law, even if the reverse is strongly encouraged.

Professor Oldenhuis’ comments are presented as statements of fact, without any source or explanation. I think it would be good to clearly separate canon and secular law, which each have their own areas of jurisdiction and which are both wholly separate and independent.

Edit: Although it is still unclear exactly when a Church representative requested the statute of limitations to be applied, a further reading of the full interview with Professor Oldenhuis indicates that there has at least been a miscommunication and at worst an error on the part of the Church. Professor Oldenhuis, in my opinion, is correct in claiming that the Church should waive the statute of limitations on all cases of abuse. When and if this happened, and under which circumstances, remains unclear.