Looking back at the year: 2012 in review

It’s been quite the year for the Church in the world, in the Netherlands and here on the blog. In this post, I want to look back briefly on what has transpired. What happened before will, in many cases, have its effect on what will happen in the coming year.

The variety of events has been great, but if we had to characterise 2012, we can of course list the major stories: the two consistories for the creation of new cardinals, the ongoing abuse crisis and the efforts in the Netherlands and Rome to deal with it, the Synod of Bishops, the start of the Year of Faith, the retirements, appointments and deaths, the local stories in my neck of the woods and the (mis)representation of the Church in the wider world. These can all characterise the year for the Catholic Church. But since there are as many interpretations as there are readers, I’ll limit myself to presenting the major stories on my blog per month.

For this blog, it has been a good year. With 87,017 views it has been the best year yet, and I am happy to note that I have been able to provide stories, opinions and translations that have been picked up well by other bloggers and media. The pope’s letter to the German bishops on the new translation of the Roman missal, for which I was able to create an English working translation; the Dutch translation of the Christmas address to the Curia; a German interview with Archbishop Müller and my list of surviving Vatican II Council Fathers are examples of this. Both local and international media picked these up, resulting in increased interest for my blog. For that, thank you.

But now, let’s once more go over 2012 and look back on what happened in that year:

Pope Benedict announces a consistory. The list of 22 new cardinals includes the archbishop of Utrecht.
CDF releases a note with recommendations for the Year of Faith.
Archbishop Tscherrig (pictured) leaves Scandinavia for Argentina.
Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun turns 80.
– In the abuse crisis, soon-to-be Cardinal Eijk speaks before a parliamentary commission.
Bishop Jan Liesen is installed as bishop of Breda (Installation homily here).

german cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (R)February:
Dutch-born South-African Bishop Everardus Baaij passes away.
Cardinal Levada opens a major symposium on sexual abuse in Rome.
– At the same symposium, Msgr. Charles Scicluna tells it like it is.
The bishops of Belgium reply to a modernist movement among priests and laity.
Cardinal-designate Eijk is interviewed by Zenit.
Cardinal-designate Dolan delivers a landmark address about the new evangelisation.
22 new cardinals are created in the consistory of 18 February (new Cardinal Eijk pictured).
Responsibilities within the Dutch bishops’ conference are reshuffled.
In Germany, Bishop Reinelt retires.
Dominik Schwaderlapp is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Cologne.
In Mainz, Bishop Guballa passes away after a long sickbed.
Cardinal Eijk returns home with a pastoral letter on the Eucharist.

Pope Shenouda IIIMarch:
Cardinal Eijk announces that he will be keeping a closer eye on the celebration of the liturgy.
Cardinal Quezada Toruño turns 80.
Cardinal Sánchez passes away.
Cardinal Simonis speaks to Zenit about the Second Vatican Council.
Copenhagen’s Bishop emeritus Martensen passes away.
The Dutch bishops respond to a new horrible chapter in the abuse crisis.
Coptic Pope Shenouda II (pictured) passes away.
The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam makes public all the cases concerning sexual abuse by clergy.
A new presidency for the COMECE.
The Dutch bishops issue a letter concerning the celebration of the Easter Triduum, and the need to return its focus to the Eucharist.
Pope Benedict visits Mexico and Cuba.
Bishop Schwaderlapp is consecrated.

aponte martínezApril:
Cardinal Egan turns 80.
In the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the vicar general announces he will enter a monastery.
– In a letter to parliament, The Dutch bishops outline four developments in the fight against sexual abuse.
Pope Benedict directly addresses groups of disobedient priests and laity.
Cardinal Daoud passes away.
Cardinal Eijk reveals a monument for victims of sexual abuse in the Church.
Cardinal Aponte Martínez (pictured) passes away.
A parliamentary committee hears the ‘contact group’ for victims of sexual abuse.
The Dutch chapter of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem invests new members in the cathedral of Groningen-Leeuwarden.
Pope Benedict writes a letter to the German bishops and enters the debate about the new German translation of the Roman Missal.

bishop de korte, new altar st. joseph's cathedralMay:
After 66 years, the Belorussian Diocese of Pinsk finally gets a new bishop.
A new page on the blog, about my conversion story.
The annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed takes place.
Cardinal Vlk turns 80.
Cardinal Eijk takes possession if his title church.
The Deetman Commission undertakes a new abuse investigation, this time into the abuse suffered by women.
Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki is misunderstood about homosexuality.
The cathedral of St. Joseph receives a new altar (Bishop de Korte anointing it pictured) and marks the 125th anniversary of its consecration.

logo year of faithJune:
Pope Benedict XVI visits Milan.
New priests.
Cardinal Quezada Toruño passes away.
Florian Wörner is appointed as auxiliary bishop of Augsburg.
The bishops of Roermond publish a brochure about Communion.
– The Dutch bishops follow suit with a letter about the same topic.
Cardinal Schwery turns 80.
The Instrumentum laboris of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation is published.
The logo for the Year of Faith is revealed (pictured).
A round of personnel changes in the Curia.
Dutch Father Louis Tijssen is declared venerable.
Archbishop Nowacki is appointed as the new nuncio to Scandinavia.
The Heel abuse affair breaks.
President-Delegates are appointed for the Synod.

Gerhard Ludwig MüllerJuly:
Archbishop Müller (pictured) is appointed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
About half of the world’s bishops’ conferences have formulated guidelines against sexual abuse.
Cardinal de Araújo Sales passes away.
Bishop Borys Gudziak is appointed as Apostolic Exarch of France.
Cardinal Stafford turns 80.

carlo martiniAugust:
Bishop Wörner is consecrated, while Bishops Wehrle and Siebler retire.
The Diocese of Rotterdam publishes a Prayer for Faith.
Cardinal Rosales turns 80.
Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passes away.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turns 80.
A Dutch priest’s apparent refusal to baptise the child of a lesbian couple fails to escalate much.
Cardinal Martini (pictured) passes away.

pope benedict  lebanonSeptember:
Cardinal Martini’s last interview causes some debate.
Bishop de Korte marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Rumours surface that priests in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden are unhappy with their new appointments.
Elections in the Netherlands result in a loss for the Christian parties.
Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz turns 80.
Pope Benedict (pictured) visits Lebanon.
Misunderstandings about ecumenism in the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch.
Pope Benedict XVI appoints 36 Synod Fathers.
Cardinal Baldelli passes away.
Questions arise about the German ‘Church tax’.
The first progress report on how the Church deals with abuse claims is released.

synod of bishopsOctober:
German Bishops Wanke and Schraml retire.
Dutch missionary Bishop Joseph Willigers passes away.
Morocco does not take kindly to the arrival of a Dutch ‘abortion boat’.
Vatican Promotor of Justice Charles Scicluna is recalled to Malta to become auxiliary bishop.
The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation begins (pictured).
Cardinal Erdö outlines eleven points for the new evangelisation of Europe.
Belgian Curial Bishop Frans Daneels is made an archbishop.
The Year of Faith begins.
Pope Benedict announces a small consistory for November.
The Synod of Bishops closes.
An attempt at stopping liturgical abusive carnival Masses in Eindhoven.
Amsterdam’s St. Nicholas church is to be made a basilica.

brother hugo vowsNovember:
Cardinal Arinze turns 80.
Bishop Demming passes away.
New sexual abuse accusations surface in Iceland against Bishop Gijsen.
Liège’s Bishop Jousten retires.
At Rolduc, Dutch seminarians attend a conference on new evangelisation.
Bishop Michael Hrynchyshyn passes away.
Hermit Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows (pictured).
The student chaplaincy in Tilburg is brought back into the Catholic fold.
European intolerance towards religion on display in Slovakia.
Cardinal Martino turns 80.
Pope Benedict XVI creates six new cardinals.
Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe speaks about the ‘official Church’.

pope twitterDecember:
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer is appointed as bishop of Regensburg.
Dutch missionary Bishop Wilhelmus Demarteau passes away.
Dutch government announces pulling the plug on small religious broadcasters.
Georg Gänswein is appointed as Prefect of the Papal Household and will be made an archbishop.
Cardinal Scheid turns 80.
Pope Benedict enters the Twitterverse (pictured).
Pope Benedict publishes the Apostolic Letter on charity, Intima Ecclesiae natura.
Dutch media totally misrepresent the pope on the family and gender.

That was 2012. Now let’s get 2013 started. Happy new year!


Halfway there – consolidating the Church’s response to sexual abuse

Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the Maltese prelate who, more than anyone else, is in the forefront of the fight against sexual abuse of minors in the Church, announced yesterday that about half of the world’s bishops’ conferences have responded to a request from the Holy See to send in their guidelines for fighting the sin and crime of sexual abuse within their respective jurisdictions. After summer, the promotor of justice said, these guidelines will be studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while those conferences who have not yet responded will be sent a reminder to do so.

All this in an effort to draft a unified response on the part of the Church and an assurance that, wherever in the world the crime takes place, the response and consequences will be the same, including a close cooperation with civil authorities, with the Church always emphasising a victim’s right to report a crime to the police.

As to which conferences have and have not responded, that remains anyone’s guess, although I think it is a near certainty that the Dutch bishops have sent in the measures taken here. Following the review in Rome, suggestions for additions and revisions will be sent back.

In an interview, Msgr. Scicluna linked the current developments to the recent symposium on sexual abuse within the Church (he is pictured above during the penitential vigil that was part of that symposium):

“The experience of those who have had the opportunity to be present at the Symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian  University was very encouraging: some prelates – Scicluna recalled – witnessed with great joy that there had been a strong impact. This is my hope: there has been no mentality revolution during these past few weeks; this will take time and patience. But the right seed has been planted in the Church’s furrow, under the Holy Father’s humble and courageous leadership. People need pastors to be vigilant; this is a battle against sin and against crime. And we cannot be defeated in this battle: the innocence of our children and young people is too precious a treasure for the Church.”


Photo credit: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

“Never again!” – Cardinal Ouellet’s homily

Just to reflect upon, and see what has been said by another Curial prelate, here is my translation of the homily that Marc Cardinal Ouellet gave at a penitential liturgy on Tuesday evening, in Rome’s Sant’ Ignazio de Loyola in Campo Marzio.

The symposium, which one of the participants considers to signal “a new baseline” for the Church, ended today, but in many places much of the work is now beginning. If anything, the past four days have shown the world that the Church is no longer willing to hide from the truth. Instead, it welcomes that truth and wants to show the world, as a leading example, that the truth really does set free.

Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Closer to home, a complaints commission calls for apologies

Tower of the St. Pancras church

While the major abuse symposium enters its final day in Rome, at home the complaints commission of the Meldpunt Seksueel Misbruik, an institution established by the Dutch Church to receive complaints of sexual abuse and deals with the initial processing of them, has called for Archbishop Wim Eijk and Cardinal Ad Simonis, current and previous archbishops of Utrecht, to apologise for the abuse suffered by nine men in the parish of St. Pancras in Albergen.

The perpetrator of the abuse, who was parish priest at time, died in 1986, but the Meldpunt sees reason to believe that Cardinal Simonis was aware of what had happened, but didn’t act against the priest. There is no proof of this claim, it must be said.

The victims considered this decision as recognition of their pain, and will now start the process of claiming financial compensation from the Church.

In light of the need for openness, honesty and truthfulness, I think the two prelates should simply and humbly apologise for what went wrong.  Their own personal involvement, or lack thereof, does not play a part in that. Like Msgr. Scicluna emphasised yesterday, this is a matter of accountability. The archbishop and the cardinal now have the opportunity to lead by example. Let’s hope that an apology will indeed be forthcoming.

Source: Kerknieuws.

Photo credit: H. Pancratius Parochie

Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna strikes again

The Promotor of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, spoke at the “Towards Healing and Renewal” symposium yesterday. Titled “The Quest for Truth in Sexual Abuse Cases: A Moral and Legal Duty”, his address dealt with the “honest quest for the truth and for justice,” much according to the words that Pope Pius XII spoke in 1942: “Truth is the law of justice. The world has need of that truth which is justice, and of that justice which is truth.”

Msgr. Scicluna was abundantly clear about how the Church must face the abuse crisis: in a fully open and honest search for the truth. This openness translates in what is perhaps one of the most bare-bones and blunt descriptions of what went wrong and what must be done. Below are some choice quotes to illustrate this.

“[A] deadly culture of silence or “omertà” is in itself wrong and unjust. Other enemies of the truth are the  deliberate  denial  of  known  facts  and  the  misplaced  concern  that  the  good  name  of  the institution  should  somehow  enjoy  absolute  priority  to  the  detriment  of  legitimate  disclosure  of crime.”

Well, we’ve all seen this happen in the past, be it intentional or not.

“The acknowledgment and recognition of the full truth of the matter in all its sorrowful effects and consequences is at the source of true healing for both victim and perpetrator.”

“The  law  may  indeed  be clear.  But this is not enough for peace and order in the community. Our people need to know that the law is being applied.”

That is a responsibility that lies with the bishops, superiors and prelates of the Church who apply canon law. The law itself must not only be known, but also been seen to be put into practice.

“No  strategy  for  the  prevention  of  child  abuse  will  ever  work  without  commitment  and accountability.”

We not only have to be willing to do what must be done to prevent child abuse, but we must also, always, take our responsibility. Following the above line, Msgr. Scicluna quotes from the pope’s letter to the Catholics of Ireland, in which the Holy Father exhorts the bishops of that country to “renew [their] sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with [their] people and to deepen [their] pastoral concern for all the members of [their] flock.”

By all means, read Msgr. Scicluna’s entire address via the link above. It gives an idea that there are people in the Curia who know what must be done and who, God willing, can help steer the Church in the direction she needs to go.

Cardinal Levada opens abuse symposium, urges a multi-faceted but united response to the crisis

Yesterday, the major symposium on sexual abuse in the Church, “Toward Healing and Renewal”, began at the Pontifical Gregorian University with an address by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. This Congregation is, of course, the one to deal with the most serious crimes, the graviora delicta, against faith, the sacraments, and also sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.

Cardinal Levada is the first of several speakers at the symposium, which will end on Thursday. The addresses of other speakers, including that of abuse victim Marie Collins, are available in several languages here. In addition, Cardinal Levada’s address is also available in Dutch.

These are valuable texts, and should be read and consider with such documents as the pope’s letter to the faithful of Ireland and the Circular Letter that Cardinal Levada uses as the basis for his address. The Church’s response to the abuse crisis, at the highest level, is formulated here.

Attending the symposium are representatives of some 100 bishops’ conferences. Representing the Netherlands is Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis

“Towards Healing and Renewal,” and a unified response to the crisis

Early next month, Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University will be hosting a symposium “to promote a consistent, global response by the Church that protects the weakest and invites creative leadership for our Church communities”. It is a direct response to last year’s circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which called for the development of “procedures suitable for assisting the victims of such abuse, and also for educating the ecclesial community concerning the protection of minors” in the entire world Church.

On a website (which is currently still undergoing development), the rector of the Gregorian, Fr. François-Xavier Dumortier, S.J. present the symposium, titled “Towards Healing and Renewal: A Symposium for Bishops and Religious Superiors on Sexual Abuse”.  Reflecting the significance of this symposium, which can be considered a first concrete effort to unify the Church’s worldwide response to the abuse crisis, is perhaps the list of speakers, among them Cardinal William Levada and Msgr. Charles Scicluna.

From the press release:

“Towards Healing and Renewal is being offered by the Gregorian University in Rome and consists of a major symposium followed by the launch of a multi-institution e-learning centre which will run for the next three years – the Center for the Protection of Children based in Munich, Germany. Delegates for the symposium will come from 110 Bishops’ Conferences and also be superiors of 30 Religious Orders, making this a truly international gathering focusing on safeguarding by the Catholic Church.

This initiative has the support of several Vatican Congregations as well as the Secretary of State and the symposium, which will run from February 6-9, will have speakers from all continents in recognition of the global nature of safeguarding the vulnerable. The speakers include the testimony of a victim of abuse, who will address the delegates about the need for victims to be heard and how to effect positive change.”

The website linked to above offers a clear picture of the symposium’s goals and purpose: to allow the participants and those they represent to learn how to handle all the facets of the ongoing abuse crisis. Notably, there will also be a voice for the victims, with little doubt one of the most important voices in this situation.

As Rector Dumortier writes in the final paragraph of his introduction: “Let us keep in prayer the participants in the Symposium, the presenters, but most especially all those who have been impacted in some way or form by sexual abuse within our Church and society.”