Looking behind

As the year of Our Lord 2011 draws to a close, I happily join the ranks of the countless media channels creating overviews of the years past. And both for this blog, as well as the Catholic Church in the Netherlands and abroad, it has been a tumultuous year, both positive and negative. Taking this blog as the goggles we use to look back, blog, Church and wider world become unavoidably intertwined, but, in a way, that is how it should be.

In January, we saw the announcement of the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the resignation of Rotterdam’s Bishop Ad van Luyn being accepted, and the launch of Blessed Titus Brandsma’s Twitter adventure.

February was the month of interesting considerations by Bishop Schneider about Vatican II, shocking new developments in the abuse crisis, the announcement of a undeservedly short-lived experiment with the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, the first signs that all is not well in Belgium, but also three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, and the vacancy of Berlin.

March brought us disturbing news about Bishop Cor Schilder, an extensive message for Lent from the Dutch bishops, disaster in Japan, the announcement of a great ecumenical media project for Easter, and the annual Stille Omgang in Amsterdam.

April: the month of the consecration of Bishops Kockerols, Lemmens and Hudsyn, the first EF Mass in Groningen’s cathedral, further attempts at repressing religious freedom in the Netherlands, the bishops of Belgium uniting in shock to further improprieties from Roger Vangheluwe, the pope’s birthday, further personal attacks against Archbishop Eijk and the first preparations for Madrid.

In May we saw and read about the death of Bin Laden, the beatification of John Paul II, the first Vatican blogmeet, the appointment of Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam, the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, a prayer answered, a papal visit to Venice, enraging comments from the Salesian superior in the Netherlands, and subsequent press releases from the Salesian Order.

June was the month of papal comments about new evangelisation and sacred music, the end of EF Masses in Groningen, the pope visiting Croatia, a new bishop in Görlitz, Bishop van Luyn’s farewell to Rotterdam, advice on financial compensation for abuse victims, Archbishop Eijk taking over as president of the Dutch bishops’ conference, and the death of Cardinal Sterzinsky.

In July, Bishop Rainer Woelki went to Berlin, there was more preparation for Madrid, Bishop van den Hende was installed as bishop of Rotterdam, the pope visited San Marino, Luxembourg received a new archbishop, Bootcamp 2011 took place, Bishop Liesen appeared on EWTN, Blessed Titus Brandsma ended his Twitter adventure, and the crimes of Anders Breivik hit home for Dutch Catholics.

August was a big month because of the World Youth Days in Madrid, but we also learned about Archbishop Dolan’s explanation of the Vatican, freedom of conscience being curtailed, the 100,000th visitor of this blog, and the Liempde affair exploding in the media.

In September, the official website of the Dutch Church got a make-over, Archbishop Eijk wrote a thankyou note to the participants of the WYD, The Dutch bishops’ conference shuffled their responsibilities, and Pope Benedict visited Germany and delivered an important address to the Bundestag.

October, then, saw a successful reunion of the WYD troupe, Bishop Mutsaerts’ intervention in the ultra-liberal San Salvator parish, the bishops declining a proposal to Protestantise the Church, the consecration of Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the publication of Porta Fidei and the announcement of a Year of Faith, the appointment of a new Dutch ambassador to the Holy See, the appointment of Msgr. Hendriks as auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the first Night of Mary, and Assisi 2011.

In November, Cardinal Burke came to Amsterdam, the bishops accept and put into action a plan for financial compensation for victims of sexual abuse, the Peijnenburg affair made headlines, the pope went to Benin and heartwarmingly spoke to children, priests in Belgium tempted excommunication, Cardinal Simonis turned 80, Bishop Liesen became the new bishop of Breda, and a fifty-year-old letter showed that congregations new about abuse happening in their ranks.

This final month of December, then, saw the first fifty victims of sexual abuse being able to claim financial compensation, the presentation of plans for Metropolis 2012, Nuncio Bacqué’s retirement, the consecration of Bishop Jan Hendriks, pain and horror in Liège, the appointment of Archbishop André Dupuy as new Nuncio, and the publication of the Deetman report unleashing emotional reactions everywhere.

It’s been quite the year, but one with much to be thankful for. The truth sets us free seems especially apt in this final month, but can be applied to the entire year. May 2012 be equally open, honest, but also full of blessings for the Church, the people and everyone of us.

Thank you, readers, for the continued interest. That’s incentive to keep on doing what I do here.

A happy new year, and may God bless you all.

Brick minus brick in Groningen

At Catholica, editor Tom Zwitser shares some discouraging news. After two Masses, the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite of the Mass at the cathedral of St. Joseph is to be discontinued immediately. Sad news, and the reasons for this decision not only highlight the lack of communication (which I, in a different context, have also experienced) within the parish and the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, but also the contradictory position with the world Church taken by the diocese. Both the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, issued by Pope Benedict XVI and Ecclesia Dei respectively, are quite clear in the duties that a diocesan bishop has towards a group of faithful who wish to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Aforementioned texts are quite clear in the regulations surrounding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form in any given diocese or jurisdiction. Below a summary from the texts:

It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. [UE 14]

In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church. [SP 5.1]

A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter existens (“existing in a stable manner”), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose [UE 15].

Three paragraphs only, which illustrate that priests and bishops are to generously grant the wish of a stable group of faithful (the size of that group does not factor into the occasion) to celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. These texts are not difficult or unclear.

EF Mass on 8 May, offered by Fr. Andreas Komorowski, FSSP

But what is now happening in Groningen? After two EF Masses in April and May (announced as to take place on every first Sunday of the month, celebrated out of necessity by priests from outside the diocese, initially until summer, but with the implied possibility that they may continue after that if an average of 30 faithful would be attending at that point), a decision was made to limit the number of Masses to four per year. This, as Mr. Zwitser quotes, “not to encourage a division of spirits within the parish”.  It must be said, at this point, that finding qualified priests, acolytes and volunteers willing to organise and celebrate these Masses is difficult in this diocese, with such a small number of clergy and faithful to begin with. This difficulty, coupled with, in his words, the lack of cooperation he received, led Mr. Zwitser to decide not to continue as the lone mandated organiser.

Maybe the diocese will continue offering EF Masses, but this first attempt can be considered a failure. It’s quite sad that there seems to be such opposition to the older form of the Mass, especially when Rome has been quite clear in this respect. Of course, lack of volunteers, clergy and personnel are hurdles to overcome, but Universae Ecclesiae foresaw in this:

In Dioceses without qualified priests, Diocesan Bishops can request assistance from priests of the Institutes erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, either to the celebrate the forma extraordinaria or to teach others how to celebrate it [22].

Again, this is not difficult, and it works: the two Masses in Groningen have been offered by qualified priests from the Diocese of Roermond and the FSSP. Travelling costs remain as the sole obstacle.

Rumours have it that EF Masses may continue at the church of St. Martin in Sneek. A place and church not as easy to reach for people as the cathedral in Groningen is, and also lacking a qualified priest. This is then a rumoured solution that only relocates the problem.

At this moment, the reintroduction of the Extraordinary Form in Groningen seems to be nipped in the bud. Promises seem to be broken, cooperation not given as much as it could, and the instructions from Rome and the personal wish of the Holy Father not given due consideration.I expressly say ‘seems’, because much of this is hearsay and second-hand information. As in the world Church, the local Church too has much to grow in communication.

Stats for May 2011

With a total 5,940 page views, the month of May has, at the last minute, been able to continue to steady increase visible over the past couple of months. It is now in second place on the list of most visitors on the blog per month. In total views, we’re approaching the 90,000, so I expect that the 100,000 will be crossed sometime in August, 1 year and 8 months after I started this blog. A nice number, but of course nothing to Fr. Tim Finigan’s 3 million visitors since he began blogging. Although he has been at it since April of 2006.

On to the usual top 10 of most popular blog posts. There are three Dutch translations in there (which makes me happy), and the posts about the Dutch Salesians also rank high. Blessed John Paul II’s beatification is also in there, although not as high as I would have expected. Lastly, the new bishop of Rotterdam also led to some decent interest in my writings.

1: An angry post: 166
2: Statement from Vatican press chief Fr. Lombardi on the death of Bin Laden: 107
3: Universae Ecclesiae: 95
4: A prayer answered: 63
5: Het probleem Medjugorje: 62
6: Three press releases from the Salesians 59
7: Fifth bishop of Rotterdam to be announced at noon tomorrow: 57
8: Homilie bij de zaligverklaring van Paus Johannes Paulus II: 56
9: Bishop van den Hende to Rotterdam: 53
10: Pictures say more: 43

Universae Ecclesiae: a placeholder post

William Cardinal Levada, president of Ecclesia Dei

The big Church news today was of course the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, the long-awaited Instruction that clarifies the practical implementation of 2007’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, which deals with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The embargo on the text was officially lifted at noon today, and I am secretly quite proud to be able to present a Dutch translation on the same day.

Tomorrow I plan to offer some thoughts on the Instruction (hence this post’s title), published by the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei. The official English text is available here.

Two instructions

The Vatican is ready to published two important documents, one on each side of the weekend, that will be worth further study.The first one, to be release tomorrow at noon, is called Universae Ecclessiae; it is the long-awaited instruction accompanying Summorum pontificum, the motu proprio from 2007  that allowed the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to be freely celebrated by anyone who so wished. The instruction will in essence be a guide for the correct implimentation of the motu proprio.

It has been a long wait, but tomorrow we will know a whole lot more.

The second document is to be released on Monday, and it will be directed at the bishops. It will deal with the ongoing abuse crisis, and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, William Cardinal Levada, has said that the document will enable bishops´ conferences everywhere to create a “coordinated and effective program” of child protection and of dealing with allegations. The focus, it is said, will be on cooperation with local law enforcement and helping victims, something that several conferences  (for example in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands) have already been doing.