Words from Archbishop Wim Eijk in response to the ridiculous claims made against him in the Volkskrant. Katholiek Nieuwsblad published a short interview with the archbishop in which he counters these claims. Yesterday the Dutch bishops released a joint statement to the same effect. It’s a shame that that statement and this interview asre not picked up by the major newspapers, whereas the Volkskrant article – a shoddy piece of work – was.
Here is my translation of the interview, conducted by Jan Peeters:
KN: The core element of the criticism which you received this week, seems once more to be the closing of the Ariënskonvikt. As you said you fear in November of 2009, the criticism seems to be leading its own life. Is that true?
Abp. Eijk: “It is true that Ms. Stienstra again proclaims in the media that millions have been left in legates to the Ariënskonvikt, but we don’t have them. I haven’t heard anything about this from others in the past year either – her statement is not true. Once again: the Ariënskonvikt was closed at the time because of the deficient finances and the small number of students, which meant there was not enough of a community life.”
In April of 2011, the Volkskrant repeats criticism which you have tried to refute almost 18 months ago. There must be some truth in it, people may think…
“It remains to be seen if people think that. False accusations do not become automatically ‘true’ because they are proclaimed again 18 months later.”
The prevalent image is that Msgr. Eijk does not allow contradiction and sidelines or fires people who are critical about him. In how far is that image true?
“That image is not based on facts. In various consultation structures and in meetings with parish councils I get continously replies and sometimes also criticism. I certainly take advantage of that, but, on the other hand, I did not become bishop to win the popularity prize. I can’t please everyone. Criticism is fine, but slander is whole different story. Whoever publically calls me a liar has a problem: I can’t work with someone like that. But in all honesty, I don’t think that’s out of the ordinary.”
You are also accused of acting authoritarian, that you do not involve people in decisions, but present them with accomplished facts. You do you see that yourself?
“Upon my installation as archbishop I found a diocese on the edge of bankruptcy. Quick and robust measures were necessary. In such an ’emergency situation’ there sometimes wasn’t time to garner support, I am aware of that. Because of that promptness people have sometimes felt ambushed by decisions. But in that period there has also always been discussion: with the members of the staff of the diocese, the chapter, the council of priests, the Council for Economic Affairs. By now there is more time for discussion; For example, all the parish council now come by to discuss the pastoral-liturgical policy plans.”
It is well known that your relations with the bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden were strained when he was still your auxiliary bishop. Later you and your auxiliary bishops have made your complaints about him in a letter that was leaked to the press. What is true about the claim that you wanted to have him removed from office as a bishop?
“That is pure nonsense. In a press release earlier this week, the bishops’ conference have made it know that at no time such a request was made to Rome.”
The accountant of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden has accused you of an ‘un-Christian attitude’. Is it true that you demanded his resignation?
“No, that is not true. I did, among other things, ask for public apologies for his words.”
It is said you even hired investigators to find the one who ‘leaked’ the letter. Is it true,and did you find the ‘leak’?
“That is a ridiculous accusation. From the archdiocese there has been no contact with whichever investigating bureau whatsoever, let alone that “Msgr. Eijk sent investigators to his bishops to check their computers,” as the Volkskrant wrote. The bishops’ conference distanced itself also from this in a mutual statement. The suggestion was made in cooperation with the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, to try and find who leaked the letter, for example by hiring such a bureau together. But nothing has come from that.”
Following the closing of the Ariënskonvikt you are said to also want to close your own cathedral or the St. Augustine church. Is that true?
This too is an urban legend. It is not up to the archbishop to close a church building. It’s the parish that takes that initiative; it owns the church building. The archdiocese did ask the parish council for a thorough finaincial planning for the next several years regarding the buildings. That was necessary because the parish wanted to take a number of decisions which involved large sums of money. That requires the authorisation of the bishop. A long term planning was not suuplied by the parish, which was reason for the Council for Economic Affairs to give a negative advice for now. That can not lead to the conclusion that, as far as the diocese is concerned, one of the churches must be closed; when the parish supplies a good planning, the CEA may still advice positively.”
The former parish house of the cathedral, which until the closing housed part of the konvikt, has to be sold. For whom are the proceeds?
“The parish house is property of the Salvator parish (the parish in the inner city of Utrecht) and the p[roceeds of the sale will fully benefit this parish.”
There are said to be ‘earmarked donations for Utrecht’s seminary. What will happens with that money now that the Ariënskonvikt is closed?
“Insofar as there are ‘earmarked’ donations for the seminary, these will go to the Priesteropleiding Fund. This will pay for the education of the semrians of Utrecht.”
How many seminarians does the archdiocese have and where do they study?
At the moment, the archdiocese has five seminarians. Three of them study at the Tiltenberg, the seminary of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. One seminarian lives in the city of Utrecht and the fifth studies at Bovendonk and lives in Breda.”
Is it true that they are not allowed to study in Tilburg? Isn’t that still a vote of no-confidence towards your own Faculty of Catholic Theology?
“Three of the five seminarians may, as a transitory rule, complete their education at the FCT. This is no longer possible for new students. That is not a vote of no-confidence towards the FCT, but it has to do with the disappearance of the link between the Ariënskonvikt and the FCT. At the konvikt the students lived in community and there they received the spiritual and psychological formation which is also part of the education of a priest. To follow classes at the FCT from the Tiltenberg is very difficult due to the distance. And he who studies at the FCT with being rooted in a community lacks the psychological formation. So practical concerns make the FCT no longer an option.”
Did you take notice of the appeal that Ms. Stienstra is to present to the pope against you? In what way is an (arch)bishop free to create policy?
“Ms. Stienstra did not send her appeal to the archdiocese. I can say nothing about it.”