Een andere obsessie is dat kerken (zoals Pinksterkerken) groeien als ze een duidelijk eigen profiel hebben. Niet dat vage ietsisme, maar duidelijk traditioneel Rooms-Katholiek en verbonden met Rome. Dit marktdenken is in flagrante tegenspraak met het echte katholieke of veelzijdige zoals dat in de Catholica thuis hoort. Mijn vader hield van pompeuze kerkdiensten, mijn moeder van stil een kaars opsteken in een zijkapel en dan zonder al die ingewikkelde woorden en ceremonies wat mediteren. Iedereen anders, maar dat wil Eijk weg hebben: iedereen luisterend naar de priester die daarna op de juiste wijze sacramenten administreert. Ik was zo boos over deze actie dat ik een brief stuurde naar de nuntius (72 jaar, pas in Den Haag aangesteld). Helpt hem ook niet, maar stilt mijn geweten even. Hieronder dus.
To the Vatican Nuncio
Mgr. André Dupuis
2517 KH Den Haag,
Utrecht, 28 January 2012
This letter is written as an expression of concern about recent developments in the Archdiocese of Utrecht, related to actions taken by Archbishop Wim Eijk, rebuking the Parish Priest Rev. Gerard Griffioen of St. Johns Parish Maarssen-Abcoude and asking the Parish Council to dismiss the Rev. Tejo van der Meulen, pastoral worker in this parish. Reason for this action is the continuation of a practice since 1980 where the pastoral worker has read the Gospel and held the sermon at Mass of All Souls Day, 2 November 2011.
I know Rev. Tejo van der Meulen since I moved to the town of Utrecht and to Utrecht University as Professor of Intercultural Theology in 1995. Rev. Van der Meulen was appointed by the Archbishop of Utrecht as part of the team of the ecumenical academic congregation, a vibrant community that keeps the Christian faith alive, also with Sunday services in Janskerk, one of the old churches built by the Bishop of Utrecht in the 11th century. Unfortunately, this ecumenical cooperation was stopped in 2010 by the new Archbishop Wim Eijk who dismissed also the two Catholic pastoral workers. Since then, however, private funds could nominate again one of the two pastoral workers and incidentally a Catholic priest is still leading worship on Sundays. Catholics still are about 50% in this community, that attracts many younger adults in the university town of Utrecht. Rev. Van der Meulen moved to the Catholic parish north of Utrecht.
As a member of the EUG, Ekumenische Utrechtse Gemeente, the Ecumenical Utrecht Congregation, I am astonished to hear about the severe measures taken against our former pastor by the Archbishop. Tejo van der Meulen is a committed believer, good speaker and excellent pastoral councillor. He only continued what has become the practice since three decades. Many changes that are common in the Church, started from below, like receiving Holy Communion on our hands, not in the mouth. We love singing and praying in our own language. We see that some try to curb these changes. Why now such measures for an effort of restauration against a practice that is only one in a long list?
In my academic career I have done research on Islam and I have been teaching at an Islamic University in Indonesia. (You may consult my weblog http:\\relindonesia.blogspot.com\) but since the mid 1990s I also concentrate on the history of Catholics in Indonesia. Two volumes have been published in English, both already translated in Indonesian by the SVD Publishing House. As a retired professor I am now writing the third volume: Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 1945-2010). In this research I meet again and again a progressive policy of the Vatican, especially the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, as it was called at that time. They warned for cooperation with colonialism, they nominated in 1939 a first native bishop in Indonesia, when many missionaries and other people deemed the time not yet fit. In 1947 Propaganda Fide nominated a Belgian nuncio in Jakarta who made good contacts with nationalists, fighting for an independent Indonesia. Propaganda Fide urged to start inculturation and to show openness for Indonesian culture. I often wish that this policy should be continued to modern culture in the old Christian countries of Europe!
Your Eminence knows that Dutch people are suspicious of all kind of institutions. They are democratic and have not much respect for people who are only insisting on authority without personal charisma. Clericalism has grown in the top of recent Catholicism in the Netherlands. The bishops, seeing a drastic decrease in the number of celibate priests try to heal this by giving special prerogatives to their clergy, in fact only a small section of the Catholic community. At the same time the clergy is under attack for many cases of sexual abuse. Archbishop Eijk has confessed publicly his lack of empathy with the victims. This new action again shows his lack of emotion and personal sympathy. I write to you to express a deep personal concern for this development. The case of Rev. Tejo van der Meulen is just one aspect of this process.
I am also very concerned for the actions of a small band of ultra-conservative ‘ultra-Catholics’ who write letters to bishops, complaining about this and that. The majority mostly keeps silent or leaves the Church. My wife asked me, why I write this letter: you will not be heard, they will not even read your letter. Perhaps this is the case. Nevertheless I feel urged to send you this letter.
With due respect and from a deep anxiety for the well-being of Church and nation in our country,
Yours, Prof. Dr. Karel Steenbrink
cc. Archbishop Mgr. Dr. W. Eijk, Utrecht
Ik kreeg op 9 February een zeer aardige en correcte van de nuntius, waarin hij zich verontschuldigt dat het ruim een week heeft geduurd voor hij kon antwoorden. Hij verzekert me de brief gelezen te hebben, dat kan ik dus aan mijn vrouw zeggen. Verder wordt de inhoud kort en zakelijk weergegeven: You show quite worried about the developments in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. Ik kreeg de verzekering dat er naar gekeken wordt maar hij kan me verder niets beloven 'because that does not depend only from me'.