Remnant - 15 February 1980
convened by the Pope because of the crisis of authority reached
by the Church in Holland, the Synod of Dutch Bishops ended in
Rome on January 31st, with a 22-page document definitely ruling
out certain innovations in the Catholic Church in Holland, and
leaving some of the more hotly contested issues to "further
were set up to probe conditions at Holland’s theological seminary
education, and to examine the activities of "pastoral workers"
- the unordained men and women who have taken over much of the
work of priests in the Netherlands
in recent years.
John Paul II attended all the sessions and, in a major address
emphasizing doctrinal positions, urged the bishops in effect to
"lead, not follow, their people."
to Religious News Service, some observers summed up the conference
as " a blow to liberal movements in the 5.6 million-member
Church in Holland, looked to by progressives around the world
as a leader of post-conciliar reform." But whether the Synod
outcome can be looked upon as a victory for conservatives depends
in large measure upon whether rank-and-file Catholics in Holland
will respond to these initial steps, all of which are merely committed
to paper at this time, and whether the bishops will make good
their pledge to cooperate with the Vatican.
and whatever the outcome will be, Synod document ruled out definitively
any alternative to a celibate, all-male clergy. Though "pastoral
workers" could continue their jobs, they cannot be considered
a "parallel clergy," the document said. It outlawed what it termed
a "third path" between priestly celibacy and marriage, referring
to this as an "ambiguous state" which is not acceptable in any
special Synod was called by Pope John Paul II to bring order to
the Church in Holland, wracked by internal conflict between various
factions. In recent years, Holland’s bishops - two of whom are
labelled conservative, four liberal, and one moderate - were often
at loggerheads over issues ranging from ecumenism to birth control
to priestly education.
Church’s 276 lay "pastoral workers" were told in the document
that they cannot replace priests or perform priestly functions.
The conclusion reaffirmed Pope John Paul’s previous emphasis on
the need for a clear distinction between the priesthood and the
laity. "The building up of the Church community and the exercise
of its mission are entrusted to the whole community," the Pope
said on 31 January during a homily at the Synod’s closing Mass.
"But...this responsibility is exercised according to the charism
and the place of each person in the Body of Christ."
Synod resolution condemned several commonplace, but unauthorized,
practices of the Church in Holland. It specifically vetoed inter-communion
between Catholics and Protestants, thus setting a precedent also
for other countries to follow. The document stated: "Inter-communion
with separated brothers is not the response to the appeal of Christ
for perfect unity."
private Confession, a Sacrament which has virtually disappeared
in Holland to be replaced by group penitential services, was reaffirmed.
Collective confession "is an extraordinary method," the document
said, calling on the bishops "to restore in the faithful esteem
for the [traditional] sacrament...especially in its form of personal
which included six top Vatican officials and other religious experts
in addition to the Pope and the seven Dutch bishops, reaffirmed
the obligation incumbent upon the faithful to attend Mass at least
every Sunday and every holy day of obligation.
criticized both liberal and conservative Church critics, especially
those groups which bring "too great a pressure in the Church."
reaffirmed the bishops' authority to appoint and dismiss professors
in Catholic institutions in Holland, an important issue in light
of the Vatican's recent
decision to strip Fr. Hans Küng of his teaching post at Tübingen
University. The bishops must exercise their duties "in matter
of the nomination or dismissal of professors," the document said.
It also said that the bishops should be careful to "safeguard
the ecclesial atmosphere, notably on the point of celibacy."
* * *
alone will determine the outcome," are the concluding words
of The Remnant report. While there can be no doubt that
John Paul II convened the Dutch Synod with the very best of intentions,
time has made it clear that the Liberal bishops returned to Holland
and totally ignored the decisions of the Synod. Everything continued
exactly as before along the path to doctrinal, liturgical and
moral anarchy. It is no longer accurate to speak of the Catholic
Church in Holland. Catholicism has virtually vanished from that
unhappy country, with the exception of a few isolated priests
and laymen who have remained orthodox, and the seminary of Rolduc
opened by two conservative bishops, Gijsen and Simonis. In the
years following the Synod the Pope has appointed other conservative
bishops, but the Church in Holland has degenerated to such an
extent that there is little that they can do to remedy the situation.
This was made clear by the widespread hostility which marred the
Pope's visit to Holland in 1986, hostility which erupted into