Dec 20

Christmas 2011

Why actually God came to live among us? At Christmas, God shakes hands with mankind, saying that life is good, in spite of sorrow, pain, war and crisis. But that’s not all! God shakes hands with all mankind and softly pulls it towards Him. Similarly, we must try to reach out to our fellow man and make this world a better place, in all things, big and small, for ourselves and for others. For example: we must always try see the good in other people and try to make their life more enjoyable; and on a more global scale: war must end; tears must be wiped away; the hungry must be fed. And if we do well, we come closer to God and God will reveal Himself in all things, big and small. Continue reading

Dec 20

Abuse of Minors in the Netherlands

‘The Church knew about abuse, its policy failed.’ It is one of the conclusions in a detailed and well-researched report of the Deetman Commission about sexual abuse of minors in the Dutch Roman Catholic Church from 1945 to 2010. On Friday 16 December 2011 the independent commission of inquiry presented its findings.(1) Since WW II about 10 to 20 thousand minors fell victim to various degrees of sexual abuse by some 800 members of the clergy, members of orders and congregations, or lay workers. The commission started its work in 2010 with the former Minister of Education Wim Deetman as its president. Researchers had unlimited access to church archives.(2) Continue reading

Nov 27

Communicantes Conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’

The conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’ was held on 26 November 2011 at the picturesque Hernen Castle. Four key note speakers had been invited. Dr. Heleen Zorgdrager, who is visiting professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv since 2005, and Ukrainian nationals Father Roman Fihas MA,  drs. Julia Hoppenbrouwers-Nagornyak and  Mariana Kavinska MA demonstrated their intimate knowledge of Church in Ukraine. Furthermore, Professor Nico Schreurs, president of the Foundation Communicantes, spoke about the history and mission of the foundation. Editor-in-chief Father Dolf Langerhuizen introduced the audience to the review Pokrof. The conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’ was organised by the Foundation Communicantes and the review Pokrof, and was hosted by the Bredius Foundation. It is the aim of the Bredius Foundation to enhance knowledge of Byzantine culture among scholars and the general public. Continue reading

Nov 23

Church Goers More Altruistic

Every two years The Netherlands Institute for Social Research ¦ SCP takes the temperature of Dutch society. How do the Dutch think about themselves? Are they happy? How do they see the future? How do they spend their free time? Are they religious? What is the quality of life? The outcomes sometimes seem contradictory. On average Dutch men and women feel quite happy. They have money to spend, and will see old age, but in the same time a mere 25 percent of the population is optimistic about the future; 60 percent has serious worries. While people who go to church more often are more socially active, Church membership is down. Continue reading

Nov 08

Germanus Incredibilis

The Incredible German. No, I am sorry, this is not an entry about pope Benedict XVI. This posting deals with the German Jesuit Father Athanasius Kircher (1601/1602–1680), a famous 17th century scholar, whose intellectual biography was recently published: A Study of the Life and Works of Athanasius Kircher, ‘Germanus Incredibilis’. It is a good opportunity for me to let you in on one of my intellectual interests. Continue reading

Oct 13

The Market for Sexual Goods and Services

In June 2011 I met with the highly motivated staff and volunteers of the programme “Aid to Victims of Prostitution and Human Trafficking” of Caritas Lithuania. This Roman Catholic organisation provides assistance to (mostly) women who have become victim of prostitution and of human trafficking, in the country itself or abroad. If they wish, clients receive psychological, judicial or practical assistance so they may kick-start a new life. Continue reading

Oct 12

Let’s go Belarus!

From 17 to 28 October 2011, project and content manager Frans Hoppenbrouwers will be visiting the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches of Belarus. Since 2004 Communicantes supports Roman and Greek Catholic projects, for example pastoral care for prisoners and the training of volunteers. Furthermore, election time excepted, there’s not too much of Belarus in the news. Yet another good reason to go and have a look. Again! This will be my first visit since 2004. It will take me from Minsk to Grodno and then via Minsk to Vitebsk. (See the map.) After my return, I will let you know of my experiences. Continue reading

Sep 26

Medvedev, Putin and Ecumenism

Last Saturday 24 September, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia announced that he will be stepping down from office next year to allow his Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a third presidential term. Russia watchers see in this Putin’s desire to prevent substantial reform, and, for that reason, predict the end of the Putin era as well. On the short-term, the Putin-Medvedev shuffle will also affect ecumenical relations, at least, this would not come as a surprise. Continue reading

Sep 11

Sources to the Pope Pius XII Controversy 2

How to proceed? To better understand the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards the holocaust, I will work in two directions. First, I will explore source material, and present useful, sometimes controversial books and articles. Here it is important not to go into too great detail, but to see what the discussion is about. Second, I will examine one or two historical episodes in depth. The readers of this blog can then see how sometimes well established scholars come to rather shallow conclusions, get carried away by the desire to point a finger at the Church, or, on the contrary, how overzealous defenders of the Church stretch the truth. I will start with the events surrounding the deportation of the Jews from Slovakia in March 1942. By the way, at a later stage, the focus will switch to the Church during the years of communist dictatorship as well. Continue reading

Sep 10

Sources to the Pope Pius XII Controversy

Provided you know English, German, French, Italian and Latin well enough, the Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 1-11, P. Blet, R.A. Graham, A. Martini and B. Schneider (eds), Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965–1981 will be of invaluable help in understanding the predicament of the wartime Roman Catholic Church. But whether this source can help to explain the much debated “silence of Pope Pius XII” before the holocaust is yet another question. Meanwhile, the ADDS are available in PDF format at the Vatican website. They mainly contain correspondence between the Holy See and Vatican diplomats and local church hierarchs. Continue reading

Sep 01

Women Theologians

In some Roman Catholic circles feminism is considered of something suspect. Seemingly, this word denotes several evils that have come about through the re-appreciation of womanhood: a new and problematic relationship between man and woman; motherhood, rather optional than a duty, competes with various models of self-determination; the decline of male authority. Undeniably, these and other changes are positive and negative in the same time, for men and for women. When we visit our parish church on Sunday, however, we can clearly see that the Church itself is by and large feminised as well. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of church-goers is female, in Western and in Eastern Europe. Continue reading