May 20

Difficult Reconciliation

Recently, Roman and Greek Catholic bishops have been discussing reconciliation between Poles and Ukrainians, but on 14 May 2013, less than a week after the reconciliation project was announced, it fell apart. Continue reading

Sep 07

Off Their Rockers

Since the turn of the century, the topics of women’s emancipation and feminism have more or less disappeared from public discourse, in church circles as well. At least, this is what happened in the Netherlands. Feminism and women’s emancipation fell victim, so to say, to their own success. In Eastern Europe, however, things are more complex, as was clearly shown at the biennial regional conference of the European Society of Woman in Theological Research that took place in Split, Croatia, from 2 to 5 September 2012.* There, it became apparent that women’s issues have not been given any priority whatsoever within the Orthodox, Protestant or Roman Catholic Churches. And what is more, they are considered with great suspicion or the study thereof is merely tolerated. 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

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

Aug 17

“Rural Areas in Upheaval”

Renovabis – “Active solidarity of the German Roman Catholics with the people of Central and Eastern Europe” – will hold its annual conference on 1-3 September 2011. This year’s conference is devoted to the erosion of the quality of life in the Eastern European countryside. Theme: “Rural Areas in Upheaval”. Can the Churches in Eastern Europe somehow contribute to a solution? Continue reading

May 05

Friends and Foes

In March 2011, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, visited Moscow. There, he met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The visit was heralded in the media as a breakthrough in Russian Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations, but it remains to be seen, as to whether we will witness a new ecumenical era soon. With Pope biographer George Weigel, for example, one can ask if this really was a defining moment. Recently, Weigel harshly criticised the Russian Orthodox Church, and, to be honest, rightly so. It is obvious that the “the Russian Orthodox leadership is functioning as an arm of Russian state power” (Weigel) and, as a matter of fact, quite willingly (see a December 2010 Wikileak with Metropolitan Hilarion).
This post, however, does not aim at the Russian Orthodox Church as such. It rather wants to look at what might lay behind this desire for cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church on various moral and ethical issues, which was proposed by Metropolitan Hilarion, last March. Continue reading