Support dialogues and Synod
Dutch Catholics up and down
Catholics in the Netherlands have been suppressed by protestants for 300 years. When freedom of religion was introduced in 1850, each Catholic community wanted to show its power by building a church with an impressive tower. Volunteers united in special religious orders offered education for every child. Laborers and farmers formed their own Catholic unions. With their own Catholic political party they participated in building a national social care system. During 100 years the number of priests was growing steadily. Dutch priests outnumbered many Catholic countries. In 1960 there was a priest for every 2000 Catholics. At the same time 8860 missionaries were working in underdeveloped countries with about the same number of sisters and brothers.
After World War II bishops, priests, religious and other educated people discovered a growing split between the official Church and modern life and not only in the Netherlands. The Dutch became the trustworthy allies for pope John XXIII to make Vatican II to a success. A Dutch bishop declared for TV that couples could use contraception pills for birth control. The national conference of bishops asked the pope to make celibacy no longer obligatory for priests.
In 1967 Dutch Catholics awoke from a the dream. Their bishops and many theologians were blacklisted by the Vatican and reprimanded for tolerance of free thinking publicity.
This interference in freedom of thinking and freedom of press was a choc for the vast majority of Catholics in the Netherlands. It made the Roman the official Roman Catholic Church loose her trustworthiness and its former moral authority. The public reaction could not be misunderstood . While in 1965 a parish priest used to get 2000 people in the confessional at Easter, in 1969 he got only 10. The Dutch Catholic people had abolished the sacrament of confession forever.
To improve the connection with the Dutch conference of bishops the pope gradually replaced the majority of bishops by autistic people with the task to preach obedience and to hold on to the old theories. This strategy gradually alienated the hierarchy even more from modern world and from the grassroots. A visit of pope John Paul II was intended to fill up the empty pews again. But before his arrival a crowd of 20.000 people came together on May 8 1985 urging the application of the decisions of Vatican II. The pope did not listen at all. His visit was the beginning of the <8 mei beweging> (May 8 1985
Movement) which during the following years kept urging for the application of Vatican II. In 2003 the movement was converted into the association Marienburg which up to this year followed the pattern of editing a magazine and booklets, having talks and conferences, writing newsletters and updating a website.
At the last general assembly MV members agreed that during those years past all actions did not result in any structural change of the official Church. Marienburg would do better by switching her main attention from the hierarchy to the people of God, to small independent Catholic communities and to the realization that priest is everybody who lives the gospel. It means that Marienburg is changing from an association criticizing in details the wrongs in the structure of the Church towards a movement to awaken the task of the grassroots to behave as participants in the priesthood of Jesus.
Pope Francis wants us to return to synodality. In the Old Catholic church synodality was found in the shared process of decision making in conversation and prayer together. Synodality was associated with certain actions but synodality was not only about action; it was and is an attitude, rooted in the knowledge that we are always on the way together. In this spirit Marienburg has plans for ecumenical home dialogues on matters of conscience like Amoris Laetitia, unwanted pregnancy, birth control, voluntary death, destination of life, unemployment, poverty, environmental care, empty pews, help for LGBT’s, balance between law and love etc. One can notice that ACC American Catholic Council is already going this road with listening sessions in preparation of People’s Synod in Dallas October this year. Marienburg might have a Dutch one in 2019. We wonder if some European organizations could be found on a similar road. If so, we would be prepared to accept a big part in preparing a European people’s synod in 2020.
June 5 2018