Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A quiet revolt against Rome is spreading in Belgium

BUIZINGEN, Belgium — Willy Delsaert is a retired railroad employee with dyslexia who practiced intensively before facing the suburban Don Bosco Catholic parish to perform the Sunday Mass rituals he grew up with.

“Who takes this bread and eats,” he murmured, cracking a communion wafer with his wife at his side, “declares a desire for a new world.”

With those words, Mr. Delsaert, 60, and his fellow parishioners are discreetly pioneering a grass-roots movement that defies centuries of Roman Catholic Church doctrine by worshiping and sharing communion without a priest.

Don Bosco is one of about a dozen alternative Catholic churches that have sprouted and grown in the last two years in Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium and the Netherlands. They are an uneasy reaction to a combination of forces: a shortage of priests, the closing of churches, dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops and, most recently, dismay over cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests.

The churches are called ecclesias, the word derived from the Greek verb for “calling together.” Five were started last year in the Netherlands by Catholics who broke away from their existing parishes, and more are being planned, said Franck Ploum, who helped start an ecclesia in January in Breda, the Netherlands, and is organizing a network conference for the groups in the two countries.

At this sturdy brick church southwest of Brussels, men and women are trained as “conductors.” They preside over Masses and the landmarks of life: weddings and baptisms, funerals and last rites. Church members took charge more than a year ago when their pastor retired without a successor. In Belgium, about two-thirds of clergymen are over 55, and one-third older then 65.

“We are resisting a little bit like Gandhi,” said Johan Veys, a married former priest who performs baptisms and recruits newcomers for other tasks at Don Bosco. “Our intention is not to criticize, but to live correctly. We press onward quietly without a lot of noise. It’s important to have a community where people feel at home and can find peace and inspiration.”
Read the rest here.


Ben said...

Hmm. "dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops", "We are resisting a little bit like Gandhi,” "a grass-roots movement that defies centuries of Roman Catholic Church doctrine by worshiping and sharing communion without a priest."

This reeks of Protestant evangelical, even down to the commandeered Greek word for their community. This is nothing more than apostasy in the vain of the reformation, except without any good reason.

Lord have mercy.

Anonymous said...

I agree, very Protestant leanings. Why don't they just join the Episcopalians?
It's truly sad to see.

Matushka Anna said...

Hm. So they're all laity, denouncing an ordained priesthood, but pretending to be priests? And one "conductor" (brings trains to mind) is actually a former priest who left to get married? I'm not sure they even fit in with the Episcopalians, and that's saying something. So all of the rites (baptism, marriage, funerals, etc.) are all just for show? Because they're not acknowledging them to be anything else. I ran this through a few "what denomination are you" quizes and came up with "Bible Christian" and Methodist.


Anonymous said...

Sigh. Laity includes priests. Priests are also laity.

Read Schmemann


or Afanasiev on the development of clericalism.

Anonymous said...

This is sad. I used to lived in that area. At the time, and I suppose it is the same now, not many people were coming out to Catholic Masses and the Evangelicals struggled to get native Belgians in the doors too (most Evangelical churches were populated by ex-pats). In one year I met one couple who were Roman Catholic and went to church regularly.

Part of this is a revisiting of the Reformation (which has some history in that area) and part of it is a post-modern take on church that negates sacraments. Btw, I'm sure there are enough priests out there to serve the relatively small number of Belgian Catholic church-goers...but perhaps there are not enough who speak Flemish? Hm.

Anonymous said...

This is tragic, but not that surprising. While the Belgian context has been less radical than the Dutch one (at least until recently), the ground for this sort of thing has long been prepared in official parishes and Church structures. A few years ago the Dutch Dominicans issued a document arguing that non-ordained people could preside at the Eucharist. Priests regularly use anaphoras that are sucked out of their thumbs and sometimes blatantly heretical. All in the name of "inclusiveness" and it being about the community that celebrates. And many good, well-meaning Catholics cannot understand why there is a problem.

It is tragic, the causes are complex, Rome has made mistakes, the bishops are often caught in the middle and unable to act. Lord have mercy!


Igumen Gregory said...

Perhaps it is the liberal element in the Roman Communion that derails effective talks with the Orthodox Church. God help the Pope if he espoused our ecclesiology with this mess going on.

Anonymous said...

Igumen Gregory,

I refer to the above essays by Schemmann and Afanasiev.

They influenced the "liberal" element in the Roman Catholic Church during Vatican II.

(Yves Congar etc:- the notion of "the people of God" etc;).

The current Pope wants to eliminate all that but then, on reflection, perhaps, given what's occuring in the Orthodox churches worldwide, he may have found like-minded hiearchs.

Anonymous said...


To equate Congar, Schmemann and the teaching of Vatican II on the Church as the people of God, with the sort of ecclesiologically bankrupt drivel that has become popularised in Dutch progressive circles is something that I have great difficulty accepting. The latter took some of the vocabulary of the former, evacuated it of all content, and transformed it into something hideous - although of course it's all more complex than that.

I developed a particular allergy to one priest who would begin each Mass by telling us that we were there for "this hour of togetherness"! I think that Father Schmemann would have had some very incisive and critical comments on that. Incidentally, I once took a somewhat wicked delight in telling the same priest that I found him clerical for imposing his (non-ecclesial) liturgical tastes on the rest of us. This sort of stuff just reinforces clericalism, which is perhaps not that surprising for their view of the Church remains caught withing the polarities of "the institution" and "the people" without the deeper ecclesial and eucharistic identity that at least some parts of the pre-conciliar renewal were seeking to recover.