Dominicans warn Dutch brothers against Catholic schism
The Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans, is warning its Dutch province against sliding into schism by pressing its proposal to allow lay Catholics to say mass if they have no priest available to do so. The Dutch Dominicans have proposed that because the worsening priest shortage means many congregations there don’t have anyone to celebrate the eucharist.
The Dutch Dominicans caused an uproar last autumn when they mailed a booklet called “Church and Ministry” (“Kerk en Ambt“) to parishes across the Netherlands without informing the country’s bishops beforehand. In it, they said a congregation should be allowed to appoint any devout Catholic as a lay minister — “Whether they be men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, married or unmarried is irrelevant” — and did not need the local bishop’s approval. The bishops promptly denounced the booklet and the order’s Rome headquarters distanced itself from it.
Now, the order has produced its own report (here in French under “lire le rapport“). It is — not surprisingly — highly critical of the radical proposals. It says they “risk not only worsening the polarisation within the Dutch Church but also encouraging schism.” The author of the report, French Dominican Father Hervé Legrand, said the Dutch must know “the concrete results of the ordination of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States: nationally, the creation of new schismatic and competing dioceses, internationally, the split in the Anglican Communion.” Any congregation acting on these proposals would “dissolve into a sect,” he wrote.
The Dutch Dominicans have pledged to translate Legrand’s report from French into Dutch and distribute it to all the Dutch parishes that received a copy of “Church and Ministry.” They see this as part of a debate they want to continue. They stress the lay-led mass would be an exception, only when no priest is available, and that they do not want to create a schism. But they want to discuss the worsening shortage of priests.
Interestingly, Legrand commends them for discussing the priest shortage and says the Church might one day reconsider celibacy. But this could only be done by the whole Church, he said. Pope Benedict is firmly opposed to any such change.
Legrand’s report mostly refutes theological points brought up in “Church and Ministry” (which he said was so full of holes “that no Catholic theology faculty in the world would support it”). I don’t have the time to translate it and don’t know if an English version is planned, but at least being in French makes it more accessable than Dutch. Several weeks passed before Kerk en Ambt was translated into English last year, which caused some confusion as readers turned to dodgy computer translations to try to figure out Dutch articles on it. One blogger made a rough translation of a press release — not the full booklet itself — and then confidently declared that an accurate report on Kerk en Ambt was flawed! So much for computer translations…
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