Month: May 2014

Utrecht copies the Black Mass

I’m being provocative.


In the Netherlands, as in some other countries, there’s an Association for Latin Liturgy (Vereniging voor Latijnse Liturgie for those who can read Dutch). It’s mainly focused on the Latin Novus Ordo; for the last few years the Association has had use of a church in the centre of Utrecht (seat of the Dutch Metropolitan See) where the Novus Ordo is offered every day, and a TLM is offered each Sunday evening. A few days ago the Assocation held its annual Members’ Day in the Dutch version of St. Peter’s Basilica in Oudenbosch – at which the Mass was, for the first time, a TLM.

The Association had for several years been characterised by a ‘coolness’ towards the TLM, preferring instead the Novus Ordo offered in Latin. So people were happy that this year’s Mass was a TLM; I wasn’t there as I’d promised to sing at Mass elsewhere. Otherwise you can be sure I’d have busted a few guts to be there. I mean the speaker was Le Barroux’s Fr. Abbot!

St. Willibrord’s Church

The ‘home’ church in Utrecht is that of St. Willibrord, one of the many British missionaries who came to the northern part of the European continent. It itself has a chequered history, having almost been demolished after everyone got jiggy wit it, only to be saved by the tenacity of the near-legendary Fr. Kotte. A few years ago the then-Archbishop-now-Cardinal Eijk re-dedicated the church building, and the Association came to an agreement with the Archdiocese and the building’s owners regarding its regular use. At the time it gave great relief; after years of being in a shadowy no man’s land, the position of the church was clear, and the Association had a national base for its activities.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the inside of St. Willibrord’s, here you go:


Oh but there’s lots of pictures of the place. In short, it’s an example of Dutch neo-Gothic, which can feel like an all-out assault the first time you see it, but after about six and a half minutes you get used to it and just see the beauty and care and time and effort that went into getting these places off the ground once Catholic emancipation was achieved in the Netherlands in the 19th Century.


The Association was never the owner of the building. It’s always also been used for things like concerts. I suppose people aren’t too thrilled about this – I mean it was rededicated as a sacred temple of God – but sometimes you have to be happy with what you have?

And then De Uitvaart started.

‘De Uitvaart’ is Dutch for ‘the Funeral’. Some chap called Dries Verhoeven, who doesn’t know that men should take their hats off when in church,


decided he wanted to be controversial (insert cynical comments about a Dutch stereotype in here), and stage ten ‘Requiems’, one each day, from 15th – 24th May. These Requiems don’t seem to be for people, but for concepts: one being the idea that the Netherlands is the centre of the world (if you laughed at that, you’re not the only one).

Mr. Verhoeven secured the use of St. Willibrord’s church for all ten dates of his theatre project, in which a ‘priest’ along with other ‘ministers’ (including girl ‘altar servers’) offer a ‘requiem’ with a ‘coffin’ and ‘mourners’. And yes, there’s  ‘communion’ too.

Let me be clear – this is scheduled to happen in a consecrated church building, which on weekday mornings has a real Mass. There are two Masses on Sundays; a Novus Ordo in the morning and the TLM in the evening.

So at 5:30pm tomorrow evening there’d be the True Mass of the Ages, and at 7:15pm ‘the public’ will come in with their season tickets (there’s a canon forbidding charging entrance fees to the holy liturgy, just sayin’), and watch this farce.

No more Masses – how can we mock God?

The Association, on hearing about this, asked the owners and organisers to call it off: to no avail (statement on Facebook, in Dutch). As such the Association has decided to cease all its Masses in St. Willibrord’s, a consequence which damages the spiritual lives of people. You know, the real spiritual parts of man’s existence. The part that deals with whether people can give proper worship to God almighty. The God who will not be mocked – yet St. Willibrord’s owners are happy to hire out His sacred temple, presumably in exchange for a decent cut of those profits.

It’s not a Black Mass. But Satanism is not the only way Christ is insulted. If Mr. Verhoeven wants to mock and upset people, then he has succeeded, and perhaps he will be satisfied with himself. But Earthly fame and glory pass away, and the reckoning must come after, for all of us, Catholic or not.

The Association is brave, and in my view has made the right decision. My prayer is that a new location – one that hasn’t been desecrated – will be found for Mass. Real Mass.

(A Dutch-language take on this ‘deconsecration’ can be read here)


Missing the real point: the debate on Communion for remarried divorcees

Deo gratias for Dom Hugh

Dominus mihi adjutor

Most Catholics will be aware of the recent, vigorous debate that has emerged the last few months on the subject of whether remarried divorcees should be admitted to Holy Communion. The debate was given impetus by the desire of German bishops to change the immemorial teaching of the Church. Following the explicit and unequivocal teaching of Christ, the Church does not recognize the possibility of divorce. Spouses can separate without any canonical consequence. Any civil divorce has only civil effect, and does not affect the sacramental bond which endures. The problem comes if a civilly-divorced spouse re-marries. It would have to be a civil wedding, naturally. In the eyes of the Church, with the original marriage bond intact, that spouse is now officially and publicly committing adultery. Adultery is a grave sin that precludes one from receiving Holy Communion.

As any sensible pastor, like our own Bishop Philip Egan, will…

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Christ has risen, as He said; He is truly risen. Alleluia!

During Lent one year – whether it was last or the one before escapes me – I read a suggestion for a Lenten penance that involved using nothing that produced artificial light after sundown. Depending on the date of Easter this may have a more or less arresting effect on its practitioners; this year the switch to daylight savings time came early on, but last year the clocks (in Europe at least) jumped forward an hour on Easter night itself, thus making it even shorter than it normally would be. In 2013, then, abandoning light bulbs and computer and television screens would have been quite the thing. Despite all that, it seemed to me to be wonderfully romantic and medieval in a way that I enjoy greatly, all of which probably precluded it from ever being a suitable penitential measure for me.

Easter is all about light; from the fire to the Exultet and all the way down to some of the twee-est, sappiest colouring-in books you can imagine, you hear lumen Christi and you might sing Christ be our light (commiserations if the latter was imposed upon you in any setting other than a campfire shindig). The tomb is pitch black, Christ’s pristine Body is scarred by our sins, and it is only by His descending into the lifeless darkness that there can be any hope of healing the gaping chasm between God and His creation.

Now because I’m weird, I prefer the church when it’s dark. Electric lights are so harsh and we seem so petrified of operating without them. Of course we have a justified preference for surgery to take place under good lighting, but not everywhere is an operating theatre!

So it was during the Vigil this year (for me). Even though Easter is so late anno 2014, the falling darkness of the evening meant that the fire really had a role to play. The symbolism of candles and flames and all this is wonderful, but the perks of 21th Century living are not without some loss of realisation of how the ‘Mysterious’ happenings are directly reflected in the lives we lead here and now. The Light is our inheritance, but we’ve not yet come in to it.