There are not many places on the planet with a bleaker outlook for the Church than in the Netherlands.
Once a center of a vibrant Catholic culture, in the 1960s and 1970s Dutch avant-garde clerics embraced ‘The Spirit of Vatican II’ with a vengeance. The Dutch Catechism, published in 1966 by radical Dominican priest Edward Schillebeeckx, attempted a compilation of Church teachings into a single volume. It had gaping holes in key areas. The Catechism sold millions of copies in multiple languages and actually became the basis for numerous religious textbooks around the world, infecting catechesis everywhere. A Vatican commission found major deficiencies, but the damage had already been done.
Dutch religious ordinations plummeted from 300 in 1962 to less than five priests ordained per year after 1975. The country also saw mass resignations from the priesthood between 1964 and 1975. It has not recovered since and today the Faith is in a shocking state. Some anecdotal evidence of cultural and church decline:
- In 2015 the head of the Catholic bishops’ conference of the Netherlands issued his Lenten message to the nation’s remaining Catholics, warning them against “bitterness” at the almost total loss of their Church. Cardinal Willem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, told the faithful to prepare for the closure of about a thousand Catholic parishes, or about 2/3 of those in the country.
- A porn flick was recently shot in a church in the diocese of Hertogenbosch, where Bp. Gerard de Korte also gave his blessing to the Dutch gay pride celebration known as Pink Saturday, or Roze Zaterdag.
- Dutch euthanasia pioneer and psychiatrist Boudewijn Chabot wrote an opinion piece recently that described the “worrisome rate” at which dementia and psychiatric patients are killed by the nation’s aggressive euthanasia laws.
In the midst of this depressing state of affairs, however, there are a few green shoots of the authentic Faith sprouting. REGINA caught up with Jakob (not his real name) a twenty-something convert, who reports unflinchingly on what he is finding there.
FAMOUS TULIP FIELDS of Holland, one of Europe’s most agricultural countries.
REGINA: It’s pretty prevalent in your country, but do you like rock and folk music at Mass?
JAKOB: No, the mass is not a concert, that can be done after mass and preferably not in the church itself. I’m ok with guitars as long as it’s not rock music coming out because that’s way too loud and harsh (I listen to heavy metal so it’s not that I think it’s evil, there’s just a time and place for mostly everything).
REGINA: What do you think of the Catholic bishops’ leadership in Holland?
JAKOB: I don’t really know too much (yet) about this topic. I do know that I have sent an e-mail to my local bishop telling him that the parish I take RCIA at is doing self-tincture. They have ministers handing out the hosts and then another one standing there with the wine and people can get a host and go dip it in the wine…
REGINA: You mean dip the Host into the Blood like a potato chip?
JAKOB: Yes, well my e-mail was ignored; it’s been two months and no answer. So to me that’s a lack of interest and a lack of trust in the Faith. Plus of course the current Pope and the other bishops are not doing enough to stop his heresies.
REGINA: Do you think your generation was well catechized in the Faith?
JAKOB: No, not at all. We need more Catholic schools and good ones, I wish they were like the school the SSPX has in Belgium, that one is amazing but so small.
REGINA: What results do you see around you?
JAKOB: My local Catholic moms’ online group had a topic about schools. I was very saddened to hear that they are sending their kids to reformed Protestant schools because they think Catholic schools s*ck.
The Church of St Nicholas in Amsterdam has seen better days as almost two-thirds of the country’s Catholic churches are closing.
JAKOB: And well maybe they do suck here in The Netherlands, because when I looked at their curriculum all the local ones explicitly said they also teach about other faiths and they don’t have prayers in the morning etc.
REGINA: And your own experience?
JAKOB: So that’s schools but then RCIA… Mine is really bad. So bad that last week the deacon actually seemed to have forgotten about the meeting. We haven’t learned anything practical and just got the watch some Word on Fire videos. Actually, only one because all the other meetings were cancelled or postponed. When I asked about the self-tincture the reply was that it was allowed… coming from the person who is supposed to teach us more about the faith.
REGINA: Pretty slipshod. So how have you learned anything about the Faith?
JAKOB: I’m glad there’s the internet, blogs and books that I can read to learn everything.
REGINA: Does this affect you?
JAKOB: So because of this bad RCIA my baptism will not happen this year because I refused baptism in a church like that. I have to wait until after summer to join a group in the Dutch church, so not one year of catechesis but only half… I’m afraid it won’t be any better. Ok this is all about me and my experiences but I’ve talked about this with a few people and they all kinda tell the same story, it’s just hard to be a convert and much easier to grow up in a Catholic family.
REGINA: With all of this, are you optimistic about the future of the Church in the Netherlands?
JAKOB: Yes, I think the Church will be growing. Catholicism is really on the rise; that might be the only positive thing when it comes to the refugee crisis.
REGINA: What does the refugee crisis have to do with Catholicism growing?
JAKOB: European people are looking at their roots and their roots are Christian. Poland is taking the lead here in Europe. Then France, Italy, Spain and Belgium.
JACOB: But that’s within traditional Catholic communities that I’m talking about. I think the Novus Ordo will have a huge downfall. Hopefully our next Pope will bring everything back to the glory there was. I don’t expect Pope Francis to make that happen.
THE LATIN MASS at the Church of St Agnes in Amsterdam attracts young Dutch converts ‘looking for their roots’.
Featured image: DUTCH DOMINICAN PRIEST Edward Schillebeeckx (1979) authored a widely-read ‘Dutch Catechism’ which truncated the teachings of the Church.