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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bernard Alfrink

- Pax Christi Netherlands

I'm interested in things Dutch, from old movies like Soldier of Orange, to the Illustrated manuscripts at Museum Meermanno and Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague: Interactive Presentation of Handwritings. So I was intrigued to read up on friend of Edward Schillebeeckx and one of the guys at Vatican II, Bernardus Johannes Alfrink. Here's a little about him from Wikipedia ....

Bernardus Johannes Alfrink (July 5, 1900 – December 16, 1987) was a Dutch Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Utrecht from 1955 to 1975, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1960 .... led the Pax Christi movement in the Netherlands .... From 1962 to 1965, the Dutch primate participated at the Second Vatican Council, and sat on its Board of Presidency ...

He's mentioned here and there in John O'Malley's book, What Happened at Vatican II ... he spoke up against the use of nuclear weapons (p. 235), against indulgences (p. 281), and for the use of contraception (p. 237), among other things.

There's not a lot to be found about him on the web, aside from some conservative bashing of him and the Dutch Catechism, but here's a short TIME magazine article from 1969 that's kind of interesting and which mentions him and the church in The Netherlands .....


Roman Catholics: Declaration of Independence

The church in The Netherlands is perhaps the most independent and autonomy-minded in the Roman Catholic fold. Time and again, it has challenged Rome's ideas of orthodoxy. Last week the Dutch defied the Vatican again, this time with particular force. Meeting in the North Sea town of Noordwijkerhout, the Dutch Pastoral Council, a 109-member assembly of laymen, priests and bishops chosen two years ago to outline policy for the country's 5,000,000 Catholics, rejected Pope Paul's encyclical Humanae Vitae as "not convincing on the basis of the argumentation given." That statement was all the more imposing because it was signed by the nine bishops at the meeting, including Bernard Jan Cardinal Alfrink, primate of The Netherlands.

Shortly after the encyclical was published last July, the Dutch hierarchy issued a pastoral letter of commentary that praised its idealism but reaffirmed the responsibility of the individual conscience, in birth control as in other matters. The council's statement went considerably farther, rejecting the Pope's ban on contraception and declaring that "discussions about the way marriage is lived have not been closed."

Reluctant Agreement. The bishops abstained from another vote in which the council overwhelmingly endorsed the controversial Dutch Catechism in its original form as "a safe guide for religious instruction." The catechism, which was endorsed by the Dutch hierarchy, came under Vatican fire for being ambiguous about such subjects as Jesus' sacrifice and the perpetual virginity of Mary. Last month the Dutch bishops reluctantly agreed to insert, as an appendix to the next edition, a number of theological criticisms made by a commission of cardinals named by the Pope.

Still another resolution by the council proposed that the church should remain open to radical new approaches and ideas on contemporary ethical issues. Although the final motion did not specify the issues, earlier drafts had cited premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion and mercy killing. "When the situation is not right to render judgment," said the Dutch assembly, "the ecclesiastical authorities should abstain from giving definitive directives and, whenever possible, should leave room for experiment. In these cases, taking risks is justifiable and even necessary if the church is to remain faithful, in multiformity, to her essence, being the people of God on the march."

The Dutch Council's decision presented a new ecclesiastical dilemma for Pope Paul. As last week's resolutions at Noordwijkerhout illustrated, it is an increasingly open question as to just how long he and the official church can tolerate the doctrinal rebelliousness of The Netherlands' feisty Catholics.



Blogger Peter said...


It's never a good thing to "challenge catholic orthodoxy", which could be rephrased as: "challenge the Holy Spirit"! Always unwise; you may recall that disobedience is what lost us Eden, brought on the Great Food, brought down Sodom, etc....

Glad I know better than to sign on to this kind of nonsense; wish more Dutch did as well.

This has infinite consequences; and one can fall off the cutting edge - it's called hell (for a quick refresher on the place of eternal damnation please go to:

-at the vatican website, for more on the thought provoking, 1917 revelation of hell to the children of Fatima (see section "Translation" of 1st and 2nd secrets.

Peter E., Portland, OR, USA

10:38 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for the comment. I'm doing my best not to believe in hell, or at least to believe with Habs Urs von Balthasar that no one ends up there.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a good thing to be reminded of Cardinal Alfrink who succeeded in doing many good things in his life. His leadership in launching a new form of catechism directed at adults " The Dutch Catechism " is particularly praiseworthy. The world could use that book now but for reasons that would take too long to explain, it is very difficult to obtain a copy at this time.
God bless, Neil

6:45 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Neil, Thanks for the comment. I see Wikipedia has a page on the Dutch Catechism - looks interesting.

9:03 PM  

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