The bishop of Amsterdam has defended a “not-so-rosy” report about the state of the Dutch Catholic Church prepared for the bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome.
Bishop Jan Hendriks said on Nov. 6 that the 20-page general report issued by the Dutch bishops’ conference had prompted “a few misunderstandings.”
Writing on his official website on the eve of the bishops’ Nov. 7-13 ad limina trip, Hendriks noted that the report had been criticized for being “very general, with repetitions from the previous report of 2013, and without concrete plans.”
The weekly Catholic newspaper Katholiek Nieuwsblad described the text as a “bone-dry report that reads mainly like a long, drawn-out lament on secularization.”
The report said that in 2012, ahead of their last ad limina visit, there were 4 million Catholics in the Netherlands, representing 24.1% of the population. By 2021, that figure had fallen to 3.7 million, accounting for just 20.8% of the country’s 17.6 million people.
Hendricks announced in September that 60% of the churches in his Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam needed to close in the next five years due to dwindling churchgoers, volunteers, and income.
The bishop conceded that some criticisms of the ad limina report were “partly true.”
“That it contains no plans but rather describes the not-so-rosy situation for the Church and faith is somewhat true,” he wrote. “This has to do with the fact that it is a national ‘state of affairs’ and a report of it to Rome, and that in the Catholic Church structure all dioceses are independent. So to see plans or the concrete active response to the situation you would have to read the diocesan reports.”
He added that the diocesan reports, prepared for Vatican dicasteries ahead of the ad limina visit, were more extensive than the general report, noting that his diocese’s report ran to 69 pages.
There are seven Catholic dioceses in the Netherlands: Utrecht, ’s Hertogenbosch, Breda, Groningen-Leeuwarden, Haarlem-Amsterdam, Roermond, and Rotterdam, as well as a military ordinariate. The country’s Primate is Cardinal Wim Eijk.
Meanwhile, the outspoken Dutch Bishop Rob Mussaerts criticized the global Synodal Process on the eve of the ad limina visit.
The auxiliary bishop of ’s-Hertogenbosch, who previously described Pope Francis’ restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass as “dictatorial,” argued on his blog Paarse Pepers (Purple Peppers) that the process was providing “a megaphone for non-Church views.”
In a Nov. 4 post headlined “Synodal process as an instrument to change the Church?” he said that the recently published working document for the initiative’s continental stage seemed to suggest “that we compile a list of complaints and then debate them.”
“Predictably, all those who do not get their way will say they are being excluded,” he wrote. “This is a recipe for disaster in advance. If everyone gets their way — which is not actually possible — the disaster is complete. Then the Church will have denied itself and squandered its identity.”
On Monday, the first day of their ad limina trip, the Dutch bishops celebrated Mass in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica and visited three Vatican dicasteries.
At the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, they heard an address by prefect Cardinal Arthur Roche touching on the new ministry of catechist, liturgical formation, and “the importance of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes,” Bishop Hendricks wrote on his website.