Cardinal Eijk and the “ecumenical case” concerning the Council of Trent

 — Jan. 27, 201427 janv. 2014
by Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider (La Stampa)

The words pronounced by the Archbishop of Utrecht and the controversy that arose during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

An interview with the Archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, sparked controversy in the Netherlands during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The interview was published in Reformatorisch Dagblad and reprinted by Trouw, on Monday 20 January.

The title of the interview is: “Eijk: the doctrine and condemnations of the Council of Trent still apply fully” The subheading read: “Cardinal Eijk has confirmed that the teachings of the Council of Trent still apply and so do the condemnations the Council made against those who reject said teachings. Protestants for example.”

The cardinal did not check the interview title and introductory summary, only the interview itself, which he approved. His statements were also quoted on the Dutch Bishops’ Conference website.

According to Eijk, the Council of Trent is a sign of the “Roman Catholic Church’s ability to purify itself,” with the “guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Eijk said Trent ended much of the malpractice in the Church during the Middle Ages, such as the ecclesiastical “job” trade, non biblical interpretations of the priesthood and the lack of discipline in monasteries: “When all the decrees (of the Council) were implemented, order was restored to the Church.”

The Council of Trent also contributed to defining some “truths of faith” regarding Protestants. The cardinal stated that these are still fully applicable. For example the essence of the sacrament of the Eucharist and transubstantiation.

According to Eijk, the condemnations and excommunications defined by the Council apply to those who reject the Church’s doctrines after taking an informed decision of their own free will and in full awareness of the truth. The cardinal said this is in some way a theoretical question. “Many people have the wrong impression of the Catholic Church because of the way they were brought up or because they have a different idea of God. They cannot be held personally responsible for this. The condemnations of the Council of Trent do not mean someone is eternally condemned by God. God makes this judgement, not humans.”

Finally, concerning Martin Luther’s rehabilitation, the cardinal said: “When it came to important issues, his ideas differed greatly from the doctrine of the Catholic Church. And this doctrine has not changed.”

The Archbishop of Utrecht placed a clear emphasis on positive effect the Counter-Reformation had on the Church, the process of purification that was set in motion by the Tridentine Decrees and the validity of the Council of Trent’s teachings, on the Eucharist in particular. As far as the condemnations go, he explained that these do not automatically apply to today’s Protestants.

The interview provoked a lot of reactions and some very negative ones at that, particularly in the world of ecumenism. Eijk’s spokesman, Anna Kruse, complained that the interview and comments published by Trouw newspaper attributed certain statements to the cardinal which he had never made. These statements in question were present in the title and subheading meaning it was clearly an editorial error.

Sparks flew as a result, with an open letter being sent by the Rev. Arjen Plaisier (spokesman for the Synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands) to Cardinal Eijk, who refused to answer for or discuss phrases which he had never used. He also said that the Dutch Catholic Church’s ecumenical office or the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity may begin discussing some of the phrasings used in the Council of Trent. The Archbishop of Utrecht stressed his adherence to the ecumenical path followed by the Church and that he fully backed the Pope’s efforts in this field.

But Emile Hakkenes, head editor of Trouw’s Religion and Philosophy pages, defended the newspaper’s position against the claims made by the cardinal’s spokesman. “I want to make it very clear that Trouw newspaper acted in a completely legitimate way,” Hakkenes told Vatican Insider. “After our colleagues at the Reformatorisch Dagblad published the interview with Cardinal Eijk, we asked representatives of the Protestant Church to comment on the opinions he expressed. We have every reason to believe that the cardinal’s statements were printed correctly. The editor-in-chief of Reformatorisch Dagblad confirmed that prior to publication, Archbishop Eijk read over the interview and gave his approval for it to be published. This is a fact,” Hakkenes added.

When Trouw asked the representatives of the Protestant Church to comment on the interview, all of those questioned answered having read the original interview published by Reformatorisch Dagblad.

It is worth quoting a passage from the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, produced by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church in 1999 (Joseph Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time): “Like the dialogues themselves, this Joint Declaration rests on the conviction that in overcoming the earlier controversial questions and doctrinal condemnations, the churches neither take the condemnations lightly nor do they disavow their own past. On the contrary, this Declaration is shaped by the conviction that in their respective histories our churches have come to new insights. Developments have taken place which not only make possible, but also require the churches to examine the divisive questions and condemnations and see them in a new light.”

Posted: Jan. 27, 2014 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Catholic, Protestant, Reformation
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Catholic, Protestant, Reformation

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