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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Dutch bishop pulls out of Youth Synod: ‘The whole thing will lack credibility’

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

September 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Robert Mutsaerts, auxiliary bishop of ’s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) in the Netherlands, has decided not to go to the the upcoming Youth Synod in Rome for which he had been designated by the Dutch Bishops’ Conference. He informed Pope Francis of his decision by letter at the end of August.

Bishop Mutsaerts has made public the fact that he does not want to join the Synod because of the ongoing accusations of sex abuse and coverups where young people have fallen victim to churchmen who found protection even from the very top of the hierarchy.

In a statement, the Dutch Bishops’ Conference said it “respected” Bishop Mutsaerts’ decision even though it did not agree with it, and replaced him with another auxiliary bishop from Limburg.

In an interview with LifeSite, Bishop Mutsaerts explained his gesture. The interview took place by phone, and LifeSite has translated it from the original Dutch.

LifeSite: Excellency, why did you decide not to go to Rome where you were to have joined the youth Synod in October?

Bishop Mutsaerts: To put things briefly, it comes down to this: given all the recent difficulties and lack of openness, the whole thing will lack credibility. We are going to talk about young people, no less, even though it appears that we are not even capable of offering them security. We all know of the difficulties in Rome, we also know of the Pope's letter about Ireland, with its mea culpa and “forgiveness” and all, but there is not a single word about what we are going to do about it, who are the culprits and what are we going to do with them. It would totally discredit us if in this situation, we go and talk about youth. If it were another subject, it would be different. But we need openness about this business. What we need is the truth, only it will serve us. That will only be possible if there is openness, and well, we can't have openness without an independent investigation. That is also what Archbishop Chaput said.

By the way, I sent that letter to the Pope at the end of August.

Did you get a response?

No, but then they get so much post I'm not surprised that it should take a little time.

A recent article in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad spoke of the sex abuse cases that have taken place in the Netherlands, implicating almost half of the country's bishops, either directly or through cover-ups. What is your reaction?

These are not new cases. The journalist, Joep Dohmen, just copied and pasted from the Deetman commission's report and from other public sources: this is definitely nothing new. What he writes accusing Mgr ter Schure [Johannes ter Schure, former bishop of ’s-Hertogenbosch] is not appropriate and is just the result of his own reconstruction. A researcher who is certainly no friend of ter Schure decided to look into that on his own initiative, and having checked a large number of sources, he came to the conclusion that it couldn't possibly be true – the bishop was in completely different locations, even in another country. His research was offered to NRC at that time, but the paper refused to publish. It was then offered to the Volkskrant who did publish, but still Dohmen of NRC keeps writing about Bishop ter Schure. That isn't right.

But the situation in the Netherlands has absolutely nothing to do with all this. I think in the Netherlands, a lot was done, the bishops' conference introduced a whole set of measures, the Deetman commission was set up and there was a lot of openness. The statute of limitations was not invoked, as it could naturally have been, nor the fact that you can't open a judiciary case against a deceased person. We authorized everything in order to afford maximum openness.

The present issue is very different. It's not a question of things not having been properly tackled by us in the Netherlands, not at all.

Did you make your decision because of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's letter? Or did that come to light afterwards?

No, no, it has everything to do with it! In fact it was the immediate cause. We're talking about a serious man, and about serious accusations. But from various quarters, all of a sudden it's Viganò who is being attacked. It doesn't even really matter to me whether his motivations are pure or not. I don't know. I get the impression that they are, but I don't know. But the real issue is about what he's saying. Is it true, or is it not true? That is what it's all about, and the only way to find out is to investigate. And well, the Pope is remaining silent: that's incomprehensible, truly incomprehensible. And then carrying on with the agenda… If there's one thing we cannot do, it is that. We're going to talk about young people, for heaven's sake, as if there was nothing wrong, and as if there was nothing that had come between the Church and the young.

Do you also have other issues with the Youth Synod? Or even criticism? As far as I can tell, its themes are more sociological than Catholic…

Well, it does look like that. It looks more like the report of a sociological investigation than an expression of what the Church stands for. Obviously, we need to know the present time, we need to know it well. And we need to know what preoccupies the young. We can think we know but it's a different generation, and so of course that's not true. In that sense, it is good to query the young. But naturally, we should not bring the Church to the world, we should be bringing the world to the Church. That's a very different angle. If they focus on that, it will be fine. But I'm not going there, I won't be present, I don't know how it will all turn out. I hope it does all come out well, if the Synod does take place all the same.

But you would prefer that the whole affair be scrapped, in order first to let light shine on everything that's coming out right now.

Yes, we need light to shine on all that. Our credibility is in jeopardy. And we shouldn't do it ourselves. I understand from the Pope that he identifies clericalism as the main cause. That's probably true to some extent, but the greater part of the problem is somewhere completely different.

Where is the problem, then?

When I read the reports of the scientific institute of the New York University, almost 80 percent of the people involved have something to do with homosexuality. It's a tricky subject, but we have to name it because if you don't name it, you can't judge it properly and you can't investigate it properly, and take measures. I'm not saying that's the cause, I don't know how I should interpret those figures, just don't sweep it away, just take them into account.

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