POPE JOHN PAUL has eliminated the influence of a conservative Dutch bishop from a committee which is looking into the state of the country's seminaries.
The Pope's decision means that Bishop Jan Gijsen of Roermond will remain a member of the committee "but he will do nothing on it," a spokesman for the bishops said.
The move will undoubtedly please liberal members of the Dutch Church. However they will be unhappy about the announcement that Bishop Gijsen is to head a new committee set up to study the possible dividing up of the dioceses in the Netherlands.
The two announcements were made at the end of the recent meeting of the Dutch bishops. They are the latest developments in the reshaping of the Dutch Church which was set in motion in January last year at the special synod of Dutch bishops in Rome. The decision to prevent Bishop Gijsen from taking an active part in the reorganisation of seminaries was taken at a meeting in Rome this January at which progress in implementing the synod decisions was discussed. The spokesman for the bishops said that the Pope had decided that the bishop should no longer be involved in the seminary committee because of a conflict over theological training which had arisen after the synod.
The roots of the conflict went back to 1975 when Bishop Gijsen established his own separate seminary in the diocese because the theological school at Heerlen
was "too modern for his views". the spokesman said. It flared up again last year after the synod when the bishop refused to ordain a seminarian who had been a student at Heerlen.
Other theological schools in the Netherlands protested that Bishop Gijsen was a member of a committee investigating theological schools but had prejudged those schools before the investigation was completed.
The other two members of the committee examining seminaries are both considered liberals: they are Bishop Hubertus Ernst of Breda and Bishop Jan Moiler of Groningen, The decision to put Bishop Gijsen in charge of the new committee looking into the possibility of splitting dioceses is likely to cause some alarm among liberals who fear that it could lead to a strengthening of the conservative wing of the Church.
When the question was raised at the 1980 synod it was widely seen as an attempt by the conservative minority in the Dutch hierarchy to increase their influence through the creation of new bishoprics. The main fear was that a conservative majority would be appointed to the newlycreated posts.
The split between liberals and conservatives both within the seven-man hierarchy and within the Dutch Church as a whole was the major factor which led the Pope to call the special synod.
The current moves are the outcome of the agreement reached then to work towards a greater sense of unity.