from a Netherlands Correspondent
Pope John Paul 11 has rejected a call to intervene personally in the affairs of the Dutch Church and to halt some of the Netherlands Church's progressive moves to involve the laity in the life of the Church.
The call came for the extreme conservative, Bishop John Gijsen of Rocrinond, but according to Cardinal Willebrands, Archbishop of Utrecht and head of the Dutch Bishops' Conference "there is no question of the Pope intervening in an authoritative way" in the Dutch Church province.
The deep divisions between the five progressive Dutch bishops and the extremely Right wing Bishop Gijsen, and to a lesser extent the conservatively inclined Bishop Adrian Simonis of Rotterdam, are well known but have surfaced more sharply in recent months.
Bishop Gijsen was appointed by Pope Paul at a time when the Roman Curia considered that the Dutch Church was "getting out of hand" in its implementation of Vatican II. There was no cnsoltation, the Dutch were denied access to important officials in Rome, and the appointment caused a storm of protest among both the clergy and laity in the Netherlands.
Bishop Gijsen has since with drawn from the national programme for training priests and set up his own seminary, disbanded the consultative structures in his diocese and recently refused to pay his diocese's share of the cost of certain central and ecumenical services.
The Dutch bishops recently held a private meeting in Utrecht to discuss their differences. In an unusual move for the Dutch hierarchy, which always opens its meetings to appropriate advisers and their information officer, the meeting was held in complete privacy.
Four days after the meeting Bishop Gijsen published an interview in the magazine Elseviers in which he not only called for papal intervention in Holland but also expressed strong views on the Dutch National Pastoral Consultation, abortion and homosexuality.
Bishop Gijsen refused to support the national consultation which brings together bishops, priests and laity much as the National Pastoral Congress will do in Britain in 1980 because he said that he doubted whether all the members had a truly Catholic attitude.
Fle said all politicians cooperating in the changes in the country's present abortion laws should be refused the sacraments, and that the same ruling should apply to practising homosexuals.
Responding to the article, Cardinal Willebrands said he regretted that the article had been published so soon after the private meeting of the bishops. "Would it not have been better and even necessary in the present circumstances to have had a joint consultation?" he asked.
Cardinal Willebrands pointed out that the bishops had already clearly stated the Church's teaching on abortion in several pastoral letters, but that in a pluriform democratic State politicians had to try to realise the best possible law, thus pieventing a far worse Bill from being submitted to Parliament.
On the problem of homosexuality the Cardinal warned against overstressing sins of sexuality which were often the result of human weakness. While maintaining unabridged the Church's teaching, we should more forcibly raise our voices against sins caused by lying, slander and injustice, he said.
Pope John Paul has seen Cardinal Willebrands several times. He has also received Bishop Gijsen and Bishop Simonis. He has now invited the remaining four Dutch bishops to meet him, and this may well lead to a joiat meeting between the Pope and all the Dutch bishops.