Zeal: Good. Presumptuousness: Bad.

The blog Rorate Caeli has a news item about the “reconciliation” (renewal of dedication) of a previously de-sanctified church. A medieval-style Victorian treasure, St. Willibrord’s Church in Utrecht, has been bought by Catholics, and is to become a Catholic church again. Yay!

Except….

The church was never a Protestant one. It was formally desanctified at one point, however.

The Catholic archbishop of Utrecht isn’t doing the “reconciliation.” It was to be performed by Bishop Fellay, the head bishop of the SSPX. He has no diocese; he has no native standing in Utrecht. And St. Willibrord was the first bishop of Utrecht, so it’s not exactly flattering to flout his successor in his own church. Or so one would think!

This isn’t the first time the church has been an object of contention. At about the time of Vatican II, the church was set to be closed and demolished by the Catholic archdiocese. It was bought by a group of laypeople and a priest, Fr. Winand Kotte, and became a private chapel where Fr. Kotte said Mass. (Which is legal enough.) The contentious point was that Mass was always said in Latin under the old missals; but there were legal arguments for priests to do so, and obviously Summorum Pontificum made it clear that it was okay. But private groups of this kind sometimes become hinky; it’s hard to tell if this was the case.

Fr. Kotte died in 2006, but the lay society kept up the church as their chapel. They reached an agreement with Archbishop Eijk, the archbishop of Utrecht, which allowed them to remain independent but be fine with the archdiocese. Archbishop Eijk re-dedicated the church in 2009 and named it a “rectorate”, and all seemed well.

At this point, the lay society that owned the church rented it out during the week for the performance of an avant-garde play. The problem was that part of the play simulated various church liturgies, in an offensive way. The apostolate served by the rectorate petitioned the archdiocese to declare the church as having been desacralized by blasphemy, until the owners agreed not to run any more performances. The church-owning society objected to having no operating funds.

Apparently they had various priests say Mass for them, but in 2015 they settled on using priests from the SSPX. (Such priests are pretty much all illicitly ordained, and don’t have valid faculties to perform any Sacrament unless the local bishop grants them. Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis graciously stretched a point to grant a few faculties, but yeah, not a great sign. In this case, the archdiocese seems to have gotten disgusted at having all their efforts thrown back in their face.

The lay society ran out of money (or got tired of the wrangling) and put St. Willibrord’s up for sale. The SSPX bought it. After having SSPX priests saying Masses at this church for two years, the SSPX’s illicitly consecrated bishop, Bishop Fellay, decided the church needed to be “reconciled” before any other Masses took place.

So yeah, that’s the sort of convoluted congregationalism that can take place on the fringes of the Church.

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