Dutch Cardinal Seeks Clarity From Pope on Divorce and Sacraments

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 26, 2018   

"Amoris Laetitia" discussed prominently in Cdl. Willem Eijk's recent interview

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UTRECHT, Netherlands (ChurchMilitant.com) - A cardinal in the Netherlands is asking Pope Francis for clarity about the question of sacraments for the divorced and civilly remarried.

Cardinal Willem Eijk is the archbishop of Utrecht. He gave an interview that was published Friday on Dutch website Trouw. He discussed various controversies both in his archdiocese and in the Church at large.

The interviewer asked Cdl. Eijk his thoughts on the ongoing debates over Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. The cardinal said he desires for the Holy Father to speak clearly and definitively on the matter.

Cardinal Eijk related, "I would say: just create clarity. Regarding this point, take away that doubt. In the form of a document, for example."

The prelate called out the underlying relativism behind the idea that those living in adulterous relationships can receive the sacraments without either annulment of previous marriages or amendment of life. He argued, "What is true in place A cannot suddenly be false in place B."

He added, "At the current moment, you would like clarity."

Cardinal Eijk was also quoted as saying, "People are confused, and that is not good."

We have the words of Christ himself, that marriage is one and can't be broken.

When asked, the cardinal described the origins of the ongoing confusion surrounding the sacraments:

There is a document written by the pope, Amoris Laetitia, based on both family synods. This has caused doubt to be sown. Can the remarried and divorced now come to Communion or not? What you see sometimes is that one bishops' conference arranges things one way, another does it another way.

During the interview, Cdl. Eijk himself spoke very clearly on the indissolubility of marriage. He said, "We have the words of Christ himself, that marriage is one and can't be broken. That is what we maintain in the archdiocese."

He went on, "When an ecclesiastical court has declared a marriage null, it is officially confirmed that there has never been a marriage. Only then is one free to marry and receive the sacraments of Confession and Communion."

When asked about the priest sex-abuse scandal, Cdl. Eijk replied, "There are victims who no longer believe because of that abuse. It is terrible that this has been brought about by Church workers."

The priest sex-abuse phenomenon did not destroy the cardinal's faith, though. He said, "But I still believe in the Church. The Church has a divine side and a human side. I always believe in that divine side, no matter how dark it is."

In the end, Christ has the first and the last word.

At other points, the interview covered subjects such as the priestly sex-abuse crisis and parish closures. Cardinal Eijk noted that he was having to close many parishes due to the mass apostasy that has afflicted Western culture for decades.


Cdl. Eijk's Coat of Arms. The motto is Latin for, "Don't refuse

your work" and comes from St. Martin of Tours.

In 2014, Cdl. Eijk predicted that the number of parishes in his diocese would shrink from 48 to about 20 by the year 2028. There was some pushback against him for this realism:

That note was well received by people in the pastoral care, but after that a caricature was made of it. The picture is that I am sitting behind my desk with a map of the diocese, like "That church is closing and that church is closing," while we are actually leaving that policy to the parish boards. But the bishop must sign the final decree to withdraw a church from worship. And that's me.

Though troubled about the future of the Church, Cdl. Eijk professed, "In the end, Christ has the first and the last word."

Cardinal Eijk is known for his theological orthodoxy. In May 2017, he led the bishops of the Netherlands in consecrating the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In August 2017, he spoke out against the scourge of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

The cardinal said near the close of the interview that a desire to see God face to face in Heaven is what motivates him in his ministry, saying, "That is my deepest desire in everything I do."

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