Rorate Caeli

The liberal enablers of "hip" bishops

Vangheluwe: Ordinary
Yes, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, emeritus of Bruges (and amazingly still not laicized), who resigned over having abused his own nephews, is now accused of quite more recent episodes of abuse of boys, well into the 1990s. We will not speak about this, it is easy to criticize bishops when they are down.

But how did a despicable man like Vangheluwe reach his position? In great part due to the liberal enablers, inside and outside his country, who promoted his views, views that led to the destruction of the once great Church of Belgium, because they were "popular", and "modern", and fit for the "men and women of our time", and "liturgically up-to-date", and "post-medieval", "post-Tridentine", in the spirit of the Council. For instance, a quick look at the archives of the "National Catholic Reporter" reveals that Mr. John Allen Jr was one of the leaders of the Vangheluwe Fan Club in the English-speaking world when Vangheluwe's was a voice of the change that was to come:

November 21, 2003 ... The Belgian bishops are in Rome this week for their ad limina visit, and one of them brought a rather unusual subject to put on the table: the ordination of women to the diaconate.

In 2002, the International Theological Commission, the body that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, examined the question of women deacons. While it did not reach a definitive conclusion, it seemed to lean heavily against the possibility. First, it held that deaconesses in the ancient Church “cannot be compared to the sacramental diaconate” today, since there is no clarity about the rite of institution that was used or what functions they exercised. Second, it said, “the unity of the sacrament of orders” is “strongly imprinted by ecclesiastical tradition, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium,” despite differences between the episcopacy and priesthood, and the diaconate.

That result built on a September 2001 notice from three Vatican offices rejecting lay-led programs ostensibly preparing women for future admission to the diaconate. “The church does not forsee such ordination,” the notice said.

Despite that, however, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium, is carrying the issue to Rome.

Vangheluwe  has long been concerned with women’s issues. In his diocesan newspaper Ministrando in October 2002, Vangheluwe appealed to priests and faithful of his diocese “to include more women in the administration, the organization and the basic movements inside the Church.” He asked parishes and church institutions to hold an “internal audit,” and offered a questionnaire. He noted that while Pope John Paul II has ruled out women priests, that leaves open the possibility of women deacons. He asked for comments to be sent to him.

By the beginning of March 2003, Vangheluwe said he got 500 responses from individuals and groups, and even from other dioceses. Some 86 percent were in favor of the diaconate for women.

Vangheluwe vowed to relay this sentiment during his meetings this week. I sat down with him at the Belgian College on Nov. 20 to talk about why he supports female deacons.

First, Vangheluwe said, is the pastoral desire to incorporate women more fully into the life of the church. Second is a theological need to focus the diaconate more on service.

“At the Last Supper, Jesus said ‘do this in memory of me’ twice,” Vangheluwe said. “The first was with the bread and wine, which became the sacrament of the Eucharist. The second was with the washing of the feet. We have forgotten somewhat about the second.”

In his diocese, Vangheluwe said, he has 80 deacons, who function as “little priests,” absorbed in liturgical roles. He would like to emphasize the service dimension, and said there’s no reason a woman can’t play that role.

In fact, Vangheluwe said he would favor a separation between the priesthood and the diaconate, so that in the ordinary course of things priests would not first be ordained deacons. Thus the distinction between the sacramental and service roles would be clear. The bishop would be both priest and deacon.

Vangheluwe, who was a pastor and seminary professor in Brugge before becoming bishop 19 years ago, said some Vatican officials with whom he’s spoken this week have been cool to his proposal, but others have encouraged him, telling him, “you have to go on.”

“I am not a rebel,” Vangheluwe said. “The pope has said no to women priests, and I agree. But for the moment [the diaconate] is a free question in the church, and all I am saying is that I want more study on this question.”

Vangheluwe said the International Theological Commission document is “not the last word.”

“As bishops, we have to say what we think,” Vangheluwe said.

Vangheluwe is not the only bishop to have raised the issue. In 1994, for example, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan said that the moment had arrived for “serious consideration” of the question of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate.


  1. And if you'd like to read a complete smack-down of this loony case for women deacons, read the new Prefect of the CDF's book,


  2. Those conservatives who support John Allen and speak highly of him need to re-evaluate their principles. I think everyone knows to whom I refer.

  3. The inquisition would be a good thing right about now to clean house.

  4. John's rent-free bird feeders2:57 AM

    But David... John Allen is ubiquitous and fair minded?

  5. Franciscan University not only allowed John Allen to speak on campus. He was positively fawned over and given some sort of excellence in journalism award! And Franciscan is presumed by many to be the "good news" in Catholic education in America.

  6. So that puts Allen and Mark Shea in the same category with all of those other guys?

  7. Bishop Vangheluwe was also (together with Cardinal Danneels) responsible for the "pedo catechism". People who protested were told they were pestering and should obey the bishops:

  8. Gratias6:28 AM

    Bishop Vangheluwe is a typical homosexual who enjoys sex with boys. He is a Bishop-woman.

    I have been to Bruges 30 years ago. What I remember are medieval Gothic Churches and an amazingly beautiful convent. That the Liberals have been able to corrupt this too speaks volumes of the Evangelization brought by Vatican Council II. Arghh.

  9. Warren A.7:12 AM

    Another tare, i.e., Bishop Vangheluwe, among the wheat.

    Much stronger action from the Church Militant is required to vanquish the obvious tares in our midst, lest they tear away even more of the faithful.

  10. If we want to see what a Catholic woman deacon would *really* be like, we need look no further than to those nuns who are attached to active pastoral services in various parishes.

    They provide assistance when and wherever needed, help the priest in his tasks, assist the laity, help with catechesis and evangelising, do some odd bits of baby sitting, and I'd assume help women lay people in cases of specific women's problems.

    They do not help celebrate the Mass, nor did the women deacons of Antiquity and the Middle Ages ; though in Novus Ordo Masses these nuns can of course be readers, same as any other faithful.

    But that's not what this man is angling for -- he wants women ordained into the male diaconate.

    The notion is preposterous -- the canons defining the role and duties and vocational nature of women deacons have not been abolished just because the Holy See no longer permits Bishops to ordain women deacons.

  11. Barbara10:01 AM

    I would like to say that these wayward and tiresome churchmen ( and certain Catholic journalists)don't understand a blessed thing about the nature of women and their role in the Church.
    Real Catholic women do not have the least desire to become deacons or priests. (Makes me shudder even to write that!) We know our place and it's not taking over the sanctuary for the many reasons that all truly traditional Catholics are fully aware of.

    They need to wake up - this is all so passé (AND NOT CATHOLIC!) even if there are still many hanging onto these silly notions with the skin of their teeth - I hope these modernists/liberals get over it and convert, for the way I see it, their days and weird ideas are numbered...

  12. The real enablers of 'hip" bishops are the popes who appoint them. Period

  13. Confused in California3:06 PM

    I'm so confused... let me make sure I understand these things:

    1) The sodomites entered the Church and clergy. There careers were advanced, despite (and often BECAUSE OF) their sodomy and public apostasy.

    2) The legal authorities, time and again, when made aware of the sodomizing of boys by these persons, turned a blind eye.

    3) These sodomites, upon reaching positions of power within the Church, began advocating without restraint for a certain secular political agenda.

    4) The sodomite political agenda matches the political agenda of the various legal authorities who turned a blind eye to their sodomizing of boys.

    5) Accusations abound that the legal authorities were also active participants in those same rites of sodomy

    6) The sodomites portrayed themselves as being opposed to "institutional" and "hierarchical" powers. The legal authorities were also publicly opposed to those "institutional" and "hierarchical" powers. Many of the faithful, hearing their Pastors and Bishops preach a certain political agenda, took the obvious hint and voted for that agenda.

    7) In their private gatherings, and in their private clubs, these legal authorities advanced the cause of a "Novus Ordo" in the world.

    8) The sodomite churchmen, once they had obtained positions of power, replaced the old rites and rituals with a new rite and ritual called the "Novus Ordo."

    9) In the decades leading up to this catastrophe, the Popes repeatedly issued public documents warning about a particular group of persons who:
    A) Were working in secret
    B) To infiltrate all secular governments
    C) And to infiltrate the Church
    D) So as to use the Church and State to advance their own agenda
    E) Which included public undermining of the Church's moral authority
    F) So as to usher in a "Novus Ordo"
    G) Whereby the members of this group would then wield power without restraint

    Hmmpf. Nothing to see here. Time to move along. Oh neat, the Masons and the Knights of Columbus are hosting a pancake breakfast together! Yum! Pancakes!

  14. The Church in Belgium in the 80s was already a decaying shambles. Attendance at Mass had collapsed. Remaining congregations ranged from dispirited, at the orthodox end, to excessively charismatic at the fringe.

    I remember going to one Mass, actually in the “orthodox “ sector, where Holy Communion being distributed by lay persons only, the priest having disappeared.

    There was a movement of charismatic and probably quite uncontrolled house “services” by the looney lot. One Mass for the resident English speaking community I attended was “happy clappy”, and run by a very odd priest, in garish multicoloured vestments who was from the American College at Louvain. This has recently closed down.
    I understand from conversations I have had recently that nothing much has changed and against this background I am not surprised that Vanheluwe reached and held his position for so long.

    Archbishop Leonard may be the start of the counter reformation in Belgium. Apparently he greatly upsets much of the Church there with his clearly expressed orthodox views – good!

  15. Anony said:
    Why focus on belgian bishops of the past?

    They still have a large following in the laity and priesthood. That kind of thing develops over a 20-odd year stint as bishop.

  16. Matthew Rose11:52 PM

    Where is LongSkirts with another beautiful poem about the true role of women, as opposed to one which assumes they must be akin to men to matter (a very "oppresive-patriarchal" attitude, I daresay!)?

  17. Why hasn't Rome removed him from the clerical state?

  18. Patrick6:47 AM

    Thank you for this article, New Catholic and please allow me to add this: from a well-informed insider source I heard that Cardinal Danneels, who is known to be on close terms with Bp Vangheluwe, would often use him as a "trial balloon" to test reactions to controversial innovations. So this women deacons thing may well have been an initiative of Danneels.


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