22 January 2014, The Tablet

Dutch cardinal’s defence of Trent casts shadow over Unity week

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been overshadowed in the Netherlands by a row over a statement by Cardinal Willem Eijk that the decisions of the Council of Trent were still fully valid.

Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht and head of the Dutch bishops’ conference, told the Protestant daily Reformatorisch Dagblad that the Council’s condemnations of Martin Luther’s teachings, for example on the Eucharist, still justified excluding Protestants from receiving communion in the Catholic Church.

The Council was “a sign of the self-cleansing power” of the Church because it corrected abuses that had developed in its ranks, he said.

The Protestant response was cool.

“It is not biblical to say the Church is always right,” said Gerrit de Fijter, chairman of the Protestant National Synod.

Bas Plaisier, former head of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, said he “didn't understand what [Eijk] is doing.”

A Catholic theologian, Marcel Poorthuis from Tilburg University, said Eijk was being more negative than Pope Benedict XVI about Protestants.

Church spokeswoman Anna Kruse expressed shock at the reactions and noted that Eijk had called the Trent condemnations “mainly a theoretical issue” and did not intend to offend Protestants.

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