When Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels died March 14 at the age of 85, it began a quintessentially Catholic moment that has its roots in the New Testament.
First of all, Cardinal Danneels was a man who championed what is often called “the spirit of Vatican II.” There’s no doubting the reports of his prodigious intellect, but he never used that intellect to remedy the theological, liturgical and social confusion in which the Church currently finds itself.
He was among those who put so much energy into dialoguing with non-Catholics that millions of the uncatechized faithful were left behind. His native country of Belgium, once a predominantly Catholic country, has succumbed to post-Christianity, like the rest of Europe. Cardinal Danneels expressed his openness to same-sex relationships, allowed questionable sexual-education material to be used in Catholic schools, and, by his own admission, he belonged to a clandestine group of cardinals who sought to influence papal elections so as to “reform” the Church from within.
And then there is the event that stands out in our era marred by the sexual-abuse crisis in the Church: In 2010 the cardinal was recorded urging a young man who was sexually abused by his uncle, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, to cover it up. The accused bishop did resign eventually, but critics note that the cardinal delayed in taking action.
All that being said, here is where the distinctly Catholic moment enters in: The millions of faithful Catholics who were discouraged, disheartened and scandalized by his efforts to change or cloud definitive Church teaching are also praying for his eternal soul. And I am one of those.
God bless you!