There is a revival of interest in Roman Catholicism in Holland, and the secular media may be partly responsible for it, according to the Catholic World Report (February).
The Catholic Church in the Netherlands was once considered the most liberal in the world, as its theologians and bishops often clashed with the Vatican. More recently, a steady wave of conversions to more traditional forms of Catholicism has become the center of attention in Europe. There are only about 1,000 conversions to Catholicism in the Netherlands per year (as opposed to three or four times that number leaving the church), but these converts — known as the “new Catholics” — have sometimes been prominent intellectuals who have moved to parishes that eschew doctrinal experimentation.
When the respected young playwright Vonne van der Meer converted, the news was featured in a feminist magazine and that seemed to have started a media sensation, as journalists sought to explain the phenomenon. An older generation that was in the forefront of opposition to Vatican influence in Dutch Catholicism in the 1970s and 80s has “disappeared from the public scene”– evidenced in a new popularity for the pope (along with such figures as Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton).
Although the drop in vocations to the priesthood in the Netherlands is among the highest in Europe (about 35 percent), there has been a slight upward trend in recent years. The number of permanent deacons has grown from one million in 1978 to six million today. Today’s Dutch bishops are also less divided and now form a “united front.”
(Catholic World Report, P.O. Box 1328, Dedham, MA 02027)