From First Things:
Cardinal Godfried Danneels, primate of Belgium (1979-2010), aggravated the decline. He publicly questioned the Church’s teachings on the ordination of women, homosexuality, and contraception…
hen Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard succeeded Danneels as primate of Belgium in 2010, he made immediate changes. Not since the 1960s has the Belgian Church been so vocal. When Belgium recently legalized child euthanasia, the archbishop implored his faithful to pray and fast against the measure…Léonard revived traditional Catholic piety, too, quickly introducing the first Eucharistic procession on Corpus Christi in Liège since 1970. He celebrates the Latin Mass regularly, offering it as a remedy to the liturgical abuses of recent history…When Léonard gave a pro-life lecture at the University of Brussels last year, radical feminists doused him with water. Léonard started to pray and blessed his attackers.
Despite such attacks, Belgian Catholicism has started to show signs of growth for the first time in many decades. The numbers speak for themselves: in the 2012/2013 academic year, the number of Belgian seminarians has grown from sixty-seven to eighty-nine.
It is unfortunate that Pope Francis did not make Archbishop Léonard a cardinal at this year’s consistory. Given the state of disrepair into which Belgian Catholicism has fallen, Brussels mustn’t be an automatic cardinalate see, but the remarkable turnaround Léonard has made should have earned him the red hat…
Unfortunately, Francis has favored Cardinal Danneels, appointing him a synod father to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, a curious choice, given that, at eighty-one, Danneels not only has long exceeded the retirement age for bishops, but he can no longer participate in conclaves.
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